DOG-lovers are paying specialist vets up to £1,700 for a stem cell treatment they hope could ease the symptoms of arthritis in their beloved pets.
Scientists say they have used the new treatment on more than 150 dogs in the UK – with 85 per cent showing positive signs of improvement.
I was absolutely blown away by how she respondedAndrew Armitage
The therapy works by removing stem cells from a small sample of the animal’s fat and then growing it in a lab, before being injected back into affected joints of the dog.
The stem cells then act as the body’s own repair kit, forming new tissue such as tendon, cartilage and bone.
Vets say that the new technology means treated dog joints begin to move freely within weeks of the treatment and slowly begin to rebuild over time.
One Scottish dog owner said the treatment gave her dog its “life back” after years of chronic pain.
Andrew Armitage, a vet in St Boswells, in the Scottish Borders, has treated more than 50 dogs with the treatment, including an 11-year-old springer spaniel Cassie.
The dog’s arthritis had become so severe that the bones in her hips grated together because of the loss of cartilage.
“Cassie had no cartilage left in her joints and you could hear the bones crunching against each other in her hips,” he said.
“I was absolutely blown away by how she responded. Within two weeks there was a reduction in the pain and inflammation and by six weeks the arthritic bone was being reduced and the joints were moving again. By three months there was smooth articulation in the joints, which can only be explained by regrowth of cartilage,” Mr Armitage said.
Cassie’s owner, Audrey Laycock, said: “Now she’s got her life back and is bouncing and running around almost like a new dog.
“Just to see her running again makes my heart sing.
“She was on four different type of painkillers and anti-inflammatories and her quality of life was getting very bad. She’s a stoical dog and makes the best of things but you could see she was in a lot of pain.”
Kate Barker, 34, a vet from Wiltshire, used the procedure to treat her own nine-year-old Labrador Dillon.
“I was over the moon with Dillon’s response to the stem cell therapy,” she said.
“It is a fantastic minimally invasive treatment... and Dillon is much happier. He has gone from a dog who struggled on walks to a dog who is desperate to go for walks again.”
The stem cell treatment was first developed by Jo Miller, a biologist and co-founder of Cell Therapy Services.
She says that the stem cells she grows in culture move to damaged tissues where they act to reduce tissue and pain, preventing further cell damage and can promote tissue regeneration.
Miller says it has been successful in 85 per cent of the dogs treated.
“It’s a different approach,” she said.
“Most treatments are about reducing the effects of the disease and managing the pain. We think the stem cells are regenerating the cartilage. “When I’m looking at them (stem cells) under the microscope, watching them divide, it’s like watching something being born. I think to myself ‘these cells are going to go back into these dogs and make them feel better.
It’s so exciting. I’ve been obsessed with it for five years.”