Monthly Archives: April 2012

Aging Gracefully, part 2: Stem Cell Therapy, the first weeks

It has been a week and a half since Sally went in for stem cell therapy. No further blood tests or other diagnostics were necessary, the tests and radiographs performed at her visit a few weeks ago were all that was needed in order to begin.

We dropped Sally off at the vet’s office around 8:30am on March 22nd. Around 1pm, we were able to call and check on her. Her stem cells were going through processing still, but she was doing well. At around 2, we were told that we could pick her up any time! Wow!

What happened while she was at the vet: an incision was made by Sally’s shoulder, a few inches long, and a chunk of fat was removed. The fat was treated with a patented enzyme compound and treated under an LED light that helped to break it down and activate the dormant stem cells therein. The stem cell solution was then injected into each of her stifle joints (rear knees) and hips, the places where she experiences the most arthritis. The remaining stem cell mixture was then injected intravenously so her body could distribute them however needed.

You can see the shaved areas where the fat cells were removed (near front shoulder) and two of the injection locations (hip and knee) here. Taken first night home.

When we picked Sally up, she was doing some more severe limping than normal, which we were told to expect due to inflammation, but was pretty spry. She was able to eat that evening, and she was acting normal, just sore. We let her rest that night.

The next day, we began a week’s worth of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication (Keflex and Rimadyl) and started doing rehab therapy. Our instructions were to walk on leash for 5 minutes 2-3 times each day, and follow all rehab with ice packs on her affected joints for 20-30 minutes. I have a confession to make: We never made it to 20. Baby girl starts fussing after 10-15 and so we stop. She seems to be doing just fine.

During this time, we have not had to do anything all that special in terms of limiting her. She is allowed to go up and down the stairs, get on the furniture, and move normally at a casual pace around the house and yard. We have not been allowing her to run, so she hasn’t gone into our bigger yard to play, but she’s really enjoying her walks and wishes they were longer.

Observations, I took careful note during the first week because I had read a lot about fast-acting changes post-treatment:

Day 1 after procedure: very stiff and sore, doing okay. Slipped on the floor a couple times due to being overly cautious.
Day 2: limping worse than before treatment, but happy and bright. She also, for the first time in years, felt and gave in to the urge to jump on our very tall waterbed. I could count on one hand the number of times in the last five years or so that she’s done this, with most of them being the whole five years ago… I think she’s feeling much better!
Day 3: limping is only occuring after walks, then goes away. Sally starting to pull harder on leash during walks, wants to go longer.
Day 4: limping a bit after ice therapy, but no other time. Bounces on hind legs when excited to go on walk.
Day 5: does “sit” faster than she’s done in almost six years.
Day 6: really wants to go-go-go on leash.
Day 7: caught limping after she went to sleep on the hard floor for a while, not sure if her leg fell asleep; goes up the stairs faster, acting really normal and very happy.

Last Friday, the rehab changed to 10 minutes of walking 2-3 times daily and some “assisted sit-stand” exercises with 15-20 minutes of *heat* afterwards.  Sally does not like the heat but she is enjoying her walks tremendously and is not limping.  Ten minutes of solid walking on pavement would have led to stiffness and limping later before, but because of the heat and presumably, her treatment, she is handling it well and building up strength.  Assisted sit-stands are simple exercises where the dog must sit squarely, then be assisted to her feet via a sling or human hand, and hold the stand for up to three minutes (at our current level.)  I’m honestly not sure if I’m doing it right; she doesn’t seem to be getting much exercise from it, but we continue as instructed!  This level of rehab is two weeks long.

Summarily, it seems that Sally is truly improving already, but this is a long, hard process.  I highly recommend taking into consideration the time constraints of rehab/therapy if you are looking into doing this procedure.  Be prepared to give up a lot of your day sitting with numb hands holding ice in place, going for walks, even in the rain or snow, and keeping your dog fairly calm.  While not all vets use the same protocol, our veterinarian works very closely with Medi-vet, the most sophisticated stem cell therapy company, and he travels the country (and beyond) educating other vets regarding the procedure.  He is one of the most experienced vets in the United States in this therapy.  We are happy to follow his protocol and recommend others do the same.

Stay tuned in weeks to follow for more updates on Sally’s progress, and that arthritis meds/supplements post!  Do you have any questions about arthritis management or stem cell treatment? Leave a comment!


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