Sep 23, 2022

Is your pet in pain? Know the signs.

Posted by Bob under Pain in Pets

We’re back with another pain themed VetStem blog as we commemorate Animal Pain Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, we discussed the types of pain in animals as well as the importance of pain management. This week, we will look at the signs and symptoms of pain in pets.

Types of Pain in Pets

To recap last week’s blog, there are several types and classifications of pain. Acute pain is characterized by pain that has come on suddenly or has only been present for a short period of time such as from a surgery or trauma. Chronic pain comes on gradually and may be more subtle, such as pain from osteoarthritis. Additionally, pain can be nociceptive (from noxious stimulation), inflammatory (from acute or chronic inflammation), and neuropathic (from damage to an element of the nervous system).

Signs and Symptoms of Pain in Pets

In order to determine if our pets may be in pain, it is important to know what to watch for. Signs and symptoms of pain in pets may vary based on the individual animal as well as the species. For instance, dogs often show arthritic pain by limping or favoring a leg. In contrast, cats do not typically present with lameness or limping and instead will be less willing to jump and/or have shorter jumps.

It is also important to note that animals may hide their pain. This is especially true of cats, who tend to be masters at hiding their pain. Fortunately, the IVAPM has come up with a list of common signs of pain in both cats and dogs. According to the IVAPM, the most common signs of pain are:

  • Decreased activity – Take notice if your animal is not playing as much as usual
  • Not going up or down stairs – This could be an early sign of osteoarthritis
  • Reluctance to jump onto surfaces – This especially applies to cats
  • Difficulty standing after laying down – This is a sign of osteoarthritis
  • Decreased appetite – This can signal mouth pain
  • Over grooming or licking a particular area – This can be a sign of referred pain

Additionally, the IVAPM has provided a checklist for both dogs and cats that can be used to help you and your veterinarian determine if your pet is in pain.

While September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these potential signs of pain at all times. If you notice that your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, a trip to your vet may be in order.

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Sep 16, 2022

VetStem Cell Therapy for Pain Management in Pets

Posted by Bob under Pain in Pets, VetStem Cell Therapy

Animal Pain Awareness Month continues and this week we are discussing stem cell therapy for pain management in pets. As most of our readers know, thousands of animals have experienced an improved quality of life as a result of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. While stem cells have many mechanisms of action including the ability to differentiate into many tissue types and stimulate the regeneration of tendon, ligament, and joint tissues, they also have the ability to reduce pain and inflammation.

Stem Cells Can Reduce Inflammation

The ability of stem cells to regulate inflammation is important when it comes to pain management. Through cellular communication, stem cells are able to limit inflammatory responses and actually shift from a pro-inflammatory environment to an anti-inflammatory environment. By reducing inflammation, stem cells promote healing and increased comfort.

Stem Cells Directly Modulate Pain

While a reduction in inflammation can lead to increased comfort, current literature supports that stem cells also have the ability to address both acute and chronic pain directly. Initial impressions about the functions of stem cell therapy have focused on healing, regeneration, and reduced inflammation, while more recent studies have looked at the ability of stem cells to directly modulate pain. The recent literature demonstrates that stem cells secrete pain blocking cytokines (small proteins), which can have opioid-like effects. Interestingly enough, these effects can actually be reversed by Naloxone, an opioid antagonist.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Pain Management

Veterinarians see and treat pain in their patients every day. There are numerous treatment options available including medications, devices, and surgery. Stem cells are another tool veterinarians can employ to treat pain in pets. VetStem Cell Therapy has the advantage of being a readily available, natural source of anti-inflammatory and pain blocking cells. This can be especially beneficial for cats and some dogs who do not tolerate anti-inflammatories well.

If you think your pet may benefit from VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers near you.

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Sep 9, 2022

Animal Pain Awareness Month

Posted by Bob under Pain in Pets

As we mentioned in last week’s blog, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) declared September Animal Pain Awareness Month to raise awareness and to help veterinary professionals and pet owners recognize and manage pain in animals of all species. As such, each year, we dedicate the entire month of VetStem blogs to the topic.

Types of Pain in Animals

It is important to note that there are multiple types and causes of pain in animals. Pain can be acute such as pain from a recent surgical procedure or injury. Acute pain is characterized by pain that has come on suddenly or has only been present for a short period of time. Alternatively, chronic pain can be more subtle and likely came on slowly over an extended period of time. An example of chronic pain is osteoarthritis pain.

We can further break this down into types of pain. The three primary classifications of pain are nociceptive, inflammatory, and neuropathic. Nociceptive pain is caused by noxious stimulation such as an injury/physical damage, exposure to chemicals, or exposure to extreme temperatures. As its name suggests, inflammatory pain is caused by acute or chronic inflammation. And lastly, neuropathic pain comes from damage to an element of the nervous system.

Pain Management in Animals

Just like people, acute and chronic pain can lead to a decreased quality of life for our pets. By managing an animal’s pain, we not only make them feel better, but we also help them live a happier life. IVAPM works to educate veterinary professionals and pet owners to better understand how to recognize and manage pain in pets and, in doing so, has helped the field of veterinary pain management grow tremendously in recent years.

As the field continues to grow, there have been a great many advances for methods to control pain in animals. Pain medications are no longer the only way to control pain. Several newer and more natural alternatives have become more mainstream in veterinary medicine including things like rehabilitation, acupuncture, and even stem cell therapy. With these advances, veterinarians now have the ability to help several different painful conditions that they struggled with in the past.

Pain management is an invaluable tool in maintaining happy and healthy pets. It is important to keep an eye out for signs that your pet may be in pain. In the coming weeks, we will cover signs and symptoms of pain in pets.

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Sep 2, 2022

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management

Posted by Bob under Pain in Pets, Veterinary Medicine

It’s officially Animal Pain Awareness Month. Each September, we devote the entire month of VetStem blogs to this very important topic. Animal Pain Awareness Month was created by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) and is dedicated to raising awareness to help veterinary professionals and pet owners recognize and manage pain in animals.

Who is IVAPM?

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) was founded in 2001 by a group of veterinarians, including one of VetStem’s earliest users and collaborators, Dr. Jamie Gaynor. The organization evolved over the years and today, is led by an active board of directors to provide veterinary pain management education as well as a pain management certification program.

The IVAPM unites veterinary professionals across all disciplines from around the world to advocate for best practices in the treatment of pain in animals. The organization is committed to encouraging pain management for all animal species through education and advocacy. They also encourage various veterinary organizations to raise public awareness about pain and pain management as it pertains to veterinary patients. IVAPM is the leading forum and educational resource for veterinary professionals and pet owners interested in animal pain prevention, management, and treatment.

IVAPM Board of Directors

The IVAPM has an active board of directors that includes veterinarians and specialized veterinary technicians primarily from the United States. The current President of IVAPM is an experienced VetStem user, Dr. Douglas Stramel. Dr. Stramel has been utilizing VetStem Cell Therapy since early 2008. Stem cells have the ability to directly modulate pain, which we will discuss in a blog later this month.

IVAPM Pain Management Forum

One of the primary goals of IVAPM is to educate the veterinary community to recognize and treat pain in all species of animals. IVAPM provides continuing education on a variety of topics around the world. As mentioned above, they also provide the only interdisciplinary pain management certification program for veterinary professionals.

In addition to these efforts, IVAPM launched the very first Pain Management Forum earlier this year. VetStem sponsored a dry lab with Dr. Douglas Stramel in which he discussed VetStem Cell Therapy as one of several pain management modalities he employs in his practice.

Resources for Pet Owners

The IVAPM does not solely focus on educating veterinary professionals. Pet owners play a key role in both recognizing and managing their pet’s pain. Thus, the IVAPM has several resources for pet owners as well. Through their website, pet owners can search for Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioners and also find various resources to help determine if a pet is in pain.

Stay tuned for more Pain Awareness themed blogs all month long!

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Aug 26, 2022

Meet the VetStem Pack on National Dog Day

Posted by Bob under Dog Ownership, Pets

Today is one of our favorite days of the year: National Dog Day! For those of you who follow our social media, you’re probably familiar with some of the VetStem pack members. For the rest of you, meet our pack!

If you don’t already know, Mick is the unofficial VetStem mascot. He belongs to VetStem CEO, Dr. Bob Harman. He even has an entire #MickMonday social media campaign dedicated to him! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to check it out.

Our followers are also probably familiar with the craziest Frenchie in the land, Darby! She belongs to Veronika, our Customer Service Manager. She is full of personality and of course lots of Frenchie snorts! Her silly antics keep us entertained all day long!

Another familiar face, this bear of a dog is Elphie (short for Elphaba). She’s a cute and fuzzy ball of fur! Just ask her mom, our Director of Commercial Operations, Kristi. Oh wait, never mind, she’s busy vacuuming.

Next up is this mischievous foursome! From left to right, we have Duncan, Flynn, Brogan, and Luca, otherwise known as the Herd of Herders. I asked Whitney, our Customer Service Rep, what it’s like owning four herding dogs. To sum up her reply, she said, “What, like it’s hard?”

These sweet girls are Moosh and Quita. Owned by our Chief Development Officer, Anne, they are the best of friends and the yin to each other’s yang.

Some of you may remember Stormy’s puppy pictures from when she first visited our office. Well, she’s 5 months now and as you can see, she’s grown a lot! IT Manager Willy said she’s very intelligent and has learned basic commands quickly. She loves to play hide and seek and to go swimming at the beach.

This chocolate girl is Willow. She belongs to our Marketing Assistant, Ashley. At 11 years old she has almost as much spunk as she did when she was 2! Her favorite things in life are food, squeaky toys, and following her humans around the house.

And lastly, we have these two goofballs. Mira (brindle) is the mom to Huggy (cream). According to our Sales Rep, Roberta, they are the clowns of the house. “Like mother, like son.”

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Aug 19, 2022

Feline Osteoarthritis: What Your Cat is Not Telling You

August 22nd is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. We like to bring attention to this matter because the statistics for feline veterinary care are disparagingly low compared to dogs. According to one recent academic survey, only 20% of cat owners said they took their cat to the vet more than once a year, compared to 35% of dog owners. Additionally, 7% of cat owners said they never seek veterinary care, compared to 2% of dog owners. Likewise, in a targeted survey of pet owners conducted by the AVMA, only 48% of cat owners said they sought routine veterinary care for their cat, compared to 79% of dog owners. For the purpose of this blog, we will discuss feline osteoarthritis and why routine veterinary care is so important when it comes to managing this disease.

Cats Get Arthritis Too

It may surprise some to learn that a high percentage of cats will get or already have osteoarthritis (OA). According to one study, 91% of cats between 6 months and 20 years old have OA in at least one joint, as proven by X-rays. That being said, sometimes cats with OA have no visible changes on the X-rays. This is one of several reasons why osteoarthritis in cats can be difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Cats

For years, osteoarthritis in cats has been underdiagnosed when compared to dogs. One reason for this is that cats with OA present with different symptoms than what we see in dogs. Because of their smaller size and natural agility, cats tend to tolerate bone and joint problems better than dogs. But there are specific symptoms to watch out for.

According to the FDA, “Clinical signs of osteoarthritis in cats include weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, urination or defecation outside the litter pan, and inability to jump on and off objects.” Unlike dogs, cats do not commonly present with lameness or limping. Instead, they will be less willing to jump and/or have shorter jumps.

That being said, cats are masters at hiding their pain. Because it can be difficult to spot the signs of osteoarthritis in cats, routine veterinary care is essential. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your cat’s behavior and will perform a comprehensive exam. Additionally, there are newer tools such as this checklist, that can help determine if your cat has OA.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis in Cats

Unfortunately, there are fewer treatment options for cats with osteoarthritis compared to dogs. Unlike dogs, cats do not tolerate nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medications very well. While there are some NSAIDs approved for short-term post-operative use in cats, there are currently no veterinary NSAIDs approved for safe, long-term use to control osteoarthritis pain in cats. There are some non-drug options including weight loss for overweight cats, increased exercise, as well as environmental accommodations such as elevated food bowls and more easily accessible litter boxes. But these are not the only non-drug treatment options available.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis in Cats

VetStem Cell Therapy is a non-drug treatment option for osteoarthritis in cats, dogs, and horses. It can be particularly beneficial for cats, given that effective treatment options to control osteoarthritis pain are extremely limited. Stem cells have shown the ability to directly modulate pain and down-regulate inflammation. Additionally, stem cells can induce repair and stimulate regeneration of cartilage and other joint tissues. The beauty of VetStem Cell Therapy is that we are harnessing your pet’s own healing power, so it can be considered a natural and holistic approach to managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

If you are interested in having your pet treated with VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Aug 12, 2022

Leo’s Story: VetStem Cell Therapy for Cruciate Ligament Tear

Did you know that cruciate ligament rupture is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain, and subsequent knee arthritis in dogs? While there are multiple treatment options available, both surgical and non-surgical, treatment with stem cells may accelerate and improve healing within the joint. Numerous dogs have received VetStem Cell Therapy for cruciate ligament injuries. Generally speaking, stem cells are more effective when the ligament is only partially torn. In many cases, a full tear will still require surgery.

Leo’s Stem Cell Story

Leo is a 92-pound German Shepherd. One day, after jumping out of his owner’s SUV, he yelped and held his right rear leg up. Two veterinarians confirmed that Leo had partially torn his cruciate ligament in his right knee. While dogs of any size can be affected by this injury, large breed dogs tend to be more at risk.

Leo

Initially, Leo’s owners took a conservative approach to manage his condition. Non-surgical treatment usually involves some combination of anti-inflammatory and pain medications, exercise modifications, joint supplements, rehabilitation, and possibly braces/supports. Unfortunately, conservative medical management is not always successful, and after months of leash walks only, Leo’s symptoms worsened.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Cruciate Ligament Tear

After months of research, Leo’s owners elected to try VetStem Cell Therapy as opposed to surgical repair of the injured ligament. Stem cells are regenerative cells that can reduce pain and inflammation, reduce the formation of scar tissue, help to restore range of motion, and stimulate regeneration of tendon, ligament, and joint tissues. Additionally, according to surveys answered by owners and veterinarians, greater than 80% of dogs showed an improved quality of life after receiving VetStem Cell Therapy for orthopedic conditions.

To begin the process, Leo’s veterinarian, Dr. Chris Forstall of SouthShore Animal Hospital, collected fat tissue from his abdomen during a minimally-invasive anesthetic procedure. The cells were aseptically packaged and shipped to the VetStem processing laboratory. Lab technicians processed the fat to isolate and concentrate the stem and regenerative cells contained therein. These cells were packaged into separate stem cell doses, two of which were shipped to Leo’s veterinarian for treatment, while the rest were put into cryopreservation for potential future use.

Approximately 48 hours after the initial fat collection, Leo received one injection of his own stem cells into each knee. You may be wondering why Leo’s veterinarian injected both knees, as opposed to just his injured knee. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, 40-60% of dogs who injure one cruciate ligament will go on to injure the other cruciate ligament in the future. Because of this, many veterinarians choose to treat both knees with stem cells, even when there is only one injured knee. This prophylactic approach may reduce or delay the possibility of injuring the second knee.

Leo Improves after VetStem Cell Therapy

According to his owner, Leo showed improvement just one month after treatment. His owner stated, “Leo is improving every day. We are thrilled that VetStem banked Leo’s stem cells for future use. I’m looking forward to him improving even more. Thank you for offering this cutting-edge therapy!”

Leo’s initial stem cell process yielded several additional doses that are currently cryopreserved. Cryopreservation of stem cells allows them to maintain their functional properties so that they can be used in the future should Leo require them.

If your dog has suffered from a partial cruciate ligament tear, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. Or contact us to find a VetStem provider near you.

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Aug 5, 2022

Veterinary Care for Retired Police Dogs

Recently, an article was published that described a new bill that was signed into law in Florida. Bill 226 established the Care for Retired Police Dogs program to create a $300,000 recurring funds program under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide subsidized veterinary care for retired law enforcement dogs.

Police dogs are often worked hard and can occasionally become injured on the job. According to the article, “The Care for Retired Police Dogs Program will provide a reimbursement of up to $1,500 of the annual veterinary costs associated with caring for a retired police dog. This includes annual wellness checks, vaccinations, parasite prevention treatments, medications, and emergency care for the animals.”

At VetStem, we have a tender spot for police dogs. We have actually provided cell therapy services for a number of police dogs throughout the years. One common injury among working dogs occurs in the semitendinosus muscle, which is part of the hamstring muscle group. Injury to this muscle can result in a buildup of fibrosis, or scar tissue, which causes the muscle to contract and shorten. This contracture leads to lameness and an abnormal gait in the affected dog.

This condition, known as semitendinosus myopathy, can be career-ending for working dogs. Traditional treatments include rest, medication, rehabilitation, and surgery. Unfortunately, none of these methods have been fully successful, and many dogs do not return to their full activity.

That’s where VetStem comes in! We contributed to a study to evaluate the use of stem cells to treat semitendinosus myopathy and the results were incredibly promising. The study included eight working police K-9s that were diagnosed with semitendinosus myopathy. Each dog was treated with VetStem Cell Therapy and all eight dogs returned to active police work. In addition, each dog’s gait returned to normal.

We recognize the importance of the work that these dogs do, and the fact that many of them risk injury and even put their lives on the line. The new bill in Florida is just a small step to show our gratitude for the sacrifices these hard-working dogs make. At VetStem, we are pleased to contribute what we can to help keep police and other working dogs happy and healthy long into their retirement years.

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Jul 29, 2022

VetStem’s Exotic Animal Program

Posted by Bob under Exotic Animals, VetStem

Lately, we’ve shared news about our work with several species of exotic animals. VetStem has worked with a number of exotic animal organizations around the U.S. to provide stem cell therapy to sick and injured animals. You may remember our recent blogs about elephants and aquatic animals.

We’ve also discussed our work with bears, including Francis and Brody. Francis is a sun bear from the San Diego Zoo that received VetStem Cell Therapy for arthritis in several joints. Brody, a juvenile black bear in Florida, received VetStem Cell Therapy in conjunction with surgery for a condition that is similar to hip dysplasia in dogs. In addition to degenerative and congenital diseases, VetStem Cell Therapy has been used to treat traumatic injuries such as a sea turtle who was injured by a propeller as well as viral diseases as discussed in our blog about elephants.

Recently, VetStem Chief Development Officer, Dr. Anne Hale, visited The Preserve in Texas to discuss the use of stem cells in some of their older elephants and giraffes. According to their website, “The Preserve is dedicated to expanding elephant education, knowledge, and conservation. These efforts have brought about numerous professional accolades and recognition. We’re committed to doing our part to help save elephants from extinction.”

Dr. Hale stated, “I was honored to meet The Preserve family and look forward to supporting their efforts to keep these wonderful animals healthy and happy.”

At VetStem, we recognize our duty to these exotic and endangered animals. We take our job very seriously when it comes to the research and development of innovative regenerative medicine treatments for animals and diseases that have minimal treatment options. For those who may be interested in having an exotic animal treated or contributing to the exotic animal cell therapy program, we encourage you to reach out to VetStem personnel.

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Jul 22, 2022

Back to the Basics: What Are Stem Cells?

Much of our blog is dedicated to the various disease processes that can potentially be treated with VetStem Cell Therapy. But it’s been a while since we’ve discussed the basics of stem cells. What are stem cells? What purpose do they serve? We will answer these questions and more in this week’s blog.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are specialized cells that have the ability to differentiate into over 200 types of known cells in the human body. Some of these cells include tendon, ligament, bone, cartilage, cardiac, nerve, muscle, blood vessels, fat, and liver tissue. Because of this, some have referred to stem cells as “the building blocks of life.”

When we think of stem cells as building blocks, we are most likely thinking of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells exist only at the earliest stages of development. They are pluripotent, meaning they can differentiate into any cell type. The function of embryonic stem cells is to form whole organs and organisms.

Alternatively, adult stem cells include multiple types of stem cells that are present in almost all tissues of the adult body. They can be multipotent or unipotent, meaning they can only differentiate into one type of cell. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent adult stem cells that have demonstrated the ability to differentiate into multiple cell types. When used for VetStem Cell Therapy, adult MSCs are extracted from fat tissue, one of the richest sources of MSCs in the body.

What purpose do stem cells serve?

As mentioned above, embryonic stem cells serve one purpose: to form whole organs and organisms. Adult stem cells on the other hand, are utilized by the body to replenish dying cells and to repair damaged tissues. This discovery is what led to multiple studies to help determine the full therapeutic benefits of adult stem cells.

VetStem Cell Therapy: A Therapeutic Application of Stem Cells

VetStem uses adult MSCs in an effort to repair damaged tissues in animals with various injuries and diseases. But this is not the only mechanism of action that stem cells utilize in the healing process. Stem cells have also been shown to down-regulate inflammation, reduce pain, and modulate the immune system. All of these mechanisms, and more that we’re still learning about, make stem cell therapy a multimodal approach to healing.

If you think your pet may benefit from VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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