Jul 23, 2021

Dog Receives VetStem Cell Therapy for Disc Disease

In this week’s blog, we are sharing Bella’s story. Bella, a pit bull, was approximately twelve years old when she received VetStem Cell Therapy. She was previously diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and pain medication, unfortunately, brought her little relief.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD is a condition in which one or several intervertebral discs in the spine bulge, resulting in pressure on the spinal cord. This pressure may result in extreme pain and possibly loss of limb function. IVDD can be a result of chronic disc degeneration or from an acute injury. Conservative treatment with pain medications and anti-inflammatories may help patients who have a gradual onset of symptoms or whose symptoms are mild. In severe cases or when there are repeated episodes, surgery may be recommended.

A veterinarian in blue scrubs gives an IV injection of stem cells to Bella, a black and white pit bull, while her mom, a veterinary technician holds her.
Bella, receiving an intravenous injection of her own stem cells via VetStem Cell Therapy

Bella’s mom, a veterinary technician at Fort Lee Animal Clinic, noticed that Bella stopped jumping on and off furniture and was restless and unable to sleep comfortably at night. After researching her options, she decided to have Bella treated with her own stem cells. Dr. Nazar Pereymybida at Fort Lee Animal Clinic agreed that Bella may benefit from stem cell therapy and Bella became his first stem cell case.

Treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy

To begin the process, Dr. Pereymybida collected fat tissue from Bella’s abdomen in a minimally invasive anesthetic procedure. The fat was aseptically packaged and shipped to the VetStem laboratory in Poway, California. Once received, VetStem lab technicians processed the fat to extract and concentrate Bella’s stem and regenerative cells. Stem cell injections were prepared and shipped back to Dr. Pereymybida. Approximately 48 hours after the initial fat collection procedure, Bella received multiple injections of her own stem cells along her paraspinal muscles as well as intravenously.

Stem cell treatment of IVDD falls under VetStem’s clinical research program for canine back pain. This program is designed to evaluate the safety and potential effectiveness of stem cells for numerous canine back conditions.

Results

Approximately two months after receiving VetStem Cell Therapy, Bella’s owner reported that her symptoms had improved! Though Bella was still on pain medications, her owner stated, “She’s now jumping on and off the bed and seems less painful and more energetic.” In addition, Bella was able to sleep comfortably through the entire night.

Unfortunately, Bella was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Her condition progressed rapidly and she crossed over the rainbow bridge.

While there is still more to learn about using VetStem Cell Therapy to treat canine IVDD, Bella’s case is not the only positive outcome reported. You may remember Bailee’s story from a while ago. He also received VetStem Cell Therapy for IVDD after an injury to his neck. And like Bella, Bailee also experienced a reduction in pain after treatment.

If your dog has IVDD or another painful back condition, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. Since these conditions develop for different reasons, the stem cell protocol and outcome can vary for each dog. Any inquiries regarding treatment of similar conditions or other non-standard indications should be directed to VetStem personnel.

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Mar 5, 2021

Against All Odds: A Tribute to Kingsley

Kingsley, a rottweiler, found his family in the emergency room. His mom, Dr. Bethany Mullins, was an ER veterinarian when Kingsley came in as a puppy. Despite the fact that he was an amputee with only three legs, Dr. Mullins adopted Kingsley immediately.

A black and brown dog with 3 legs lying on his back on a couch.
Kingsley

As a front let amputee, Kingsley’s remaining front leg was under extra stress. And when he was just eleven months old, he was diagnosed with osteoarthritis as a result of elbow dysplasia. Dr. Mullins reported that Kingsley could barely walk and due to the severity of his condition, surgery was not an option for him. Fortunately, the veterinary surgeon suggested treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.

Kingsley’s first stem cell treatment was in July 2010. He received one injection into his affected elbow and one intravenous injection. According to his mom, within two weeks he was running with her other dogs and playing fetch. Kingsley went on to receive follow-up injections of his own stem cells approximately six months and one year after his initial treatment.

After his third round of stem cell injections in August 2011, Kingsley went approximately five and a half years before requiring another stem cell treatment in early 2017. In the ten years since his initial injections, Kingsley received a total of eight follow-up stem cell treatments. According to his mom, Kingsley’s life expectancy was a mere three years due to the severity of his condition. But with the help of his veterinarian mom and his stem cells, Kingsley lived to be twelve years old.

A blonde woman, Dr. Bethan Mullins, leans in for a kiss from a black and brown dog.
Dr. Bethany Mullins and Kingsley

Unfortunately, Kingsley passed away earlier this year. His mom described him as the sweetest, most gentle dog, stating, “He even went to a preschool class for a presentation about being a veterinarian and was wonderful with the children.” Dr. Mullins went on to say, “You truly saved Kingsley’s life…He lived a full life because of his stem cell injections over the years…I am an ER veterinarian, so I don’t do a lot of stem cell therapy in my department. But I’m a true believer, having had it for myself at one time, and I believe what you are doing is the future of many solutions to diseases that have confounded us. Please keep doing what you’re doing.”

It is stories like Kingsley’s that keep us doing what we are doing. When we hear about dogs like Kingsley, who were dealt a bad hand in life, but came back against all odds after having stem cell therapy, we cannot help but be immensely proud of and grateful for this technology we have developed. We hope that Kingsley is getting all the belly rubs and kisses on the other side of that rainbow bridge.

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Aug 7, 2020

Injured Veteran’s Dog Receives Stem Cells and Platelet Therapy

Posted by Bob under Dog Stem Cells, Platelet Therapy

This week is International Assistance Dog Week (IADW). Information from the IADW website states, “International Assistance Dog Week was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.” To show our support of this well-deserved recognition, we wanted to highlight Max, a service dog to a disabled army veteran. According to an article from Florida Today, Max has been a trained companion for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Edward Johnson since 2014. Sgt. Johnson, a purple heart recipient, was shot in the head during combat in Iraq in 2006 and was left with a traumatic brain injury. Max helps Sgt. Johnson cope with PTSD and other debilitating ailments related to his injuries.

Max at the vet

In 2017, Max was diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament. He was obviously in pain and in need of surgery and other medical procedures. Fortunately, his story got out and through donations and good will, Max was able to have surgery. His surgeon, Dr. Jeff Christiansen of Superior Veterinary Surgical Solutions, donated his services and organized donations from several others as well. As an experienced VetStem provider, Dr. Christiansen recommended stem cell and platelet therapy in conjunction with the surgery to aid Max’s healing. VetStem provided a free Veterinary Platelet Enhancement Therapy kit as well as discounted stem cell processing services.

According to Dr. Christiansen, Max recovered completely. Unfortunately, Max suffered a second cruciate rupture in his other leg just over two years after the initial surgery. Once again, Dr. Christiansen and several companies, including VetStem, stepped up to provide this dog with top-notch care. Max received surgery on his other knee in addition to stem cells and platelet therapy. In this video from Dr. Christiansen, Max can be seen working on his at home exercises with his dad.

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May 15, 2020

The Importance of Storing Stem Cells

Posted by Bob under Dog Stem Cells, Stem Cell Storage

At VetStem, we have the potential to store stem cells from each patient whose fat we process. It is our general protocol to store a small number of stem cells from each fat sample for potential future use. Known as the Retention Sample, this small number of cells affords us the ability to provide stem cell treatments for the life of the patient from whom the cells came. More on that later.

Storage of Stem Cell Doses for Future Use

In addition to the Retention Sample, VetStem has the ability to store any unused stem cell doses from the initial stem cell process. How does this work exactly? Let’s say your dog has bilateral hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis and your veterinarian plans to give your dog an injection of stem cells directly into each hip as well as an intravenous injection. Three injections equals three doses. But suppose the fat sample from your dog had enough cells to provide six doses. Well, those extra three doses would then be cryopreserved for potential future use. And then down the line, if your dog started showing signs of discomfort, your veterinarian could request those three doses for a second stem cell treatment.

The Retention Sample Can Be Used to Provide More Doses

In keeping with this same scenario, your dog has now had two rounds of treatment, three injections each time. Therefore, all six doses from the initial fat processing have now been used. That is where the Retention Sample comes in. Our standard protocol is to store a small number of cells from every fat sample that we process. For a fee, the Retention Sample can be put into culture to grow more stem cells. The cultured stem cells will be genetically identical to your dog’s original stem cells. And once the culture process is complete (it takes approximately 3-4 weeks), your dog will have usable stem cell doses again.

Cryopreservation of Stem Cells

Cryopreservation of stem cells allows the cells to maintain their functional properties. When stored at very low temperatures, the cells can be stored for long periods. Normal biological processes are slowed allowing the regenerative properties of stem cells to remain intact. Cryopreserved cells will last the lifetime of your pet.

With the ability to culture and store extra stem cell doses, your pet should only have to undergo one fat collection procedure. Having extra doses available for use also eliminates waiting time. We ship stem cell doses out Monday through Friday and can work with short notice in most cases. This is especially beneficial for some of the animals who are battling life threatening conditions such as kidney disease.

If your pet has cells stored at VetStem and you have questions regarding those stored cells, do not hesitate to contact us! We can be reached by phone at 858-748-2004, email, or through our contact page. Alternatively, if you would like to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area, contact us here.

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Mar 13, 2020

Happy K9 Veterans Day!

Posted by Bob under Dog Arthritis, Dog Stem Cells

Today is National K9 Veterans Day, an unofficial holiday where we commemorate the service and sacrifices of all United States military and working dogs.  It was on March 13, 1942 that dogs first began training for the new War Dog program, and officially became a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

VetStem has a bit of history with a famous K9 Veteran.  Though he is now deceased, Lex’s story was shared far and wide, a real tearjerker.  We have shared this story before, but we believe it deserves to be shared again. 

Lex was a bomb-sniffing German shepherd who served two tours in Iraq.  In 2007, Lex was on duty in Iraq with his handler and best friend, 20-year-old Corporal Dustin Lee.  On March 21, 2007, Cpl. Lee’s base was attacked, and a 73 mm rocket explosion killed Cpl. Lee.  Lex was also injured in the attack however was said to have laid upon Cpl. Lee in an attempt to protect him.  Later, it was said that Lex had to be pulled away from Cpl. Lee to allow medics to attend to him.  Unfortunately, Cpl. Dustin Lee succumbed to his injuries and passed away shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital.  This was just six weeks before Cpl. Lee was scheduled to return home.

Lex also sustained injuries in the attack.  His fur was burned and shrapnel was lodged in his back and spine.  After returning home and attending the funeral of his friend Cpl. Lee, Lex returned to duty at the Marine Corps base in Georgia.  Cpl. Lee’s family however lobbied for months to adopt Lex and in December 2007, Lex was officially discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps and taken home to his new family in Mississippi.

But Lex’s story doesn’t end there.  Due to his injuries and the shrapnel that was still lodged in his body, Lex developed degenerative joint disease.  His osteoarthritis became a problem, causing pain and mobility issues.  That’s where VetStem comes in.  Lex was taken to Dr. Lee Morgan of Georgetown Veterinary Hospital who recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.  In 2010, Lex received injections of his own stem cells in his left hip and knee as well as intravenously.  Lex initially had a great response to treatment and regained the ability go up stairs.

In addition to Lex, VetStem has provided stem cell therapy services for several law enforcement and search and rescue dogs.  Though their stories may not be as dramatic as Lex’s, working dogs face rigorous physical activity and the potential for injury while on the job or later down the line after years of wear and tear on their joints.  Just like their two-legged partners, they are willing to sacrifice it all for the safety of others.  And for that, we honor all K9 veterans and working dogs alike.

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Feb 28, 2020

Collect Fat for Stem Cell Therapy During Spay/Neuter, or Dental

Posted by Bob under Dog Stem Cells

Did you know that February is both spay and neuter awareness month as well as pet dental health month?  These procedures all require that your dog go under general anesthesia.  Since collecting fat for stem cell therapy also requires anesthesia, why not combine the two?

If your dog is undergoing anesthesia for a routine surgical procedure such as a spay, neuter, or dental cleaning, you should consider asking your veterinarian to collect fat at the same time.  This fat can be used to provide stem cell treatment for your dog in approximately 48 hours or it can be stored for potential future use.

At VetStem, we provide a service called StemInsure.  We like to think of it as the “Stem Cell Insurance” for dogs.  For a StemInsure, your veterinarian will collect a small sample of fat tissue from your dog and will ship it to the VetStem laboratory.  VetStem lab technicians will process your dog’s fat to isolate the stem cells and cryopreserve them for potential future use.

This process can be beneficial for certain breeds of puppies who are likely to develop orthopedic conditions as they age.  Or it may be useful for dogs who have other health concerns and it is therefore ideal to minimize the number and length of anesthetic procedures.

Learn more about the canine StemInsure here or contact us for a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Feb 7, 2020

Stem Cell Therapy with Rehabilitation for Pets

Patients with compromised mobility due to osteoarthritis or acute orthopedic injuries are often prescribed physical rehabilitation.  Physical rehabilitation or physical therapy (PT) refers to a number of non-invasive techniques including but not limited to exercise, manipulation, cold therapy, heat therapy and electrotherapy.  The goal of PT is to reduce pain and improve strength and mobility and thereby, improve a pet’s quality of life.

Physical therapy can also be a great way to help a pet recover from surgery.  When used postoperatively, the goal is to decrease pain, inflammation, and recovery time.  When applied appropriately, these treatments may have both immediate and long-term effects.  For these reasons, VetStem recommends that pets follow some basic rehabilitation guidelines after receiving intra-articular (into the joint) or intra-lesional (into the injured tissue) stem cell injections.

Though the optimal post-stem cell injection rehabilitation protocol is unknown, your veterinarian can help you craft a rehab routine that is based on your pet’s specific condition and needs.  Some factors that may affect your pet’s rehabilitation protocol include severity of the condition, number of joints/lesions that are affected and/or injected, as well as other medical conditions your pet may have. In general, VetStem recommends starting with very light rehabilitative exercises for the first several weeks following stem cell therapy.  For dogs and cats, this may include passive range of motion and stretching as well as slow leash walks.  For horses this may include limited or short hand walks or stall rest with hand grazing, depending on the condition being treated.  We understand keeping a pet quiet can be challenging for many owners.  We believe however that it is very important to follow good rehabilitation practices to help your pet heal in the most optimal way. Patience and good nursing care can help your pet’s healing process in both the short and long term.        

VetStem patient, Koda, getting his PT in an underwater treadmill.
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Jan 24, 2020

Labrador Retriever Stops Pain Meds After Stem Cell Therapy

At just four months old, Tucker, a Labrador retriever, was limping and lame.  At one year of age, he was diagnosed with bilateral hip and elbow dysplasia.  His veterinarian prescribed him pain medications as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).  After four years of continuous medication and restricted physical activity, Tucker’s owners were introduced to VetStem Regenerative Cell Therapy as a potential treatment option for osteoarthritis in his hips and elbows.

To begin the process, Dr. Glenn Behan of Barnegat Animal Clinic collected Tucker’s fat tissue and sent it off to the VetStem laboratory in January 2019. Once received, VetStem lab technicians processed the fat to extract Tucker’s stem and regenerative cells for injectable stem cell doses. Tucker’s stem cell injections were sent back to Dr. Behan and, approximately 48 hours after the initial fat collection, Tucker received one injection into each hip and each elbow.

At just one month post stem cell therapy, Tucker’s owners noticed his energy level was up, he could get up and down with more ease, and stairs were easier to climb. After approximately six weeks, Tucker could walk further distances and his limp subsided. His owner stated, “He was able to actually run on the beach and through the surf for the first time without pain. There was almost a hop in his step which we had never seen before.”  In a 90-day follow up survey, Tucker’s owner reported that he was able to discontinue his pain and anti-inflammatory medication and his quality of life was significantly improved.

Tucker, enjoying the beach after receiving VetStem Cell Therapy

Approximately seven months post stem cell therapy, Tucker continued to do great. With his increased activity, he lost ten pounds and was getting around so much better. He would go on walks, up and down stairs and even began jumping on the bed, which he could not do before. He also played a lot more with his little brother. At that point in time, he continued to not require pain or anti-inflammatory medication.

Tucker lost 10lbs due to his increased activity level

It has been approximately one year since Tucker’s stem cell therapy and he has not required additional stem cell treatments.  Like Tucker, some dogs are able to reduce or discontinue pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications after receiving VetStem Regenerative Cell Therapy.  It is important to point out that NSAID use can lead to gastrointestinal upset and organ damage, which is why most veterinarians advise against long-term use of NSAIDs.

If you think your dog may benefit from stem cell therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Jan 10, 2020

Life is Better with Stem Cells: Ember’s Story

For our first blog of the new year, we thought we would try something a little different.  This week, we have a guest blog submitted by dog owner Virginia regarding her dog Ember and her stem cell story.  Ember received VetStem Cell Therapy after she was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia.  She’s feeling much better and…well, we’ll let Ember tell her story…

Hi,

My name is Ember and I am a 4-year-old Newfoundland. I’m writing this because I was asked to tell my story.

In my family we are first and foremost companions to our people, we live side by side with them.  But we have other jobs as well.  One is we do a lot of social and therapy work to bring smiles to people.  Our other career is to be “show dogs.”  Being social dogs, we like both our jobs.

But things changed for me when we discovered that I had bilateral elbow dysplasia confirmed by OFA x-rays.  Sometimes I would limp a bit, other times not.  When I was 2 and 1/2, I started limping and did not stop for months.  That was not fun, and I did not feel like playing with all my friends at home (I have a big family). 

Then on “My Lady’s” birthday her best friend (and my first home) gave her the gift of stem cell therapy for me.  She seemed excited; I did not know what she was talking about at all.  I just go with the flow so I wagged my tail. 

Before stem cell therapy, I was lame and really didn’t play as much as I wanted to.  It is over 5 months now from my injections and I feel a lot better!  I am my happy self, I play with my friends, even the puppy.  I am more active and can get in bed to sleep with my people at night.  I am not lame anymore.  My movement is so much better and I am pain free. 

I am very grateful to My Lady’s friend for giving such a thoughtful gift.  It has made a huge difference for me.  I want to say thank you to all the people who worked hard so this option could be made available for us dogs. 

Life is better with stem cells.

Love,

Ember

Ember
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Dec 6, 2019

Veterinarian Highlight: Adam Gassel, DVM, DACVS

Posted by Bob under Dog Arthritis, Dog Stem Cells

In this week’s veterinarian highlight, we’d like to introduce you to veterinary surgeon and VetStem user Dr. Adam Gassel.  Dr. Gassel practices at Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Irvine, California.  He received his DVM from Purdue University in 1991 and pursued an internship with Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles.  He then completed a surgical residency at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and became a board-certified veterinary surgeon in 2007.

Dr. Gassel’s surgical interests include TPLO (a surgery to stabilize the knee), portosystemic shunts, surgical oncology, and minimally invasive procedures, particularly arthroscopy and laparoscopy.  Dr. Gassel frequently incorporates VetStem Cell Therapy into his orthopedic surgeries for things like joint dysplasia/osteoarthritis and Fragmented Coronoid Process.  He has treated 125 patients utilizing VetStem Cell Therapy and is part of the VetStem Centenniel Club.

We recently asked Dr. Gassel a few questions about his use of VetStem Cell Therapy.  See his answers below regarding his specific experiences.

Why do you find VetStem Cell Therapy to be a valuable addition to your practice?

VetStem Cell Therapy is a valuable tool because of the ability of regenerative medicine (stem cells) to treat acute and chronic pain associated with tissue trauma and chronic degenerative joint disease.  We perform a variety of surgical procedures at our practice and I have been using stem cells primarily and as an adjuvant for my patients over the past 12 years.  VetStem Cell Therapy is a natural alternative to traditional medications used to treat chronic osteoarthritis, especially for patients that cannot tolerate the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  We can stabilize a torn cranial cruciate ligament and remove cartilage fragments from a damaged elbow, but we cannot replace the damaged cartilage that can result from the initial injury.  In my opinion, this is when regenerative medicine can play a vital role in treating chronic pain and inflammation associated with these injuries.  Ongoing arthritis can be a debilitating and frustrating disease for our patients and their families.  Regenerative stem cell therapy provides us with a safe and efficacious way of treating these patients to improve their quality of life.    

As a surgeon, do you primarily recommend stem cell therapy in addition to surgery or in lieu of surgery?  Please explain your answer.

This determination is made on a case by case basis.  There are a variety of procedures in which stem cell therapy is used in combination with surgery to provide an optimal outcome.  There are certainly cases in which stem cell therapy is used in lieu of surgery mostly due to patient factors.  However, I have also been educating clients on the benefits of stem cell therapy and to consider taking advantage of the Canine StemInsure program if their pet is under anesthesia for routine prophylactic surgeries (stem cells to be stored for future use).

What advice would you give to pet owners considering stem cell therapy for their pet?

Stem cell therapy is a safe and effective way to address both acute and chronic pain caused by a variety of diseases seen in our patients.  Adipose tissue (fat) provides a rich source of stem cells that can easily be harvested with a quick and safe surgical procedure.  Once isolated and re-administered to the patient, current literature supports the ability of stem cells to reduce inflammation and pain while helping to re-build bone and soft tissue.  Pet owners should understand that there are injuries and diseases that cannot be fixed with stem cell therapy alone and should keep an open mind when consulting with the specialist.  Overall, this “cutting-edge” therapy can lengthen and improve the quality of life of their pet. 

There you have it!  Thank you Dr. Gassel for taking the time to answer our questions!  If you are located in the Irvine area and looking for an experienced stem cell provider, contact Blue Pearl Irvine for a consultation with Dr. Gassel.

Dr. Adam Gassel DVM, DACVS
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