By Frank Kourt
When most people think of stem-cell therapy, they think of cutting-edge medicine —human medicine, that is.
What many don’t realize is that the technology can be, and is, applied to our four-legged friends as well.
Jim Martin, DVM, a veterinarian who owns and operates four area animal care facilities, including the Waco Animal Hospital, has been using stem-cell therapy to help dogs, mainly with mobility problems, such as arthritis, joint pain and tendon and ligament damage.
The therapy can provide canine patients with renewed energy and freedom of movement.
Martin, associates, and staff members, have been using the procedure on dogs for about a year, with considerable success.
“In Kentucky the use of stem-cell therapy has been mainly for horses,” Martin explained, but added it works on canines as well.
The procedure doesn’t come cheap. Martin said the cost ranges from about $1,800 to $2,200. That includes pre-testing to determine if the dog is a good candidate for the procedure, along with surgical anesthetic and other services necessary to complete the procedure.
Because the stem cells that are injected come from the animal’s own body, the risk of rejection or reaction is minimal.
The procedures are done in Martin’s Advanced Animal Care in Richmond, Central Kentucky’s only full-service 24-hour-a-day animal hospital. He said a portion of that facility is dedicated to a care center, which treats animals with chronic conditions using not only stem-cell therapy, but also joint injections, laser therapy and even acupuncture.
The facility was the first in the area to offer stem-cell therapy, and Martin said it is the only one he knows of that offers the complete procedure, from the extraction of the stem cells to their implantation.
Martin said the procedure, which takes about three hours, extracts stem cells from fatty tissue and platelets from the blood in the anesthetized dog. The platelets and stem cells are then mixed, under sterile conditions, and injected into the area in need of treatment, often the hips. The remaining extract is introduced into the dog, intravenously, often bringing relief to other parts of the animal.
He said the best candidates for the procedure are dogs without advanced damage.
“We have seen the best success with dogs under six years of age,” Martin said.
“The earlier you get to it, the better,” he added.
While the cost of the procedure may seem prohibitive, the veterinarian said it can often be made up within two years by reducing the need for medications the dog may have been treated with prior to undergoing the procedure.
Martin said the therapy can not only repair and regenerate tissue in the animal, but also halt the progression of joint disease.
Martin, who has been practicing veterinary medicine in the area since 1973, said he likes to be on the cutting edge of his profession.
In addition to the Waco Animal Hospital and Advanced Animal Care in Richmond, Martin also owns and operates Advanced Animal Care in Berea and Locust Trace Veterinary Clinic in Lexington.
Martin said Locust Trace Veterinary Clinic has the distinction of being perhaps the only full-service animal clinic in the world located on a high school campus. Located on the Fayette County School’s Agriscience Center campus, the clinic allows high school students to observe and learn about veterinary science.
“We want to create an environment in which high school students can develop an interest in veterinary medicine and inspire them to pursue further education and careers in the field,” Martin said.
The Locust Trace Veterinary Clinic and Martin were recognized by Heska Veterinary Diagnostics, winning second place in the company’s 2011/12 Inspiration in Action contest that included a $5,000 award.