All Posts tagged Animal Stem Cell Therapy

DNA Tests for Pets Help Us Understand Genetic Disease

For thousands of years, humans have selectively bred a variety of domesticated animals, creating many different breeds and unique types.  While these historic farmers and breeders were focused on producing the highest quality of wool from sheep or the muscular build of a Rottweiler, they were unaware of other, more destructive traits that were passed on as well.

Genetics is the science of heredity and how specific physical traits are passed from generation to generation in any organism.  Most everyone can relate to genetics from high school science courses showing color blindness in human males or if you have the ability to roll your tongue.   But, serious, life threatening diseases are also often governed by our genes and this holds true for pets and other animals as well.

Take Penny, for instance.   She was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, a breed of dog known for excellent cattle herding skills and a love of family.   Sadly, these Corgis are also known for a genetic condition known as Degenerative Myelopathy, or DM.  This disease essentially causes damage along the spinal cord, leading to progressively worsening weakness in the rear legs.  Eventually, Penny was unable to move her rear legs due to paralysis.  She was humanely euthanized after a long life with a family she adored.

DM is not a treatable disease, but scientists have now pinpointed the mutation responsible for this illness.  Almost four dozen different dog breeds have this altered gene present.  Recent research has shown that only dogs who receive a copy of the mutated gene from both parents will develop the condition.  This is known as a “recessive trait”.  Other recessive conditions in animals include certain enzyme deficiencies in cats or some skin issues in horses.

Not all genetic diseases are this simple.  Some are passed as dominant traits, some are linked to specific physical attributes and still others have multiple genes affecting the eventual outcome.  Even the environment can influence the process of the disease or condition.  Hip dysplasia in dogs is an example of a multi-gene and environmentally impacted problem.

The entire sequence of the canine genome was published in 2005.  The genome of our feline friends was published around 2007 and just recently, the entire gene sequences of a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred have also been discovered.  The good news in all of this is that as scientists and veterinarians better understand the root causes of hereditary issues, tests to find the disease and even possible treatment options become available.

Dr. Gus Cothran, professor at Texas A & M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says that genetic testing will continue to prove to be of great value to veterinarians and even pet owners.  “Imagine doing blood tests to find animals that are carrying certain mutations that might lead to deleterious conditions or diseases.  Now, we can remove these animals from breeding programs before they are bred and help reduce the incidence of some very serious problems in our domesticated animals.”

Tests for degenerative myelopathy in dogs and polycystic kidney disease in cats are just two of the dozens of genetic screenings that are now available.  Facilities like Texas A&M’s Animal Genetics Lab and the University of California at Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Lab provide testing for animals ranging from our dogs and cats all the way up to horses, llamas, pigs and cattle.  Other private companies, for example, VetGen or DNA Diagnostics Center, have also started reaching out to veterinarians and pet owners interested in this sort of testing.

While these tests may not remove the possibility of genetic disease, they still can be very valuable.  Knowing the chance for disease exists can prompt pet owners and veterinarians to start intervention programs, such as swimming or increased exercise in the case of Corgis, which might delay the onset or progression of the condition.

Anyone interested in breeding domestic animals should familiarize themselves with the potential for genetic diseases.  Your veterinarian can be very helpful in determining what kind of conditions are considered hereditary and even help you find the resources to test the animals you want to breed.

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Deerfield Veterinary Hospital First To Offer Stem Cell Therapy to Pets in Springfield

Early in my professional career, I was advised to avoid publicly discussing three controversial subject matters; politics, religion and money.  Of late, the term “stem cells” could certainly be added to this short list of contentious topics.  Weekly, we see news reports and read editorials on the uses of human embryonic stem cells and the moral-ethical questions surrounding the collection of these powerful cells. There are, however, new breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine that draw on the use of adult stem cells, harvested not from embryos but from an adult’s own body.

Research now teaches us that stem cells are an important part of a healthy body’s defense and regeneration process.  Simply put, we could not thrive without these primitive repair cells.  Just as embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into a completely new human or animal, adult stem cells have the ability to change and differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle or any tissue in the body.  Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving stem cells demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group.  In clinical trials, over 80% of pet owners report improvement after therapy.  This news has excited veterinarians and pet owners alike and has many asking about the potential for a real world application.

More than 15 million (20%) dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis (OA).  Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”.  Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements.  Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation.  But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain.  Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of on-going treatment.

Adult stem cell regenerative therapy is now an accepted treatment for OA and is available for both dogs and cats.  Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is pleased to be the first veterinary hospital in the Ozarks to offer stem cell therapy.  All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle.

If you are trying to decide if stem cell therapy is right for your pet, please consider the following. Not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy.  Since anesthesia is involved in both the cell collection step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for all patients.  Additionally, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.  Even though there has been great feedback from owners, this is not a one shot therapy.  Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments.  Scientist report that over-exertion after treatment seems to lessen the benefits of the treatment, often leading to another trip to the veterinarian.  Finally, cost will certainly come into play as owners and veterinarians discuss this option.  Prices will vary among veterinarians, but in general, plan on spending at least $3000 to $3500 for initial treatments.

Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog or cat.  If you suspect your pet suffers from this disease, talk with us about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options.   We will recommend a multi-modal approach to pain relief, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet’s life easier.  In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, can be beneficial!

This video segment from ABC’s Nightline in 2008 reviews the process of harvesting and transplanting stem cells in pets.

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