Skip to content

Healthy Pets

Font Size

Stem Cell Therapy for Pets

There’s controversy surrounding the use of stem cells, particularly in humans. But stem cell therapy is being used to treat beloved pets. Here's how it works in animals. 

What are stem cells?

Recommended Related to Pets

Are You Obsessed With Your Pet?

You've probably heard urban legends about the elderly lady who has dozens of cats, the guy who collects snakes and never leaves his house, or someone who spends thousands on clothes for their pet. When Kim Swank, 35, of Layton, Utah, spent $10,000 on treatment for a cherished family member, it wasn’t for her spouse, sibling, or parent -- it was for Wilson, her beloved Pug. "People would approach my husband and say, “I can’t believe you paid 10 grand to keep a dog alive!” My husband’s reply was simply,...

Read the Are You Obsessed With Your Pet? article > >

In all animals, stem cells are like blank slates. They start out without any clear identity, but can divide and grow into many different types of cells, like muscle or blood cells.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cells are being used to treat illness and heal injuries in pets. They are injected into the body to repair muscles, joints, and ligaments that have been damaged by arthritis or injury. Some cancers are treated with stem cells taken from the pet's own bone marrow. And research is underway to test stem cells for diabetes treatment, and to treat animals that have lost control of their bladders.

Does stem cell therapy for pets work the same as in humans?

Yes. The basic idea is the same, but because there are fewer regulations for treating animals, stem cell therapy is used more often in pets than in humans.

How long have veterinarians been using this type of treatment?

Vets have been testing stem cell therapy in animals for about 10 years, but serious work has amped up in the past 4 or 5 years.

What does the procedure involve?

Stem cells are usually taken from the animal’s fat tissue or blood plasma. They're then separated out from other cells and put back in the animal, usually by injecting them directly into the problem area.

Does it work?

Right now, there are no big studies to show that stem cell therapy works in pets. All we have is anecdotal evidence, or stories from pet owners and veterinarians. Studies are underway to give us better insight into how effective stem cell therapy is in pets.

Are there any risks?

The biggest risk is your pet developing cancer. Studies are being done to see how to lessen it.

How much does it cost?

In pets, stem cell therapy usually costs between $2,000 and $3,000, but it can go much higher.

Where can I look into pet stem cell therapy?

Teaching hospitals are a great place to start your search. Here are a few:

  • William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of California, Davis
  • Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
  • University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on January 30, 2014

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
 
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
tick
Get the facts about prevention.
 
Woman holding puppy
Article
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Siamese cat eating from bowl
Slideshow
cat on couch
Evaluator
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
Orange cat nuzzling woman
Slideshow
German shephard reading a book
Quiz