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

    Hot Weather Tips for Your Pet

    We all love spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors with our furry companions, but being overeager in hot weather can spell danger, warn ASPCA experts. "Even the healthiest pets can suffer from dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn if overexposed to the heat," says Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA Veterinary Advisor, "and heat stroke can be fatal if not treated promptly." Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA experts, to help prevent your pet from overheating. And if you suspect your...

    Read the Hot Weather Tips for 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 22, 2016

    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.
    Get the facts about prevention.
    Woman holding puppy
    Sad dog and guacamole
    Siamese cat eating from bowl
    cat on couch
    Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
    Kitten playing
    Orange cat nuzzling woman
    German shephard reading a book