Vets use stem cells to manage pets' pain

By Carol McGraw
Sunday, February 6, 2011

COLORADO SPRINGS - Macha is one of those once-in-a-lifetime pets - a tall, lean, savvy dog who lives to hunt pheasant.

Out in the field, the Labrador retriever is so focused that she shuns pats from her Woodland Park, Colo., owner, Tom Bulloch. "She doesn't want her line of vision obstructed," he explains.

Macha, who can run like the wind, was named after a mythological Irish goddess who was faster than any man or beast.

But four years ago, Macha slowed dramatically. Stairs became difficult. After outings she was sore and had trouble getting out of her bed.

"She was only 6 years old but seemed like an elderly lady," Bulloch recalls.

His veterinarian diagnosed her problem as severe arthritis and suggested Macha be examined by veterinarian James Gaynor of Peak Performance Veterinary Group in Colorado Springs.

Gaynor specializes in pain management and is one of about 300 veterinarians certified nationwide to use animals' own stem cells in treatment for a variety of ailments.

"At the time, I thought, 'Aren't stem cells illegal or a political problem?' " Bulloch says.

In fact, they can be used for treatment of animals. The procedure does not use the controversial embryonic stem cells that have not gotten approval from the Food and Drug Administration for humans.

Gaynor, who taught at Colorado State University veterinary school for 14 years, notes: "The procedure is no silver bullet. But we are way ahead of use in humans."

Research has shown that stem-cell treatment can help an animal's range of motion and relieve certain pain. The animal's stem cells migrate to where they are needed to repair an injury, Gaynor says. The stem cells are, in essence, anti-inflammatory and can help regenerate tissue, bone, cartilage, liver cells, heart muscle, and some nerve cells and blood vessels.

Bulloch gladly paid the $1,700 medical bill. "She loves the outdoors so much, and it was a matter of the pain and mobility."

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