Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Feb 22, 2023 | Press

Why Pet Parents Choose Stem Cell Banking During Spay and Neuter Procedures

The concept of “saving for a rainy day” is not new.

Putting a little away for the future – when it means a lot more – is a common practice.

When it comes to our pets, the rainiest of days often come in the form of pain, discomfort, and limited mobility due to age-related conditions and disorders including osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.

Doylestown Veterinary Hospital and its science partners at Ardent Animal Health regularly help pet parents save for those rainy days and spare their dogs and cats a lot of grief in the process.

Ardent’s Bank Now Save Later program cryo-stores undifferentiated cells that can help our dogs and cats’ bodies repair any number of chronic conditions at a later date. Once harvested, stem cells are concentrated, incubated, and activated – and then reinjected back into the patient to work wonders.

And because stem cell banking is typically conducted during spay and neuter procedures, collection is simple and pain-free.

The Best Time for Banking

“When a pet comes in for a spay or neuter, they’re already going under anesthesia,” says Doylestown’s Dr. Jerica Lugo, VMD.

Harvesting fat during this routine procedure means a pet won’t need to undergo anesthesia at a later date should stem cells be required.

And keeping anesthesia – and the potential for side effects – at a bare minimum is always preferred for our pets’ health, she says.

While fat can be harvested as part of any procedure in which a pet is anesthetized – say, mass removals or dental work – spay and neuter operations are ideal, for the simple reason that a majority of our pets receive them – and at a young age when anesthesia is easier on the body.

“When dogs are younger, they also have more fat to process,” Dr. Lugo explains. “If dogs get a stem cell procedure when they’re older, sometimes they have slimmed down or have been on a diet to help them with joint pain issues, and occasionally they don’t have as much fat in the belly to collect for stem cells. When they’re young, there’s more of a fat pad there to begin with.”

Another plus? Recovery for stem cell banking is roped in with the spay or neuter procedure.

“They already need to be quiet for the next 14 days or so,” Dr. Lugo says, and because incisions don’t heal based on their length (slightly longer incisions are required to harvest fat), the healing time remains the same.

According to Matt Yeich, marketing manager for Ardent Animal Health, once the tissue is collected by a veterinarian, it is sent to the Ardent laboratory in Kentucky where it is processed and cryo-banked.

“Later in life, when a pet needs these cells, we coordinate with the clinic and the pet’s family, and those stem cells would be sent back out to be utilized for arthritis, hip dysplasia, and things like that. They won’t have to do the surgery at that point to collect new tissue, because they already have the stem cells banked.”

The cost of banking is also the same, regardless of the age of your pet.

“That’s an added benefit of banking while your pet is young,” Dr. Lugo says. “You have this resource for your pet’s entire life – and you can use it for anything. The cost is the same whether you start banking at one year of age, or 8 or 9.”

The Saving Graces of Stem Cell Banking

Stem cells are most frequently used for arthritis treatment in today’s veterinary offices.

“As we know, many pets have orthopedic issues. Particularly as they get older, they can start to develop arthritis – and some while they’re still young,” Dr. Lugo says.

Larger breeds, says Dr. Lugo, tend to have hip and elbow issues, while smaller dogs often develop problems with their knees. Stem cell therapy can help to heal and correct these problems.

“I’ve had stem cell patients between the ages of 4 and 13. Some dogs are born with orthopedic issues and will develop arthritis much, much earlier in life. It just goes to show you never know when conditions like these might arise.”

Yeich notes that many pet families opt for proactive stem cell banking after watching a previous pet benefit from stem cell therapy.

“They’ve already gone through that experience and saw how much it helped their other pets,” he says.

Because recipients have already gone through the hardest part of the procedure – recovery – during their spay or neuter appointment, they rebound much quicker. Twilight sedation is implemented during stem cell injections, with patients going home with their owners the same day.

“They’re not undergoing another anesthetic procedure,” says Dr. Lugo. “They don’t have to go through a second round of recovery.”

“The benefit with stem cell banking and injection is that this is not a medicine that is going to have an impact on liver and kidney function,” she continues. “It’s their cells.”

The Future of Stem Cell Banking

The potential for life-changing treatments in the future is unparalleled when using stem cell banking. Already, the treatment has shown promise in easing the symptoms of conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, kidney disease, ocular disease, and so much more.

Studies are continuously adding to a rapidly growing list of diseases that may one day be helped by Ardent’s Actistem Therapy.

“The technology is just getting better and better,” Dr. Lugo says. “We may potentially have even more use for stem cells three years down the road than we do now.”

While not insurance, per se, stem cell banking is a phenomenal way to prepare for your pet’s future health, Yeich says.

“It provides pet owners with options as their dogs and cats get older.”