May 10, 2020


By Dr. Bryna Felchle, DVM – Veterinarian, Animal Clinic of Billings

May is Stem Cell Therapy Awareness Month! We are offering FREE Initial Banking for any stem cell procedures in the month of May. To learn more about Actistem Stem Cell Therapy and request a consultation for this offer, click HERE!

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common debilitating diseases seen in pets over the age of seven. Signs of osteoarthritis can be subtle in early stages, such as difficulty getting up from a resting position, stiffness, or reluctance to jump.

In more advanced stages, there can be visible lameness (limping), or obvious decrease in mobility where a pet may not be able to rise without help. If the pain gets severe enough, the pet may have a decrease in appetite and or desire to interact with the family.

There are many options available to help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis in animals. These options include, but are not limited to, NSAIDs, oral pain medications, oral and injectable glucosamine supplements, natural anti-inflammatories or homeopathic remedies, physical therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, joint injections including Hyaluronic Acid, steroids, Platelet Rich Plasma, or Stem Cells.

stem cell diagram

What are Stem Cells?

Stem Cells are undifferentiated cells of the body that can divide and become differentiated into specialized cell types. These cells can help form specific tissues or organs like skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, liver, nerves, ligaments, etc.

stem cellsThink of them as powerful precursor cells, or “baby cells”, that can decide what type of cell they will ultimately become, and therefore, what tissue they will help develop.

Where do we get Stem Cells?

veterinarian in surgery
Dr. Bryna Felchle at the Animal Surgery Clinic of Billings extracting fat cells to be processed into new Regenerative Stem Cells then re-administered back into the patient.

There are two main sources of stem cells, embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. The stem cells used in Veterinary Medicine are usually harvested from an animal’s own adult tissues. Historically, bone marrow was the primary source of tissue harvested for the collection of stem cells. Over the past 14 years, adipose (fat) tissue has been a large focus on a source for harvesting stem cells. Adipose (fat) tissue is easy to collect with a minor surgical procedure that is well tolerated by our patients.

Adipose derived stem cells are essentially dormant, or “asleep”. The tissue must undergo a specialized process to isolate and awaken the cells so they are active once reintroduced (injected) into the areas of need. This process used to require a special lab and several days to complete, but with new technology, this process can now occur in a single day at a veterinary clinic containing the specialized equipment and appropriately trained staff.

What are Stem Cells used for?

Stem cells in animals have primarily been studied, and used, as healing cells to aid in the treatment of conditions like osteoarthritis and orthopedic injuries. Common orthopedic injuries where stem cells can be used are Cranial Cruciate Ligament tears, Achilles Tendon injuries, and Biceps Tendon injuries.

Activated stem cells are injected into the damaged joint, ligament, or tendon. Once at the site of damaged tissue, as in damaged or degrading cartilage seen with osteoarthritis, or tendon/ligament tears, the cells will signal healing factors to the area to decrease pain and inflammation, then they will eventually rebuild or help repair the damaged cartilage or fibers.

What might you see in a pet treated with Stem Cells for osteoarthritis or orthopedic injury?

  • Decrease pain
  • Increase range of motion and mobility
  • Decreased lameness
  • Remodeling or rebuilding of cartilage or tendon/ligament fibers
  • Improved healing (when used adjunctively to surgery)
  • An overall, happier, more active and playful pet!

If you feel your pet may be suffering from osteoarthritis or orthopedic disease, even if it is mild, please seek veterinary care to have your pet evaluated and to discuss the options available to give your pet the relief he/she needs and deserves.

As with any disease or condition, the earlier the diagnosis is made and the earlier intervention occurs, the better the long term prognosis for your pet’s quality of life. Call us at 406-252-9499 to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today to see if your dog or cat is a good candidate for regenerative stem cell therapy.