Medical Professionals Online

Veterinary Surgeon To Share Stem Cell Therapy Results - American Veterinary Medical Association Annual Convention

October 04, 2017

Veterinarian Timothy McCarthy remembers one case of elbow joint damage in a German shepherd that was so severe that he and the dog's owners contemplated amputation. In another case, an aging Rottweiler was so hobbled that he shuffled around the exam room like an "old man" before plopping himself back down on the floor.

But to the delight of owner, doctor and patient, both dogs made remarkable recoveries. Why the dramatic turnaround? According to McCarthy, it could very well be stem cell therapy, a relatively new form of treatment that is showing tremendous promise in treating arthritic and other orthopedic conditions.

McCarthy, along with other experts in stem cell therapies, will explore the new stem cell frontier during the American Veterinary Medical Association's 145th Annual Convention in New Orleans, La., on Sunday, July 20. McCarthy, a veterinary surgeon who practices in Oregon, said stem cell treatments are adding another tool to the veterinarian's treatment options.

"We don't even know what all the questions are yet regarding stem cell therapy, like what works best, how much progress has a patient really made and are we asking too much of these stem cells," he said.

"But I've been very, very encouraged in quite a few of my patients. We actually talked about amputation with the German shepherd, but

the dog has been out there for a year now and is doing great. He's close to 100 percent. I have had several other dogs with equally dramatic results."

McCarthy has performed about 35 stem cell treatments on dogs in little more than a year. He plans on sharing progress reports on many of those patients during the convention. So what's the trick?

"I don't know," McCarthy says. "I'm still trying to find that out. Stem cells are like the body's pharmacy. They don't necessarily grow into any specific tissue, but they signal the body in ways that we can't do otherwise to heal.

"We still have to address the underlying cause of the problem, and you have to fit stem cell therapy in with a rational approach to treatment. It is not a stand-alone treatment that will solve everything. Owner discussion and consent are important, but it is really remarkable how some of these dogs respond."

The stem cells that McCarthy uses in treatment are harvested directly from fat tissue in the patients, processed by a California company, and are then injected back into the dog after arthroscopic surgery on the affected joint. Using such autologous cells eliminates many side effects and avoids the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cell therapies. To date, no regulatory agency has published guidance on the safety and efficacy of stem cell therapies in animals.

"Almost all of these dogs have a different attitude about life after treatment," McCarthy said. "They are just happier dogs. I don't know if there is a way to measure that, but the dog is letting us know he feels a lot better."

For more information about the AVMA annual convention in New Orleans July 18-22, visit avmaconventionmedia.


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its more than 76,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at www.avma for more information.