Author Archives: Kiley Roberson

Treating Your Pets

posted June 7th, 2016 by
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Treating Your Pets

By Kiley Roberson

 

Whether it’s your constant companion, best friend or first child, your pet is truly someone special. So when you treat them with a snack, it should be special, too. And what if that snack did more than just satisfy your pal’s taste buds… what if it also satisfied a need in your community? That’s the goal of Tulsa’s Bridges Barkery.

The Barkery is part of Tulsa’s Bridges Foundation, an organization that offers education like vocational training, employment opportunities, living skills and community resources to individuals with developmental disabilities.

“We showcase the strengths, capabilities and talents of each individual we serve,” explains Karie Jordan, President and CEO of the Bridges Foundation. “By assisting each person in the attainment of their individual goals, self-sufficiency increases, positively impacting the entire community landscape.”

Karie says her 4-year-old English Bulldog, Miss B, was the inspiration for the organization’s Barkery and is now their mascot and biggest fan.

“Miss B is our mascot, and we love her,” she says. “Baking dog treats was our way of sharing our joy and enthusiasm for her. We knew this would be a great way to give a healthy treat to our community pets and create an employment opportunity for our clients. After baking a few trays of treats,  the clients were in love with the idea and wanted to do more.”

Today, the Barkey is hard at work baking dozens of doggie treats a day, all under the careful eye of Miss B, of course. She goes to work with her owner every day.

“She likes to walk the halls, ensuring she is kept in the loop on all things happening,” Karie says. “Her favorite thing at the Barkery is when the clients bring her treats and spend time with her. She loves to have her back scratched after eating her treats, and then she’s off for a nap.”

Miss B is also the official taste tester for the Barkery and has so far settled on four yummy, all natural flavors of biscuits: beef, chicken, cheese and peanut butter. The baking takes place at the Barkery’s commercial kitchen located at the Brides North Campus. Bridges clients start by choosing a flavor to bake. Then they carefully identify and measure the ingredients into a large mixer. After a thorough mixing, they roll the dough, cut the biscuits, place them on the tray and bake for approximately 30 minutes. After a proper amount of cooling time, they proceed to the assembly and packaging of each bag.

“All of the biscuits are baked fresh daily and contain no preservatives or harmful ingredients,” explains Karie. “We only use human grade ingredients, so these treats are a healthy and delicious snack for your pets.”

But Karie says the entire baking process offers so much more than just great treats; it builds confidence and life skills for clients, too. And the Barkery’s Master Baker is a perfect example.

“When Ms. Chelsea began attending our training program at Bridges two years ago, she was shy and lacked confidence,” Karie says. “When Chelsea graduated from the training program, she was offered a position in the Barkery baking treats.

Over the last year, Chelsea has grown to be an independent, confident young lady and is now the Barkery’s Master Baker.”

The employment opportunity with the Barkery allowed Chelsea to continue working on her vocational skills, learning how to bake, cook and earn a paycheck. The Barkery gave her confidence to grow at her own pace and try new skills she could use at home with the assurance that she has all the support she needed to succeed in her goals.

“The Barkery is important for everyone involved,” Karie says. “It helps clients like Chelsea learn at their own speed, gives pet owners an opportunity to learn about the Bridges Foundation, and finally, you’re favorite four-legged friends get a tasty, healthy treat baked without preservatives and made with lots of love.”

You can find out more about the Bridges Foundation by checking out their website   at www.thebridgesfound.org. There, you can even buy a bag of their delicious treats through their online store.

Pet Prevention: Saving Homeless Pets

posted May 15th, 2016 by
Coconut Oil

Pet Prevention: Saving Homeless Pets

By Kiley Roberson

IN every community throughout the country, there are homeless animals. In the U.S., there are an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year. According to the Humane Society of the United States, barely half of these animals are adopted. Tragically, the rest are euthanized. These were healthy, sweet pets that could have made great companions.
We have thousands of homeless animals in our shelters right here in Oklahoma. These are not the offspring of homeless “street” animals—these are the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds. Oklahoma, like most states, has several animal rescue groups, adoptions centers and more, but one local organization says it’s not enough.
Anita Stepp is the president of NeuterSooner, an organization that provides low-cost options for people to have their pets spayed or neutered. She says rehoming the animals isn’t solving the initial problem.
“We have rescued and sheltered far more pets than we can count, and the problem was still staring back at us,” Anita says. “So we decided to change our focus and solve the problem by prevention.”
NeuterSooner was founded in Bartlesville in 2009 as a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals by offering low-cost spay/neuter programs to those who can’t afford the cost. Neuter-Sooner sells spay/neuter vouchers available to families with incomes less than $40,000 annually. Cost for the vouchers is based on family income.
“We were concerned about the number of pets ending up in the Tulsa City Shelter and having to be killed,” Anita says. “There was a need for more spay and neuter services that were easily accessible and affordable. NeuterSooner decided to help fill that need by providing mobile spay neuter clinics in the Tulsa area.”
Oklahoma Alliance for Animals agreed to help fund the clinics, and NeuterSooner has partnered with five regional veterinary clinics to provide the spay/neuter surgeries.
Today, NeuterSooner has spayed or neutered more than 2,200 pets at clinics in Bartlesville, Tulsa, Dewey, Ochelata, Ramona, Skiatook, Nowata, Cleveland, Jennings and Broken Arrow. Even with this success, Anita says there is still a lot to do.
“The need is so great, and we need help, too,” she says. “We can always use more volunteers at the clinics. We especially need people who can answer phone calls, do the scheduling, help with set up and clean up afterward. Donations are also needed to help make spay/neuter services affordable.”
The decision to spay or neuter your pet can be the single best decision you make for his or her long-term welfare. Not only does spaying or neutering help control the pet population, but it also has positive health and behavioral benefits for pets. According to the Humane Society of the United States, neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than unneutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than unspayed female dogs.
Part of the reduced lifespan of unaltered pets can be attributed to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars and other mishaps.
Another contributor to the increased longevity of altered pets involves the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a far greater chance of developing pyometra (a fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer and other cancers of the reproductive system.
Medical evidence indicates that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. Many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as 8 weeks old.
Male pets that are neutered eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer, and it is thought that they have lowered rates of prostate cancer as well.
Veterinarians also suggest that spaying and neutering pets can help curb bad behavior. Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking (lifting of leg) than neutered dogs. Although it is most often associated with male dogs, females may do it, too. Spaying or neutering your dog should reduce urine-marking and may stop it altogether.
For felines, the urge to spray is extremely strong in an intact cat, and the simplest solution is to get yours neutered or spayed by 4 months of age before there’s even a problem. Neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues, even in cats that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam and fighting with other males.
In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater the risk you run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.
When you factor in the long-term costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet, the savings afforded by spay/neuter are clear, especially with the help of low-cost spay/neuter clinics like NeuterSooner.
Caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily run into the thousands of dollars—five to 10 times as much as a routine spay surgery. Additionally, unaltered pets can be more destructive or high-strung, destroying furniture, household items and fighting with other unaltered pets.
With all this in mind, NeuterSooner says the answer is clear. If we want empty shelters and healthy pets, prevention is key. And the “Sooner,” the better!
You can find out more about Neuter- Sooner on their website (neutersooner.org) or give them a call at (918) 332-6341.

Plump Pets

posted March 1st, 2015 by
20140915c

Plump

Plump Pets

 

By Kiley Roberson

 

It’s not just a people problem; many of our pets are packing on the pounds too. Just over half of all cats and dogs in U.S. households are either overweight or obese, according to a survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

And just like in people, extra weight means extra health problems associated with it.

“Excess weight predisposes pets to a variety of illnesses,” explains Dr. Scott Floyd, DVM at Midtown Vets in Oklahoma City. “Diabetes, intervertebral disk rupture, arthritis, collapsing trachea, heart-associated illness and fatty liver syndrome, to name a few.”

Dr. Floyd says he treats at least two to three obese pets every week, and not surprisingly, treats are part of the problem. He says over-treating, free-feeding and lack of exercise are the major contributing factors to pet obesity. We’re all living such busy lives, that a long walk with Fido or tossing around a ball of yarn with Fluffy just isn’t a top priority. As we do less and less, so do our pets, and before you know it the scale is going up.

It might seem like an extra pound or two on our four-legged companions isn’t so terrible. But that little bit can be a significant percentage of a pet’s total weight. For example, a Yorkie who tips the scales at “just” 12 pounds is equivalent to a 5-foot- 4-inch woman who weighs 218 pounds.

Some pet owners ignore the health hazards associated with overweight pets, focusing on how cute their plump kitty or roly-poly puppy looks. But overfeeding a fat cat or dog is loving it to death basically. That’s because overweight and obese pets also have much shorter life spans.

“Preventing obesity will contribute to a much higher quality of life for your pet       and could certainly lead to a longer life,” says Dr. Mark Shackelford, DVM at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa. “Your pet will  be happier, healthier and much more energetic.”

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says inactive pets are more likely to become depressed or anxious—habits most pet owners associate with behavioral problems. That’s because a sedentary life-style leads to an alteration  in the three major brain chemicals responsible for mood, and that can create emotional issues. Aerobic activity for as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day balances norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels, resulting in a better, more stable mood. Also, well-exercised pets won’t be quite as wired indoors, so they’ll be less prone to chewing, barking and other troublesome behaviors.

How can you know if your pet is overweight? You may not be able to tell by appearance alone, since pets can appear to be in good shape even when they aren’t.

“The standard that applies to most animals is that the owner should be able to count the ribs with their fingers, but not be able to see the ribs under the skin,” explains Dr. Shackelford. “At the appropriate weight, pets should only have a thin layer of fat over their ribs and show an hourglass shape from above. If you have a long-haired pet, it may be best to do this when your dog is wet. If you’re in doubt, you can always ask your vet.”

If your pup is a little plumper than you thought, don’t panic, but do take action. “Restricting food is the first step in fighting obesity,” says Dr. Shackelford. “Feeding a recommended amount of pet food with a minimum of treats usually will help with weight loss. Some dogs and cats, due to genetic makeup causing difficulty in dieting, will have a special weight loss diet prescribed for them, and exercise is very important. Exercise will help burn calories and will also help change the metabolism  to help burn calories more efficiently.”

Exercising dogs is usually simple, but what about cats? You can try  toys that engage them or scattering their food around in small portions through-out the house so they have to hunt for it and, in turn, get more exercise.

Rover to the Rescue at OSU

posted October 20th, 2014 by
20140715c

Pete's Pet Posse

Pete’s Pet Posse is bringing health to the OSU campus

by Kiley Roberson

College life can be full of ups and downs. The excitement of new adventures packed with the stress of exams and loneliness of missing home. But at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, four-legged ambassadors are saving the day one student at a time.

These rescue rovers are members of the University’s new pet therapy program called Pete’s Pet Posse, named after OSU’s infamous cowboy mascot Pistol Pete, of course. The goal of the program is to positively enhance physical and emotional health throughout the campus and is spearheaded by the University’s First Cowgirl, Ann Hargis.

“At OSU, wellness is a big priority, and we have very robust programs in physical activity and nutrition,” explains Ann. “Pete’s Pet Posse is part of an increased wellness focus on the emotional health of our campus population.”

OSU’s President Burns Hargis and his wife Ann are true animal lovers. So it made sense when Ann invited a famous therapy dog, Rossi the Approval Poodle, for a campus visit last year. Droves of students lined up to visit with Rossi.

The response was so positive that Ann decided to explore a pet therapy program at OSU. Oklahoma State University is known for its outstanding veterinary school, so the program seemed like a natural fit. After extensive planning, the program began to take shape, and today the University has accepted eight pups into the posse.

“I have already seen these animals make a difference on campus,” says Ann. “The way the dogs interact with students, faculty and staff leaves everyone with a smile.”

And on a busy college campus, a smile can go a long way toward positive mental health. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. They can also provide greater opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.

Dr. Lara Sypniewski is an OSU veterinarian and helped develop the Pet Posse Program. She says the benefits of pet therapy are clear.

“Research into student retention, wellness and academic progress has repeatedly shown that interaction with therapy dogs has positive effects on these parameters during the college experience,” explains Sypniewski.

“With mounting pressure on students, staff and faculty for ever greater achievement with smaller budgets and less time, college campuses have developed a ‘culture of stress.’ This culture has created an epidemic of anxiety, relationship and family problems, substance abuse, suicide and violence.

“Research has demonstrated that programs like Pete’s Pet Posse have the potential to lessen this anxiety epidemic and improve the quality of life of our campus family.”

Sypniewski is one of the veterinarians that works directly with the Pet Posse. She says becoming a certified therapy animal isn’t just a walk in the dog park.   

Each member of Pete’s Pet Posse must go through a veterinary exam and interview, a trainer disposition and behavior evaluation, and the owner has to be interviewed by   the advisory committee. The pets also enter into a training program and can only be approved after they graduate.

All of the dogs involved in the program live with their owners full-time and are simply volunteers for the University. After they have completed their training and are accepted into the posse, the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (with the support of Merial and Purina) provides the pets’ food and wellness care, such as vaccinations, heartworm treatment and flea and tick preventative. The pets must also be reevaluated each year to stay in the program.

It’s a rigorous process, but owners like Kendria Cost say it’s worth it. Cost is the executive assistant to the First Lady and helped create the program. She’s also the proud owner of Pet Posse member Charlie, an 18-month-old German Shepherd rescue.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Cost.” The Office of Campus Life has a treat drawer for the dogs that visit. Several of the dogs have been on campus long enough that people call them by name and run to greet them.”

One of those people is OSU student Alex Miller, a freshman from Fort Worth, Texas, double majoring in music education and clinical child psychology. Just a few weeks into her first semester, homesickness   struck. She missed her family back home, especially her two Labradors that always knew how to cheer her up. Feeling blue after class, Miller decided to stop by the Student Union for a coffee where she met Cost, and most importantly, Charlie.

“I stepped into the Student Union and right at the front desk was this big ball of fur, tongue out, tail wagging. I asked to pet him, and as I got down to his level to give him some love, I just started crying,” explains Miller. “All the stress of moving somewhere new and starting completely over   with friends and living and so on was removed, and I felt more at home than ever. I was able to vicariously love my dogs through him that day.”

Visiting with Charlie made a huge impact on Miller. Pete’s Pet Posse gave her an outlet in which to get involved, and now she promotes it to everyone.

“I think this program is a perfect asset to have at a University, especially for the students who    are living a long way away from their homes, like I am. You’re really able to have that kind of connection, and it helps with settling down in a place that is brand new,” says Miller. “Now I’m involved in the program and also volunteer at the Stillwater Humane Society. I feel more at home than ever at OSU, and I see Charlie every chance I get.”

Changing lives like Miller’s is what Pete’s Pet Posse is all about. But it helps that the pets benefit too.

“I am especially proud that most of these animals are rescues, and in true Cowboy spirit are giving back to others,” says Ann. “This program reaches across all campus boundaries and is truly multidisciplinary in the approach to wellness. I look forward to continued successes and can’t wait to see where these pups take us on our journey of becoming America’s healthiest campus.” 

Are You Ready to Adopt?

posted November 16th, 2013 by

by Kiley Roberson

Adopting a pet is a major commitment.

Unfortunately, people often put more time and effort into researching what kind of car to get than the type of pet that would best fit their lifestyles. Caring for a companion animal goes far beyond providing food, water and shelter. It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, and to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your new pet.

Professionals—like Nancy Gallimore Werhane and Jean Letcher—say deciding to adopt a pet is a monumental decision. Nancy is a certified professional dog trainer and co-owner of Tulsa’s Pooches, a doggie daycare, training, grooming and boarding facility. Nancy says that adopting a pet as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder is an obvious choice, as “one walk through the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter answers that question.”

Jean, manager of Tulsa Animal Welfare, further explains why adoption is the best option. “It allows us to find homes for animals that are already alive rather than going to a breeder and saying, ‘I’d like one from your next litter.’ These animals have already been born. They are looking for homes. It benefits both the home and the animal,” she says.

While adoption is important, knowing the responsibility that comes with a pet is paramount.

“Most companion animals end up in shelters or in rescue programs because humans failed them, not because of something they did,” explains Nancy. “When you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group, you not only save that animal, but you save another who can then step into the spot vacated by your new pet. Adoption saves lives, pure and simple. But you have to be ready for the responsibility.”

Our resident experts recommend asking yourself a few big questions before bringing home Fluffy or Fido. Why do you really want a pet?

The most important question to ask yourself, Nancy says, is, “Why do you really want a pet?”

“Everyone should ask themselves why they really want to adopt a particular pet before taking the plunge. Answer that question honestly. You should first want a particular pet because you and all of your family members want a companion and are ready to provide the love and care that animal needs and deserves.”

If you’re interested in adopting a pet, and your answer to the above question is the same as Nancy’s, it might be time to open your home to a new furry friend. But before you do, we’ve comprised a few additional questions to help make sure you’re ready for the fun and commitment a pet requires. What’s your five- or even 10-year plan?

A dog or cat can live 15 or more years, so envisioning how pet-friendly your life will be in the future is important. Think about any major life changes you might go through—things like getting married, having children, moving or changing careers. And keep in mind that as pets age, their needs change as well. Will you be adopting the pet by yourself or with someone?

If there are other people in your family, everyone needs to be on board with the idea of adding a pet to your home. If you have a roommate or spouse, make sure that he or she is totally committed to a new pet. And even if everyone is on board with the idea of getting a pet, it’s important for people in the household to express concerns ahead of time. Do you have time for a pet?

“Dogs and cats not only require food and water, but they need attention, affection, and exercise—both mental and physical,” says Nancy. “If you work long hours or have a very busy schedule, you may need to decide if you have time to devote to the proper care of a pet. Proper care also includes trips to the veterinarian, daily exercise, and training classes for dogs.”

Though dogs generally require more time and attention than cats, you should be able to give any pet your undivided attention. Dogs and cats who don’t receive daily interaction have a greater risk of developing behavioral problems, anxiety and obesity.

As Jean explains, having a pet is like having a child. You can’t have a child then decide you don’t have time for it. “You don’t have the option of putting a child on a chain in a backyard if you’re too busy to spend time with him or her. Likewise an animal can feel pain and loneliness. You need to determine up front that you have time to care for the animal,” she says. Can you afford a pet?

The cost of a pet goes well beyond the adoption fee. According to the ASPCA, dog owners should expect to spend about $1,500 on a dog during the first year of ownership; cat owners should set aside at least $1,000 for that crucial first year.

“Financial commitment also varies from pet to pet,” Nancy explains. “Obviously, it’s going to cost more to care for a Mastiff than it is to feed a Chihuahua.” One thing you can count on is that all pets need a healthy, premium diet and routine veterinary care. Monthly care such as heartworm pills and flea and tick prevention also add up. And, of course, you always have to be prepared for emergencies.

“Animals can get sick or injured, just like humans can,” says Nancy. “You have to be prepared for the expense of providing care outside of normal shots and routine check-ups.”

Nancy points out that you may also have to pay for boarding or a dog walker or pet sitter when you’re out of town. And then there are ongoing expenses for supplies like pet beds, collars, leashes, treats, kitty litter for cats, etc. Pets are a commitment of time and money. Can you provide a proper home for the type of pet you hope to adopt?

It’s important to pick the right pet for your home and lifestyle. Every potential adopter should take an honest look at these two things to make sure that adding a pet to the mix really makes sense. “Some dogs require a home with a securely fenced yard while others can adapt well to apartment life with leashwalking for exercise,” explains Nancy. “If you live in a tiny apartment, a Great Dane doesn’t make much sense, but a house cat would likely do just fine.” With that in mind, Jean says the energy level of the breed should be just as much a consideration as the size.

Choosing the right pet for your home, family and resources is vital. If you rent your home, be 100 percent sure that your landlord will allow you to have a pet and check to see what pet deposits might apply before you decide to adopt. “The welfare of the animal, not the whim of the person, needs to take priority,” Nancy says. Are you willing to train your animal companion?

Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters—are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall. And taking the time to understand why your cat does what she does, especially when it involves her litter box and scratching habits, will help you avoid potential problems. If you already have a pet, is that animal likely to accept a new housemate?

The good news is that most pets, even the most spoiled cats, crave companionship. Of course, it may take some time for an existing pet to accept a new addition. The ASPCA suggests introducing animals to each other before adoption. It gives you a chance to watch them interact and see if they’ll be good, compatible housemates. Do you have small children?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no species or breed that comes ready to live with kids. If your kids are still toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting. If you have children, it’s important to teach them the rules of safe pet conduct: no teasing, pulling, pushing or climbing on animals. You’ll also want to spend extra time meeting different animals, so you can observe tolerance levels and the ability to bounce back from jarring incidents. Are you prepared to pet-proof your home?

Whether it’s tightly sealing your garbage cans or paying attention to dangerous decorations during the holidays, you’ll need to make your home safe before adopting. That includes keeping toxic foods, petunfriendly plants and dangerous household items out of paw’s reach. Are you sure?

The final question to ask yourself before adopting a new pet is if you’re sure you can handle it. Have you thought everything through carefully, and are you ready for this giant commitment? If your answer is tied to emotions, that might be a problem. One of the biggest issues, especially during the holidays, is people giving pets as gifts.

“The proverbial puppy wearing a bow under the Christmas tree can sure backfire,” says Nancy. “Giving a pet for Christmas is often a last minute emotional decision that is not well thought out. Holidays are generally busy, crazy and a bit on the hectic side. I can’t think of a worse time to introduce a new puppy or kitten into a family.”

Nancy says that if you have planned responsibly to add a pet to your family and want it to be a Christmas surprise, it’s a better idea to wrap pet supplies to place under the tree, and then go pick up your new family member after the holiday hustle and bustle calms down. Bring your new pet home when your household is sane and ready to focus on helping the pet properly acclimate.

Now that you’re ready to adopt a new companion, here are some tips to find your perfect pet:

Visit with the employees at your local animal shelter. They can often tell you a lot about a specific animal that catches your eye.

Talk with your veterinarian. He or she can offer great advice and tips for caring for a particular pet.

If you are attracted to a specific breed of animal, seek out people who own that type of pet and ask questions about care requirements, personality traits, etc.

Take your time. Don’t let anyone rush you. Do not be locked into a specific breed. Make eye contact with all the available animals in the shelter, and oftentimes, the pet will pick you, Jean says.

Adopting a new pet is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but the joy and unconditional love you receive from your new furry friend definitely makes it worthwhile.

Stem Cell Treatment Helps Arthritic Dogs

posted September 21st, 2013 by

by Kiley Roberson

Cassie the Rottweiler is only 2 and a half years old, but her slow and limping steps make this should-be playful pup look like a senior citizen. Cassie suffers from osteoarthritis in both elbows and had a torn ligament in her back leg. Cassie was born with elbow dysplasia that required surgery on both elbows.

Then she tore her ACL six months later, requiring a third surgery. Although surgery was helpful she still had limited mobility from daily pain. She required lots of pain medication, but Cassie’s vet, Dr. Joe Landers of Tulsa’s Heritage Veterinary Hospital, says there’s an alternative.

“Stem cell therapy,” explains Dr. Landers. “It’s taking the individual’s own cells stored in fat, activating them and then injecting them back in, so they repair damaged areas as well as decrease pain. Similar to how a cut heals on your finger, for example, but in a joint.”

Dr. Landers’ clinic (and staff veterinarians Dr. Stephanie Bradley, Dr. Jessica Zink, and Dr. Julie Merrick) is currently only one of two veterinarian hospitals in the entire state that practices this type of regenerative procedure, but it has proven successful across the country for pets and people. Even sports stars like New York Yankees’ pitcher Bartolo Colon and PGA golfer Tiger Woods have received such treatments.

The key is obviously the versatility of stem cells. Stem cells are essentially the body’s repair cells. They have the ability to divide and differentiate into many different types of cells based on where they are needed throughout the body. Stem cells can divide and turn into tissues such as skin, fat, muscle, bone, cartilage and nerve, to name a few. They even possess the ability to replicate into organs such as the heart, liver, intestines, pancreas, etc.

Dr. Landers says it’s important to note that as everyone ages—pets and people—their joints, as well as other organs and tissue, deteriorate to varying degrees. “In geriatrics, the joints are often very worn and have lost mechanical function,” Dr. Landers explains.

“So they can only be repaired so much. Often just the pain relief is enough to help the patient get up and moving and interacting again. But we do caution clients on expectations; a young dog will be much more mobile after treatment than an older dog.”

For pets like Cassie, stem cells can make all the difference in quality of life. “The most common use for pets now is treating degenerative joint disease or arthritis,” says Dr. Landers. “Good candidates for stem cell therapy are older dogs who are not responding well to medical therapy, like antiinflammatory medications, any longer, or dogs that surgery will not help. It’s also great for younger dogs like Cassie with early arthritis in helping to slow the progression of the disease.”

The stem cell treatment that Dr. Landers performs was actually developed by MediVet America of Lexington, Ky., one of several companies that sell equipment and training to veterinary clinics around the world. MediVet has more than 500 clinics and participating vets, like Dr. Landers, who have performed over 5,000 stem cell procedures so far.

A typical stem cell operation like the one Dr. Landers recommended for Cassie takes several hours. To start, the veterinarian will anesthetize the pet. He will then surgically remove a couple of tablespoons of fat. This is a quick and simple procedure that is generally easier than performing a spay. They will then spin the fat cells in a centrifuge to separate out the stem cells that are naturally present in fat. This generally takes a couple of hours.

Next, the cells are mixed with special enzymes to “digest” any residual fat and connective tissue, which are then “activated” by mixing them with “plasma rich platelets” extracted from the animal’s blood cells. The mixture is stimulated under an LED light for 20 minutes or so to further concentrate the stem cells. Finally, the newly awakened cells are injected back into the damaged joint and also intravenously.

The therapy works well because stem cells are the only cells in the body that have the ability to transform themselves into other types of specialized cells, making them a potent tool for repairing damaged and deteriorating joints. There are 50 to 1,000 times more stem cells in the fat than bone marrow, a source that was used more when the procedure first became popular.

While still largely unavailable to owners, stem cell therapy from fat cells has been offered to our furry friends for several years. With fewer regulatory hoops to jump through in veterinary medicine and no contentious religious debates, experimental procedures are often tested and perfected on animals decades before they’re green-lighted for use on humans.

One of the things veterinarians and owners alike praise about the MediVet procedure is it is done all in one day. Thus a larger number of viable cells are available and are not lost in shipping and processing in an outside lab. Stem cells can also be banked for future injection, so the animal does not have to endure extraction again.

While every animal is different, MediVet says they’ve seen positive clinical improvements in 95 percent of the arthritic cases performed nationwide. Some owners have even reported seeing a difference in as little as one week. While quick results are possible, Dr. Landers cautions that this type of treatment is not a cure and isn’t right for every pet.

“This therapy will not work on a pet with cancer,” Dr. Landers says. “The stems cells will actually increase the tumor and make it worse. Also, the animal needs to be healthy enough for anesthesia, and we do blood work beforehand to check internal organs. There is a risk, as with any anesthetic procedure, but we monitor the pets closely and keep them under for as short as possible.”

Cassie was a great candidate for stem cell therapy. Dr. Landers performed the procedure in his office and the whole process went off without a hitch. In just a few weeks, Cassie was already showing progress. “She has done fantastic,” Dr. Landers says. “She plays again and can even go up the stairs.”

If you’re interested in stem cell therapy for your pet, talk to your veterinarian. You can also read more about the procedure on the MediVet website at medivet-america.com.

“Stem cell therapy is important for pets,” says Dr. Landers. “It gives a powerful option to pet owners to treat chronic pain and thereby increase their pet’s overall quality of life.”

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