Fat Derived Stem Cell Therapy

By Dr. Jacob Adserballe, BA DVM

Fat Derived Stem Cell Therapy in Pets Compared to other Treatment Options

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Fat derived stem cells are different from bone marrow or umbilical cord stem cells, which have been implicated in both complications and ethical issues. On the other hand fat derived stem cell therapy in pets is quickly becoming a preferred treatment option to improve quality of life for an increasing number of ailments. Notably, these regenerative modalities are becoming backed by clinical testing and sound university research1.  Pets of all ages can greatly benefit from this treatment, boasting safety and efficacy with no negative side effects. Stem cell treatments are not cheap, but maybe less expensive than you think. This article will also compare a number of treatment options for common diseases in pets and explain where stem cell therapy fits in, and how these treatments compare from a cost standpoint.


Review of common treatment modalities:


Osteoarthritis (a painful inflammatory reaction triggered by wear and tear on cartilage and bone tissues) hits both pets and people sooner or later and often worse in individuals (pets included) who are overweight. Osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle that worsens the longer it is left untreated. Many treatment modalities exist, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine, therapeutic cold laser, etc. Additionally, special food supplements and specialty pet foods, intra articular injections including steroid injections, and stem cell therapy also represent patient treatment options. Although stem cell therapy is the most expensive in the line-up for cost per treatment, it lasts longer and with fewer side effects (no side effects) and it actually facilitates the rebuilding of what is broken. Where some treatments seek to mask symptoms with anti-inflammatory properties, stem cell therapy addresses the principal underlying causes of inflammation, lack of physical function, and pain.

One of the best stem cell treatments currently available on the Canadian market (MediVet Biologics) may cost from $1,400 to $1,900 up front, however they will likely produce 3 – 5 treatment dosages, with each dosage lasting from 1 to 4 years, and there are no side effects that have been documented from adult stem cell applications. Because the stem cells are harvested from the patient’s own body fat, they do not cause any reactions to the patient. This is significant because most other treatments come with a long list of potential side effects which get worse and more common the older the patient is. Further, the efficacy (the success of the treatment) is not only long lasting (1 – 4 years), but in most cases more profound than other treatment modalities, if and when the treatment is successful, which it most often is. However, there can be underlying undetected disease such as cancer which the stem cell therapy will not negate that can cause demise of the patient despite stem cell treatment.

The extra dosages produced can be frozen at a laboratory and kept indefinitely until needed. Methods used in cryo-storage yield a very high number of viable, living stem cells available for future re-applications in dogs, cats and horses. If a pet owner is concerned about their pet’s predisposition to certain hereditary ailments later in life, they can proactively bank a young animal’s stem cells in the first 3 years. In the example of a German shepherd, it is common for this breed to experience hereditary troubles with hip dysplasia. As trauma and wear on joints cause cartilage and other connective tissues to relax, osteoarthritis can set in, as hip dysplasia progressively worsens. Joint re-modeling can yield calcified buildups in the joint socket, causing notable pain in animals. Younger German shepherds experiencing osteoarthritis can struggle even in their younger years, so pet owners naturally want to seek out superior treatments to pain medications. In these cases, stem cell therapy seeks to provide not only a potent anti-inflammatory effect, but also stem cells for rebuilding the damaged tissues, in order to increase mobility, and significantly reduce lameness and pain. It should be noted that in some patient cases, some vets have opted for stem cell therapy instead of a total hip replacement.


However, not all stem cell therapies are the same and the pet owner should understand the differences. Having researched a number of different stem cell products I find the MediVet Biologics fat derived autologous stem cell therapy the most compelling for three main reasons: 1. The fat derived stem cells are activated in the lab and mixed with a patients own activated platelet rich plasma, drawn from whole blood. This combination has proven to produce the highest stem cell yields and more growth factors, therefore yielding the highest reparative potential.   2. The laboratory quality control work is exceptional in MediVet’s laboratory, and all samples are verified for purity and screened for contaminants through rigorous laboratory testing.  3. MediVet Biologics makes their products available through local trusted veterinarians who can harvest the needed fat sample and blood sample and administer the stem cell and platelet rich plasma products where needed.

Applications for fat derived stem cells:


Stem Cell therapy is showing amazing results in both humans and animals.  In human medicine it is widely used for everything from treating multiple sclerosis to osteoarthritis to skin diseases. Stem Cell therapy was initially targeted to treat osteoarthritis in pets and showed amazing results. Other ailments such as skin diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, diabetes and various ligament diseases have also shown to be treatable with adult stem cells.  This makes sense as the fat derived stem cells (aka mesenchymal cells) have divided about 7 to 8 times before becoming fat stem cells. These cells are destined to further divide when needed to make new cells such as bone, muscle, tendons, ligaments, vessels, fat and skin cells.

An example of how it works:


The ideal way to use the fat derived stem cell technology for treatment in your pet is as follows: 1. When your pet is being sterilized, usually around 6 month to a year of age, a small fat sample is harvested at the same time. Young pets’ fat possesses a higher concentration of potent fat stem cells, making this age an ideal time for cell extraction and storage.  2. The fat sample and a blood sample undergoes the above described laboratory process, 3 to 5 samples are produced, and stored at minus 80 C in the laboratory’s cryo freezer until needed.  3. When the patient develops a tissue disease (bone, muscle, fat, skin, tendon etc.) a stem cell sample can be retrieved from the lab’s freezer (minus 180 degrees Celsius) and sent to the pet’s veterinarian who can administer the stem cell dosage safely. As previously discussed, the viable, living cell count found in frozen samples demonstrates the efficacy of the cryo-storage process for future treatment.dog&doctor


Since the first stem cell therapy treatments in pets began in 2006-07, tens of thousands of pets in North America have been treated successfully, realizing the tangible benefits of the procedure. The reduction of pain and increase in mobility are best showcased in before & after videos documenting a pet’s journey through crippling and chronic ailments such as osteoarthritis. While these procedures do not claim to turn a geriatric patient into a puppy again, the positive effects are a significant, undeniable boost to a pet’s quality of life. Stem cell therapy research will continue to forge ahead exploring “compassionate use” cases such as degenerative myelopathy, skin disease, end-stage renal disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Exciting results from continued university level research will undoubtedly augment the range of options veterinarians have at their disposal. Finally, more and more pet owners and veterinarians are realizing how complimentary stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies are to accelerating the healing of fractures, surgery, topical wound healing, and soft tissue injuries, ultimately improving quality of life.

More stem cell information and data must to be gathered and researchers need pet owner’s help. If you are a pet owner and would like to consider using a stem cell treatment modality for your pet now or in the future, you may be able to enroll your pet in a large scale study that MediVet Biologics Canada is currently doing. You can contact the MediVet company via info@medivetcanada.ca. They will also help you find a veterinarian in your area that can offer fat derived Stem Cell treatment.

*1. Please see the following research studies:

Autologous adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction cells application in patients with osteoarthritis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706817

Mesenchymal stem cells as trophic mediators – Journal of Cellular Biochemistry


Controlled, blinded force platform analysis of the effect of intraarticular injection of autologous adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells associated to PRGF-Endoret in osteoarthritic dogs


Homing and efficacy of intra-articular injection of autologous mesenchymal stem cells in experimental chondral defects in dogs


Effect of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem and regenerative cells on lameness in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis of the coxofemoral joints: a randomized, double-blinded, multicenter, controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18183546

Label Detective?

Do Food Labels Tell the Whole Story?

By Inna Shekhtman


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Labels on pet food are supposed to help you make healthy choices about the foods you feed your pets, right?  You want your pet to thrive, so you spend hours studying ingredients lists, comparing the nutritional labels, and wishing you had a biology degree to help you decide if you should buy the food with antioxidants or probiotics. Sounds familiar? But do labels really tell the whole story about the health benefits of the specific food? The purpose of this article is to explore some of the limitations of the information on the food labels and provide some principals that can guide you to a healthier food choice for your animal companions.

Product Claims

Let’s be honest here, the purpose of most of the claims on the front of a package are to increase sales – not to improve health. They are marketing tools used to pitch and advertise products to you, convincing you of their health benefits and merits. Sometimes these claims are true but other times they are misleading.  Let’s look at some common claims and buzzwords used to appeal to the health-conscious consumer:

  • All-natural: Just because something is labeled “all-natural” does not make it healthy! The term “all natural” is used as a marketing tool with a variety of definitions, most of which are very vague.  When we see the term “all natural”, we imagine whole fresh food coming from a farm with little to no processing and containing no additives or preservatives. However, the reality is that the “all natural” claim on a label assures nothing – almost all foodstuffs are derived from natural products of plants or animals. For example, corn syrup is used to sweet the food for palatability. Corn syrup is “natural” but has little nutritional value and promotes obesity.
  • Organic: Some believe the term “organic” means a food is more nutritious than “non-organic”. While the claim of certified organic means GMO free and that the food was raised without chemical fertilizers, it is not necessarily more nutritious. For example, a recent investigation by CBC Marketplace of eggs revealed that eggs laid by free-range chickens from small flocks were significantly higher in nutrients than eggs from a large “organic” egg processor, and that the some organic eggs were comparable in nutrition to conventional eggs.
  • Superfood: Strictly speaking, all fruits and vegetables are “superfoods”, because they all provide important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals for optimal health. A healthy well-balanced pet diet should contain a variety of these foods, but don’t expect any one of them to change your pets life. When it comes to food, variety of whole foods is the key, rather than fixating on individual foods.
  • Antioxidants: All vegetables and foods have antioxidants.  Various processing methods affect the antioxidant capacity of these foods. So it is just as important to know how a product is processed is as how many antioxidants foods it contains.  For example, most antioxidants are destroyed by high temperatures, so a food loaded with blueberries but cooked at high temperatures won’t have much to offer for antioxidants by the time it hits you pets bowl. Rather than overanalyzing, it is best to feed your pet a variety of fresh plant foods, appropriate to their species.
  • Complete and Balanced Diet:  This means that the pet food meets the minimum nutritional standards set out by the Association of American Feed Control Official (AAFCO. It does not mean the food is “healthy” or adequate for your pet to thrive.  For dogs and cats, this means a variety of proteins, organs, bones, vegetables and some fruit. To demonstrate this point, Dr. Meg Smart from the University in Saskatoon made strange concoction made of old leather boots, wood shavings and motor oil to demonstrate that passed the AAFCO standards, even though it’s inedible.  While it is important to be aware a balance in a diet it is not a one-size-fits-all formula that can just be repeated daily. A balanced diet should come from eating a variety of healthy biologically appropriate whole foods, where each individual food is not complete and balanced.Blueberry

Ingredient List

All pet food labels must have a list of ingredients. The ingredients must be listed in order of weight, with heaviest first. The ingredient list can be helpful for understanding what the food contains and if the food has any ingredients that should be avoided.  What this list doesn’t tell you is anything about their quality, how these ingredients were processed, or how digestible they are.  Some foods contain dozens of ingredients with complicated names that sound like they belong in a chemistry lab, not in your pet’s bowl. Instead of spending hours trying to understand the purpose of these ingredients, use the following basic principles:

  • Focus on the first three ingredients, because they are the largest part of the meal. For dogs and cats, those first ingredients should be meat and organs!
  • Choose foods that contain whole foods (especially as the first three ingredients) instead of ingredients that have been chemically isolated from their natural source. One rule of thumb you can use is if read an ingredient and you can`t imagine the food in its natural state.
  • Try to avoid unnecessary ingredients. For example, my favorite useless ingredient is “natural flavors”. If the food minimally processed, it will have its own flavors and will not need to be flavored with something else.

The point is this: the best way to avoid being misled by the ingredient list on the label is to avoid processed foods altogether. Keep in mind that whole food doesn’t need an ingredients list, because the whole food is the ingredient. Whole foods are the easiest things for our pets to digest.canstockphoto24420961_altered

Nutritional Information

Modern nutrition science emerged with the identification and isolation of nutrients present in foods. These studies are crucial for development of meal plans designed to prevent specific nutritional deficiencies. As a result every label now has basic nutritional information including calories per serving, protein, moisture, fats, carbohydrates, calcium and phosphorus. Some labels will also contain information about other common vitamins and minerals.

This information is very useful for comparing different foods. It is also useful for figuring out appropriate feeding amount and food combinations for your pet based on their specific needs. For example, dogs that are extremely active may benefit from foods that are slightly higher in fat a few times per week.  .  However, the effect of individual nutrients was increasingly proving to be an inadequate explanation of the relationship between diet and health. Several studies show that the health benefits of eating a specific formulation is less due to the individual foods and more due to the overall quality and balance of these foods, as well as their preparation method.

While the nutritional analysis is a great tool for getting a general understanding of the food and its nutritional content, it is not an exact science.  A complete healthy diet is much more than a collection of nutrients and trying to analysis each nutrient in isolation is a great math exercise. A nutritional analysis will not tell you any more about the health benefits of your pets’ food than throwing darts at a dartboard.

For example, cats require an amino acid called taurine in order to survive. Because this amino acid is easily destroyed by heat, any heavily processed foods need to ensure that the food contains adequate supplemental taurine to compensate for the processing.  Taurine is abundant in all raw meats and is what cats would naturally eat in the wild. So cats eating a diet consisting primarily of raw meat will naturally get a sufficient amount of taurine – no math olympics required to figure out if your cat is getting enough taurine because it is naturally abundant in all raw meats.  canstockphoto9736463_small

Going beyond the label

In order to determine which food will help your pet thrive, you need to look further than the information on the label.  A healthy diet involves more than just an ingredients or nutrients.  A diet refers to the nutrients, the foods that contain those nutrients, how these foods are combined, how biologically appropriate these foods are, as well as how these foods are prepared, and the modes of eating used to consume them. All of these factors affect how the nutrients in the food are utilized for the health and well-being of our pets.

For example, ingredients like soy may have an adequate amount of protein based on AAFCO requirements, but they are less digestible and more taxing on your pets system than an animal-based protein.  Another example of this principal is that cooking a protein like beef or chicken drastically changes the composition of that protein. A raw piece of meat is mostly water, some protein and raw unsaturated fat. Cooking this protein will destroy all the enzymes, good bacteria, and certain nutrients naturally found in muscle meat, transform the raw fats into trans-fats and void the meat of most of its moisture content.

So when looking at your pets food choices, consider the following:

  • How is the food processed?  Is it been over-processed and lost its nutritional value?
  • Does it contain whole foods?
  • Are the ingredients biologically appropriate for your pet? Does it contain animal or soy protein?
  • Are the ingredients good quality? Are they fit for human consumption?

Dogs and cats can survive on many foods. However, if you want them to thrive then make natural, minimally processed, biologically appropriate foods the basis of their diet.