A look inside stem cell treatment for dogs

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HOUSTON – In the medical lab of a veterinary center in League City, science is being used to transform the lives of pets.

“We can do everything that they can do for humans—for dogs—here at this lab,” Dr. Steven Garner, of Safari Veterinary Care Centers, said.

The specialty of the lab is stem cell treatment for pets.

“A stem cell is the cell that still has the ability to adapt and change. When we harvest them from the fat, that stimulates them, wakes them up and says ‘hey, it's time to go do something,’" Garner said.

That "something" is doing the work of rebuilding spines, cartilage and even healing arthritis and dry eye in cats and dogs.

“We think of a stem cell as kind of a cell that's going to go into the body and build something, like a carpenter or a contractor, and you give them the blueprint of what they need to build, and they build it,” Garner said.

Garner and his team at Safari Veterinary Care Centers have spent the last five years perfecting this treatment.

They now use stem cells to treat spinal cord disease which causes paralysis in dachshunds.

“We've done a large number, between 60 and 100 dachshunds, that have been paralyzed that we've injected stem cells into their spinal cords, or placed the stem cells into their spinal cords and that has allowed them repair their spinal cord much faster,” Garner said.

The recovery seems absolutely miraculous.

“We’ve had dogs, they came in they were two and a half years paralyzed, that are now walking,” Garner said.

Hilda Rodriguez and her husband brought their dog, Chocolate, the Garner and they were desperate for answers.

Just three days before, he'd unexpectedly lost the use of his hind legs.

“He was able to use them on Friday night, but Saturday he wasn't at all. So his both legs were inward and he was dragging them and we thought it was the end for him, his walking,” Hilda said.

During the exam, Garner pointed out the problem.

“See how that toe is turned upside down, in a normal dog they would know that and flip them back over. So that means he's got neurologic disease there,” Garner said.

After a quick exam with Garner, Chocolate received a promising prognosis.

“Our plan is to do what we call a monogram to see where the compression is, and then to put stem cells where that compression is to bear those nerves and then do physical therapy to follow up. Right now his prognosis is fair to good,” Garner said.

A relief to his owners.

“We really thought we were gonna lose him and it was sad for us. So for us to have a hope for him here, he's in the right place," Hilda said.

Garner said whether it’s paralysis or even arthritis, the sooner a dog seeks treatment, the higher the likelihood is that they will regain full use of the area with the help of stem cells.

“The thing that determines if he will walk again is how many cells live through this event, and stem cells preserve those cells so the quicker we get the stem cells in, the better,” Garner said.

Garner said the cost for stem cell therapy in pets is about $1,000. And, he can even work with your dog’s vet to treat them with stem cells.

To see how this revolutionary treatment has changed the lives of other local dachshunds, watch the video below.

For more information on reaching the All Texas Dachshund Rescue, click here.