DARTMOUTH, Mass. — Angus and Lilly went under the knife last week, becoming the first two local dogs to undergo a breakthrough stem cell therapy that uses a body’s own cells to promote healing and regeneration of damaged joints and ligaments.

Angus, a friendly 7-year-old black Labrador suffering from arthritis, was joined by Lilly, a gentle 10-year-old German Shepherd with painful hip dysplasia at the Chase Farm Veterinary Clinic on Ventura Drive in Dartmouth.

Chase is one of the first in the region to acquire the technology developed by MediVet Biologics of Lexington, Kentucky, to bring stem cell therapy within range of more dog owners.

Angus’ owners, Elizabeth and Vern Mace of Westport, along with Lilly’s owner, Sara Farias, also of Westport, were on hand as Dr. Jean Pitcairn led the surgical crew that very likely will be able to restore their dogs’ quality of life.

To talk to the invited media about what is involved, Trey Smith of MediVet was coaxed into putting the process and the substances involved in laymen’s terms.

As the team first sedated, then anesthetized Angus, samples of two things were taken: blood and fat from just beneath the skin. They would become the two components in a process that will reactivate stem cells that lay dormant in joints, and inject them back into the joints to target the therapy with new and rebuilding tissue.


The technicians drew several vials of blood. Pitcairn then partly shaved the dog, and made an incision of about 3 inches near his shoulder (harder for him to reach as the wound heals). She took an ounce or two of fat from the site, then closed the incision with sutures.

At this point, stem cell therapy for dogs would involve sending the samples to a lab in some other part of the country to be developed into the two ingredients that, when combined, start the sequence of healing.

This new system, Smith said, makes it all possible on-site, at the clinic. A centrifuge and a “shaker” take the blood samples and produce a plasma that is similar to that produced when a body starts healing an injury. The fat, meanwhile, is broken down chemically very slightly and centrifuged to precipitate the stem cells.

The mixture is then injected into the affected joints; pain starts to subside in seven to 10 days, the rebuilding of the joints and ligaments in three weeks to three months, Smith said. He said there has been a 95 percent success rate in healing dogs with this treatment.

Surgical assistant Kim Poulin was chosen to be trained in the therapy, which Pitcairn estimated would cost about $2,200. She said that some of the clinic’s patients would be invited to a meeting to hear about the availability of the procedure.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Angus and Lilly, who may catch a Frisbee once again.

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