Veterinarians of the past would be amazed to learn of the techniques and therapies that are now available to alleviate pain and address medical problems in both large and small animals.
Wellington veterinarian Chad Zadina, of Tabby Road Animal Hospital, likes to be on the cutting edge when it comes to treating his patients — animals large and small. “Pet owners who have been given limited options such as surgery or euthanasia often come to me,” he said.
A graduate of Colorado State University Veterinary School, Zadina is a long-time Wellington resident who has been in practice for seven years. He opened Tabby Road Animal Hospital in 2013. He’s become known in the area for thinking outside the box and employing the latest therapies.
Classified as “regenerative medicine,” platelet rich plasma (PRP), stem cell therapy and interleukin receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) harness the body’s innate regenerative ability to target specific areas of the body such as ligaments, tendons and injured or arthritic joints that are traditionally difficult to heal.
According to information supplied by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, a recent study motivated by the widespread clinical usage of PRP. The effect of this growth-factor-rich therapeutic generated from the patient’s own blood is still poorly understood. The study tested the response of articular cartilage and meniscus cells to PRP in a highly-controlled laboratory setting.
PRP is derived from blood platelets taken from the patient and spun to pull down the red blood cells, leaving the platelets in the plasma which are harvested as PRP. Sometimes the blood is spun twice resulting in a higher concentration and reducing the volume of plasma. Both single and double spin PRP are used clinically but this study showed that single spin PRP stimulated higher tissue synthesis than double spin did. The study also showed that high platelet concentrations should be used with caution because of a possible degenerative effect on cartilage.
Zadina recalls a case where the owners bought in a 15-year-old dog with paralysis. They’d been told the only options were a $3,500 surgery or euthanasia. A course of treatment with injections of PRP (platelet rich plasma) alleviated the problem and the dog became mobile and lived for another 18 months.
Wayne McIlwraith, director of the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University, one of the few medical sites pioneering a revolutionary approach to treating equine joint injuries, speaks in praise of stem cell therapy. “We know from early research that stem cells are attracted to cartilage damage. They gather at that site to heal the damage. We’re seeing this therapy work well on injuries,” he said. “However, the treatment is new, and while researchers are making advances in its use, this therapy is not yet perfected. For example, the treatment sometimes triggers immune system responses. However, I believe this will be the premier treatment therapy in horses within several years.”
The department of Clinical Sciences at CSU is studying the use of stem cells in treating bowel and chronic kidney disease in cats, chronic wound infection in dogs, to advance bone healing following surgery and radiation and to stimulate cartilage and ligament healing in injured horses.
The Equine Center is also researching how IRAP works. This substance blocks excessive production of synovial fluid in joints affected by osteoarthritis. A blood sample from an injured horse is incubated for 24 hours in a syringe filled with beads coated with substances that encourage healing such as growth factors and anti-inflammatory aids. The blood is spun to separate the beneficial substances from the red blood cells. The beneficial fluid is then injected three to five times. This technology grew from a study by Dr. David Frisbe, a veterinarian at the Center who showed that arthritis could be blocked by the substances IRAP cultivates. This therapy works well on injuries that don’t respond to steroids and injuries that are too far advanced for other treatments according to Mcllwraith. IRAP, PRP and stem cell therapy all have potential for treating humans.
Until quite recently, there was a good deal of skepticism around using acupuncture to treat animals. Zadina has found it possible to treat problems such as back pain, diarrhea, constipation and incontinence in dogs, cats and horses with acupuncture. Dr. Gary Baxter, head of the Equine Hospital at CSU was himself a skeptic of this ancient Chinese healing system. His frustration with the limitations of Western medicine for treatment of chronic illness, specially back problems, encouraged him to try acupuncture. “For me, it is one more tool in my toolbox of treatments for my equine patients,” Baxter said.
Dr. Timothy Holt, assistant professor in Clinical Sciences at CSU, has been using acupuncture for several years.