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Study Tests Using Stem Cell Therapy To Treat Canine Arthritis

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - There's a new kind of stem cell therapy that is being tested for dogs who suffer with arthritis.

Just like people, dogs can get achy joints, caused by arthritis, and just like with people, treatments don't always work.

Now, scientists are testing different kinds of stem cells to help our four-legged friends.

Sawyer Howell and Boone have been buddies for 10 years. The German Shepherd was even the ring bearer in Sawyer's wedding.

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But Boone has hip dysplasia, and now he's suffering from osteoarthritis in both of his back hips.

"It's been, you know, kinda sad watching him slow down," said Howell.

Hoping to reverse that, Boone is part of a cutting-edge study to see if stem cells can help.

"I think it's really ingenious," said Dr. Analisa Schilling, a veterinarian. "Because they do it in the NFL, they do it in horses, so why not dogs?"

The stem cells come from puppy umbilical cords and are processed into an injection by a company called Animal Cell Therapies.

"I really hope that with the study we're able to see if it actually benefits," said Dr. Schilling.

Boone got his injection several months ago, now he has to come in for blood work and his owners have to keep a log of his process.

"We have so many owners who care about their dogs and put so much time in and come in and say, 'I hate to see my dog in pain,'" said Angela Vogt, the coordinator of the study. "It's heartwarming that we can also give them another alternative."

It's a double blind study, so Howell doesn't know if Boone got the stem cells or a placebo.

"He hasn't gotten any worse," said Howell.

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Boone is one of about 600 dogs nationally who are in the study. When all the results are in, stem cells may become the latest tool in the kit to treat arthritis.

"Absolutely, anything that can help make him feel better," said Howell. "I'm all for it."

At Penn Vet in Philadelphia, they're testing stem cells from the dogs' bone marrow to treat canine arthritis.

The hope is stem cells could eventually offer significant improvement with less side effects.

Right now veterinarians use lasers, acupuncture, and medications to treat arthritis in dogs.

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