Nicollet County canine cop to receive innovative stem cell treatment

They say every dog has its day. And for one of Nicollet County's best-known canines that day is here.

2013-10-14 -- Draeco, a 9-year old German shepherd working for the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Department, has been chosen to receive an innovative treatment that could restore him to full mobility.

It could also allow him to keep on working alongside trainer and deputy Paul Biederman.

“What we are hoping is that the procedure will give some relief to Draeco for his arthritis pain that he is experiencing,” Biederman said. “He just turned 9 years old this weekend, and I have been seeing some decreased mobility issues with him. The typical ‘retirement’ age for a working dog is anywhere from 8-10 years old.”

Andover Animal Hospital has selected the canine cop as one of five pets to begin receiving stem cell therapy this October, according to Biederman.

It is one of the first clinics in Minnesota to offer veterinary stem cell therapy. The treatment uses an animal’s own stem cells (taken from their body fat) to help alleviate such conditions as arthritis, joint pain and asthma.

Though the treatment is innovative, it is not new, according to the hospital.

Veterinary stem cell therapy has been practiced for more than a decade. Because it is easier to obtain FDA approval for animal procedures, stem cell therapy is much more advanced in animals than in humans and usually has high success rates, according to the Andover Animal Hospital. All animals have stem cells in their bodies. Stem cells fight inflammation, reduce pain and help repair damaged tissues.

But as animals age, the number of stem cells they have decreases, and the remaining cells have a harder time keeping up with problems like arthritis and joint pain. The therapy allows veterinarians to concentrate those special cells and place them directly where they are needed.

Doctors at Andover Animal Hospital will extract a small amount of fat from Draeco and ship it overnight to a California laboratory run by Vet-Stem, which specializes in separating out the stem cells from the fat and concentrating them for maximum effectiveness.

Biederman’s sister, Joanne Kamper, works for the hospital and will perform the procedure.

Roughly 48 hours later, the stem cells will be injected directly back into his arthritic joints, where they will begin their work reducing pain and healing injury.

Andover Animal Hospital will then track each Draeco’s progress with X-rays and video. The hope is Draeco will return to full mobility and be able to continue working, Biederman said.

Vet-Stem will store samples of his stem cells to culture more, so that he can keep receiving treatment without going through the entire procedure again.

One course of stem cell treatment costs between $2,500 and $2,800, but Draeco will receive the therapy for free, thanks to contributions from the clinic itself, Vet-Stem and several other donors.

“The hope is that with the pain relief Draeco will get some of his mobility and endurance back, and he will be able to work for another full year or longer, until a replacement K9 is ready to start working the streets,” Beiderman said. “Draeco will also hopefully have a better quality of life after retirement.”

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