by Catherine Harris
While it is not unusual to see a dog chase a ball, Chloe Verbowsky watches in amazement as her eight-year-old German shepherd, Jimi, outruns the most boisterous of puppies.
Thanks to veterinarian Glen Kolenc and groundbreaking treatment using stem cell therapy, Jimi has been given a new lease on life.
“Three months ago I couldn’t take him on walks. Now here he is chasing balls and jumping around,” Ms Verbowsky says.
For years Jimi suffered from degenerative joint disease, a condition that affects one in five adult dogs. Attacking the joint cartilage and adjacent bone, the arthritic disease is caused by stresses on the joint that occur naturally or as a result of trauma.
“His quality of life was really poor. I would have to inject him with painkillers every day and it got to the stage where putting him down seemed like the most humane option,” Ms Verbowsky says.
It was Dr Kolenc who suggested stem cell therapy as a solution.
“It’s something that has been around for a few years in Australia and not too many people are aware of it,” Dr Kolenc says.
Stem cells are the body’s own natural healing and repair cells he says, and although they are found within the body, they are inert and do not do enough to cure ailments such as arthritis.
“Stem cell therapy shocks the cells, it wakes them up. So instead of getting a small trickle of cells to the affected area, which is what the body normally does, we send a huge blast of them.
“It’s actually quite easy to do,” Dr Kolenc says of the procedure. “We extract a fat sample, which is where the cartilage producing stem cells are the most concentrated. We isolate the sample and activate them using a laser. Ultimately we are multiplying the cells. They’re then injected directly into the affected area.
“Research shows that 80 per cent of dogs treated have responded well, and lucky for us Jimi falls into that category.”
However, some critics have argued that since the treatment is in such an early stage, its success rate cannot be accurately measured.
Dr Kolenc disagrees. “We don’t yet know whether there could be side effects, but so far the positives outweigh any possible negatives.
“We do full blood tests to check organ function as well as x-rays to ensure there are no visible tumours or other health issues that could be exacerbated. There’s also thorough follow up.”
After having great success, he aims to make it a permanent treatment at his Petersham practice.