Can your dog’s own platelets reduce pain and lameness from osteoarthritis? A study recently published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that they can.
Decoded Science spoke with Dr. Alicia Bertone, Director of the Comparative Orthopedic Research Laboratories at Ohio State University, and senior author on the study. According to Dr. Bertone, the product used in the study is already on the market, which is great news for dog owners, and their dogs.
Study Evaluates Effectiveness of Single Dose Canine Autologous Platelet Therapy
The company that markets the platelet therapy kit had tested it on approximately 75 dogs with no adverse effects, but this study of 20 additional dogs was the first independent, randomized, and controlled trial of the procedure.
Randomized, controlled trials are conducted such that the veterinarians providing the treatment and the owners of the dogs do not know which animals received the real treatment and which received the placebo. This type of testing helps eliminate bias by those participating in the trial. The good news for the dogs who were given the placebo treatment, is that they were offered the actual platelet therapy once the trial had concluded.
Researchers asked owners participating in the trial to rate their dogs’ condition based on two standard pain and lameness evaluation questionnaires; the Canine Brief Pain Inventory (CBPI) and the Hudson Visual Analog Scale (HVAS). They tested the dogs for weight bearing, how much pressure they put on the affected limb, using a computer-assisted force plate, which measured that pressure as the dogs walked over at a steady gait.
Testing and owner evaluation were completed before the injection was given, and again at 12 weeks after the injection. In this study, all dogs who received the platelet therapy showed continued improvement in gait and reduced pain three months after they received an injection.
What is Canine Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy?
Platelet therapy makes use of growth factors naturally present in platelets to promote healing in joints damaged by osteoarthritis. A vet or lab technician will draw blood from the dog, and then the lab separates out the platelets by filtration, using sterile technique to prevent contamination.
The vet then injects the concentrated platelets into the affected joint in the same way that he or she would deliver other medications to reduce inflammation.
The advantage of autologous platelets is that they come from the individual’s own blood, reducing the chance of an adverse reaction to the injection, which is more likely when injecting a foreign substance.
Another advantage of autologous platelet therapy is that it has the potential to modify the severity of the arthritis, whereas injecting steroids into the joint or administering NSAIDs systemically simply provides pain relief.
And, other than the slight risk of infection present with any joint injection, the procedure can be repeated; no adverse reaction to autologous platelet therapy has not been reported.
The product used in this study contains white blood cells that are thought to contain some of the factors supportive to cartilage such as Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist. The white blood cells may also reduce the risk of secondary infection. An unknown, but potentially negative effect of the white blood cells is that they can also contribute to inflammation. Dr. Bertone told Decoded Science that this is one aspect of autologous platelet therapy that needs further study.
The Importance of Early Treatment of Canine Arthritis
According to Dr. Bertone, based on results from additional studies in horses and clinical trials in dogs, autologous platelet therapy is likely to be most effective when used before the arthritis progresses to end stage, as indicated by radiographic evidence of bone-on-bone in the joint or large bone spurs (osteophytes). Treating promptly would address the cartilage injury early on and allow for at least partial healing of the joint.
Field trials conducted by the manufacturer also appear to indicate that dogs under ten years of age benefit most from the procedure, but those trials are ongoing so results are very preliminary. In the equine study, some owners reported relief from lameness and pain for as long as a year post-injection, suggesting that this treatment has even greater potential for long-term relief for some animals.