CORVALLIS – A 7-year-old German shepherd named Basco was recovering Thursday after receiving a new form of stem-cell therapy at the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Basco served two tours of duty in Iraq, sniffing for bombs, before he was adopted last fall by Debbie Richter of Medford. Basco’s stint in the military and his large size contributed to the development of osteoarthritis in his left hip.
Wendy Baltzer, an assistant professor of small-animal surgery at the vet school, performed the surgery, which was the first of its kind in Oregon. Pioneered by Kentucky-based MediVet-America, it involved removing fat tissue from Basco. A centrifuge separated the fat cells from stem cells, which were then placed under an LED light in a nearby lab. In approximately two hours, the stem cells activated and were then injected into Basco’s hip, where they will take on the properties of the nearby cells.
In Basco’s case, the stem cells will turn into cartilage that will make it easier for him to walk again.
Richter said Basco had a limp when she adopted him, so she started to research possible therapies. On her veterinarian’s recommendation, she approached the OSU veterinary school about trying the new stem-cell therapy. Bob DeWitt, a MediVet-America spokesman, said traditional stem-cell therapy takes more than two days to activate, is done at a separate laboratory and costs twice as much.
Richter said she was encouraged that Basco came through the procedure just fine Thursday. For the next three weeks, the dog will be kept on a leash while the cells grow.
“He doesn’t act like he’s 7; he acts like a 2-year-old puppy,” Richter said.
Richter is paying for the college’s surgical costs, but MediVet-America is donating about $1,800 to cover the stem-cell portion of the procedure as a way of thanking Basco for his service in Iraq.
Richter hopes to take Basco back to Medford today. She plans to bring him back to OSU in about a month for a checkup.