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Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects, and Alternatives


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If you’re seeing your senior dog slowing down and stiffening up, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that one in two dogs over 10 years old has osteoarthritis, a common joint disease. While canine arthritis isn’t curable, there are medications and management techniques that can help improve your dog’s quality of life. One treatment option is platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) for dogs. Understanding more about PRP for dogs and its potential benefits can help you decide if it might be worth trying.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy for Dogs?

In platelet-rich plasma therapy, blood is drawn from the dog. Then, the blood is processed, usually with a centrifuge, which is a device that spins samples at high speeds to separate fluid components. Generally, within 20 minutes, the process creates a product that contains concentrated platelets (blood cells that form clots to stop bleeding). A veterinarian will inject this into the dog’s joints to treat the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis, or into tendons to promote healing.

Dr. Klein, the American Kennel Club Chief Veterinarian notes that in veterinary medicine, PRP has mainly been used for tendon and ligament injuries, or canine osteoarthritis. It’s still a newer treatment, so it’s mainly performed at specialty clinics, rather than most veterinary clinics. Most of veterinary literature on PRP involves horses, and the evidence of its use in dogs is more limited.

Golden-Retriever-laying-down-outdoors-in
Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

What Does PRP for Dogs Treat?

Dr. Nina R. Kieves, DVM, is an associate professor of small animal orthopedic surgery at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She notes that the most common use of PRP is to treat dogs with arthritis. “Most studies assessing PRP use in dogs have evaluated its efficacy for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms,” she explains.

Dr. Samuel P. Franklin, DVM, PhD, and founder of Kansas City Canine Orthopedics, explains that successful PRP treatment can improve the dog’s mobility and comfort levels. Some other applications of PRP for dogs include treating tendon and ligament injuries and promoting wound healing.

How Do Vets Administer PRP Therapy?

“PRP is generally administered to dogs under sedation,” Dr. Kieves says. “The injection itself is rather quick, but time to process the blood and create the product takes around 20 minutes.” Depending on the system used, the amount of time to process the blood and create the product may vary, she says.

Dr. Franklin says your veterinarian will typically offer some choices regarding the number of injections and their frequency. “One option is to administer an injection, see if the owner thinks there is a benefit, and then repeat the injection whenever the owner perceives the benefit is wearing off,” he says. “An alternative I would suggest is three injections, spaced three weeks apart.”

Senior German Shorthaired Pointer head portrait outdoors.
©Dogs - stock.adobe.com

How Quickly Will You See Results?

How successful PRP is for your dog depends on a lot of factors. “Overall, the success of PRP treatment is highly variable,” says Dr. Klein, “likely due in part to the variability in the PRP preparations used.”

You might notice your dog responding to the injection a few days to a week later. However, Dr. Franklin says it will usually be at least a couple of weeks before you see noticeable changes. “I usually tell clients that if they haven’t seen any benefits after six weeks, you’re not likely to see any,” he says.

How long a dog can enjoy the benefits of a PRP injection also varies. “The longest that we’ve seen based upon objective studies in dogs is five months,” Dr. Franklin says. However, he says some owners could see benefits for up to one year.

What Are the Side Effects of PRP for Dogs?

PRP is relatively low-risk, and the treatment is easy for vets to administer. “Patients can be sore for 24 to 72 hours due to an inflammatory response and simply having something put into the joint,” Dr. Kieves says. However, aside from this temporary discomfort, you won’t likely see any other side effects in your dog.

Dr. Franklin says that PRP is autologous, meaning it uses platelets directly from your dog. As a result, you don’t have to worry about finding a suitable blood donor, and there is no risk of infectious disease transmission. “As with any time you stick a needle into the body, there is a risk of developing an infection, but that risk is very small,” he says.

Senior Dachshund lying on a dog bed with a blanket.
Shane Cotee - stock.adobe.com

How Much Does PRP for Dogs Cost?

“Cost varies from practice to practice, but in general, it is around $600 to $800 per injection,” Dr. Kieves says. PRP for dogs is unlikely to be a one-and-done treatment. If it works, you will probably repeat the injections up to three times yearly.

However, Dr. Franklin points out that this isn’t the sort of treatment your dog will likely receive all their life. “A substantial number of owners are using it after surgery for a dog who is still sore,” he says. “They might end up getting a couple of injections in a six-month period to help them get over the recovery hump.” Often, PRP is a treatment option for arthritic senior dogs, perhaps in the last year or two of their lives.

If you have pet insurance, always check your coverage before proceeding with treatment. Not all plans will cover the cost of platelet-rich plasma for dogs.

When Is It Worth Considering PRP Therapy for Your Dog?

Dr. Kieves says that studies on PRP therapy in dogs, humans, canine and horses show that this procedure shows promise when it comes to treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis and encouraging wound healing. However, clear evidence of its benefits for dogs is still limited, and the treatment’s overall success can vary.

“Think of PRP as a symptomatic therapy,” Dr. Franklin says. “We are trying to provide comfort from the clinical symptoms rather than expecting to cure the underlying problem.” Veterinarians will often administer PRP alongside other medications and canine physical rehabilitation, or as an alternative treatment to help control pain and improve quality of life.

Senior-American-Staffordshire-Terrier-la
©zanna_ - stock.adobe.com

Dr. Franklin says he would suggest owners consider PRP for dogs if alternative options haven’t worked or aren’t realistic for their dogs. Vets often prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat osteoarthritic pain. Dr. Franklin says there’s much stronger evidence for the efficacy of oral NSAIDs in treating pain compared to PRP. However, he might recommend PRP if a dog cannot tolerate NSAIDs. “Some dogs get gastrointestinal upsets or have liver or kidney disease and can’t use these drugs,” he says.

Overall, Dr. Klein says that PRP use looks optimistic. “PRP appears to be safe and useful in treating a number of orthopedic conditions,” Dr. Klein says. “In vitro data and clinical results in other species are encouraging.” Still, there is not significant variability in PRP preparations, as well as lack of consistent results. Talk to your vet about whether PRP could be a treatment option for your dog, including costs, risks, limited evidence, and other traditional treatments.

The post Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects, and Alternatives appeared first on American Kennel Club.

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