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Skip Navigation LinksCVMBS Home > Veterinary Teaching Hospital > For Small Animals > Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation > Stem Cell Therapy for Dogs Undergoing Surgery for Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease
Stem Cell Therapy for Dogs Undergoing Surgery for Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

​Dogs with cranial cruciate ligament disease (CCLD) frequently also have injury to the inside (medial) meniscus. The meniscus is a 'cartilage-like' structure that sits in between the shin and thigh bone. It serves many important functions in the joint such as shock absorption, proprioception and load bearing. During surgery, we will evaluate the meniscus and if a meniscal tear is present, the damaged portion has to be removed (this is called meniscectomy) since it is a major source of pain and lameness. niscectomy, however, has been shown to cause arthritis. Furthermore, it is known that all dogs suffering from CCLD will undergo some progression of arthritis even if surgery is performed (albeit decreased with surgery). Hence we are looking into novel treatment options to decrease this progression of arthritis. 

​​Autologous stem cell therapy (injection of stem cells retrieved from the patient itself) has been shown to allow for improved regeneration of the removed portion of the meniscus and to decrease the amount of arthritis progression in rats, rabbits, goats and horses.1-3 Unfortunately, this has not been studied in dogs but stem cells have been shown to be beneficial in dogs with osteoarthritis. Based on the available studies, we believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that this treatment would be beneficial for dogs (especially if a meniscal tear is detected at the time of surgery).

This treatment would involve aspiration of bone marrow cells from the shin and thigh bone through a small hole in the bone. Since your dog is undergoing surgery anyway, there is no additional incision needed and the procedure does not alter the rehabilitation regime. The procedure is quick (about 5 minutes) and there are no likely complications associated with the aspiration. This volume of aspirate is known not to be painful in humans.

Derived cells will then be purified and cultured (expanded) in a laboratory. The stem cells will then be injected into the knee joint 2-4 weeks after surgery (with four weeks being ideal but if you live far away we can combine this injection with the suture removal which is generally performed at two weeks). This injection requires sedation but the procedure itself only takes a few minutes. There is no clear downside to performing this treatment besides the financial impact (the cost for this treatment is approximately $1,500 including the injection, sedation, etc.).

There is some concern that stem cell injection may accelerate tumor growth (i.e. if a tumor is present at the time of surgery which we would not expect for a healthy animal).

However, this procedure is considered safe in people and no tumor development was seen in healthy people receiving stem cell injections into their knee.4-6


​Bucket Handle Tear Scope

bucket handle tear scope

​Normal Meniscus Scope

normal meniscus scope



  1. Murphy JM, Fink D, Hunziker E, et al: Stem cell therapy in a caprine model of osteoarthritis. Arthritis & rheumatism 48:3464-3474, 2003.
  2. Horie M, Sekiya I, Muneta T, et al: Intra-articular Injected synovial stem cells differentiate into meniscal cells directly and promote meniscal regeneration without mobilization to distant organs in rat massive meniscal defect. Stem cells 27:878-887, 2009.
  3. Hatsushika D, Muneta T, Horie M, et al: Intraarticular injection of synovial stem cells promotes meniscal regeneration in a rabbit massive meniscal defect model. Journal of Orthopaedic Research 31:1354-1359, 2013.
  4. Tsukamoto S, Honoki K, Fujii H, et al: Mesenchymal stem cells promote tumor engraftment and metastatic colonization in rat osteosarcoma model. International journal of oncology 40:163-169, 2012.
  5. Pak J, Chang J-J, Lee J, et al: Safety reporting on implantation of autologous adipose tissue-derived stem cells with platelet-rich plasma into human articular joints. BMC musculoskeletal disorders 14:337-337, 2013.
  6. Mishra P, Glod J, Banerjee D: Mesenchymal stem cells: flip side of the coin. Cancer research 69:1255-1258, 2009.