Cutting-edge technology is helping Hawaii's pets live better lives for months, even years. We were there as a beloved dog named Kumba received one of the first-ever, in-clinic stem cell therapy surgeries in the islands.
13 year old Kumba doesn't know he's a guinea pig. The Rottweiler-Lab mix is one of the first in Hawaii to undergo the stem cell procedure at Surf Paws in Hawaii Kai.
Kumba suffers severe arthritis in his hips and knees, doesn't eat much, and is even a bit depressed. "It's an effort for him to get up off the floor, and when he gets up and crosses the room, you can see the stiffness," says his owner, Rumi Hospodar.
Dr. Cristina Miliaresis
Kumba's kids learn some of details of his surgery. Then, he's moved to a table and nods off from anesthesia. Once he's prepped, the procedure begins. The vet removes about two tablespoons of fat tissue from Kumba's shoulder. From there, the stem cells are separated from the fat and activated. Then, they're injected back into the affected areas.
The entire process takes four hours, but the dog is actually only under for about 20 minutes. Surf Paws used to send the tissue to the mainland for processing, but with technology from Medi-Vet America, they can do it all here.
"The patient had to be, you know, go home and come back a few days later and the timing was a little bit difficult. Now, everything is same day," says Surf Paws veterinarian Dr. Cristina Miliaresis.
Cost depends on the size of animal but can cost up to $2,800. It's mainly done on dogs, cats, and horses who suffer osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, ligament and cartilage damage, and other degenerative diseases. Their quality of life can improve within a couple of weeks.
Dr. Miliaresis says, "Some people might say, 'Oh, the dog's 13. Why are you doing this for a 13 year old dog? But even 6 months, pain-free, after a very, it's not simple, but it's a pretty straightforward procedure, to me (would be) just amazing."
The techs move all 97 pounds of Kumba to post-op - while his anxious owner looks on.
Rumi Hospodar's 16 year old daughter, Kelsea, says, "Hopefully, after this procedure, we will be able to go to the beach again and watch him swim again and that big smile he always has on his face will show."
For now, as he recovers, they'll just let this sleeping dog lie.
HawaiiNewsNow - Terry Okita
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Stem cell therapy in Hawaii going to the dogs