Practice Updates

New stem cell treatment restores pets' mobility

Friday, June 22, 2012 9:12:00 AM

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 22, 2012


Surf Paws Animal Hospital on Thursday administered a new stem cell therapy treatment to 13-year-old Kumba.

Kumba's owner, Rumi Hospodar, watched through the window as he was carried back from surgery.

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Kumba, a 13-year-old Rott-weiler/Labrador mix, has had trouble moving for the past five years because of severe arthritis in his hips.

But that could change with medical technology.

"He thinks like a puppy, but can't act like one and it has taken a real toll on our family," said owner Rumi Hospodar of Kapolei. "Kumba is on the older side, but he still has much more life in him."

FIND OUT MORE For more information on stem cell therapy for animals, visit To set up a consultation with Dr. Cristina Miliaresis, call Surf Paws Animal Hospital at 395-3647.

Thanks to a new stem cell therapy procedure offered at Surf Paws Animal Hospital in Hawaii Kai, Kumba might be able to act like a puppy again without pain, Hospodar said.

Hospodar and her children, Kelsea, 16, Kian, 7, and Kyra, 3, went with Kumba to the procedure Thursday at Surf Paws.

More than 2,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats, have received the therapy to treat a variety of pains, developed by MediVet America, said Carol Spangler Vaughn, a Honolulu representative for the Kentucky-based company.

The drug-free procedure was originally intended for racehorses, but research showed dogs and cats also responded, said Bob De Witt, a spokesman for MediVet. He added that he knows of one goat that was treated.

The procedure, which lasts no more than five hours, starts with the removal of blood and fat cells, De Witt said. Stem cells are separated from the fat in a process using an LED, and are then injected into the animal's affected areas.

The stem cells then grow into new tissue.

They are not embryonic stem cells, De Witt said.

Hawaii veterinarians have been performing stem cell therapy on dogs for more than two years, but the earlier process is lengthy because the extracted stem cells need to be sent to the mainland for further processing, De Witt said.

"With this new in-house method, it cuts costs and visits to the vet," he said.

Surf Paws was the first clinic on Oahu to perform the procedure, with Kumba patient No. 3, said Dr. Cristina Miliaresis of Surf Paws.

In April, Miliaresis administered the therapy on her 8-year-old American pit bull, Ipo, who suffered from torn ligaments in her legs.

"She was the test subject and after such positive results from her procedure I thought, ‘Hey, I need to start doing this for real,'" Miliaresis said.

She said the recovery time for dogs is about a day or two on average, and improvement in their movements can be seen anywhere from two to three weeks later.

"After two months, they're pretty much back to normal," Miliaresis said. "It's like going back in time."

Stem cell therapy for dogs runs from $2,400 to $2,800.

But Miliaresis said the results far surpass anything that costly drugs might do.

"Many dogs who receive the procedure are already on medication to ease the pain, but that only acts like a shield," she said. "More and more money has to be spent for the medication and it adds up for the owner and lessens the quality of life for the dog."

Hospodar said that she and her husband, Paul, decided to hold off on a family vacation to help with the costs of Kumba's procedure.

"He is a companion and protector to the kids," she said. "He takes care of all of us. A better quality life for Kumba is far more important than a trip somewhere."

Surf Paws Animal Hospital performed the first in-clinic stem cell therapy Thursday, June 21, 2012, to help Kumba, a 13-year-old dog.

   Claudia Manno, left, and Fran Freitas, both technicians, carried Kumba into the operating room.


Cristina Miliaresis DVM , owner of Surf Paws, makes an incision in Kumba's left shoulder, where she will extract fat for stem cells.


Cristina Miliaresis DVM removes a piece of fat from Kumba and puts it in a vial for extraction of stem cells.


Fat tissue taken from Kumba's left shoulder.

Kumba's owner, Rumi Hospodar, watches through a window as her sedated dog is carried back from surgery.

Fran Freitas separates the stem cells from the fat.

Surf Paws Animal Hospital