Platelet-Rich Plasma: A New Treatment Option for Osteoarthritis and Injury

As a veterinarian and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, I believe in the healing powers of regenerative medicine, specifically platelet-rich plasma (PRP). I have been offering it as a treatment option for my patients suffering from ligament and tendon injuries and osteoarthritis for the last few years. PRP is powerfully effective, long lasting, and significantly less expensive than stem cell therapy.

“Francis is a 13 year old German Shorthaired Pointer with arthritis in both hips, right worse than left.  Fran was at a point that she wouldn’t leave her bed in the morning, very stiff, toe touching in right side throughout day. We started giving Rimadyl twice a day to keep her comfortable.  After PRP, no Rimadyl on a regular basis was necessary. If Fran had a busy day, we will give her Rimadyl. But it’s only on an as needed basis. Her gait is much improved and she’s up and playing in the mornings. Dr. Bonilla has helped her tremendously, we couldn’t be happier.”

Lynn Mitro – proud pet parent of Francis

PRP has been around a long time and is widely used to treat horse injuries and in human sports medicine. Several high-profile athletes like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant have been treated with PRP to help increase recovery from injury. As PRP’s popularity and success grew, it was only natural that small animal veterinarians would begin to adapt the therapy for dogs. As previously mentioned, I have found PRP to be a valuable treatment option for my patients that suffer from osteoarthritis or in speeding up recovery time for tendon and ligament injuries. By now I am sure you are asking yourself exactly what is PRP and how does it work.

Platelet-Rich Plasma falls under the category of regenerative medicine because it uses the healing benefits of an animal’s own blood to jumpstart recovery. After an injury platelets and other blood components such as growth factors rush to the damaged area to tell the body “start healing”. With PRP therapy I am using your pet’s own body to promote a huge signal to start healing and to start healing now, which is why PRP is so fast and effective.

PRP therapy is scheduled as an outpatient procedure and is minimally invasive. A blood sample is drawn from your pet and is spun down. The goal is to remove the white blood cells and red blood cells and leave platelets and the liquid part of the blood called plasma – hence the name platelet-rich plasma. Then, using sterile surgical techniques the PRP is injected into the wound or joint.

The system I have used and will continue to offer is called ProTec PRP. ProTec PRP allows the healing platelets and growth factors to be held within a fibrin matrix, which dissolves slowly, releasing the platelets over 7 days, which is more consistent with healing times. In order for platelets to do their job of healing they need time and a consistent supply of healing growth factors to ensure a speedy recovery.

While PRP is an amazing therapy it is important to set expectations as every dog responds differently to treatment and depending on severity of injury or osteoarthritis, may have more or less of a successful response to treatment. When treating dogs with advance osteoarthritis, we must recognize that by no means are we curing the arthritis. We are simply telling your pet’s body to make whatever cartilage is left to lessen the inflammation in order to reduce pain and promote healing.

In my experience, the best result for arthritic patients has been when PRP is used in conjunction with weight loss programs, joint supplements, and used at the early onset of arthritis not at the end stage when there is no cartilage left in the joint. For patients with acute injuries that receive PRP alone I have found they may need more than one treatment but arthritic patients that I have combined PRP with a weight loss program and joint supplements, one injection could last up to one year!

PRP therapy is still very new to the field of small animal medicine and much research still needs to be done but if you are a pet parent that is looking for other options to promote healing after a tendon or ligament injury or to help ease an arthritic pet, then PRP may be a great option. I have seen it work time and time again and it brings me so much joy to be able to improve a pet’s quality of life.