Clinical Connections  –  Summer 2020

Stem Cell Therapy for Elbow Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Clinical Trials Progress

The most commonly reported condition affecting the elbow in dogs is osteoarthritis (OA)1. It often develops secondary to pre-existing elbow dysplasia and some breeds such as the Labrador Retriever are particularly predisposed.
Many will have had the abnormal fragments of bone and cartilage removed from the joint by arthroscopy at a young age. Some dogs with OA develop problems later in life, leading to pain and increasing lameness. Dogs with advanced disease are often reluctant to exercise which leads to weight-gain and worsening severity of their condition. Many dogs are not suitable for joint replacements. Chronic medical management is commonplace and sometimes unsatisfactory.
Stem cell therapy may provide a therapeutic alternative for the treatment of canine OA. Mesenchymal (or stromal) stem cells (MSCs) possess unique immunomodulatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in arthritic joints. Studies have demonstrated beneficial effects in dogs with hip and elbow OA 2, 3, which improved function foar up to 6 months after treatment. Many of these studies have been based on semi-objective outcome measures. As these studies and our own anecdotal clinical evidence demonstrate some benefit in dogs with orthopaedic conditions, autologous stem cell therapy is now being offered as treatment option at the RVC


• Golden Retriever
• Labrador
• Rottweiler
• German Shepherd
• Border Collie
Elbow disease
• Labrador
• Rottweiler
• Golden Retriever
• German Shepherd
• English Springer Spaniel

Clinical Trials and Patient Recruitment

A clinical trial is currently underway at RVC Small Animal Hospital to monitor the effects of intra-articular injection of mesenchymal stem cells on the function of dogs with elbow osteoarthritis. The study is being led by Head of Orthopaedics Dr Richard Meeson and surgical resident Carlos Rubinos, together with the RVC Stem Cell laboratory under the supervision of Dr Jay Dudhia and Dr Amy Brewer. Labradors that have previously been diagnosed with elbow dysplasia and or elbow osteoarthritis, and that are currently displaying symptoms of osteoarthritis, are being recruited for the study.
If you know of dogs suitable for this trial, please contact

Canine Stem Cell Case Study: Sherlock

Sherlock was one of the first dogs to receive stem cell therapy for elbow OA at the RVC. Her owner Becky states that: “The RVC Small Animal Hospital was recommended by our vet to provide stem cell therapy to treat early onset arthritis in our nine year old cattle dog. The two rounds of transformative treatment has been excellent value. The benefit was obvious within a week of treatment, with improved gait, stamina and demeanour. In practical terms, over a period of several months, this made the difference between two five- minute walks a day and a 40 minute romp through the countryside.

For small animal orthopaedic referrals, please call: 01707 666399 Email:

Research Reference for Canine Elbow Joint Disease

1. O’Neill DG, Brodbelt DC, Hodge R, Church DB, Meeson RL (2020). Epidemiology and clinical management of elbow joint disease in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. Canine Genet Epidemiol 7
2. Cuervo B, Rubio M, Sopena J, Dominguez JM, Vilar J, Morales M, Cugat R, Carrillo JM (2014). Hip osteoarthritis in dogs: a randomized study using mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue and plasma rich in growth factors. Int J Mol Sci. 31;15(8):13437-60.

3 Black LL, Gaynor J, Adams C, Dhuoa S, Sams AE, Taylor R, Harman S, Gingerich DA, Harman R (2008). Effect of intraarticular injection of autologous adiposederived mesenchymal stem and regenerative cells on clinical signs of chronic osteoarthritis of the elbow joint in dogs. Vet Ther 9(3):192-200.

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