Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been used in people and horses for a multitude of orthopedic conditions, and is now becoming more common in companion animals. Most often, PRP therapy is used in dogs with joint injuries or disease who are too old to undergo surgery, or as an alternative treatment to surgery. The therapy is considered less invasive, safer, and more cost-effective than other stem cell-like therapies.

What is platelet-rich plasma therapy for pets?

Similar in concept to stem cell therapy, PRP therapy takes a canine patient’s own blood, which is then processed, and re-injected into the body. The platelet-rich plasma in the blood contains a higher concentration of platelets than whole blood, along with a hefty dose of growth factors. These growth factors encourage the proliferation of healthy cells, and reduce the expression of inflammatory proteins. By using platelet-rich plasma, a high concentration of growth factors is delivered straight to the injury site, enhancing the body’s natural healing response. 

Why use platelet-rich plasma therapy?

While PRP therapy is a relatively new treatment for cats and dogs, the benefits are many. So far, studies have shown that PRP therapy promotes:

  • Tendon and joint healing
  • Pain reduction
  • Skin rejuvenation
  • Ligament rupture and hyperextension injury healing
  • Osteoarthritis improvement
  • General inflammation reduction

Further studies have found that PRP therapy can be combined with laser therapy for still greater benefits, proving that multimodal treatment plans work best for a multitude of ailments. In addition, PRP therapy is a safe, natural way to encourage the body to heal itself, and makes an excellent treatment modality for pets who cannot take medication, or undergo surgery.

How does platelet-rich plasma therapy benefit pets with osteoarthritis?

Originally used for heart surgery, to aid in wound healing and blood loss, PRP therapy is now used for the healing of muscle, tendons, ligaments, articular, and meniscal injuries. In osteoarthritis cases, PRP therapy helps heal the damaged joint(s) in numerous ways, with the growth factors found in platelets the key ingredients. The growth factors are responsible for:

  • Stimulating new blood vessel formation
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Reducing the incidence of arthrofibrosis
  • Improving postoperative range of motion
  • Enhancing wound healing
  • Reducing pain levels

As platelet-rich plasma is injected into your pet’s affected joint, the growth factors rush to the damaged cartilage and bone, and immediately begin reducing inflammation, easing pain, and providing a matrix for new tissue growth.

What happens to my pet during a platelet-rich plasma therapy session?

During a PRP therapy session, your pet’s own blood is used. Your pet is typically sedated, to ensure they feel no discomfort or unease during the procedure, which typically takes 30 to 40 minutes. 

First, your pet’s blood is drawn, and then filtered and spun in a centrifuge, to separate out the individual blood components. This distillation process isolates a portion of the blood to achieve a greater platelet concentration than contained in regular whole blood. During the process, red blood cell and white blood cell portions are removed from the platelet-rich part of the plasma, leaving behind mostly growth factor-containing platelets. The remaining platelet-rich plasma is then injected back into the pet, usually near or in the affected joint. This process triggers the arrival of more new cells at the injury site, connective tissue healing, new blood vessel development, bone repair, and wound healing. 

Because the patient’s own blood is used to make the specialized platelet-rich plasma, the treatment is not at risk of rejection, which is possible with a donor’s blood.

What can I expect after a platelet-rich plasma treatment for my pet?

PRP therapy sessions are outpatient procedures, so your pet can go home the same day. They may experience minor discomfort after the procedure, but other side effects will be few, if any. While your pet is recovering, you may need to restrict their activity, but they can then ease back into light, low-impact exercise. Most pet owners notice improvement the first week, and substantial benefits after the first month. 

For mild osteoarthritis, a one-time injection can offer six to nine months of pain relief. For moderate or severe osteoarthritis, a series of injections several weeks apart may be recommended to achieve maximum pain relief, which can last up to a year. 

Do you think PRP therapy may be a treatment option to help alleviate your pet’s osteoarthritis pain? Contact our Tamberly Animal Hospital team, to see if your furry pal is a good PRP therapy candidate.