When Jan Hall agreed to allow doctors at the Newman Veterinary Center in DeLand perform stem cell therapy on her 15-year-old Florida panther she admits she was nervous.
Although the procedure has been performed on more than 100 pets with a reported 95 percent success rate it has never been tried on an exotic big cat.
Over the past year the panther, whom she calls Nakiia, has been limping.
Hall, who is the head of the Nakiia Foundation, is familiar with arthritis in pets of all sizes.
"He just wasn't right," Hall says.
Screening confirmed that Nakiia's hip and joints were arthritic.
Dr. Ted Oliver completed the stem cell therapy last Wednesday with promising early results.
"This is basically regenerative medicine," Oliver said.
The procedure requires removal of the animal's fat tissue.
The fat is treated with a specialized LED technology then injected into the affected joints.
Erica Kent, the director of Operations for Newman Veterinary Centers, said the free consultation allows both doctor and pet owner to review treatment options.
"The consultation will give us an indication as to whether or not there is an opportunity for stem cells," Kent says.
Doctors say the long-term effect can last up to three years. Pet owners also have the option of freezing and storing stem cells.
Paul and Diana Jaynes brought their 9-year-old female yellow Lab Cookie to the center last September.
The couple was convinced they would have to put her down. The dog's hind legs were failing the couple says she couldn't walk.
Diana Jaynes said it was a difficult time.
"It's like losing a child," she said. "They become part of your family."
They were given the option of stem cell therapy. Jaynes says she couldn't believe her dog was walking in just a few days.
"We carried her out of that clinic after the procedure on Tuesday and she walked into the clinic for her follow up appointment that Friday," she says.
Most pet insurance companies will cover 90 to 100 percent of the cost. The clinic is offering a special rate in March.
For more information go to: www.newmanvets.com. For more information on the Nakiia Foundation go to: http://www.thenakiiafoundation.com/
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