Buffalo Grove’s Veterinary Specialty Center practices same-day stem-cell therapy
Ida Haris and her rottweiler, Sable, follow Purdue University veterinary student Sarah Frankel, and veterinarian. Mitch Robbins into an exam room for a consultation as they prepare for a stem-cell transplant to cure the dog's osteoarthritis at Veterinary
Updated: October 26, 2011 1:36AM
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series looking at the cutting edge work being done in animal treatment at Buffalo Grove’s Veterinary Specialty Center.
Sable is a friendly, 82-pound, 10-year-old Rottweiler.
The mere thought that she might be in pain from her arthritis causes a deep hurt to owners Patrick and Ida Haris.
The “nothing-is-too-good” sentiment people feel for their families brought Long Grove resident Ida Haris on Monday to the Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove for stem-cell therapy for her dog.
Judged a good candidate, Sable hobbled through its doors as Haris beamed.
“It’s pretty emotional,” she said. “Never in our wildest dreams did we think she’d be getting stem cells.”
Nevertheless, veterinarian Mitch Robbins cautions, he must make a final examination of Sable before cells can be harvested from her stomach, undergo the stem-cell process and then be re-injected.
Stem-cell surgery is not all that new — being around for a few years — but new to Illinois is same-day stem-cell surgery, made possible by a laboratory at Specialty Center opened only recently.
The procedure means an animal can be in and out of stem-cell surgery in five or six hours, with no invasive surgery or long recovery time.
“Most of that time is spent mixing and stirring,” said Robbins, head of the surgical practice.
Within weeks animals can show recovery and if there are setbacks, stem cells are frozen and stored for future use.
Same-day stem-cell service is just one of the hi-tech specialties offered at the Buffalo Grove veterinary hospital. Hemodialysis for acute poisonings is conducted at only about a dozen hospitals across the country, hospital officials said. Drinking anti-freeze or eating grapes was once a death sentence for many dogs, but dialysis can be a life saver pet owners never thought possible.
Found only at bigger animal hospitals such as Specialty Center, double hip-replacement is not only harder to find but a costlier procedure, at $10,000 to $12,000 an operation. Stem-cell operations, by comparison, come in at about $2,500.
Consequently, the hospital is a draw from throughout the region for pet owners seeking the best that science can offer.
The Specialty Center offers CAT scans and MRIs, mostly for cats and dogs.
However, the 26,000-square-foot facility also reaches out to treat more exotic animals — including ones at the Shedd Aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Snakes, turtles and even an electric eel traveled from Chicago to Buffalo Grove for MRIs and other hi-tech procedures.
Some of its 26 veterinarians have gone into Chicago to do surgery on a tiger, sun bear, polar bear and dolphin. Robbins was part of the team giving chemotherapy to Bubba, the Queensland Grouper, at the Shedd Aquarium a couple years back.
On a busy day more than 100 animals will go through the doors of the Specialty Center. Robbins estimates 3,000 surgeries a year are conducted, for ACL or spinal injuries, and hip and cancer surgeries.
A banding together of several practices, Specialty Center offers internal medicine, imaging, dermatology, critical care and even holistic medicine.
Hospital Director JoAnn Stewart said difficult economic times affect the business’ bottom line, but insurance and third-party financing help.
“The biggest trend in veterinary medicine is a greater feeling that a pet is a part of the family and the willingness to go further and spend more,” Stewart said.
Meanwhile on Monday, Robbins returns to the consultation room with Ida Haris and Sable.
The door closes behind them.
Stem-cell treatment will not work for Sable. Her diagnosis remains private but, afterward, Haris said she will not attempt other life- saving treatments.
“It started out to be a good day, but it didn’t end up that way,” said Haris from her home. “My husband and my son came home just to be with her ... We’re all very upset.”