Treatment Puts Canine Cop Back on Patrol

By Kris O’Donnell

A Chicago police dog beats arthritis with stem cell treatment.

Dasty is a happy five-year-old German shepherd who loves to be around people. He’s also very active, spending his days as a member of the Chicago Police Department’s canine unit. But his career almost came to a grinding halt when one day, in 2009, his partner noticed he had problems getting up and slipped.

“I watched him for a few days and it was the same thing and it kept getting progressively worse,” Officer Marion Anderson said. “He was having more difficulty going up and down steps and getting out of the vehicle.”


Officer Anderson said Dasty’s condition rapidly deteriorated.  “It was getting to be very debilitating and interfered with him doing his job. We do building searches, narcotics work, and weapons searches,” she said. “[The dogs] play a very big role in our department, removing narcotics off the street. They are very, very important,” Anderson said.


Dasty was taken to Arboretum View Animal Hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe arthritis in his left hind leg.  “He was in pretty serious shape,” Dr. Cheryl Adams said. “He was in pain and it was very painful for him to sit down. He was also experiencing muscle-wasting,” she said. The arthritis, it turns out, was caused by Lyme disease.  “We don’t know how he caught it,” Anderson said.


But now Dasty is back on his feet and back to work, thanks to stem cell treatment, a relatively new procedure which uses Dasty’s own cells to help repair the damaged tissue.

In May, Dasty had a simple operation in which fat cells were removed from his abdomen and shipped to a California company called Vet-Stem.  “Fat contains the highest concentration of stem and other regenerative cells,” Vet-Stem C.E.O. Bob Harman said. “Vet-Stem removes the fat cells by a series of washings, centrifugations and enzyme digestion,” he said. “This leaves the stem and other regenerative cells which are shipped back to the veterinarian.  ”Those cells are then injected directly into the affected area. Vet-Stem says veterinarians are using the therapy primarily for osteoarthritis and tendon and ligament injuries. More than 2,600 dogs have received the treatment and Vet-Stem say 70% have shown improvement.


“Many owners report that their dog can do things that they had not done in years, such as jump into the car,” Harman said.  Stem cells have an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces the pain, although they will not cure conditions like arthritis outright.

“If the dog has arthritis, it’s not going to take it away but it’s going to help heal some of the damaged tissue and help with the pain,” Dr. Adams said. “It can repair damage within the joint but it won’t grow new tissue.”


Dasty had three treatments in total and Anderson says she started noticing a difference just before the second treatment.  “As we got closer to the second injection, I noticed he was moving a lot easier and wasn’t as slow to get up after the first injection,” Anderson said. “It gave me a lot of hope that he would be able to continue to work. It was a big sigh of relief to see there was some improvement going on,” she said.


Dasty currently undergoes water treadmill therapy twice a week to regain muscle strength, but Anderson says he’ll be weaned off of it as his muscles get stronger.  Meanwhile Dasty continues his work with the Chicago Police Department. Just recently, Anderson says he uncovered 780 grams of methamphetamine in a drug bust, which had a street value of more than $250,000. And, his old personality has returned.

“He is back to his normal self, his natural silliness,” Anderson said. “He’s a very social butterfly. He will do what he has to do when it comes to work,” she said. “When he’s not, he’s very fun loving and enjoys people.”


If you would like more information on Dasty’s treatment and stem cell therapy, visit

Have you heard of an animal receiving this type of treatment?


About Gina Coleman

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.
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