Preparing My Dog for the Most Important Surgery of Her Life

 |  Apr 11th 2011  |   0 Contributions


For several years now, my dog Sheba has successfully maintained the ideal weight for her age and physical condition. She's almost 15 and suffers from severe arthritis in her legs, hips, and back. I've taken care to keep her slender, so she'll have less to carry around on her compromised joints. Portion control hasn't always been easy, because like all dogs, Sheba loves to eat. And curbing her carb intake has been especially tough, because who doesn't love a nice, warm bagel every every once in a while?

But Sheba's svelte physique was my reward for all that dietary regulation. My vet assured me she'd live longer if she stayed on the thin side. So that's where she's stayed.

Until three weeks ago, that is. That's when Sheba fell off the wagon. With my full permission, she's been enjoying twice her usual portion at every meal, plus snacks of (gasp) pita bread in between. All this overeating and carb-loading is precisely what I've worked so hard to avoid. For days now, I've noticed Sheba feeling the effects of her overindulgence: She pants a lot and walks much more slowly than usual. She also wakes me up early and late for extra toilet outings, but she's too beat to walk very far, so we turn back immediately after she's done.

I deliberately caused my healthy dog to gain weight. I intentionally put her heart (and other parts) at risk. A controlled weight-gain campaign was one thing for Magnus, my formerly-emaciated dog. But even he didn't eat empty carbs on my watch! Sheba absolutely needs to stay slim.Had I lost my mind?

Not exactly; there's method to this madness. Later this morning, Sheba will undergo surgery. Liposuction, to be exact.

A good chunk of adipose tissue - i.e. fat - will be removed from her belly, then FedEx'd on ice to Vet-Stem, stem cell pioneers in San Diego. From that tummy-tuck tissue sample, Vet-Stem technology will bring fortha reserve of Sheba's own stem cells. And those cells will be FedEx'd in vials back here to New York, where they will be injected directly into Sheba's afflicted joints.

Stored in her body as fat, those cells were doing nothing for Sheba. But relocated to her sore, creaky joints, those same cells will be a remarkable force for healing. Her own stem cells, harvested from her own fat, will enable her joints to regenerate themselves, permitting Sheba to enjoy the mobility she hasn't had in years.

But first, I had to be sure there'd be enough fat for the surgeon to remove! Sheba was so supermodel-skinny, I was concerned there might not be enough. That's why I've been letting her overeat.

I'll never do it again.

I've seen Vet-Stem work miracles before - in YouTube videos and in my own animal house. In 2007, my dog Sam underwent this same stem cell procedure, and experienced tremendous success. He'd become so crippled by arthritis that he stopped lifting his leg to pee. When he had to relieve himself, he'd stand there with all four feet on the ground, looking humiliated. This was a big deal for him, as previously Sam would urinate by lifting his leg with an extension to rival any young ballet danseur noble.

Three hours after he was injected with his own stem cells, it was a very different story. Sam lifted his leg to pee! And the improvement didn't end there. My dog began regressing in age before my eyes. He was 14 in chronological years, but he began behaving like a young man of 9 or 10. When he passed away last year, he was almost 17 years old - quite a long run for a large dog. And I credit Vet-Stem with making his final years quality ones. Sam's stem cells enabled him to enjoy his long life to the fullest.

Sam had faced numerous health hurdles prior to his Vet-Stem experience; he'd undergone several surgeries. And yet, his stem cells were strong enough - viable is the medical term - to give him the healing boost he needed. I have great hopes for Sheba. Apart from arthritis, my beautiful girl has never had a health problem. She's the picture of senior K9 health. Her cells will be as magnificent as the rest of her, no doubt.

I confess I'm a bit nervous. The only times Sheba's undergone anesthesia were for her spay procedure when I adopted her, then again after a home grooming session went terribly wrong, and my ex-husband accidentally sliced her ear in half with scissors. That ear was so expertly stitched back up that now I don't remember which ear it was!

But it's been heartbreaking to see my once-unstoppable girl slow down to a crawl. She used to scamper about with such high energy, fully enjoying her time in the park. Lately, she can't even make itas far as the park - the distance is just too much. Walking up and down the steps to our building is a long, slow climb for her.

I want to see Sheba scamper again. I want her last years to be enjoyable ones, just as Sam's were. Please wish us luck for today's surgery. Sheba has fasted since last night at 11 p.m., and right now, as we're getting ready to leave for the hospital, she's staring intently at her empty water bowl, wondering when I'll fill it.

I'll let you know how everything goes.

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