Prolotherapy (commonly referred to as ‘prolo’ and also known as Regenerative Injection Therapy) is an effective, non-evasive (non-surgical) technique for treating ligament and tendon laxity and injuries, including cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) weakness and tears. It’s successfully been used for many years in the treatment of ACL and other joint injuries in human athletes. ‘Prolo’ is short for proliferation, because it causes a proliferation of new connective tissue to occur at the injection sites.
Prolotherapy Patient Candidates
Small to medium sized dogs (as well as cats) frequently do very well with prolotherapy treatments, but large dogs with relatively mild injuries can also benefit. It’s an excellent option when surgery is not feasible due to anesthetic risk, age, weight, or the caregivers’ inability to provide adequate post-operative care, which includes exercise restriction and crate rest (confinement).
Prolotherapy Treatment Explained
Prolotherapy treatment involves multiple injections of a collagen producing mixture containing sterile dextrose, Lidocaine and saline. The mixture is injected into damaged or weakened ligaments and tendons, which creates an inflammatory reaction that eventually attracts fibroblasts and creates new collage formation. This production of new collagen leads to a tightening of the tissues and ultimately stabilization of the injured joint. Unlike traditional treatments, prolotherapy utilizes the body’s normal inflammatory response to stabilize the injured joint. Treatments take only 10-15 minutes and require very mild, reversible sedation. Patients can go home once the sedation has worn off, usually about an hour later.
Prior to being evaluated for the prolotherapy treatments, it is very important that your pet have a complete physical exam with your regular veterinarian, along with basic lab work and x-rays of the injured joint. This will help identify any problems that might make your pet more susceptible to the sedation, as well as ruling out any other physical or metabolic problems that may reduce your pet’s ability to improve with the prolotherapy treatments. Also of important note is to provide proper nutrition before and after treatment to help your pet’s body heal as quickly as possible.
Post Treatment Care
Post-treatment care is much less intensive than with surgery, but still includes exercise restriction for 4-6 weeks. Since prolotherapy’s efficacy is dependent upon the body’s normal inflammatory and healing response, it is very important to not use any anti-inflammatory medications following treatments. Patients often improve significantly after only 1-2 treatments, although 3-5 treatments may be necessary with more severe injuries.
Before scheduling an appointment for prolotherapy treatment, Dr. Donna will first need to see your pet for a consult. During the consult she’ll determine if your pet is a good candidate, as well as provide you with dietary and herbal tips to aid in the healing process. Your pet will also need to have recently been examined and diagnosed by your veterinarian as having a mild to moderate CCL injury (or other joint tendon/ligament injury), as well as completing the pre-treatment diagnostics as outlined in the Pre-Treatment Diagnostics above.
About Jeff Blake, DVM
Dr. Jeff has practiced veterinary medicine and surgery for over 25 years. During that time, his focus has always been to provide effective veterinary care with minimal or no side effects, as well as empowering clients to take an active part in the health care of their pets. The core teaching of his practice is the Hippocratic Oath, which states primum non nocere or “First Do No Harm”. This holistic approach led him to learning and practicing prolotherapy. He also works part time at a small animal veterinary hospital and still does surgery when it’s necessary. *Dr. Jeff and Dr. Donna are married and live on a small farm in Bellingham, WA with their three horses, Tino, Mick and Charlie.