I practice in a hospital where, all told, stem cell therapy costs about $2,500 and THR about twice as much. Clearly, they are both expensive, and both require general anesthesia. However, THR has been available for dogs since the 1970s and there are hundreds of independent, peer-reviewed scientific articles to back its use as well as define both its benefits and its limitations. If I too succumbed to the easy and powerful allure of the anecdote, I could tell you that the vast majority of dogs on whom I perform THR are taking 30-minute walks twice daily by three months after surgery (and I have observed Labs with normal, full, weight-bearing function the day after surgery!).
Today’s dog owners demand something more than the archetypal, scalpel- happy bravado of a typical surgeon, and rightly so. But please, when seeking alternatives to traditional options, ask questions and demand answers before you write off the proven in favor of something new and speculative. I will continue to entertain alternatives to surgery because I strive to be a surgeon who — as Dr. Abraham Verghese says in the extraordinary novel, Cutting for Stone — appreciates that “the operation with the best outcome is the one you decide not to do.”