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MailTribune.com
  • Former military dog living in Medford to receive state's first stem cell procedure for hip injury

  • After two tours of duty sniffing out bombs in Iraq, Basco just wants to retire in peace and be free of the pain from the osteoarthritis that has settled into his hip.
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  • After two tours of duty sniffing out bombs in Iraq, Basco just wants to retire in peace and be free of the pain from the osteoarthritis that has settled into his hip.
    The 80-pound German shepherd will head to Corvallis today where he will become the first dog in Oregon to undergo a one-day stem cell procedure that could alleviate his suffering and help him live a long, healthy life. The previous methods involved multiple trips to a clinic.
    Debbie Richter adopted Basco (pronounced "Bosco") in November after he was discharged from the military. Basco, who is 7 years old, served his country guarding embassies by searching in-coming cars from bombs.
    "I didn't know what to expect," Richter said. "I had never adopted a bomb-sniffing dog before."
    Basco's long road to Medford began in Baghdad and buzzed through Texas, where he was decommissioned, and then to Portland where Richter picked him up at the airport.
    "I mostly go for rescue dogs," Richter said. "Too many dogs are getting put down in shelters."
    In years past, that would have been Basco's fate, despite his relatively young age. Hip issues such as arthritis have proven fatal to larger dogs, as the pain from bone grinding against bone destroys their ability to move and sinks their quality of life.
    "It was obvious that he was in pain when I first got him," Richter said. "My vet checked him out and found that the ball of his femur was nearly flat."
    Surgery options included hip replacement, which has a limited chance of success on a dog Basco's age.
    While researching alternative procedures, Richter found the company MediVet-America online. They have worked in recent years to perfect a stem cell treatment of joint and ligament ailments in dogs and horses.
    The technology uses the animal's own stem cells, which are drawn from fatty areas of the body, to regenerate the damaged tissue.
    Bob De Witt, the spokesman for MediVet-America, said the procedure has proven successful in numerous operations throughout the country.
    The procedure costs between $1,800 and $2,400, which is cheaper than major surgery.
    MediVet-America agreed to cover the costs of Basco's procedure in return for his military service, De Witt said.
    "We have found that the animals bounce back quickly from the procedure," De Witt said.
    Within three weeks of the procedure, Basco should be moving with little or no pain, De Witt said.
    The procedure will be performed by Wendy Baltzer, an assistant professor of small animal surgery at Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
    Richter, who owns Southern Oregon Pilates on East Barnett Road, hopes Basco will be able to accompany her to work soon after his procedure. The dog loves to greet the customers as they file in for their workout.
    "My clients love him," Richter said. "He's the new Southern Oregon Pilates mascot."
    Basco is set to return Friday and is required to stay on a leash for a few weeks after the procedure. The goal is to keep him from injuring the hip immediately following the procedure.
    "I want this to cure his hip," Richter said. "He deserves to be out of pain for all he's done for his country."
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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