Basco the war dog recovering from his stem cell procedure

Basco, who served as a bomb detecting dog in Iraq, is recovering from a stem cell procedure to cure him of hip arthritis.

Basco, the four-legged veteran who protected troops by sniffing out bombs in Iraq, is recovering from a stem cell procedure intended to alleviate pain in his hip caused by osteoarthritis.

The 80-pound German shepherd is already showing improvement in his mobility, less than a week after he underwent a one-day stem cell procedure in Corvallis.

"He is doing great," said his owner, Debra Richter, who operates Southern Oregon Pilates. "He is wanting to bounce around and wag his tail."

Basco (pronounced "Bosco") served two tours in the military as a bomb detection dog, guarding embassies from attack. The 7-year-old canine was discharged last year and adopted by Richter in November.

Richter speculates Basco has suffered from the hip issue for quite some time. It became so painful that he could not put much weight on his back foot. Basco spent his days hobbling around the pilates studio, where he is popular with Richter's clients.

Richter said the goal in the near term is to keep Basco from becoming too rambunctious. He has two incisions, one on his shoulder and one on the inner thigh of his back leg, and the stem cells need time to take hold.

Hip issues such as arthritis can be fatal to larger dogs, as the pain from bone grinding against bone hampers their ability to move and destroys their quality of life.

Basco's surgery options included hip replacement, which has a small chance of success in a dog his age.

Richter read about the stem cell procedure while researching alternative procedures. She discovered the company MediVet-America, which has 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.

MediVet-America covered a portion of the procedure's cost. Richter will cover between $1,200 and $1,800.

"It's worth it," she said. "He's got so much life ahead of him."

Richter said the dog has gradually become more comfortable putting weight on his back foot. He is slowly learning to walk correctly after years of limping around.

The procedure was performed by Wendy Baltzer, an assistant professor of small animal surgery at Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Other animals in Oregon have had stem cell treatments for injuries, but Basco was the first to undergo the procedure done entirely inside a clinic. His story, first published in the Mail Tribune last week, prompted comments and get-well wishes from around the country.

Richter is hopeful Basco will make a full recovery. She spends part of the day doing exercises meant to strengthen his back legs and hips.

"I am also looking to sell my 2003 (Harley-Davidson) low rider in order to buy him a swimming pool," Richter said. "The pool will help with his rehabilitation."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail

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