Home Pet Care Newly Creating Prosthetic Limbs For Amputee Pets

Newly Creating Prosthetic Limbs For Amputee Pets

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Prosthetic limbs are found in animals some animals are eat using their limbs. Animal Ortho Care, a Northern Virginia-based firm specialising in ‘mobility devices for pets’, helps around 200 animals every month.

The company was founded by Derrick Campana, who started out making prosthetic limbs for humans, including injured army veterans.

12 years ago Campana was approached by a vet who, having seen his work with people, asked if he would consider making a prosthetic limb for a dog.Having spotted a gap in the market Campana set up Animal Ortho Care – and since then the company has helped thousands of animals, including dogs, cats, turtles and even pandas.

Animal Ortho Care
Animal Ortho Care

One of the animals treated recently by Animal Ortho Care was Angel Marie, a pony left unable to walk after her mother stepped on her leg.Campana created prosthetic front legs for the horse using highly durable plastics and he described watching her walking as “a dream come true.”

Prosthetic limbs can be a good solution when body weight or activity level necessitates the need for additional support and increased function. A prosthesis allows normal weight-sharing on all legs which helps to eliminate overuse syndrome on the sound side of the shoulder, hip, or spine.

To allow for adequate suspension of the device, a minimum of two to three inches of residual limb below the elbow or knee is needed. This allows a prosthesis to be made for amputations below the knee or hock in the hind limbs and below the elbow in the forelimbs.

Prosthetics are also used immediately following surgical removal of the non-functional portion of the leg in order to keep the surgical site clean, reduce edema, prevent contractures and improve mobility. These temporary or immediate post-operative prostheses can be made to be easily removed in order to check the surgical site on a routine basis.

post-operative prostheses
post-operative prostheses

It is our experience that dogs generally do not do well with prosthetic limbs for amputations above the elbow or knee because there are no joints left in the leg to assist the gait or walking motion. Consequently the patient is left with an inflexible or “peg leg” device that has to be lifted and controlled by the shoulder or hip, a difficult if not impossible technique for a dog to learn.

The field is so new that there’s no formal education or licensing program, nor have any real studies been conducted about the impact of orthotics and prosthetics. Amputation of a dog’s limb is a difficult decision but is often needed to eliminate a painful or life threatening condition. Severe trauma, cancer or debilitating birth defects are all reasons for amputation to be considered.

How will amputation affect my dog

Most dogs adapt well to the loss of a single limb. Dogs don’t appear to experience any emotional sense of loss and most dogs are within a very short time able to walk run and even climb stairs. The truth is that emotionally, amputation may hit you harder than your dog. The emotional trauma of amputation to the guardian is very real.

Prosthetic limb evolution from people to dogs

Prostheses have been utilized since the days of the Romans and Greeks1. In recent years, even a mummy was found with a prosthetic toe made of wood and leather; the toe dates back to between 950 and 710 BC2.

Prosthetic limb
Prosthetic limb

Changes in thinking about prosthetics for dogs

In recent years some rehabilitation experts, including Dogs in Motion Canine Rehabilitation, have recognized that there are short and long term consequences to dogs functioning on three limbs, including:

  • Tissue breakdown
  • Degenerative joint problems in remaining limbs

This can shorten life in dogs missing a limb.

Therefore, materials and techniques developed in human prosthetic design have now been applied to many more animals.

prosthetics for dogs
prosthetics for dogs

With patience and work dogs can be taught to adapt to a new limb with a return to near normal function. Most dogs will tolerate an artificial limb, but they do need to be somewhat malleable.  Once comfortably fitted, it becomes only a matter of time before the dog learns to walk.

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