I came across this article last year, but never got around to writing about it. It's pretty cool!
A company, SynDaver, has created realistic dog models for veterinary schools. The intent is to replace cadavers used in veterinary studies, as well as live animal surgeries. Here is a quote from the article:
The synthetic cadaver is made of water, fiber and salt. Each cadaver is anatomically correct and features lifelike fat, fascia planes, bones, muscles, ligaments, joints and all body systems.
The skinless dog not only mimics the feeling of living tissue but breathes, has a heartbeat and can be programmed to simulate various diseases and medical complications. The skin even bleeds when surgical cuts are made, since the cadaver has a circulatory system.
I would be very curious to try one of these out myself! I love the idea, and agree with the concept of trying to reduce procedures done on living animals. However, a surgery on a model, no matter how sophisticated, can't duplicate the feel and circumstances of a living animal. Is it close enough to be comparable for training purposes? I don't know, and I'm hopeful that it would be.
Similar models are used in human medicine, so this may be something that would be very useful for veterinary students. If nothing else it's a great step in the right direction, and shows how far technology has come, as well as where it can help us in the future.