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Monday, April 18, 2011

Artificial Paw For Pets

I think many people are surprised at what veterinarians have the capability of doing.  I try to tell people that vets have just as much medical and surgical skill as human doctors, but because we work on animals I'm not sure how many people really understand our capabilities.  In fact, did you know that pets can get implanted artificial limbs?

North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has been doing implants for pets since 2005, and have performed them in both dogs and cats.  The most recent surgery happened just a couple of weeks ago!  Check out this article in the local Raleigh, NC newspaper.  This latest surgery was done for the first time on a front paw, with all previous surgeries performed on hind legs.  What I personally think is especially cool about this procedure is that the implants are custom-made with computer models and analysis of the pet's leg!  And apparently NCSU is the only place in the world doing this procedure.

Now I know there are people thinking "Hey, it's just a dog!  I can't believe someone would spend that kind of money to give them a prosthetic paw!"  And though I don't know how much the procedure costs, I'm sure it's quite expensive and out of reach for many pet owners. But for those who can afford it and want to spend the money, it's nice to know that this capability is out there.  Really, we are limited only by people's ability to afford the services, and this is understandably difficult when the costs come out-of-pocket for most pet owners.  Since most people have insurance for themselves but few have insurance for their pets, things that we take for granted in human medicine are uncommon with animals.

Is a prosthetic paw taking things a bit too far?  Not in my opinion.  An artificial paw isn't completely necessary, but does replace a normal anatomical feature and improves a pet's quality of life.  To me this is much more worthwhile than a completely cosmetic procedure such as ear cropping.

I also have to talk with some pride about this issue, as I graduated from this vet school and Dr. Marcellin-Little was one of my professors!


  1. I'm honestly amazed at the things can be done to help fix pets. Now, I don't have the means to do fixes like this for my pets, but I still think that they're great! If you do have the means and the desire, then I'm all for it. Plus, I know that many of these advances in veterinary medicine can also benefit humans down the road too! A win-win.

  2. Chris, I disagree with you on this - you are not as qualified and talented as medics - you are infinitely much more so because you can and do, as vets, surgery on all areas of the animal in question. Consider the optician - he cannot do surgery for a corneal ulcer, no healthcare professional would cross the mark and do midwifery without training and qualification, heart surgery - not unless you were a heart surgeon. You guys are supremely skilled - you do public health, you act as GPs for the animal world, you are skilled surgeons, many of you also practice acupuncture and hydrotherapy. I know my dog's vet is without a doubt the most skilled person - and has won many awards - the pets owners always lament that the animal hospital and the vets there don't do humans because I tell you if they did, they would be inundated. In addition - you guys have to deal wtih the animal owner - you signed up to deal with teh pets - and the owners can be a big pain in the ass and the root of many of the animal behavioural and physical problems that you guys are then left to sort out. Lets hear it for VETS - Bloody marvellous, professional, caring, compassionate and highly skilled professionals.

  3. Wow, thank you so much for those kind words! I know every vet reading this appreciates your sentiments. I just wish everyone felt that way!

  4. Really Chris,

    you guys are truely gifted and exceptionally skilled people. A good vet is quite simply a master craftsperson and how you all manage to know what you know and to do what you do is wonderful and on top of this to know what meds will not harm one species and cure while that same med can do damage on another species. There is so much to retain and all that surgery you guys can do on all parts of the animal and across so many species. i can tell you honestly - were I to fall ill and seriously so on an aircraft or ship - I hope they would ask "is there a vet on board" for I would far rather a vet deal with me and do surgery (though unfortunately it would be illegal - but you never know in a life and death situation!) even with basic, unsuitable implements (aircraft plastic knife and fork anyone!) because you guys do surgery all the time and are so, so skilled and experienced - imagine how a medic would faf around with no experience on this organ or that body part - no - give me a vet - my survival chances would be greatly enhanced and I would be in good hands. I'd wager my survival chances would be much better with a vet - I would trust them totally. And no I am not mad - I know how skilled my dog's vets are - they know what they are doing and are exceptionally skilled, clever people.


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