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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!