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Prosthetic intervention has been used for many years in human
rehabilitation to achieve mechanical and rehabilitative goals, that
is, to stand up and walk again. The use of these prosthetic devices
has been limited in veterinary medicine although published case
reports have existed for over 40 years.
"The use of prosthetic devices in veterinary medicine is in its
infancy," says Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, clinical professor at the
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences. "Usually, most dogs and cats do really well
with three legs and so, in the past, veterinarians just amputated
the affected leg."
For most of these injuries, even those that require the
amputation of more than one leg, there are other devices, such as
wheeled carts that can do the job. "In the last ten years people
started to do more prosthetics," Davidson says. "Lately we are
seeing more small animals with prosthetics."
This surgery is not a cheap one, and normally it is the owner
who requests it.
"There are different types of surgeries that involve prosthetic
limbs. One surgery involves fitting a prosthesis over the skin on
the stump of the leg and the other one is more involved as the
prosthesis is implanted into the bone," Davidson says.
According to Davidson, this kind of surgery, though promising,
will still need some time to be more cost-effective. "Right now,
you have to work with a prosthetist and you have to order the
materials specifically for each animal. It can be very
Just like humans do, pets that undergo this kind of surgery and
get a prosthesis implanted need to go through a rehabilitation
process. "Sometimes, getting the pet to adapt depends on the
personality of the animal, on the circumstances, or their age. But
after some time they start to adjust and live a fairly normal
life," Davidson says.
It's important to remember that, after a successful prosthetic
implant, pets are not the only ones who recover several degrees of
freedom. Their owners feel a sense of freedom because they are able
to sit on the porch or sofa again and watch their cats and dogs run
around the house.
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