Oscar the Cat became the Bionic Cat when he received two new back feet that are something of a bioengineering miracle.
Pet prosthetics give dogs and cats a second chance
Oscar the Cat became the Bionic Cat when he received two new back feet that are something of a bioengineering miracle. Oscar was minding his own business, basking in the sunshine in a field in England, when he had a most unfortunate encounter with a combine harvester. He lost both back feet, and for any other cat in the world, that would’ve been the end of him… or at least the end of his walking days. But Oscar was lucky enough to be found in time and referred to veterinarian Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick, who was willing to attempt something that had never been done before a implant two artificial feet in a single surgical procedure. The custom-made implants “peg” the ankle to the foot and mimic the way in which deer antler bone grows through skin. The artificial feet, in effect, become part of Oscar’s body.
By far the more common prosthetics for pets are the strap-on type, and even those have been around for only a few years. One maker of pet prosthetics is OrthoPets, in Denver, Colorado. They provide custom prosthetics for animals all over the world, including some of Dr. Fitzpatrick’s patients.
This is great news for pets who were born with a partial leg, or who were injured or need an amputation due to cancer. While a dog or cat may be able to adapt pretty well to walking on three legs, it’s not always the optimum life. The limping can be stressful on the pet’s back and other legs. And, sometimes a pet loses two legs, making mobility almost impossible. Depending upon how much of the leg is remaining, and the condition of the bone, a prosthetic leg can help a dog or cat walk again, pretty much like normal.
Of course, just as when a person gets a prosthetic leg, a dog or cat has to rehabilitate and learn how to walk with it. “Providing a prosthetic leg to a pet is a commitment among us, the veterinarian and the pet owner,” says Amy Kaufmann, co-founder of OrthoPets. “We want to make sure it’s right for the pet, and that it’s going to be successful.”
OrthoPets will review the pet’s x-rays, discuss the case with the veterinarian, interview the pet owner, and observe videos of the pet to determine if the dog or cat is a good candidate for a device. If so, they send a molding cast to the veterinarian to get the exact shape of the pet’s leg. The pet will receive a Stage 1 prosthetic to get him acclimated. The pet owner and veterinarian work with the pet to train him to use it. OrthoPets reviews the pet’s progress, and notes what issues may need to be addressed before providing the final Stage 2 prosthetic. It’s a six-month process.
Pet Prosthetic Videos
See Oscar the Cat and his progress: Bionic Cat Gets New Feet
See Andre, who lost a front and back leg and doesn’t seem to know it: Andre Running on Four Legs Again!