Replacement Parts

Canine prosthetics give dogs new options.

Advances in the field of veterinary medicine have made many surgical options previously performed only on humans now widely available to dogs. Some disabled canines and amputees have the opportunity to receive replacement parts, including hips, legs, and knees.

“These days, hip replacement surgery is fairly commonplace,” explains Alan Schulman, DVM, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. a surgeon with special training in orthopedic, neurologic, and reconstructive surgery at the Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles.

“The newest technique involves cementless implants,” says Schulman.” Previously, surgeons used bone cement to hold the prosthetic hip socket in place. This method was time consuming and somewhat inaccurate as far as placement of the implants. It restricted movement and also had the tendency to crack and loosen over time.

“Surgery involving a cementless implant, is a much more exacting procedure as the surgeon has no wiggle room when drilling and reaming the intended implant sites. The implants stay in place because of the more precise technique and become osseointegrated over time.”

The cost joint replacement surgery including the hospital stay and the anesthetist ranges between $5000 and $7000.

A study done by the Canine Implant Retrieval Program under the auspices of the BioMotion Foundation, a nonprofit orthopedic research laboratory in West Palm Beach, Fla., has shown that the cementless implants that use screws and textured metal surfaces to connect to the bone have fewer complications and last much longer.

“In fact, after a well positioned implant surgery a dog can be up and walking within two to three hours; they should be doing well in two-three days. They recover faster than people,”  says Schulman, who explains that canine elbow and knee replacements are also proving to be successful.

“Arthritis is a very common problem in breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherd Dogs. An elbow or knee replacement is similar to a hip replacement. Currently, the procedure still relies on a partly cemented fixation. Nevertheless the surgery considerably reduces  the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis by creating an artificial joint surface free from the pain of a degenerated arthritic joint.”

Marty Mandelbaum, a certified prosthetist orthotist in Port Jefferson, N.Y., recently performed the first immediate post-operative prosthesis for a dog that had a leg amputated at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“This is a technique used on humans,” says Mandelbaum.” We go into the operation and advise the surgeon the required length of bone needed after amputation for prosthesis to fit well, and we put a temporary leg on immediately so that the patient can stand up within 24 hours. The next phase, about a month later, is to make a cast. This is the prelude to the final prosthesis.

“Prosthetic legs and paws are a viable option after amputation,” says Mandelbaum. “Often veterinarians amputate at the shoulder or hip because they do not think of prosthetic treatment as an alternative. If there is a choice, leaving some bone length allows the dog owner the option of fitting a prosthetic leg or paw.”

Unlike humans, a dog is required to wear the prosthesis all the time.

“We tell owners to change the sock under the device and clean the limb on a daily basis,” says Mandelbaum. “They are made so that they can be adjusted for minimal growth and with wear and tear should last about four years. However, if the patient a puppy, a new device will have to be made when it’s fully-grown. Costs range between $800 and $3,000.”

Veterinarians point out that dogs can usually manage on three legs and will only advise prosthesis under special circumstances like a Labrador born with paralysis in both back legs. A prosthetic is far less cumbersome than a wheeled cart.

A new prosthetic technique known as osseointegrated implants is being developed by veterinary surgeons at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, N.C. It involves inserting a thin steel shank into a leg bone (femur or  tibia) and allowing bone to grow around it in the same way it does around a hip replacement socket or femoral implant. The next step is to place a cosmetic prosthetic over the exposed steel pin. If proved consistently successful, osseointegrated implants will replace the current leg devices that have to be strapped on to the patient.

And if it works for man’s best friend and other animals, surgeons will try it on people next.

Other prosthetic implants available for dogs include micro-thin silicone sheets to correct a floppy ear, FDA-approved solid  silicone  eyeballs, and testicular implants so that canines can retain their masculinity in the dog park.

More information about the type of prosthetic devices available for dogs can be found and . Veterinary schools throughout the country are a good source to find veterinarians specializing in orthopedic surgery.

This article is from DogFancy Magazine

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