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Artificial Legs Now a Reality for Pets
Date:4/29/2010

Medical advances making it possible for dogs like Cassidy to romp on all four legs

THURSDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- An injury prevented Juniper from walking normally. Frostbite damaged the hind legs of Meadow. And Andre gnawed off his paws to escape from a wolf trap.

Until a few years ago, there wasn't much hope for these and other disabled animals of ever leading normal lives again. But thanks to advancements in veterinary medicine, and the small but growing field of animal prosthetics, it's now possible for pets and farm animals with missing limbs to walk, run and romp on all four legs.

Cassidy, a shepherd mix, with a caramel-colored coat, was recently outfitted with a carbon fiber leg similar to ones that amputee runners use.

"We just came back from the beach and he's able to run all day," said Cassidy's owner, Steve Posovsky, a retired dentist in Delray Beach, Fla.

The adopted stray -- found wandering the streets of the Bronx on three legs -- is a medical pioneer, becoming the first dog to successfully undergo osseointegration orthopedic surgery, a procedure that may one day benefit humans.

During the four-hour operation, a titanium implant was inserted into Cassidy's right hind leg bone -- designed by veterinarian Denis Marcellin-Little and his colleagues at North Carolina State University in Raleigh -- so that a custom prosthetic limb could later be screwed into the visible tip. The result is an artificial leg that behaves more like a natural limb.

"It's not that different from a total joint replacement," said Marcellin-Little of the surgery. "And, clearly, we have a lot of experience fixing joint prosthetics to bone. That's done in hundreds of thousands of people each year worldwide."

Since Cassidy's surgery in July 2008, a handful of veterinarians in the United States and Europe have used osseointegration to replace limbs of other family dogs and cats.

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