<p></p> <p>The artificial limb technology that has let disabled people walk again has been revolutionizing veterinary medicine in recent years.</p> <p>For over a century, veterinarians had resorted to full-limb amputations for dogs, cats and other pets that had gravely injured portions of their legs. Such animals can get along alright using <a alt="((CONLINK|702|three%20out%20of%20their%20four%20appendages))" href="">three out of their four appendages</a> , but for those that have suffered trauma to multiple limbs, euthanasia had often been deemed the only humane option.</p> <p>But no longer, thanks to the rise of creature-tailored <a alt="((CONLINK|143|prosthetics))" href="">prosthetics</a> – devices that replace a missing or non-working body part – and orthotics, which brace damaged limbs. And while these implements improve the lives of thousands of animals, in some cases, progress with pets might lead to breakthroughs in rehabilitating people.</p> <p>"Human doctors need to take notice," said Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon based in the United Kingdom. "[Doctors] can get lot of information from veterinary patients for their own patients."</p> <p>"One small step for a dog" can in fact end up as "one giant leap for mankind," Fitzpatrick said.</p> <p>Here, then, is a look at some of the most advanced prosthetics and clever orthotics developed for our pets and for other domesticated or rescued animals.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p><strong>The bionic cat</strong></p> <p>Oscar the cat recently received two artificial rear feet in a surgical procedure that might <a href="10-profound-innovations-ahead-0135/8">bode well for human prosthetic patients</a> someday. After a combine harvester severed both of Oscar's rear paws late last year, the poor kitty was referred to Fitzpatrick's clinic. In November 2009, Fitzpatrick drilled holes in Oscar's remaining rear ankle bones and implanted titanium pegs called ITAPs (intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics).</p> <p>Bone and skin mesh to the honeycomb-pattered ITAPS, with the bottom peg extruding through the skin much like a deer antler (which served as inspiration for the setup). After Oscar healed, special rubber-and-metal prosthetic paws were then simply screwed onto the exposed ITAP ends. Oscar is now able to walk about, and for now is the "first creature to our knowledge," Fitzpatrick said, to have bone- and skin-integrated implants placed in moving bone. The hope is that Oscar's body will not reject the metal ITAPs and that the skin growing over and around them will seal out infections.</p> <p>Similar attempts to meld metal and bone have been made in humans and other animals but have not proven successful in the long run. If Oscar holds out, prosthetics like his could avert some of the issues that emerge with strap-on, so-called exoprostheses, including stump abrasions and improper weight-bearing.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p><strong>Fuji's new flipper</strong></p> <p>For many reasons, <a alt="((CONLINK|566|household%20fish))" href="">household fish</a> have not been on the receiving end of prosthetics; these pets are generally small, cheap and not as injury-prone as running, leaping, landlubbing dogs and cats. But large sea mammals kept in zoos have been the beneficiaries of prosthetic fins. For example, in 2002, a dolphin named Fuji at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan lost most of her tail due to disease. Unable to swim well, Fuji was in bad shape until the aquarium contacted Japan-based tiremaker Bridgestone about crafting a prosthetic device. According to a Bridgestone press release, the company's engineers probed how a dolphin's two tail fins, or flukes, move in three dimensions with the same techniques used to design tires. After a number of prototypes, a water-resistant, reinforced silicon rubber version was created that has since allowed Fuji to propel herself completely out of the water in a jump. "The dolphin Fuji is very fine now," said Koji Tokutake, a staffer for the aquatic mammal section of the aquarium. "We are always trying to improve the artificial tail-flukes."</p> <p></p>


<p><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Canine hip replacement</strong></p> <p>Dogs often get hip replacement surgery, the same as people, and in March an American bulldog named Roly was fitted with a promising new type of prosthetic. Stricken with cancer, Roly had his hip joint  and most of his femur replaced with a device that allows tendons and musculature to grow into it, similar to Oscar the cat's ITAPs. Roly's "tendon burger" arrangement could pave the way for successful tendon reattachments in <a href="bionic-humans-top-10-technologies-0352/6">human knees</a> and shoulders following accidents, said the UK's Fitzpatrick who performed the operation.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p><strong>Getting a leg up</strong></p> <p>For the vast majority of animals, bleeding-edge surgeries might be too expensive and risky, especially if only one limb is affected. Since 2003, OrthoPets has offered strap-on orthotics and prosthetics to brace or replace damaged limbs for a wide range of animals. Martin and Amy Kaufman founded the industry-leading company to fill the technology gap for pets. They now help well over one hundred animals a month at their Colorado clinic and have distribution centers open in the UK and Australia and slated for Canada and South Africa.</p> <p>"All of our components, joints, straps and pads come from the human field but we have had to design and tweak them for our animal friends," Amy Kaufman told TechNewsDaily. OrthoPets equipment is relatively inexpensive, ranging from about $500 to $1000 for most dogs and cats.</p> <p>A challenge with furnishing pets for artificial ambulatory devices is that unlike people, they do not speak up when a prosthetic or orthotic does not fit quite right.  Accordingly, OrthoPets lines all its products with so-called diabetic foam – used by <a href="bionic-humans-top-10-technologies-0352/3">human diabetics</a> who have lost sensation – that smudges black if it is experiencing too much pressure.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p><strong>Restoring a llama</strong></p> <p>Though about 90 percent of OrthoPets' patients are dogs, the company has also outfitted cats, cows, alpacas, goats, sheep, horses and a llama. That last beasty, aptly named Tripod and later nicknamed Quad-pod, proved a special case. While serving as a guard llama – a protector of livestock from animal predators – Tripod stepped into a hole, the Kaufmans think, badly <a alt="((CONLINK|534|fracturing))" href="">fracturing</a> his left rear leg and requiring amputation. The vet surgeon intentionally left as much leg as possible below the hock (though still only a couple inches) to allow OrthoPets to devise a prosthetic device. At first, Martin Kaufman immobilized the hock, but "Tripod hated that design because he wanted to bend and straighten the hock joint when he was walking," said Martin Kaufman. In the end, a crutches-like prosthetic that bracketed the stump while still allowing flexing of the hock satisfied the feisty llama. "I had to go through three different versions to develop the best solution for him," which shows how each animal's circumstance is unique, Kaufman added.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Beak 2.0</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Four years ago in Alaska, an American bald eagle named Beauty was found starving because a hunter had shot off the top part of her beak. As she could not eat solid food, Beauty required hand- or tube-feeding. After two years of rehabilitation in an Alaskan clinic, she came under the care of Jane Cantwell, president and executive director of Birds of Prey Northwest in Idaho. At a speaking event that featured Beauty's plight, Cantwell met Nate Calvin of the Kinetic Engineering Group. At the time, Calvin had no experience in prosthetics, yet he wanted to help the unlucky bird live normally again.</p> <p>Calvin fashioned a plastic temporary beak from <a alt="((CONLINK|534|computer%20scans))" href="">computer scans</a> of a dental mold made of Beauty's jagged stump and an analysis of normal eagle beaks. The appropriately yellow-colored prosthetic was glued to a titanium base plate affixed to Beauty's stump. A full "final beak" made of titanium is planned, though it will be riskier for Beauty, Calvin said, and consultation with vets and surgeons is ongoing. The work with Beauty could point the way for aiding birds with damaged beaks that are kept as pets, in zoos, or left similarly crippled in the wild.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Turtle power</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Pet turtles that have lost limbs have been rigged with low-tech walking aids, from plastic chair sliders to rolling wheels from the chassis of a toy truck. For a large sea turtle that uses its flippers to swim, a similarly low-tech solution was achieved.</p> <p>Tourists spotted Allison, a baby Atlantic green turtle, adrift, bloodied and missing three of her flippers, likely due to a predator attack. She was taken to Sea Turtle, Inc. a non-profit turtle rehabilitation organization in South Padre, Texas. There, with her single front fin, she could swim only in counterclockwise circles. Unsuccessful attempts were made to craft prosthetic flippers. Then Tom Wilson, an intern, had the idea to build a rudder-like single fin that would extend behind Allison. Sure enough, it allowed her to swim straight.</p> <p>Subsequent generations of this deployed rudder idea included a neoprene "ninja" suit custom-made and donated by a rashguard company. The current device for Allison – who is now about five-and-a-half years old and healthily adding weight – straps over her shell in a horizontal 'H' pattern, and uses suction cups and padding for a secure fit. The rudder fin is made of resin fiberglass. Total material costs come to perhaps $30, Wilson said.</p> <p>"We don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on materials that just aren’t necessary . . . for animals, we need to look at what are the animals' needs," Wilson told TechNewsDaily. "Allison just needed a stick running down her back to stabilize her."</p> <p>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|266|Bionic%20Humans:%20Top%2010%20Technologies%20))" href="">Bionic Humans: Top 10 Technologies </a> <br>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|702|Three-Legged%20Dogs%20Teach%20Robots%20New%20Tricks%20))" href="">Three-Legged Dogs Teach Robots New Tricks </a> <br>•    <a alt="((CONLINK|67|PETA%20Insists%20on%20Robotic%20Groundhog%20Day%20))" href="">PETA Insists on Robotic Groundhog Day </a> <br><br></p>

Gallery: Bionic Devices Let Injured Animals Roam Again