Dog succesfully gets artificial front paw

Surgery to give him implant

Staff WriterMarch 31, 2011 

— Zeus, the Siberian husky, is resting comfortably after doctors at N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine successfully performed a state-of-the-art procedure, through which a titanium prosthetic front paw was infused into his leg bone.

Zeus’s front paw was ripped off by another dog when he was a puppy. Ever since, he’s had to limp on three legs, leaving him tired and not able to play outside for long periods.

“It went very well,” said Denis Marcellin-Little, an N.C. State professor of veterinary orthopedic surgery, who performed the osseointegrated wrist implant, which took about four hours.

This type of bone-infusing prosthetic surgery was first performed by Marcellin-Little in 2005 and has since been done on five other animals’ hind legs, but never on a front paw.

N.C. State claims to be the only university in the world that manufactures and implants custom-made animal prosthetics.

Marcellin-Little did have a bit of scare during the surgery, he said. When veterinarians opened up the bone and tried to fit the custom-made prosthetic on, it did not fit. The prosthetic is designed using simulated computer models.

But after rotating it a bit for several minutes, “it fell into a perfectly fine position,” Marcellin-Little said.

He attached it with screws, and then another veterinarian set to work on closing the dog’s tissue around his new limb.

“I am very happy with how that came together,” Marcellin-Little said.

Zeus is resting in an enclosure with a rubber floor to ensure the safety of his new prosthetic.

His owner, Sandy Vandall of Southern Pines, was briefed on the success of the surgery, but went home without seeing Zeus. Marcellin-Little prefers dog owners not see their pets so soon after surgery, he said.

Zeus will have a 10- to 12-week recovery, during which he won’t be allowed to run on his new limb.

Did he look happy after his surgery?

“We just want him quiet and comfortable for now,” Marcellin-Little said. “We’ll do happiness tomorrow.”

leah.friedman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4546

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