Apr 25, 2017 | By David

We’ve seen countless examples of 3D printing technology being used to produce prosthetics for amputees and people with disabilities of all kinds, but what about animals in need of similar help? There’s nothing a dog likes more than going for walks, and that’s just been made a whole lot easier for Zeus the whippet, who lost his back paw as a puppy. A 3D printed prosthetic paw was made for him, and he is now learning to use it.

The two-year-old pooch from Brazil had been walking with his stump, either dragging it on the floor or awkwardly lifting it in the air, ever since an altercation with another dog as a newborn left him severely mutilated. According to Roberto Fecchio of the volunteer group Animal Avengers, the canine’s clumsy gait would’ve only gotten worse over time, leading to severe damage and deterioration: ‘‘His attempts to adapt to his disability would have eventually taken a toll on his body by adversely overloading his spine and seriously affecting his other limbs,'’ Fecchio said.

The Sao Paulo-based veterinary surgeon refused to let this happen and so, along with dentist Paulo Miaomoto, he set out to save Zeus’ skeleton and improve his quality of life with a prosthetic device. Their volunteer group, which also include vets Rodrigo Rabello, Matheus Rabello, Marco Campos, Henrique Perez, Sergio Camargo, and Lucas Porto, as well as dentist Guilherme Costa, is well versed in this kind of early animal intervention, having previously saved the lives of Freddy the tortoise and Victoria the goose, amongst other creatures.

A CT scan was taken of the hound’s hind legs, and this data was processed to create 3D images in order to model a replacement paw that would fit perfectly on his stump. The prosthetic paw was then 3D printed using green biodegradable plastic. Weighing around 24 grams, the artificial attachment resembles a ballet shoe and slips on to Zeus’ lower left leg in a similar fashion. It is held in place with Velcro straps, and helps the whippet to walk by re-establishing the spatial difference between the rest of his legs, as well as the gap between the damaged limb and the ground.

The dog is still getting used to moving around with the prosthetic, after initially attempting to shake it off and inspecting it like the strange foreign object it must still seem to be. But according to his human owner, Christiane Kimura, he is adapting faster than expected and already moving around a little more comfortably: "I could see he was thinking about what to do with the leg and so I encouraged him to try it out on grass to soften the impact, by physically helping him to rest it on the ground," she says. "To my surprise, he began to take to his new green paw really quickly."

Zeus is currently undergoing physiotherapy at the Animal Care Vet Hospital, to help him get accustomed to the 3D printed prosthetic and how to use it. While the whippet might not be able to appreciate the technological breakthrough that his green paw represents, we certainly can, and we’re excited to see more cute and lifesaving devices like this being produced in the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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