vsa_72dpiMost of us somewhere along the way in life have encountered the three-legged dog. They’ve usually had an amputation for one reason or another but have met the challenge by adapting, and are often even healthier and more active than other dogs; however, it is a sad fate to see an active canine hobbling about—even with a stoic attitude. How wonderful a thing it is to report that this was not to be the fate for one very well loved Great Dane living in New Zealand.

Owner Yvette Wharton experienced that gnawing feeling of forewarning that something was wrong with her pet, Leroy, as he began to limp. She took her gentle giant to Veterinary Specialists Auckland and heard the terrible news confirming that indeed something was very wrong as her dog had bone cancer, evidenced by a malignant tumor in his right front leg. Leroy though was in the care of veterinary surgeon Dr. Alastair Coomer, who was not only willing to be aggressive in helping Leroy survive and thrive again, but he was also ready to be quite progressive in treatment.

bone

[Photo: Veterinary Specialists Auckland]

The cancer had not metastasized, and that was very good news for Leroy as numerous specialists went to work on figuring out how to provide him with a titanium prosthesis that could fit his larger canine frame. Designers, titanium experts, and university scientists all worked together. First, they examined the cancerous leg bone and discovered they could use it for a CT scan, which was then converted into digital form in an engineering program which allowed them to create an implant.

“Alastair then facilitated a custom 3D-printed titanium prosthesis thanks to some very clever Kiwis – namely Dr. Jon Bray at Massey University, and the teams at Axia Design and TiDA/RAM,” the veterinary team explained on their Facebook page.

Once the design was ready for Leroy’s new leg, the team sent it to RAM, a titanium supplier, responsible for taking on the 3D printing. One would imagine that all involved must have been very excited about working on the project, not only in helping to save Leroy’s leg, but also considering the level of innovation they were achieving technologically and in terms of veterinary medicine. Warwick Downing at RAM stated that Leroy’s 3D printed prosthetic was the largest he had ever created ‘by far.’ He also pointed out that titanium is a common material to use in prosthetics because it is:

  • Strong
  • Bio-compatible
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Non-magnetic
  • Non-toxic

As they worked on the 3D printed prosthetic, Dr. Jonathan Bray of Massey University over the process. Known for his work in implanting a 3D printed jaw into a cat, Bray was impressed with Leroy’s prosthetic and surgery, as it was such a patient-specific process leading to a quick and easy surgery.

“The implant we made for Leroy fits Leroy, and Leroy only – all they have to do is cut the bone in the right place and the implant will just fall into place, which makes surgery very quick,” said Bray.

veterinary-specialists-auckland

The 3D printed titanium prosthesis [Image: Veterinary Specialists Auckland]

Downing pointed out that their greatest challenge in creating the prosthetic was the ‘sheer length’ of the device.

“It was about 350mm long and I guess it weighed about 300 grams – surprisingly light given the size of the thing,” said Downing. “The implant is porous, almost honey-comb structure [which] means that in theory, the dog’s bone can grow in and integrate with the implant.”

As is the usually the case with successes in animal surgeries, the results were heartwarming with Leroy coming through surgery in August very well, and then up and on all four ‘legs’ very soon afterward. He also had a chemotherapy pump installed to help prevent any recurrence of cancer.

“Certainly, the way he was walking on the leg post-operation validates the decision to keep the leg,” Dr. Coomer said.

Now, Leroy shows no signs of cancer whatsoever.

“He’s made a pretty decent recovery,” noted Dr. Coomer, “he still limps a bit when he gets up in the morning – but warms out of it pretty quickly and wants to jump in an out of the car and go on bush walks and hikes.”

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[Photo: Veterinary Specialists Auckland]

Leroy’s owner, Yvette Wharton, has been amazed at the skill of the team, and how well they took care of her Great Dane, now cancer-free and able to walk.

From kittens and ducks receiving prosthetics to a turtle with a titanium jaw, there are many examples today that show just how much we care about pets and wildlife—and when we see they’ve gone from suffering to getting back to the normal business of their lives (which is usually amazingly cute), we feel the all too rare warm side of technology—thanks to the caring humans behind it. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Titanium Leg for Leroy forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Stuff / Images: Veterinary Specialists Auckland]

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