Dog Will Get New Paw at NSCU Vet School
This story is reprinted with permission from The News & Observer of Raleigh
BY LEAH FRIEDMAN
The News & Observer
Zeus the Siberian husky had to rest through most of his news conference Wednesday.
With only three working legs, he has to limp to prevent his fourth - a left-front stump - from hitting the ground.
Hobbling wears him out.
But his owner and veterinarians at N.C. State School of Veterinary Medicine hope a state-of-the-art procedure, through which a titanium prosthetic front paw is infused into his leg bone, will let him act more like his 5-year-old self.
The procedure has been performed on six other animals' hind legs since 2005, but never on a front paw. Which is why NCSU put Zeus in the spotlight in a classroom at the veterinary school's research building.
"We want his quality of life to improve," said Zeus' owner, Sandy Vandall, as TV cameras focused on her blue-eyed husky. "He's self-conscious about it. When he meets other dogs, he tucks his leg in."
Denis Marcellin-Little, an NCSU professor of veterinary orthopedic surgery, will perform the osseointegrated wrist implant this morning.
"I'm a little more anxious than usual because this is more uncharted," Marcellin-Little said, adding that managing the skin around the prosthetic is his biggest concern.
This type of bone-infusing prosthetic surgery was first performed by Marcellin-Little in 2005 on a cat named George Bailey. The cat had been born without the lower half of his hind legs.
Ola Harrysson, an NCSU associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, has partnered with the surgeon to design the prosthetic legs that Marcellin-Little uses. Their collaboration makes N.C. State the only university in the world that manufactures and implants custom-made animal prosthetics.
Zeus lost his paw as a puppy after he was mauled by a female dog on the farm where he was bred.
The dog tried to grab Zeus out of a cage. In doing so, she ripped off his front paw, leaving a sensitive stump that is excruciatingly painful if he knocks it. It often bleeds, Vandall said.
Vandall is a friend of the breeder, and after the incident, the breeder called Vandall, a dog groomer, to see whether she wanted to adopt the hurt puppy.
Vandall didn't want a dog. But the minute she saw him, he waved his hurt leg at her, and she was in love.
She rushed him to NCSU, where they operated on his broken hip - also a result of the mauling - but doctors had to wait to deal with his missing front paw until his bones matured.
Now, doctors think he is a perfect candidate for the wrist implant.
Vandall said she has to pay for part of the surgery. Friends have donated money to the cause, in the name of research.
The surgery will last about four hours. After the prosthesis is inserted into the bone, the surgical team will reconstruct tissue around it.
Zeus can expect a 10- to 12-week recovery. During that time, he won't be allowed to run on his new limb to ensure the skin is securely in place around it.
Vandall, who owns her own mobile dog-grooming business, said she'll work nights and weekends to take care of Zeus during the day.
Her family already has a ramp in place for him at their Southern Pines home, and he'll have to be on a leash to prevent him from running.
On Wednesday, after posing for photos, Vandall and Zeus went out to the building's lobby before he was taken away for his pre-operation preparation.
Vandall bent down to tape a baby sock to the dog's stump and pulled on a thickhas worn for five years.
"Last time, buddy," she said as Zeus anxiously twirled. "Last time."
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