People with cats that are injured or born without legs now have new hope for handicapped cats, which may mean a nearly normal life for their beloved feline. There were a series of articles in the Veterinary Practice News about a cat (Charlie) that underwent a totally new surgical procedure at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Charlie has had a series of surgeries to try other more conventional treatments, but nothing worked long term. So by the age of four, his family and doctors knew they had to find another answer. Charlie’s needs spurred research that offers new hope for animals that need this type of help.
Researchers designed a prosthetic implant to replace Charlie’s back legs. Charlie lost the lower part of both back legs. His implants were inserted into the bone, to avoid the soreness and limitations of an externally attached prosthetic. Little feet were made from simple rubber door stoppers, which provide stability and grip. There are personal benefits for Charlie too. His family and his doctors say he feels more secure and has become more friendly toward his family. He can be physically active and live normally with the other cats that live in his house too.
When people ask what I do when I do special needs consults, I have a hard time explaining the many ways I can help them. One of the things I do is find this type of information for the family of a pet with unusual needs. Since I work with animals with disabilities every day, part of my job is to keep abreast of information and bridge the gap between what the doctors and specialists know is available, what is new and not widely known, along with what the animal needs and the owner can afford. In other words, I do my best to find solutions for problems.
As a person who would have welcomed help myself during some of the trials we faced with our animals in the early years of rescue work, I know there is a need for these services. Sometimes, the need is reversed too.
People have unexpected illnesses and accidents that change their ability to care for their pets. Adaptations to the home environment can allow people to continue to care for and enjoy their animal companions.
Veterinarians, physical therapists, and surgical specialists simply don’t have the time and resources to help develop adaptive home routines and locate the proper ramps, litter boxes, and supplies for each unique home or vehicle to get the family back on the road to a relatively normal life.
The doctors and specialists seldom have people available to visit homes and work with the family during their daily routine and in the home. Many times the need is not as radical as Charlie’s, but resources can still be hard to find. That’s where I try to help. I work with many people remotely via email and phone too. Thanks to the Internet, it’s possible to help find resources in almost any location.
For more information about the history and use of these new limbs for animals, click here.
The next step may be implants that can save the lives of horses with broken legs. The good news is that a crowdfunding project to research this option for horses was successfully funded!