In the past few years, animals who have lost a limb or limbs have been given the chance for something more like a normal life thanks to revolutionary advances in animal prosthetics. Previously, animals who had suffered serious injury to a limb often ended up having it amputated; the loss of more limbs often meant euthanizing them, says Tech News Daily.
New “creature-tailored” prosthetics and orthotics have changed such bleak scenarios. Even more, prosthetics developed for animals are helping scientists develop better devices for humans. As Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon based in the U.K. says to Tech News Daily, “one small step for a dog” can in fact end up as “one giant leap for mankind.”
Here are ten animals that, thanks to a lot of effort (their own and humans’), are able to get around again.
1. Yu the Loggerhead Turtle
A 25-year-old loggerhead turtle, Yu, has received her 27th pair of prosthetic limbs. Five years ago, she was seriously wounded in a near-fatal shark attack that left her with almost half her flippers torn away and bites all over her body, even her stomach. Yu fled into a fisherman’s net, apparently for help. She was found after washing up on the southern island of Shishoku. Thanks to the efforts of an an aquarium in Kobe, south Japan, flippers of rubber and wetsuit material were made just for her. She can swim and will, it is hoped, also be able to swim and burrow in the sand.
2. A Piglet With a Wheelchair Made Just For Him
Chris P. Bacon was born without the use of his back legs. While the little piglet’s name suggests a not very pleasant fate, he has been thriving thanks to a wheelchair constructed for him by a U.S. vet.
3. Chhouk the Cambodian Elephant
4. Zvika and Her Wheels
After being accidentally run over by a lawnmower and suffering a fractured shell and spine, an Istaeli turtle, Zvika, was outfitted with wheels to help her move around while recovering.
5. Chrisie the Sandhill Crane
Necessity is the mother of invention, as Wired notes: Lee Fox of Sarasota-based Save Our Seabirds created prosthetics using PVC pipe and a sink stop for injured sandhill cranes. The birds have large bodies but spindly legs and need both limbs to stay upright. After learning of prosthetist Kevin Carroll’s work with other birds, she asked him to look at the cranes she was helping; he made plaster casts of two of the sandhills’ legs for personalized prosthetics.
6. Peggy the Bionic Chihuahua
Peggy, a Chihuahua from Albuquerque, was born without one back foot. She will soon be outfitted with a prosthesis the size of a human finger, which would make her the smallest animal in the U.S. to have such a device.
7. Molly the Appaloosa-Shetland Pony
One of Molly’s legs was amputated after she was attacked by a pit bull. She has had a number of prosthetics, the first made from acrylic, aluminum and fiberglass. A recent device uses a novel procedure called osseointegration, in which the prosthetic is directly attached to what remains of the bone. Prosthetists are also exploring how to create devices that could be directly attached to the skin.
8. Winter the Dolphin
Winter lost her tail and two vertebrate after being caught in a crab trap. Prosthetists and engineers created “Winter’s gel,” described in Wired as “a rubbery sock made of thermoplastic elastomer.” A prosthetic tail is then placed over the gel, which irritates the skin less than other liners and has applications for humans with prosthetics, as a means to help the devices stay connected when surfaces become slick from perspiratio).
9. A Bald Eagle Named Beauty
A bullet from a poacher shattered the beak of Beauty, a bald eagle. She now has a prosthetic beak and can feed herself, rather than needing to be fed by humans.
10. Oscar the Cat
Oscar, who lost his back legs in a farm combine, was the first cat to have prosthetic legs. His new limbs were drilled into what remained of the bones of his old ones, a technique scientists are exploring to use in humans. Oscar has to stay inside as his legs aren’t suited for outdoor environments, but he does so on his own four limbs.
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