An Alberquerque chihuahua named Peggy and nicknamed “Peg Leg” because she was born without one back foot will soon have four feet to run on. Peggy has been accepted into a research program at North Carolina State University, which is the “only university in the world that can manufacture custom prosthetics for veterinary patients in house” thanks to veterinarians and engineers teaming up.
The prosthesis will be about the size of a human finger. With it, Peggy will become the smallest animal in the U.S. with such a device. According to KOAT news, she will ultimately have a full bionic paw that will be connected via electrodes to her nerves, to enable her to run and scratch. Researchers have taken models of Peggy’s leg and sent these to France and Germany, where her bionic paw will be made.
Mary Jewell of Enchantment Chihuahua Rescue sounds a hopeful note about what the bionic paw will mean to Peggy, saying that “Enthusiasm-wise it’s running very high because we like to see Peggy running across the grass with four paws instead of three.”
The tiny prosthesis being made for Peggy could be helpful in developing artificial limbs for veterans, Jewell also observes: “Into the future this [bionic prosthesis like Peggy's] can transfer into human beings getting really sensitive feelings in their fingers, which of course will help our veterans.”
As Time magazine has noted, veterinary surgeons’ innovations in creating working feet, legs and tails for animals can “help the medical community work similar magic on humans.” Hanger Orthopedic Group in Bethesda, Maryland, used a sticky, gel-like material to help hold a prosthetic tail in place for Winter, a dolphin who had lost her tail from a crab trap. The Hanger researchers found that the gel provided just enough lubrication to protect against infection and recommended it to a soldier who had lost his legs and had recurrent infections. These cleared up and he was able to use his prostheses again.
North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is also conducting a number of clinical investigations with the aim of improving animal health in cardiology, cancer, skin diseases, pain management and other areas.
Enchantment Chihuahua Rescue is updating Peggy’s situation as she waits to get her new paw. She does have to wait longer than anticipated (till next year) to get it but once she does, the places she will go, on her own four feet!
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