By Janet Tappin Coelho
A puppy, whose back paw was chewed off, has been fitted with a prosthetic ‘ballet shoe’ paw giving him the chance to walk normally for the first time.
Zeus, a two-year-old Whippet, lost his bottom left hind foot in the ferocious attack when he was a new-born.
The mutilated leg which ends in a stump means the poor pooch struggles to walk. He either drags the limp limb behind him or lifts it off the ground as he has adapted his gait to amble on three legs.
In an effort to improve Zeus’ life, Brazilian veterinarian surgeon Roberto Fecchio and dentist Paulo Miamoto, based in Sao Paulo, stepped in to devise a practical high-tech way of helping the disabled pup and came up with the green attachment that resembles a ballet shoe.
Zeus got his new prosthetic paw earlier this month and is now learning to walk on the tip.
To create the prosthesis, the animal specialists took a CT-scan of Zeus’s hind legs and processed the data using free-downloadable InVesalius and
Blender software to produce three dimensional images of the dog’s limbs.
Miamoto explained: “We used the information to model a 3D prosthesis that would fit onto and snuggly embrace Zeus’s lower left leg.
“The artificial attachment re-establishes the spatial difference between the rest of his legs and the gap between the damaged limb and the ground.”
An anatomically accurate image was printed producing the 3D artificial device in biodegradable plastic.
The lightweight attachment, which weighs 24 grams, slips on like a shoe and Velcro straps fitted to the prosthesis hold the part securely in place.
Miamoto said: “Zeus needed to be able to run up and down with ease and we knew that while comfort was one thing, making sure the prosthesis
was effective when it touched the ground was also important.
“We had to find a way to absorb the shock of Zeus’s new paw hitting the floor so he would be encouraged to use it and not find the impact a frightening experience.
“So, we covered the tip of the prosthesis in a dental silicon, moulded from a small 3D printed cast.”
Miamoto and Fecchio are members of the volunteer group Animal Avengers, which is known for saving the lives of Freddy the Tortoise and Vitoria the Goose, among others.
When Zeus was brought in for his first fitting, Fecchio said even as a vet, he had no idea how his canine patient would react.
He said: “The traumatic memory of the attack left Zeus really wary about anyone touching the limb.
“Although the injury has healed and no longer hurts and we bandaged it up, he was still nervous during the fitting.
“We were also worried Zeus would perceive the device as a nuisance and try to take it off.
“When he took his first steps with it on, he wasn’t sure how to react and was reluctant to even move. He continued, from habit, to hop around
with his leg lifted off the ground.”
But the artificial pointe shoe is not there as a matter of choice.
“If we hadn’t carried out this intervention now, Zeus’s gait would have become steadily worse over the years, “Fecchio revealed.
“His attempts to adapt to his disability would have eventually taken a toll on his body by adversely overloading his spine and seriously affecting his other limbs.”
Within a day of the prosthesis being slipped on, Zeus’s owner, Christiane Kimura, reported the pup was adapting faster than expected.
She said: “I could see he was thinking about what to do with the leg and so I encouraged him to try it out on grass to soften the impact, by physically helping him to rest it on the ground.
“To my surprise, he began to take to his new green paw really quickly.
“He hit the ground with it in short bursts but it wasn’t a fluid movement and he kept inspecting it and trying to shake it off. Even so it was wonderful to watch.”
The nervous hound is currently having physiotherapy at the Animal Care Vet Hospital in the city to get him accustomed to the prosthesis.
Fecchio said: “Zeus is using an aquatic underwater treadmill to build-up his confidence and his muscle strength.
“The natural buoyancy of the water gives him a low impact but high-intensity work-out.
“We’re confident he will soon be prancing and bounding around at full steam with his balance restored.”
The Brazil-based Animal Avengers team is composed of Vets Roberto Fecchio, Rodrigo Rabello, Matheus Rabello, Marco Campos, Henrique Perez,
Sergio Camargo and Lucas Porto, and dentists Paulo Miamoto and Guilherme Costa who continue to pool their expertise to help and improve the lives of injured pets and wild animals.