Ariz. — After her owner straps on her metal paw, Terra
bounds toward a green and yellow squeaky ball.
4-year-old Siberian husky mix uses the prosthetic to
help her move effortlessly on concrete, rocks and other
is one of the growing number of canines that have
improved their mobility with the use of prosthetics.
animal prosthetics industry is still in its infancy. It’s
difficult to track the precise growth in supply or
demand of animal prosthetics because researchers haven’t
conducted significant studies examining the industry.
Still, experts say they’ve seen increases in the
demand, mainly due to advances in technology and the
ever precious role of pets in the household.
OrthoPets manufactures custom orthotic and prosthetic
devices for pets through local veterinarians and pet
and co-owner Amy Kaufmann said the number of animals
they’ve seen since opening in 2003 has "increased
by above 1,000 percent." She said they have about
180 patients a month.
Titus has seen the increase of animal prosthetic demand
reflected in her clinic, A Loyal Companion, a
Tucson-based recreation center for canines that provides
swimming, training, and wellness, including mobility
services. The first four years Titus worked with
mobility devices, she fitted only a few prosthetics.
Now, Titus said she sees about five clients a year.
said that the dog’s role in family dynamics has
changed over the last 10 years.
are looking for more options, whether they be
nonsurgical, support to surgery, they are looking for a
way to make their dogs feel more comfortable and live a
better quality of life," Titus said.
Michael Jaffe, an assistant professor of veterinary
medicine at Midwestern University in Glendale, said as
more families seek prosthetics, vets have an obligation
to become more familiar with them.
we get the word out there to pet owners, it is something
that they are going to ask their vets for," Jaffe
said. "We as vets are obliged to learn more about
said the option to use prosthetics has only been recent,
and they don’t yet teach extensively about prosthetics
in veterinary courses.
is something that we will continue to add on to as
clinical experience and research and technology
advances," Jaffee said.
said he believes animal prosthetics will eventually
become a huge aspect of veterinary medicine.
people have turned to 3-D imaging to develop animal
prosthetics, which has made it easier to cast
impressions and reorder prosthetics. Titus said it also
can provide a perfect fit and mold to the wearer.
biggest change is … how we capture what the shape of
the limb or the stump is," Titus said.
most large animal manufactures don’t use 3-D printing,
said "3-D printing plastic is not as strong and
durable" compared to the industrial-grade plastics
they use. She said their plastics can better withstand
the impact animals put on the prosthetics.
pet owners have printed their own prosthetics at home,
and some human prosthetics have been created with 3-D
printers as well.
said many of these are created for non weight-bearing
body parts, such as arms.
done a lot of case studies and found a lot of the
plastic that is used (in 3-D printing) … are not
holding up," Kaufmann said.
did say vets and animal prosthetic experts have learned
from human experiences, especially new techniques used
by the military for soldiers who need prosthetics.
said nearly all animals can be fit for prosthetics, but
canines constitute the largest percentage of animals
utilizing them. Cats can sometimes be too finicky.
price of prosthetics at OrthoPets typically ranges from
$1,200 to $1,800, Kaufmann said.
owner, Tobin Brynt, adopted her after walking past an
animal rescue while stationed in South Korea in 2013.
the entire tour, my then 6-year-old, Levi, has been
really wanting an orange husky. I was walking by the
kennels one day, and there she was. The label said ‘my
name is Scarlet, and I like belly rubs,’" Brynt
said. "Long story short, we ending up adopting her
and taking her to Alaska."
only has three paws.
don’t know what happened. From the X-rays taken … we
can guess that she had some sort of traumatic injury
that cut off her toes, so to speak," Brynt said.
in Alaska, Brynt tried taking Terra to multiple vets to
get her fitted for a prosthetic, with no luck.
bunch of other people suggested that we just cut (the
leg) off, but we just we couldn’t," Brynt said.
Brynts moved to Tucson in 2016, where they connected
with A Loyal Companion, a partner clinic with OrthoPets.
said that before OrthoPets, there was no company
creating and providing orthopedics and prosthetics for
there are six companies worldwide that provide animal
prosthetics, but all of them work full time with human
prosthetics, with pet prosthetics on the side, Kaufmann
you think about the number of pets throughout the world,
(the number of companies that make animal prosthetics)
is not a large number," Kaufmann said.
scans and casting, OrthoPets made and sent Terra’s
prosthetic. Though Terra gets around just fine even with
her missing paw, Brynt said she’s a "fish in
water" as soon as she gets the prosthetic on.
kind of brought tears to my eyes because I was so happy
to see her be a normal dog," Brynt said. "It
was a great to see her be whole again."