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Mardi, 11 Octobre 2011 12:30

Animals in Motion?With Prosthetic Limbs

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There has never been a better time to be an injured animal. Thanks to some creative prosthetists and veterinarians, creatures that lose hoofs, paws, or tails can be made whole again.

Because bodily mechanics vary so widely from species to species, there’s no one right way to build an animal prosthesis. The approach, materials, and design may be drastically different from one creature to another. In a photo essay in the current issue of the magazine, we look at the artificial appendages that have gotten several animals back on their (ahem) feet again.

In addition to the portraits that appear in the magazine, Adrian Gaut also shot this video of four creatures with their prostheses in action.

First up is Molly, a pony who was abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She lost her leg when she was attacked by pit bulls. Molly has had many prosthetic legs over the years; the one she’s wearing here was designed by Dwayne Mara of Bayou Orthotic & Prosthetic. Designing prosthetics for equines — which can weigh 1,000 pounds or more — is challenging, but artificial legs could eventually help keep injured racehorses from being put down.

Chrisie, a sandhill crane, lost a leg to a wayward golf ball. She was rescued by Lee Fox, who heads up the Florida organization, Save our Seabirds. Fox initially created a prosthetic out of a piece of PVC pipe and a sink stopper before discovering the work of Kevin Carroll, the Vice President of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics and a prosthetist who has designed artificial limbs for animals. Carroll took a plaster cast of Chrisie’s leg, which allowed him to fashion a prosthetic with a better fit.

Then there’s Penny the wolfhound, whose leg was amputated after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. Two North Carolina State University professors — Denis Marcellin-Little and Ola Harrysson — created this prosthetic, which is made of thermoplastic and lined in foam. The curved shape is to help keep the leg from getting caught on obstacles, such as stairs.

Finally, there’s Winter, perhaps the most famous prosthetic-wearing animal. (She’s the star of the new movie Dolphin Tale.) When she was just a calf, Winter was caught in a crab trap; the rope cut off circulation to her tail, which fell off after she was rescued and sent to the Clearwater Aquarium in Florida. Carroll and another Hanger prosthetist, Dan Strzempka, have spent years working with Winter. They designed a brand new material — a sticky, soft gel — to roll over Winter’s stump and protect her delicate skin. A sturdy prosthetic tail made of thermoplastic and carbon fiber, slides on top. Winter’s gel is now in use in human prosthetics.


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