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Are Dog Prosthetics Worth It? CSU Vet Study Finds Out

Are dog prosthetics worth it? After all, we often hear about amputee pets getting prosthetics, but when do you hear about whether or not those artificial legs actually worked out for the dog and the parent? Now you can!

dog prosthetics worth it?
Pet parents like Snowball’s were surveyed about prosthetic use. Image: Snowball’s People

Three Colorado State University veterinarians wanted to find out if dog prosthetics are worth it so they reached out to pet parents of amputee dogs with prosthetics. Here are findings revealed in the first study of its kind that evaluated owner satisfaction with dog prosthetics.

Pet Parents Answer: Yes, Dog Prosthetics Are Worth It!

Titled “Retrospective Multi-Center Analysis of Canine Socket Prostheses for Partial Limbs,” this retrospective study surveyed pet parents who purchased prosthetic devices for their dogs within the last ten years. Dr. Wendland and her colleagues Drs. Felix Duerr and Bernard Seguin reached out to clients of OrthoPets, a leading animal prosthesis manufacturer from Denver, Colorado. Forty-seven pet parents responded to a survey that asked about:

  • The length of the dog’s remaining limb
  • If the dog had any kind of chronic disease like bone cancer
  • How the prosthesis was used
  • Whether or not the dog had rehabilitation therapy before or after prosthesis use
  • How the dog used the prosthesis during activity
  • What if any complications happened
  • And whether or not the pet parent was happy with their investment.

The CSU vets also wanted to know how well the dog used the prosthetic for activities other than just walking. “Did they run with it? Did they jump with it? Do they dig? Can they lift another leg to go pee and stand on the prosthetic?” explained Dr. Theresa Wendland in our recent Tripawd Tuesday Facebook Live interview. 

The Pros and Cons of Prosthetics for Dogs

“The long story short is overall, people were pretty happy with it, but there were a lot of difficulties along the way,” said Dr. Wendland. The most common pet prosthetic complications included minor skin sores and problems with how the fit prosthesis fit the dog. 

The study findings are exciting, but it’s just a start. “It’s a little hard to fully understand the scope of all of that, when we are not directly involved with those patients,” Dr. Wendland explained. “It was retrospective, meaning looking back at old cases and then including that data instead of following it as it’s happening, which would be more of a prospective study,” she explained. 

You can read the entire dog prosthetics study, but for now, the answer is yes, dog prosthetics are worth it. Here’s a synopsis of study findings:

Forty-six owners reported positive satisfaction; one was displeased.

Forty-five of 47 (95.7%) reported that in hindsight, they would choose this treatment option again.

Forty-two of 47 dogs were scored to have acceptable to full function

Five of 47 had unacceptable clinical function

62% had short-term complications. 19% had long-term complications. Skin sores were the most common short and long-term complication. 

The more time a dog spent in the prosthesis, the better the clinical outcome scores and the higher the satisfaction rate of pet parents.

There was no correlation between the type of amputation (forelimb or rear) and length of residual limb, with either owner satisfaction or clinical outcome.

The Exciting Future of Pet Prosthetics for Tripawds

pet prosthetics worth it?
Try to keep up with Bridget now!

These are exciting times for Tripawds. Veterinary researchers now understand that yes, dog and cats can do great on three legs, but it comes at a price over time and we need to fix that.  “Such gait alterations may have deleterious effects on long-term musculoskeletal health and lead to other quality of life issues,” Drs. Wendland, Duerr and Seguin write. A prosthesis has the possibility to minimize the physical cost of living life on three.

In the meantime, the pet prosthetics field is in its infancy with many unanswered questions, such as:

  • Exactly how much leg needs to remain in order for a prosthetic to be successful?
  • Do younger dogs do better than older dogs with prosthetics?
  • Does the frequency of use have an impact on prosthetic success? 
  • How does rehabilitation help dogs adapt to prosthetics? 

The good news is that right now, even in the early stages of the field, pet parents who have opted for a pet prosthetic for their Tripawd say that yes, pet prosthetics are worth it! 

Recommended Reading

Tripawd Tuesday: Bridget’s Partial Amputation and Prosthetic, Part 1

All Tripawds posts about prosthetics and amputee pets

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