Making life Easier for Pets and Exotic Animals Alike

When it comes to animals, specifically pets, humans, by nature, have an emotional attachment. Therefore, when our pets get injured and require amputation, whether that be of a limb, a wing, or a tail, we sympathise. However, most animals (traditionally) have had to cope with the loss as prosthetics tend to be rather expensive. Yet, with the advancements in Medical Engineering, coupled with the ease and the cost effectiveness of 3D Printing, pet owners, zoologogists, and animal caretakers are now able to provide 3D Printed animal prosthetics.

A Customisable Solution

One of the best features of 3D Printing prosthetics for animals is that the owner/caretaker of the animal has full customisation of the prosthetic build. For the animal, this is extremely important. Where one would tend to wish that all animals have the same build and features, they are as independently different as people. For example, if you have a Labrador, depending upon the breed (such as golden, black, longhair or shorthair) and if you consider the age and activity of the dog, the muscle of the leg will be different. Traditionally, prosthetics for pets such as these would require the owner to take the dog to the vet, have the dog measured, make a mold of the existing mirrored leg (front to front/ back to back), and then have the prosthetic built upon the measurements of the existing leg. That is if the process allows for such customisation. Some are simply made to the “general” size of the animal/breed and then “fine-tuned” as needed.

3D Printing allows for, not only the customisation needed to perfectly align the prosthetic with the animal, but also allows for a cheaper and more expedient means of equipping the animal with the needed appendage. And who knows, maybe someone will develop an alternative solution to that annoying dog cone (I know it is not a prosthetic, but you can’t tell your canine that).

As a side note, the customisation of the prosthetic does not only mean functionality, but it can also extend to the aesthetics and personality conveyed in the design. As any avid pet owner will testify to, the personality of the animal is what makes the pet special.

3D Printing Animal Prosthetics Helps Animals Survive

Anyone who has watched several western films can tell you that a horse with a broken leg is rare to survive. In most westerns, the horse is put down. This is just one example of the necessity of certain limbs and appendages on an animal. Another would be the tusks of an elephant for defense or the tail of a dolphin for proper swimming. In all of these examples, an animal missing such appendages would traditionally be doomed to die. However, with the advancements in CAD Modeling, as well as some ingenious creativity from scientists and animal lovers, 3D Printed prosthetics will hopefully encourage the survival of these animals, elongating their lives by several years.

But 3D Prosthetic Printing is not solely for combating the loss of a limb. It can be used for a preventive measure. For example, 3D Printing Rhino horns has been implemented by the Pembient company in an attempt to deter the poaching of this endangered species. The theory is that if the supply is maximised synthetically, that the demand for the authentic horns will reduce, thus preventing the poaching of the rhino.

How has 3D Animal Prosthetic Printing Been Used?

A prime example in how prosthetics, be it 3D Printed or otherwise, can help maintain and enhance the longevity of the animal’s life is with Winter, a Bottlenose Dolphin who was rescued in Florida and needed a prosthetic tale. This was developed by prosthetists Dan Strzempka and Kevin Carroll.

Where one may think that prosthetics would be highly dependent upon the weight of the animal, such is not really the case. Metals can be 3D Printed. Additionally, weight distribution and stress analytics help with the design. To drive this point home, consider Mosha the Thai Elephant. This behemoth of an animal received a front prosthetic leg. And, while it cannot be confirmed that 3D Printing was used in the creation of the prosthetic, it does prove that weight is not a substantial factor.

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Prosthetic leg on an elephant proves that weight should not be a factor in the development of 3D Printed Animal prosthetics, so long as it is designed with weight distribution in mind.

The Modernisation of Veterinary Services

Perhaps the biggest advancement and benefit in 3D Printing is that of the Desktop 3D Printer. Because of the mobility of the devices, as well as the affordability, the devices can be used by independent veterinary practices. The door is definitively open for the exploration of in-house 3D Printing of animal prosthetics. While it is unlikely that a practice would allot substantial time into developing the 3D model needed, it can be concluded that, if such is available to veterinary professionals, the establishment could access a library bank of base models, tweak the measurements to the specifications of the dog, cat, or other pet, and then print the model inhouse.

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As seen with this parrot’s prosthetic leg, 3D Printing can be used in-house to create prosthetics, not only for four legged friends, but for all varieties of animals. Over time, as 3D Printing becomes more standard practice for Animal Prosthetics, the design will no dubitably become more refined and could become unnoticeable altogether.

Such a development and integration of technology into the veterinary world would revolutionise the way in which care is given. The number of euthanised animals would diminish as the cost for prosthetics would decline, the number of happy pet owners would increase as their beloved pets could live a full life, and the design behind prosthetics would be apt to improve as the veterinary world would seek to develop more effective and “natural” prosthetics for their clients.

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