March 29, 2011
This weekend we had the opportunity to visit a friend, Karen MacDonald, who lives near Charlottesville, VA. She recently adopted a dog from a local SPCA shelter. She had waited a long time to get a dog. Life and work kept getting in the way and she decided that she had waited long enough. After walking through the shelter, MacDonald fell in love with a four year old mixed pit bull. However this was no ordinary pit bull. This was Jack.
Pit bulls are not the mean vicious breed that the press makes them out to be. People make them mean and vicious. Pit bulls can be wonderful companions. Jack is a mild mannered and extraordinary dog. He is very playful and loves being around people. You can’t help but fall in love with him. Jack, however, is constantly in pain. Sometime shortly after birth, he lost both rear paws just below the knee joint and is handicapped. Most of his pain comes from bone spurs that prevent him from using his rear legs for walking. Jack walks using his front legs and uses the rear ones only to occasionally balance himself. He manages quite well on his front legs but it’s obvious that he suffers a great deal from his handicap.
MacDonald decided that she wanted to seek a veterinarian to help reduce Jack’s pain and perhaps let him gain some additional mobility through the use of a doggie wheel chair. In the course of seeking options and guidance, MacDonald discovered a veterinarian in North Carolina, Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little at North Carolina State University Veterinary School, which develops permanent prosthetic limbs for animals. These are not simply the kind that strap on and are removable. These are partially permanent and fuse to the existing bones for strength and durability.
Dr. Marcellin-Little has performed this surgery on other animals and has had great success. So much so that he is collecting case studies in order to seek FDA approval to use this technology on humans. There has been interest by the government to explore the possibility of using this technology on wounded veterans here in the US. Jack will become one of Dr. Marcellin-Little’s case studies in the development and testing of this prosthetic technology. Jack’s surgery will be very expensive. However, MacDonald believes it’s worth going above and beyond just pain reduction if Jack’s surgery might give our wounded veterans a better chance of getting back to a normal life.
Jack’s surgery will be this spring or early summer. The prosthetic limbs must be custom manufactured for Jack’s unique condition. Dr. Ola Harrysson is the engineer that is designing the implants. The goal is to get rid of Jack’s pain and give him some normal mobility. The hope is that the implants will be a complete success and Jack will be able to do anything a normal dog can do. The recovery process will take about 18 weeks. If the doctors can show that this technique is successful they could get FDA approval for trials in humans. They are a long way from that point but everyone is hopeful that this technology can eventually be used to restore mobility and function in humans with missing limbs.
We will continue to follow Jack’s progress. Just search for keyword "Jack" to see all articles relating to this one. We wish him well and a speedy recovery.
For more information about Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little and Dr. Ola Harrysson you can visit the following links on the Internet.