Humans aren’t the only ones who benefit from prosthetics – our furry and scaly friends take advantage as well.
The design and production of animal prosthetics have expanded in recent years thanks to advents such as 3D-printed prosthetic technology and cheaper, sturdy materials. Animals who previously would have struggled can now get a new lease on life with reduced costs for their owners.
Here are 8 stories of amazing animals who benefit from prosthetic devices, and the people who make them.
1. Animal Prosthetist: Derick Campana
Photo Credit: Animal Planet via MarketWatch
Derrick Campana is the founder of Animal Ortho Care in Virginia, a world-renowned creator of animal prosthetics and leg braces. Veterinarians can request molding kits in the mail to cast residual and remaining limbs and have custom prosthetics made for their patients.
Campana is a trained prosthetist who began his career working with people. One day he was asked to make a prosthetic leg for a dog named Charles, and the rest is history. He helps animals who have either congenital or acquired limb loss and loves seeing pet owners’ joy at having their fur-babies walk again (or for the first time). He estimates that his business produces around 200 prosthetics per month.
Though he specializes in dogs and cats, he has taken on cases around the world, including a brace for an elephant in Thailand.
2. Hiss Majesty the Caiman Lizard
Photo Credit: Shedd Aquarium via FOX32 Chicago
Hiss Majesty is a 16-year old Caiman lizard who lost a rear leg to cancer. His dedicated team at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago coordinated with 3D designers and veterinarians to come up with the perfect 3D-printed limb so he could live his best life.
The team modeled one of his feet and tried over 10 different prototype limbs to determine the best fit. The limbs are attached using a silicone socket to his residual leg. Once they settled on a design that Hiss Majesty was proud to show off, they created a luxury prosthetic for him including a socket joint for the foot.
3. Mr. Stubbs the Alligator
Photo Credit: National Geographic
Mr. Stubbs is an American alligator who lost his tail during illegal transport by animal traffickers. He was adopted by the Phoenix Herpetological Society, who made Stubbs’ first prosthetic by molding another gator’s tail. This was not ideal for Mr. Stubbs, as each gator has its own center of mass and gravity.
5 years down the road, his team decided it was time for a replacement with the advancement of 3D technology. The collaborated with STAX3D to use 3D scanning to extrapolate what his natural tail would have looked like. Now Stubbs can swim and run with the best of his peers.
4. Seemore the Sea Turtle
Photo Credit: KARE11
An injured sea turtle named Seemore got a new lease on life after being struck by a boat. The damage to Seemore’s shell left him with “bubble butt syndrome” – which is not as cute as it sounds. Gas gets trapped underneath his shell, making his back end too buoyant to dive.
He ended up at Sea Life at Mall of America, who tried different solutions. Tying weights to his shell didn’t work since Seemore would knock them off, so the University of Minnesota was tasked with creating a more permanent solution. They took a 3D scan of Seemore’s shell and came up with a 3D-printed prosthetic that would provide an effective weighted solution. This task was challenging as Seemore loves to wedge between rocks while sleeping!
Now Seemore is diving again and living his life to the fullest.
5. Pedro the Box Turtle
Photo Credit: LSU via Australian Broadcast News
Pedro is an adult box turtle who was adopted in Louisiana with three legs and then lost his remaining back leg in an animal attack. With weakened mobility, the prognosis was not great for Pedro.
Veterinarians at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Veterinary Teaching Hospital came up with an unorthodox solution – make Pedro half-car! Now an indoor pet, Pedro uses his sleek LEGO wheels to zoom around his home (and much faster than he was previously able).
6. Animal Prosthetist: Dr. Tapesh Mathur
Dr. Tapesh Mathur pictured far left. Photo Credit: Efforts For Good via SocialStory
Dr. Tapesh Mathur has dedicated the last four years to providing prosthetics to animals in India – completely free of charge. He and his wife set up a non-profit foundation, Pen Media Foundation, to raise money for the costs.
Mathur pioneered the Krishna Limb, the first Indian-developed prosthetic limb for animals, for a calf named Krishna. He does all of the design and building in his own home and travels to remote locations to fit the prosthetic and provide physiotherapy. To date has taken care of over 90 animals.
He typically works with cows, horses, and dogs, but occasionally gets requests for exotic animals such as a pet parrot.
7. Stumpy the Duck
Photo Credit: Spectrum News
Welsh Harlequin Ducks are a threatened species, but dedicated caregivers are working to help restore the population. A U.S. couple, Ron and Renee McEvilly, took in a few ducklings, but one was attacked by a weasel and lost a leg. The newly named Stumpy needed some help, so Renee, who is a trained nurse, took it upon herself to help him heal.
While Stumpy was undergoing rehab, Ron called up a friend who had access to a 3D printer and had him design and print duck leg prosthesis. Stumpy gets along just fine on his new leg, and now visits children in schools and will soon be the subject of a children’s book.
8. Jary the Great Hornbill
Photo Credit: Eason Chow
Jary (pronounced ‘ya-ri’) is a 22-year old great hornbill whose life was saved with a 3D-printed prosthetic for his casque. He was renamed Jary after his surgery, which appropriately means “warrior with a helmet” in ancient Norse.
In 2018 his keepers at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore noticed that Jary had developed a gash on his casque that exposed tissue. A biopsy confirmed that he had cancer.
The park engaged Singapore-based engineer Eason Chow to design and print Jary’s prosthetic. They performed a 3D scan prior to Jary’s surgery to develop a model of his casque. They had to take into consideration the weight of a normal casque and also had to ensure the prosthetic would work to help the hornbill make its characteristic bird calls. The ultimately made the prosthetic out of nylon to suit both these needs.
While they had no way to test the prosthesis ahead of time, the team was relieved to discover that Jary embraced it wholeheartedly.
Photo Credit: Animal Planet via MarketWatch