Category Archives: prosthetics for dogs

Four Prosthetic Paws Lets “Bionic Dog” Naki’o Run Again

By Julia Williams

The ability to make prosthetics for pets has existed for some time now. About ten years ago in California, an Orthotist/Prosthetist I knew made the local papers after he fitted a dog with an artificial leg. Since then, I’ve read many other stories of dogs and cats getting prosthetic legs. You may also remember seeing the touching video of a miniature horse named Midnite that was born without most of his right rear leg. The horse was fitted with an artificial leg in the hope he’d be able to walk, but surprised everyone when he galloped off after only his second fitting.

Today I wanted to share the inspiring story of Naki’o, the world’s first dog to be fitted with a complete set of four prosthetic paws! The Red Heeler cattle dog was just a tiny pup when he and his littermates were abandoned in Nebraska by a family fleeing their foreclosed home. Naki’o suffered severe frostbite on all four of his paws after stepping in a frozen puddle. It’s believed he was too malnourished and weak to move from the spot for some time. At just five weeks old, the pup was rescued and taken to a shelter. A vet removed the dead tissue of his paws and Naki’o was left with just rounded stumps.

Veterinary technician Christie Tomlinson was looking for a playmate for her dog when she came across Naki’o. She decided to adopt him despite his deformity. Tomlinson said she’s always had a soft spot for animals with problems. “I knew I had the skills and knowledge to be able to take care of him properly. I took him to work with me every day and was able to x-ray his legs regularly to see how they were developing,” she said.

For awhile, Naki’o could hold himself up on his stumps without too much difficulty. As he grew and gained weight though, walking became too painful and Naki’o resorted to crawling along on his tummy. “I had to take him for walks in a stroller and carry him around. He couldn’t be a normal dog, he couldn’t lead the life he wanted,” said Tomlinson.

When Tomlinson heard about a Colorado company called Orthopets, she organized a fundraiser for Naki’o so she could have his two back legs fitted with prosthetics. Naki’o accepted the two prosthetic legs so enthusiastically that Orthopets decided to complete the process free of charge. Naki’o is thought to be the first dog ever to be fitted with a complete set of bionic legs. The prosthetics were designed and fitted in a pioneering procedure by Martin Kaufmann, the founder of Orthopets. They’re built to mimic the muscle and bone of canine limbs which allows the dog to use them as naturally as possible.

Walking with four prosthetic legs was challenging for Naki’o at first, but he adapted quickly and is now able to run, jump and play like other dogs can, and he can even swim! Tomlinson is amazed at her pet’s enthusiasm for life. “He was always a happy dog, but now he’s much more confident,” she said. “It’s great to see him interact with other dogs at the park and play without a care. Naki’o can now not only chase after a ball with other dogs, but he can beat them to the catch!”

You can watch a short video of Naki’o on YouTube, which shows him chasing after a toy. His gait is rather ungainly, but he looks happy just to be able to run at all. Isn’t modern technology grand? Though his life story had a tragic beginning, things are really looking up for Naki’o. Thanks to OrthoPets and Christie Tomlinson, Naki’o is now free to run and play, like any dog should be able to do.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Are Prosthetics for Dogs a Good Idea?


By Ruthie Bently

Most of us have heard about or seen dogs with physical impairments. Some happen through accidents, some through a birth defect, and some happen as the dog ages. Some dogs do perfectly fine after the loss of a limb, while others need assistance of some kind. My first dog Nimber had an accident and lost his right front foot, but after he healed he never had a problem getting around. Some dogs even do well after losing two legs. But what about dogs that might need some help?

Did you know there are now companies that make prosthetics for dogs? I remember seeing carts in the 1970s that were made for pets who had lost the use of their back legs, and now there are companies that make prosthetics for dogs who have had other injuries. Several of them began making prosthetics for people and because of the owner’s love of animals either amended their business to include prosthetics for animals or changed their focus and began making prosthetics for animals exclusively.

A dog that may need a prosthesis is first evaluated to determine what kind of device is best. The dog is appraised using information about any deformity they may have, and the aspects specific to the injury if they received one. Their physical activities and living environment are also taken into consideration. After the evaluation, a cast is made of the part of the body the prosthesis will be used for. The time it takes to manufacture a prosthetic device is typically about five to ten business days. The time can vary depending on which joints of the dog’s body need to be considered, as well as the type of prosthetic and the chosen material it will be manufactured from. As each dog is different, so is the device made for them.

Prosthetics are not intended to be worn 24/7; the dog will need a break from time to time. Because of the materials they’re made from, a prosthetic device will not change its shape or break down over time. To ensure a good fit, the dog needs to use the prosthesis for several weeks. Owners need to watch the prominent bone involved and the dog’s hair and skin for any signs of wear, which will help to determine how well the prosthesis is fitting the dog. By watching the dog use the prosthetic device on a daily basis during regular activities, owners can also determine if it is the proper device for their dog. Adjustments and repairs may need to be made from time to time to make sure the prosthesis keeps doing what it was constructed to do in the proper manner.

Do you think your dog needs a prosthetic device? Have you considered the pros and cons of such a decision? While researching this article I read about a dog that, after being fitted with a device, was miserable when they were forced to wear it. The dog’s owner, while trying to do what they felt was best for the dog (in my opinion) may have made the wrong decision. The dog in question ran away when the device was brought out and once the device was on would chew on it to try and remove it.

There are several things to consider when looking into a prosthetic device for a dog (or a pet of any kind). First and foremost is whether or not the pet would benefit from it both physically and emotionally, and is it in their best interest, or is it to assuage feelings of guilt you may have? Will it add fulfillment and quality to their daily life? The cost of the device and subsequent fittings should also be considered, and whether or not you can afford it.

When Nimber lost his foot I suppose I could have gotten him some kind of prosthesis but never honestly considered it. He didn’t have any physical or emotional issues after his accident; he got on with living and enjoyed his life even with his handicap. I did, however, gain valuable insight from Nimber’s accident. I had many handicapped clients who owned pets and while I always treated them with respect and consideration when helping them find things for their pets, I realized there was something lacking in myself. They dealt with their handicaps in the best way they could, just as Nimber did with his, and I gained even more respect for their handicaps because I lived with a handicapped dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.