AMES, Iowa (WCMH) – Vincent can’t jump just yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time.
An Iowa State University veterinary orthopedic surgeon says the 3-year-old cat, who was born without hind legs, should be able to move like a normal cat one day. Dr. Mary Sarah Berg has been working to design prosthetic limbs for Vincent, and his owner Cindy Jones is making sure the surgery sites don’t get infected.
The procedure is so rare, Bergh estimates fewer than 25 animals in the world have ever had a similar surgery.
When Vincent was brought to the animal shelter as a kitten, his hind legs were missing below the midway point of his tibias, or shinbones. Bergh said she couldn’t ascertain exactly how he ended up in that condition.
Bergh worked with BioMedtrix, a veterinary orthopedics company that donated time and materials to the project, to design implants that could be inserted into the femur bones of Vincent’s legs and pass through his skin.
The design of the implants allows for Vincent’s bone to grow onto the titanium shafts to support his weight, she said. But the titanium shaft is exposed to the environment, which puts Vincent at risk for infection and is an ongoing challenge she and Jones have worked hard to overcome.
Vincent’s first surgery occurred in February 2014, and he was taking his first steps within days of the procedure. A second surgery followed earlier this year in February, and he’s undergone subsequent treatments to gradually lengthen the prosthetic legs. Eventually, they’ll be as long as the hind legs of an average house cat to normalize his gait. At that point, he should be able to get around with little difficulty – even if he wants to try jumping.
Bergh said the experience with Vincent may help her and other veterinary orthopedic surgeons expand and improve the use of implants for animals in the future. She called this kind of procedure an “emerging field” that’s rare in veterinary medicine, but Vincent’s case may help answer some questions and make implants a more practical solution.
As for Vincent, Bergh said his future looks bright.
“His bone is looking great. The implants are stable, and he’s walking really well on them,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing at the current time.”