Tag Archives: amputation

Building a dog wheelchair

During the fall semester, three College of Engineering students working as on-campus co-ops at New Mexico State University designed and built a wheelchair device to assist a dog who had his right hind leg amputated due to cancer.

“When I started to research mobility options to help Kita after his amputation to remove bone cancer, there were a lot of ideas online about using 3-D printers to create custom dog wheelchairs or walkers,” owner Michelle Lebsock said. “Even in his old age, Kita is the type of dog who absolutely loves walks, and although he healed well and adjusted to getting around on three legs, he would get tired very quickly and I could tell he really missed his long walks.”

After realizing regular pet wheelchairs wouldn’t work for Kita, Lebsock contacted the Aggie Innovation Space for advice on do-it-yourself dog wheelchair instructions she had found online.

“I first spoke to Natalia, and instead of just offering advice she took on the project as her own,” Lebsock said. “The talented engineering students at the AIS including Natalia, Abdiel and Arturo worked all semester to create a functional and ergonomic device that was custom-built for Kita. Even though the idea of 3-D printing brought me to the lab, the final product used traditional materials, and the students worked tirelessly to make sure each piece was exactly right. Their work has made one little three-legged dog and his owner very happy.”

Kita dog with wheelchair and students who designed it

New Mexico State University College of Engineering students and Aggie Innovation Space mentors (from left to right) Natalia Perez, Abdiel Jimenez and Arturo Dominguez designed and developed a wheelchair for Kita and his owner Michelle Lebsock. Kita’s right hind leg was amputated due to cancer in spring 2016.

“The AIS team became very passionate about this project sharing ideas, collaborating to assess specific constraints and requirements, and evaluating ideas for build-out materials. Collectively, we were able to design a device that was cost effective, functional, comfortable, strong enough to support the weight of the dog, and ultimately, easy to use,” Jimenez said. “We selected specific materials and specific design features to meet the unique needs of Kita. Michelle was kind enough to give us feedback, which allowed us to further refine the design.”

Throughout the fall, Perez, Jimenez and Dominguez met with Kita and Lebsock many times to determine the correct height, comfort, and restraint requirements of the device. Ease of assembly and disassembly were also important factors the Aggie Innovators had to consider to ensure the device was portable and easy to use.

“We were excited to have met a functional level of comfort for Kita with our first design, as he realized he could move around freely,” Dominguez said. “From there, we studied and evaluated Kita’s movement in the device, which allowed us to adjust the design to make it more comfortable and functional. With each iteration, Kita became more and more comfortable. During our final test, Kita was able to run for the first time since surgery and was able to move much more naturally. We then spent a week enhancing a few aesthetic features and branded it NMSU, including a specialized 3-D printed name plate.”

Kita dog in special wheelchair

Arturo Dominguez, a New Mexico State University College of Engineering student, fits nearly 17-year-old Kita with a wheelchair that was designed and built in the Aggie Innovation Space.

Dominguez said the group faced many design challenges throughout the duration of this project.

“Some of our initial design considerations required us to adjust the height of the device while ensuring that we provided adequate support of the shoulders and hips so as to minimize weight on pressure points,” Dominguez said. “As we adjusted the saddle mechanism in the device, we had to be sure not to pinch or irritate the underbelly and other sensitive areas of the dog.”

Perez said the challenges and hours spent working on this project was worth it when she and her fellow Aggie Innovators saw Kita run freely in the device and saw the happiness expressed in Lebsock’s reaction.

“This project reminded us how engineers can enhance quality of life, and made us realize that our duty as engineers is not just for people and the environment but for our furry friends that make our lives happier,” Perez said.

Source:  New Mexico State University media release

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Teddy’s journey: core strength

Teddy continues to be a happy boy.  During his appointment this week, we discussed two aspects of Teddy’s rehabilitation:

  • Variety/mental stimulation
  • Core strength

Jill remarked that she and Teddy now have a routine, but it means the same walk every day in the same location, and of course adjusting to limiting his activities to avoid stress and strain on his joints.

The solution:  variety!  Teddy’s is a smart boy and he needs jobs to keep him mentally active.  Little things like distributing food around the house and garden for him to find will provide Teddy with stimulation and something else to do.  Changing paddocks for Teddy’s walks and even getting other dogs to visit with him for play dates will also give Teddy variety in his day-to-day life.

And, as mentioned last week, Teddy needs greater core strength.  I showed Jill the value of supervised balancing exercises using a large peanut-sized ball from the FitPaws range.  These exercises, done on a soft surface that ‘wobbles’ slightly, require Teddy to balance on his 3 remaining legs.  In doing so, it means he works on his core muscles to keep his body steady.

I want greater core strength in Teddy before progressing to exercises for his proprioception.

And in case you missed it, I’ve already answered What’s proprioception?

Teddy concentrates as Jill helps him to balance

Teddy concentrates as Jill helps him to balance

 

Teddy core strength photo

Teddy’s a little unsure about these exercises, but trusts Jill

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey: house protection

Jill has been working to ‘Teddy-proof’ her home so that Teddy can be left alone in the house but without any hazards that could cause him harm.

Our biggest concern is Teddy jumping off of furniture (something he did regularly in his quadruped days).

The focus initially was on having soft landings for Teddy and furniture with very high seats has been removed/relocated.  But, in Teddy’s enthusiasm to be a good guard dog, he would often climb onto the back of the sofa and jump from that height.  This would be extremely dangerous for Teddy now that he has only one front leg and with arthritis forming in the paw of that leg, too.

Solution:  Jill purchased puppy fencing and has permanently attached it to the sofa.  Teddy can safely get up on the sofa (with padding on the floor for when he dismounts), but he can’t jump off the back because he’s effectively caged in.  (Jill’s husband says that the sofa fencing doesn’t make any difference to the comfort of the sofa.  Teddy agrees).

What do you think about her protection efforts?

Sofa protection 2

Sofa protection

Teddy continues to improve, although he requires more strengthening in his core, and Jill has made this their new priority.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey: family life returns

Teddy (right) with sister, Verdi

Teddy (right) with sister, Verdi

It’s been a good weekend for Teddy.

Jill says family life is getting back to normal, with Teddy and his sister enjoying some time together on the sofa – the first opportunity they’ve had for a long time.

Jill has re-arranged the furniture to ensure that any areas where Teddy might be interested in jumping onto or off of are fenced off.  Her husband has built a ramp to the dog door which Teddy is handling beautifully (we will aim to get a photo of this up soon).

Jill says, “I read on the Tripawds site that if you were bonded to your special dog before, it’s nothing to the bond you have after amputation.  This is so very, very true.  When I took the two girl Beagles to the vet, Anneke and Alex (vet and vet nurse) wanted to come out to see Teddy.  He wasn’t interested in them at all – he only had eyes for me!”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey – his voice is back

Teddy is definitely feeling better these days.  Jill was worried because Teddy, normally a vocal hound, hadn’t vocalized since his amputation surgery.

Not to worry – his voice is back!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey: Teddy on wheels

Teddy has had another good week; he’s still getting used to being an amputee, however.

Jill and his acupuncture vet, Susanne, both noticed that Teddy was hopping on his right hind leg – balancing mostly on the stronger left side.  By the time I saw Teddy on Friday, Teddy was already improving thanks to acupuncture and an osteopathic adjustment.  I spent most of his massage session working on tension in his upper thoracic spine, and giving his hind legs a good stretch.

Because Teddy still needs to be confined, without the opportunity to engage in lots of vigorous off-lead exercise, Jill has found some novel ways of getting Teddy around the house and their lifestyle block.

She started with his crate and a flat deck trolley (a dolly to those in North America)…

Teddy's crate

and added Teddy for a trip around the house…

Teddy the Beagle on wheels2

…and then she purchased him a pram on Trade Me (New Zealand’s equivalent of eBay) and can take him around the paddocks with the other Beagles.

Teddy the Beagle in pram

The pram has an added benefit, too.  Teddy has to balance in it because of how it rides on springs.  This is helping him build strength in his core – essential to achieve our goals for rehabilitation.

Tell me what you think of Teddy’s wheels!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey: what the fracture looked like

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and so before next week and another update on Teddy’s progress, here is what Teddy’s elbow fracture looked like.

Compare the x-ray of the right, broken leg with that of the left.  It was a dramatic break.

Left elbow xrayRight elbow xray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are not looking back, however.  Teddy has had a good week and we are looking forward to even more as we get him comfortable and happy in his new life as a tripod.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand