Nature

Science and Goodwill Saved This Kitty’s Life

December 7, 2015 | Reece Alvarez

Vincent the Cat
Photo credit: Christopher Gannon, Courtesy of Iowa State University

Vincent, a 3-year-old domestic short-haired cat, received prosthetic titanium-alloy hind legs at Iowa State.

When Vincent was found abandoned at a campground he was missing parts of both his hind legs, but thanks to researchers at Iowa State University’s Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center and a specially designed pair of titanium-alloy legs, the young feline is having a remarkable recovery and well on his way to a full life.

“I anticipate that he’ll be jumping and doing really normal cat things very soon,” said Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, the veterinary orthopedic surgeon who attached Vincent’s prosthetic legs and has overseen his rehabilitation.

SEE ALSO: Puppy Gets Second Chance with Four Prosthetic Paws

According to a statement from the university, Bergh, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery in the ISU Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, believes that only a couple dozen animals in the world have received the sort of prosthetics Vincent has. As a pioneer in this field and with little data to refer to, Vincent’s recovery hasn’t always been easy, but there has been undeniable progress.

 

 

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.

“Normally a cat like him that came into a shelter would not have a future because his injuries were pretty staggering,” said Cindy Jones, of the Story County Animal Shelter in Nevada where Vincent was brought after being found.

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.

Veterinarian, Mary Bergh, gave Vincent the cat two prosthetic legs
Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh examines Vincent during a recent visit to the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center. Photo credit: Christopher Gannon 

The design of the implants allows for Vincent’s bone to grow onto the titanium shafts and support his weight, she said.  But the titanium shafts are exposed to the environment, which puts Vincent at risk for infection and is an ongoing challenge she and Jones have worked hard to overcome — twice a day, Vincent needs antibiotic spray applied to his legs to prevent infections.

But, on the whole, Vincent acts like any normal house cat, according to the university.

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.”

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