Veterinarians have a history of creating assistive devices from items at hand using everything from duct tape to superglue, plywood to low temperature thermoplastics, and aluminum rods to PVC pipe. We have a tradition of a “MacGuyver-like” fortitude driven primarily by economics and a lack of veterinary-specific products in the past. Public demand and the redefined modern role of the companion animal as a family member have provided an opportunity to excel beyond one-off and novelty in veterinary health care. Our clients have recognized there is a gap in veterinary services in terms of managing limb dysfunction and loss, a gap long filled in human medicine.
Scientific rigor and a culture of evidence-informed medicine drive new understanding and ultimately innovative therapies for animals. The structural consequences of a dysfunctional or missing limb or limb segment are now recognized. As our understanding of the intricacies of quadruped mobility and biomechanics has grown, so have the variety and sophistication of mechanical assistive devices. Now they incorporate veterinary-specific hinges, composite plastics, titanium, carbon fiber, and specialty foam liners. Biomechanically sound designs improve fit and function. Surgical techniques such as subtotal amputation, intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthesis (ITAP), and rotational plasty are providing new opportunities and an expanding patient population. V-OP is evolving into a new subspecialty. Although it is true that techniques and materials used in H-OP can be translated to veterinary patients, specific modifications for quadruped ambulation and the significantly greater magnitude of force generated by these patients must be considered. A thorough understanding of the biomechanics and health issues of animals is essential to avoid injury to the animal, delayed healing, or delayed use of more appropriate therapies. The veterinarian is the key player in this process and must lead the way because of their knowledge of veterinary species and veterinary medicine. H-OP professionals will continue to serve a collaborative albeit secondary role. To do so, veterinarians must begin to educate themselves in this regard to best serve the demands and needs of their clients and patients.