Duke: Overcoming the Odds

March 11, 2017

Duke: Overcoming the Odds

Veterinary medicine can be both very challenging and very rewarding. It can also be much like the quote from Forrest Gump, “….is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Well, this holds true in our practices as well. Each day can bring on something new and exciting. We also meet some amazing people and equally amazing pets or patients. This is the case with Duke, a 10-year-old black Labrador Retriever.

Earlier this summer, Duke was presented to our hospital with a severe crushing injury to his left front paw area. It was caused by a heavy piece of equipment from a home construction project falling on Duke’s foot. The wound was severe, with multiple broken bones and open wounds.

After initial emergency treatment, there was much concern if the foot could even be salvaged due to extensive nervous and vascular damage. To attempt to “keep” the foot would be a lengthy, multiple surgical procedure process with skin grafts resulting in a guarded prognosis of function at best.


Through much discussion and consultation, it was decided that, in the long run, it would be best to amputate. Typically. when amputation is done on a canine’s front limb, it is performed at the shoulder where the entire limb is removed. Dogs do great on three legs! In Duke’s case, however, it was decided (after much conversation, evaluation and some research) to amputate at his carpus (wrist joint) and have a prosthetic foot made. With his wonderful, easy-going personality we knew Duke would be a great candidate.

We performed the surgical procedure and were able to rotate some of the skin with one of his pads (accessory carpal) over the amputation site to provide a cushion when he would be fitted and, hopefully, ultimately use his “new” foot. The surgery went well and Duke was a champion about post-operative care and treatment. Two weeks post surgery, sutures were removed and he was fitted with a cast mold to be sent off to Animal Ortho Care, LLC to have his prosthetic limb fabricated. A couple of weeks later his “new foot” (prosthesis) arrived and was placed over his completely healed surgical site. No complaints, no balking, no licking or chewing was done by Duke. He accepted his new foot without any challenges. Another loud hooray for Duke!

The prosthesis was left on for about an hour the first day and was then taken off. Duke didn’t know at this time that he could use his new foot. Each day thereafter, the prosthetic was placed back on for a successively longer period of time. This allowed Duke to get comfortable with it and for us to evaluate and make sure he wasn’t experiencing any sores associated with the device. Gradually Duke started to place more and more weight on his “new foot” and use it more readily to ambulate, especially when running. After a little over a month, Duke is actually able to run in the park using his artificial foot. I could watch this video all day long!

What a phenomenal dog Duke is, along with his owner’s willingness to try something that has not been “routinely” done in veterinary medicine. Prosthetic devices for our pets have been around for quite some time but, it takes a special patient such as Duke to have this level of success. Both owners and all of us are so very thrilled and excited for Duke as he continues on his walk or run through his future years on all four feet.