Here is a short story for the weekend that will put a smile on your face. A professor and a group of undergraduate students from the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University have built a working canine exoskeleton brace for paralyzed and three-legged dogs. The brace is not science-fiction or a model that needs years of tweaking before a real dog can use it. No, it is a fully functioning device that dogs can use today.
I don’t know how familiar you are with Colorado State University, but the school has a soft spot in my heart because of Dr. Dennis Macy, DVM. Dr. Macy is professor emeritus (retired, but still practicing) at CSU Veterinary School and he is an oncology specialist. He treated my German shepherd, Bear, when he was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma which is a cancer of the lining of the blood vessels.
What I loved most about Dr. Macy was his genuine interest in the well-being of my dog. He walked into the exam room, said a quick hello to me and then proceeded to sit down on the floor next to Bear and talk to him. He reassured my dog in a way that no other veterinarian has ever done and he did this at every visit during the treatment.
Click This: Pet Cancer Awareness
The new exoskeleton brace is the brain-child of Professor Anura P. Jayasumana who has been with the Computer Engineering Department at Colorado State University since its inception in 1985. It was built with help from OrthoPets and the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
According to The Source, a Colorado State University publication, the brace “supplements movement for semi-paralyzed dogs.” Prof. Jayasumana, who has two dogs of his own, has been working on the idea for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that technology caught up with the concept. The brace needed to process information fast enough to imitate movement.
It is now the first fully functioning project of its kind! The brace simulates the movement of the muscles in a dog’s rear legs and it can anticipate future movement.
The team collected data from the way healthy dogs moved. They were able to make the brace simulate walking, running, sitting, going up and down stairs and even rolling around. Electrodes are applied to a dog’s front legs and the information is processed quickly enough so that the exoskeleton brace anticipates how the weak or non-functioning rear legs need to work to create a specific movement.
The brace also functions as a physical therapy tool by strengthening a dog’s muscles.
Click This: Hyperbaric Chamber Heals Dog With FCE Stroke
Currently the brace is large and cumbersome so the next step will be to shrink down the motor so it is small and light enough to be worn by dogs of all sizes. Colorado State University plans to seek financial support for this.
Not long ago I went to a lecture about technology of the future. The speaker spent much of the evening talking about medical devices. He said in the next 15-20 years physicians would be able to make new body parts and organs for us when our old ones wore out. After seeing the video of the canine exoskeleton mobility brace, I think that speaker might be right.