Titanium implant for 'bionic' dog
A CORNISH vet claims to have created the Duchy's first bionic dog by fitting the family pet with a metal knee.
Ian Gibbs, 35, who lives in Wadebridge and works at Calweton Veterinary Group in Callington, performed the pioneering surgery, repairing ten-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Calvin's damaged cruciate ligament using a titanium foam implant.
Calvin suddenly became lame after rupturing the ligament, which stabilises the knee joint.
Mr Gibbs is one of three vets in Cornwall to hold a certificate in small animal surgery, allowing him to perform the operation.
"The titanium implant, a metal more commonly found in space shuttles than veterinary centres, is designed to mimic the structure of coral reefs," he said.
"This allows new bone to grow into the pores, incorporating the wedge into the leg bone, making the leg truly bionic."
Such operations would be rolled out to the Saltash surgery in June, he said.
Calvin's owner Charlotte Gibbs, 32, said: "Calvin's other cruciate ligament went back in January and he had the traditional surgery.
"It went well, but this time we decided to do a new technique and the recovery time has been so much better.
"He's been able to put weight on it straight away and the surgery was faster, so he didn't have as long under the anaesthetic, which for a dog of his age is quite important."
Mr Gibbs said the operation cost around £1,200.
"It's not cheap," said Mrs Gibbs, a former veterinary nurse.
"With his knees going, we didn't have a lot of choice; it's something we had to do.
"He's fit and healthy and he's part of the family."
Mrs Gibbs said Bernese Mountain Dogs' normal life expectancy was only 6 to 8 years.
"It makes me chuckle that he's bionic because he's the stupidest dog you've ever met and now he's like a superhero," she said.
"I'm very impressed how quickly he's recovered.
"It's just a case of keeping him calm and stopping him bouncing round like an idiot."
She said Calvin found it difficult to walk on the slippery floor but had just started to go for little walks to St Breock School where their daughter Sophie, 5, is a pupil.
The couple's other daughter, Lauren, 20 months, is hearing-impaired and Mrs Gibbs is her full- time carer.
She makes headbands which hold hearing aids in place and sells them via a Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/JtGbrc
"It's what I did for Lauren, because she kept pulling them out," said Mrs Gibbs.
"When they get to about four months they pull them out and try to eat them.
"I've made more than 20 headbands now and have a lady in America who's taken a few."