The first human prosthetic can be dated back to 300 BC during the ancient Roman Empire. Medical advancements have created some truly magical prosthetics for the human race over the last 2300+ years. This is in stark contrast to the very recent pet orthotics and prosthetics industry that has only been around for the last 30 years. The first notable animal prosthetic was created by Dr. Barrie Grant a DVM and instructor at Washington State University in 1985 for a prized stallion, and the first horse orthotic was a decade later by Ronnie Graves in 1995 for his neighbors pet mare. As an amputee himself and the owner of Prosthetics Research Specialists Inc, his neighbor persuaded him to build a brace for his horse, who’s injury caused damage to her ligaments and tendons. The brace Ronnie conjured up worked and helped heal the mare. This was the start of Veterinary Inclusive Prosthetics (VIP), the first animal O&P company in the nation.
Over the last 3 decades animal O&P has slowly started to gain traction and now there are a handful of companies in the world that specialize in this small sub-culture of the orthotic and prosthetic industry, most of which reside right here in the United States. Some of the first companies to try their hands at animal O&P were of course VIP in 1996, Orthopets in 2003, Animal Orthocare in 2004 and Extremity C. Fab that later became Specialized Pet Solutions in 2007. Although many of these companies were not started until after their founders had already dabbled in animal orthotics and prosthetics as a side hustle from their human O&P practice. In fact Specialized Pet Solutions founder Angela Boncz built her first dog knee brace for a dog she rescued in 2004, and continued to build animal O&P for her friends and neighbors just as Ronnie did while she worked in the human field. Angela met Ronnie at a conference once and credits him as one of her major inspirations and influences.
Angela started building dog knee braces in 2004, and she has perfected her craft by creating a dog knee brace that comforts and cushions the achilles tendon which is the only one of its kind on the market. She started building equine prosthetics in 2007 when she adopted a 3-legged pony named Prince. She has built many versions of animal prosthetics using Prince as not only her inspiration but also her personal case study over the last 20 years.
Thanks to human ingenuity there have been several famous animal amputees to utilize prosthetics, some of which have turned into major motion pictures. One of the most famous is Winter the Dolphin who was able to thrive and live for many more years with a prosthetic tail, after it was caught in a crab trap. Winter’s story was made into the movie “A Dolphins Tale.” Animals as large as elephants have received prosthetics and are able to live very healthy normal lives with the aid of these devices and the humans that work in the veterinary prosthetic industry.
Animal orthotics and prosthetics are definitely a growing trend and the technology that helps them will only continue to develop as these pioneering companies think outside the box, and dedicate themselves to helping our special pets. Animal sanctuaries are also a crucial piece of the puzzle as they are the people who are taking in these disabled animals and making the decision to care for them and financially provide these life saving devices. At Specialized Pet Solutions we want to thank all the amazing people who run these animal sanctuaries that give new hope to these very special animals.