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Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians provide calf with two prosthetic limbs

October 16, 2009

A yearling calf, about 10-months-old, received two prosthetic limbs to replace her lower back legs last week at Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The procedure on a cow is unusual and not often performed, and the replacement of two legs may be a first.

Meadow, a calf about 10-months-old, was fitted with prosthetic legs last week at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Meadow quickly walked on her two new legs.

Calf badly frostbitten

The calf, Meadow, was noticed by her current owners several months ago in a meadow in Colorado. They saw her while on a hike and noticed that her back feet and ears had been badly frostbitten. They tracked down her owners and offered to adopt her. They eventually brought her to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for treatment.

State-of-the-art legs

Several weeks ago, Meadow underwent surgery to have her two back feet and the lower part of her legs removed because of the frostbite. She was fitted with prosthetic legs last week and quickly walked on them. The state-of-the-art legs can be adjusted as she grows.

Anesthetizing a ruminant, such as cattle, sheep or goats is difficult because of the construction of their stomach. The stomach has four compartments, occupying 75 percent of the chest cavity. The stomach never really empties and works like a giant fermenting vat.

Special strategies and skills were required

Food material is frequently regurgitated into the mouth along with a large quantity of saliva. This causes ruminants to be at high risk for aspiration into the lungs and airway obstruction during surgery, and pneumonia as a post-surgery complication. Anesthetizing a ruminant for surgery requires special strategies and skills available at CSU.

Five anesthesiologists – including CSU veterinary students -- managed her care during surgery and prevented her from feeling pain before, during and after surgery. In addition, her care team included expert large animal veterinarians, students and surgeons.

New home in New Mexico

Meadow left the hospital on Friday to travel to her new home on a ranch in New Mexico, where she’ll be in the company of several goats and other rescued animals.

Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
Phone: (970) 491-6009