What: Cooper, a Great Dane puppy, will be at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a check-up following a complex surgery and series of treatments for a twisted and shortened shin bone. Reporters and photographers are invited to attend the appointment, which follows a treatment strategy that is quite rare in the United States and around the world.
**RSVPs are required by 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, to gain entry into the VTH and can be made by contacting Dell Rae Moellenberg.
When: 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, CSU VTH, 300 West Drake Road.
Details: When Cooper, a 3-month–old Great Dane puppy, came to Colorado State University’s VTH in February for an appointment with Dr. Ross Palmer, he was already learning to walk on just three of his four legs. As a two-to-three-week-old puppy, Cooper’s right tibia —or shin bone — had been fractured and, since he wasn’t taken to a veterinarian for treatment, it had healed with the bone bowed and bent. There was also damage to the bone’s growth plate and it failed to grow properly.
When he was three months old, Cooper was adopted – with his new owner having a goal to help him recover full mobility. Palmer, a small animal orthopedic surgeon, was faced with the complicated challenge of surgically straightening Cooper’s leg while also stretching the shin bone it as it healed to keep pace with the rapid growth rate of a Great Dane as he developed from a cute little puppy to the lanky lad he is today.
Over the course of the next several months, Cooper and his owner, Sally, made 11 trips to the VTH for pre-surgical preparations, one surgery and frequent postoperative progress checks. During surgery, Cooper’s shin bone was cut and straightened using an orthopedic device that was not available in the United States. Dr. Palmer, a veterinary surgeon who trains veterinarians around the world, partnered with an Italian colleague in the surgical planning. The human orthopedic device, loaned from his colleague in Milan, permits surgeons to correct complex bony angular deformities and has a mechanism for gradual stretching of the healing bone so that Cooper’s leg could catch up to the length of his three other healthy limbs. Sally, his owner, had to adjust the device each day to lengthen the healing bone 1-3 millimeters – at just the right pace to prevent the bone from healing too short, but protect the bone from failing to heal. Cooper was a trooper through it all.
In all, the technique grew Cooper’s tibia 76 millimeters – or about 3 inches. Thirty-six millimeters were added as a function of the corrective surgery and 40 millimeters were developed from daily adjustments performed on Cooper by Sally over one month. Once the device’s maximal safe lengthening limit was attained, the bone was allowed to mend itself. The device was removed in August.
“What once was beginning to look a bit a like the useless little arms of a T-Rex is now a very functional limb and, best of all, Cooper is getting on with his life and he still loves to come and see us,” Palmer said.
Cooper has begun walking normally on all four feet and will be checked for progress at Monday’s appointment. Dr. Palmer will now monitor Cooper’s limb growth, gait and posture to assess whether or not he will eventually need to be fitted with a prosthetic lift shoe on his leg or if a second bone lengthening procedure will be performed to make up for a discrepancy in limb length.
Images and video clips of Cooper before and after surgery are available to reporters.