As science progresses, treatments for various illnesses are progressing at a rapid rate, meaning that conditions that were a 'life sentence' ten years ago can now be resolved in a relatively simple manner.

Whilst the developments benefit humans, there has also been much work into similar treatments for animals, with a number of surgeries now possible to combat complex health issues.

We often hear about these treatments as work of the future, but one recent case has highlighted that the developments are closer than we may have thought...

Researchers at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College have used 3D printing to replace the majority of a dog's skull, in a procedure that marks a major advancement in veterinary care.

© Michelle Oblak

Patches, a 9 year old Dachshund, was suffering from an aggressive brain tumour the size of an orange, that grew through her skull and could only be treated by the novel procedure.

Owner Danielle Dymeck first became aware that something was wrong when a small bump on Patches head, that had been there since birth, began to grow at a rapid rate. Her vet then directed her to Cornell University, renowned for its veterinary program, at which point she was referred to Michelle Oblak from the Ontario.

Whilst the surgery was imprecise, costly and lengthy, the treatment is said to be the first of it's kind, with a 3D printer creating a custom-made titanium skull cap for a dog.

How Does The Surgery Work?

© Michelle Oblak

Beginning with a CT scan, images were taken of Patches' head and tumour, from which surgeons worked to digitally cut out the tumour and disease ridden parts of the skull.

Following this, they mapped out where the 3D printed replacement would go and what it would look like, including holes for screws to hold it in place.

The plans were then sent to ADEISS, a 3D printing company in London, Ontario, which made a titanium skull cap specially for Patches.

Whilst this part of the process took two weeks in total, the procedure itself only took 4 hours, with Patches outside taking a bathroom break just 30 minutes after waking up.

© Dan Lopez

Speaking of Patches' ordeal and role in this pioneering treatment, owner Danielle Dymeck said:

"We called her our little unicorn because she had this bump on her head, but it would have killed her.

They felt she could recover from this, and to be part of cancer research was a big thing for me - if they can learn something from animals to help humans, that's pretty important.

Her head looks great, other than her crooked ear. She has a wheelchair that she refuses to use, so she pulls herself around on her two feet, but she's pretty fast.

I feel lucky to be her owner, and she's still the boss of the house."

Here's hoping that Patches is the first of many dogs that are successfully treated in this way, leading the way for even greater scientific advancements in veterinary care.

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