This project was a challenging one, A friend was curious whether 3D printing could help with their dog which sadly has carpal flexural deformity in the front two legs. Doing some extensive research on what causes this, I challenged myself to find a way to incorporate 3D printing as a temporary solution to give the dog rest with braces on the two front joints.
From what i found digging through the depths of the web on forum to forum, carpal flexural deformity or “knuckling over” is when the dogs front end assembly is unable to support the entire weight of the puppy due to muscle integrity.
What does this do?
This hinders the puppies ability to walk on it’s front two paws and so they use their front knuckles as braces. Luckily for the puppy and for the owner, carpal flexural deformity can be counteracted through time and proper stabilization through a cast on the joints.
Methods to curing this deformity
Prior to this idea the owner previously used wrapped Popsicle sticks to hold the joint up, this is a viable method but you run into irritated skin, and the puppy will commonly attempt to chew it off.
3D Printing a solution
I asked myself “How can 3D printing fix this?” and the i came to the conclusion that designing a model that would not irritate the puppies skin and make the brace as breathable as possible while still maintaining a hold on the joint.
Designing the model
On the inside I wanted to make sure the dog would not scrape itself with the plastic inside. Making sure the plastic would not harm the puppy I decided to put fabric inside. Lining the inside with a soft fabric padding i cut it shape, along with this adding adjustable Velcro straps so if needed they can scale the model over time for the dogs growth.
Testing the comfort
Testing was a challenge, for one i am not a dog and the only joints I had to work with that would loosely resemble one similar to a puppies leg was my finger. Using my finger as a testing joint I made sure to watch for lost feeling, numbness or skin irritation. Wearing this for 4 hours throughout a work day to test its function was an interesting experiment and it worked!
While wearing the brace I decided to stop at Starbucks to grab a coffee, interestingly the employee handing me my drink noticed the brace and asked if I had broken my finger. Explaining what and why I was wearing this was for a dog with carpal flexural deformity, taken back they explained how carpal flexural deformity took their dog with it. Sadly the dog had been put down from the severity but they were enthusiastic to see someone trying to make a difference to prevent carpal flexural deformity.
The dog and the brace
Heading back home with the design functional I planned a date to give it to them. Testing complete and a date ready now it was time to see how it works. They used the brace for a short time before the dog grew out of the deformity luckily in this case the deformity was not severe and it helped mend the problem.
Being a temporary solution it did the job. I’m glad i got the chance to help the puppy get back to being a puppy.
Cost compared to other methods
Without a doubt this is a trial and error for owners to try with their puppies, Whether or not you use the Popsicle stick or go to your local vet maybe this could be a viable tool in the future. The total cost was just under $4 for the fabric, plastic, glue and velcro wrap, making this a mid range cost solution negating the minor problems Popsicle sticks or tape can produce even though its the cheapest option.
Thank you for reading