Faversham Vet's Pioneering Surgery on Much Loved Dog

A veterinary surgeon based at Medivet Faversham has carried out a successful 3D printed partial jaw replacement on a dog.

family and vet with dog

The pioneering surgery was performed by Dr Ryk Botes, a Medivet Branch Partner with a special interest in orthopaedics and replacement surgery. He was touched by the plight of eight-year-old Shih Tzu, Poppet - a rescue dog whose lower jaw was broken on both sides. Dr Botes felt that the only way to properly fix the dog’s jaw was to attempt a partial jaw replacement.

Although the technique is used in humans, Poppet’s small size made it particularly difficult to design and produce a custom-made implant. Working with specialist firm 3D Metal Printing, Dr Botes was able to create a titanium jaw and perform the ground-breaking operation to fit to Poppet’s jaw. Poppet is now making a good recovery and is “a different dog”.

The experience gained in the design, production and fitting of the jaw replacement implant will benefit many patients in the future.

Poppet was adopted two years ago from a rescue centre by Daphne Harrigan from Pitsea in Essex. Apart from her broken jaw, Poppet had other health problems which suggested she may have been used for breeding on a puppy farm. Poppet filled a hole in Mrs Harrigan’s life, following the loss of her husband 11 years ago.

Knowing how special Poppet is to Mrs Harrigan, Dr Botes took on the challenge to fix the lower jaw, which was broken on both sides with one side of the jaw missing a large segment of bone. Based on CT scans sent by Dr Botes, 3D Metal Printing (based in the Innovation Centre at the University of Bath) created the implant, making a titanium jaw for Poppet. This was fitted by Dr Botes in a one-hour operation.

Since the operation Poppet has made a good recovery and is ‘a different dog’, according to Mrs Harrigan’s daughter Debbie Crouch.

“Before the operation, her tongue lolled out of her mouth permanently and she couldn’t eat or clean herself properly. Now she can and it’s as if she has a whole new lease of life. It’s wonderful to see her – and equally wonderful to see how happy she makes my Mum.”

She added: “We can’t thank Ryk and his team enough for what they’ve done for Poppet. He has really gone above and beyond and we’re so grateful. It’s a dream come true for my Mum to see Poppet living a normal, happy life.”

“Veterinary science is not just about performing surgery or about generating an income. In addition to the welfare of our patients, we also need to consider the welfare of their owners,” he said. “The experience gained in the design, production and fitting of the jaw replacement implant will benefit many patients in the future.”

Dr Botes runs a centre of excellence for orthopaedics at Medivet Faversham, which can be contacted on 01795 531313.

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