Vincent and Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh

Vincent and Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh

A three-year-old cat in central Iowa is at the center of an emerging field within animal care. Vincent is a domestic short-haired cat who was left at the Story County Animal Shelter as a kitten. He’d been found at a campground with very badly injured hind legs.

Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, a veterinary orthopedic surgeon at Iowa State University, outfitted Vincent with prosthetic legs. The procedure is something new in veterinary medicine. “It’s extremely rare. In fact, I’d guess there are probably less than 25 animals in the world who ever had anything quite like what he’s got,” Bergh said.

The titanium-alloy legs were implanted in the femur bones of Vincent’s legs and pass through his skin. Vincent’s owner, Cindy Jones of Nevada, recalled Vincent’s first surgery in February 2014. “The first time I saw him after surgery, it was scary…because you don’t normally see metal things poking out of your cat,” Jones said.

Bergh continues to oversee Vincent’s recovery. “His bone is looking great. The implants are stable, and he’s walking really well on them,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing at the current time.” Jones applies an antibiotic spray to Vincent’s legs twice daily to prevent infections.

Bergh is hoping the experience with Vincent will help her and other veterinary orthopedic surgeons improve the use of implants for animals in the future. “I think this does open the door for us to be able to help other animals with similar problems,” Bergh said. “Even what we’ve learned just through Vincent’s one case — we’ve actually refined the technique of the implants, so the next cases we do moving forward will be even more successful.”