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Vet School Team Saves Puppy Born with Upside Down Paws

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Some dogs just can’t catch a break. “Siggi” is an unusual case in that she was born with both of her front paws upside down, making it nearly impossible to walk. A team of veterinarians at the Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine signed up to correct the puppy’s paws. They say Siggi is still healing, but on her way to recovery.

A Groundbreaking Procedure

This isn’t the first time a dog has been born with its front paws facing upward. Milo, a foxhound puppy, faced equally insurmountable odds when he was born in 2019 with the same condition.

Dr. Erik Clary, an associate professor of small animal surgery and bioethics, was part of the team that operated on the five-week-old puppy. Over the span of his 27-year career, Clary said it was his third time seeing a dog with upward-facing paws.

“It is very unusual, but also very debilitating,” Clary said. “So, when we do see it, something needs to be done.” She said Milo often had to “Army crawl” to get around.

The three-and-a-half-hour surgery was ultimately a success.

“Milo’s surgery was complicated,” Clary said in a statement. “For each of his elbows, we had to go into the joint and restore the alignment. Then we placed a pin across the joint to keep it straight while his growing bones continue to take shape and his body lays down the internal scar tissue that will be needed for long-term stability.”

Milo spent around two weeks in a front-body splint as his paws continued to heal. Clary said he quickly developed a following when he was in the hospital.

“Milo’s a sweet and resilient dog,” Clary said. “Many a well-wisher checked in on his progress. And since he couldn’t ambulate or stand well with the splint in place, he was happy to find no shortage of student and staff volunteers willing to hold him and help him get outside when needed.”

Milo’s case drew international attention in its day. And now the same is happening for young Siggi.

Two years after the groundbreaking surgery, a Dallas animal shelter contacted Dr. Clary at Oklahoma State University and asked him if he would be willing to perform the same operation.

The group created an online fundraiser for Siggi, and soon the surgery went forward.

“As with Milo, Siggi’s problem looked like it was in the paws, but it was actually in her elbows,” Clary said in a press release distributed by the College of Veterinary Medicine. “For reasons not fully understood, these patients’ elbows come out of joint early in life and the result is severe rotation of the lower front limbs and an inability to walk.”

Clary said Siggi’s surgery was more complicated than Milo’s. Siggi had more deformities in her bones, some of which Clary had to fracture to successfully complete the operation.

Just like Milo, the surgeons were able to finish their work in about three to three and a half hours, even though puppies shouldn’t be under anesthesia for too long. Clary added that they finished the procedure on both paws at once instead of doing two separate surgeries. 

He was joined by a resident, a fourth-year student, an intern, and a two-person anesthetic team. The others couldn’t assist much in the operating room but got the chance to view Clary’s work up close. The procedure was also live streamed in the next room for other students and professionals.

“It’s not a very common problem,” Clary said. “There weren’t enough cases to develop a specific direction for them.”

He added that he suspects there are more dogs out there born with this condition, but breeders may euthanize them instead of seeking treatment.

After the surgery was completed on May 17, Siggi got her own front-body splint. She spent a few weeks at the veterinarian hospital as her legs continued to heal before returning to an animal foster home in Dallas.

Clary said he still gets updates on her condition from the staff

“She still has more strength to develop in the limbs and the chest, but she’s making a good recovery,” he said. “She can play outside and chase a ball; the normal things puppies like to do.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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