Patches the dachshund was auspiciously named in a way no one saw coming.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that in March American and Canadian veterinarians excised a tumor from Patches’ head that had earned her the nickname Little Unicorn, and whose absence left a huge hole in the pet’s skull (about 70 percent of it was “carved out”).
To repair the damage, a team of Canadian researchers built Patches a new titanium plate that’s the same size and shape as her missing skull. They constructed it using 3D-printing technology. Dr. Michelle Oblack, a veterinary surgical oncologist with the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, who worked on Patches during the procedure, which took place at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, told the Times, “We popped the plate on. It was amazing. It fit like a glove”
The Times reports that while 3D printing has been used to make implants for dogs, for instance a German shepherd who received surgery for limb deformity in 2009, the procedure “has not entered mainstream use in surgery in small veterinary clinics”
According to CNN, the operation was the first of its kind to be performed in North America. Whether this refers to custom-made dog skulls, or specifically dachshund skulls, or pet skulls in general, I can’t tell you. But I do know it’s incredible. It’s also probably less expensive than cloning a whole dog (the Times says the costs “can be prohibitive,” but the same goes for, like, dental surgery). Just an educated guess.