Meet Andy the dachshund and see how he walked again thanks to 3D printing

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ronnie Koenig and John Torres, M.D.

Andy the dachshund is one lucky dog. He’s a small pup who got a big chance at a second life.

Loraine Young of Woodstown, New Jersey, was distraught to find that her beloved 7-year-old pet was unable to walk on all four legs when she called out to him on July 17.

As her normally energetic dog dragged his hind legs behind him, she quickly realized that something was very wrong.

Loraine Young describes her pet dog, Andy the dachshund, as the best boy.Loraine Young

"He got up in the morning and couldn’t get out of bed," Young told TODAY. "He was dragging his legs behind him. He was paralyzed."

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Andy was suffering from a life-threatening spinal condition that can sometimes affect small dogs with long bodies and short legs, like dachshunds.

Young says that Andy is not only a great companion to her, but also to her late husband, Robert. When his health deteriorated, the dog became his source of constant love and compassion. Andy often cozied up to Robert in his recliner.

Andy the dachshund is a constant companion to Loraine Young and was best buddies with Young’s husband Robert before his passing.St. Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey

When Young knew something wasn't right with her husband's "best buddy," she took him to Saint Francis Veterinary Center outside Philadelphia, where doctors told her he needed emergency spine surgery.

The procedure was necessary but also very risky, as Andy’s bones and blood vessels all fit in a space as small as a human finger.

Luckily for Andy, Saint Francis surgeons had recently teamed up with doctors at Thomas Jefferson University in a revolutionary program. Andy was to be the first patient — that is, pet patient — to take advantage of new technology that could create a 3D print of his spine to guide doctors just where they needed to go during the operation.

Dr. Mark Magazu, a veterinarian, studied a 3D printed spine model before operating on Andy the dachshund.Thomas Jefferson University Health Design Lab

These 3D prints have become increasingly used in surgery on humans, especially for complicated procedures like organ transplants. But this was the first time a dog benefited from the technology before undergoing spine surgery.

A 3D print of Andy's spine acted as a road map for Dr. Mark Magazu, a veterinarian, showing him in unprecedented detail where to go.

"It not only helped me know where it began, but it helped me know the direction of where all the material and the damage was," said Magazu. "So by having the 3D rendering, I knew exactly where to go in the surgery," he explained, showing the incredible detail the print provides.

Although Andy's surgery on July 18 was a success, he had to stay at the veterinary center to recover and start physical therapy. Young's husband, who passed away on Aug. 6, didn't live to see Andy return home after his surgery. "He would have been very happy about it," Young said.

Andy the dachshund received care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center outside Philadelphia.St. Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey

Andy is now on the mend and doing physical therapy twice a week to regain strength in his legs. And incredibly, he is now wagging his tail again.

After his spinal surgery, Andy the dachshund was no longer partially paralyzed.St. Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey

"I think he's doing very well," said Young. "He runs. You know, I try to curtail him a bit. He does run."