Ailing guinea pig gets new lease on life with 3D-printed wheelchair
TORONTO -- One year ago Alaska the guinea pig couldn't move under her own power but today she might be the only rodent in Canada with a custom ride.
A post-birth uterus infection left Alaska clinging to life, with one of her front legs requiring amputation. Further complications limited the use of her two back legs and veterinary bills exceeded $5,000. Her prospects still appeared bleak.
"I was afraid she wouldn't have a good quality of life. I was afraid she wouldn't move and I thought I’d failed her as a pet owner,” Toronto woman Shirelle Goodman told CTV News Toronto.
While a lot of people might have given up, Goodman doubled down on her resolve to improve Alaska's mobility.
"I started researching 3D printing."
With Alaska under her arm, Goodman visited her local branch of the Toronto Public Library.
"She walked in here with a guinea pig missing its front leg," recalled Domenic Giordano, digital design technician with the library. "She's an animal lover and I’m an animal lover, so I wanted to do whatever I could to help."
After a few prototypes that didn’t fully accommodate Alaska's condition, Giordano perfected what he calls "a chariot". Goodman calls it a wheelchair. Semantics aside, the 3D printer was able to do what medicine couldn’t, give Alaska the ability to move again.
The combination chair and harness allows her to move, unimpeded on her one front leg, while adhesive straps keep her back legs from collapsing.
"I asked the vet about getting a wheelchair but the closest the vet could find was for a 4lb dog. Alaska weighs 700 grams. Thanks to the library she should have a healthy lifespan. She’s moving. She’s a guinea pig for guinea pigs."