Introducing OrthoPets founder Martin Kaufmann
With the recently announced Dassiet and OrthoPets collaboration, we are excited to introduce Martin Kaufmann, the the founder and innovator behind OrthoPets’ leading Veterinary Orthotic and Prosthetic devices. With Martin’s extensive career and many great achievements, Dassiet team is excited and honored for the opportunity to work with him, and to provide his designs with complimentary new materials and insight from human medicine. We had a chat with Martin to look at his career, and the steps that lead to the start of this exciting collaboration.
Building to Help
Martin’s work with Orthotics & Prosthetics started with human patients. Having an innate interest in ‘building to help’, he started his career creating custom orthotic devices and wheelchair seating at a private healthcare company. Soon, an opportunity arose to join Shriners Hospital Intermountain Unit in Utah, which specializes in orthopedic care for children and young adults. The rewarding years in Utah were an important building block for his future career helping animals and pets.
“Through this experience, I gained valuable understanding and insight about ways to treat patients who were unable to verbally communicate.”
The pivotal moment in Martin’s career occurred when his cousin’s miniature schnauzer Walt had a stroke, and as a result, lost the function of his front leg. The veterinarian treating Walt had suggested amputating, but Martin’s cousin wanted a second opinion. She asked if Martin could create a brace for Walt like he would for a child.
"I was concerned that Walt was not receiving the same level of care and options as our human patients did, so I wanted to help.”
Martin offered his services to the veterinarian treating Walt and developed his first-ever orthotic device for an animal. Through this experience Martin became increasingly more curious about what else could be offered to our animal patients that we take for granted as standard of care for human patients. This was the genesis of his curiosity and relentless pursuit to develop and establish the field of Veterinary Orthotics & Prosthetics (VOP).
Pioneering Human Level Care for Pets
In 2003 Martin, together with his wife Amy, founded OrthoPets and began working on identifying animal orthotic and prosthetic needs. For Martin, it was clear from the start that this new field would need to be developed in collaboration with veterinarians. They teamed up with Colorado State University veterinary teaching hospital to develop new and innovative Veterinary Orthotic and Prosthetic (VOP) solutions with real-time feedback in a clinical setting. At the time of OrthoPets's founding it was standard in veterinary medicine to do amputations without the consultation or use of prosthetics. Martin knew how helpful and restorative prosthetics were to the quality of life of human patients and took on the mission of bringing prosthetics into veterinary medicine to fundamentally change the way animal patients are cared for.
Since its founding, OrthoPets has helped treat over 30 000 patients around the world, from dogs and cats to rarer patients like goats, chickens, and even tigers. Martin and the OrthoPets team have become the leading experts in the VOP field, with their own academy to teach veterinarians, physical therapists, and veterinary technicians, an extensive partner clinic program to help as many animals as possible, and constantly ongoing research and development to create new innovative solutions and products. Martin lectures at universities and consults with vets to share his VOP knowledge, which is highly appreciated in veterinary medicine. The underpinning mechanical concepts of custom orthotics, prosthetics, and even bi-valved casts are currently not taught to vets as a standard.
“I understand the amount of knowledge veterinarians need to learn in vet school and it is my honor to provide this supplementary training to help improve the way that animals are cared for through the application of biomechanics. One of the most rewarding learner feedback comments we receive from veterinarians is ‘I wish I would have been taught these concepts because it has changed how I applied a cast!’”
Tested on Humans, Approved for Animals
The natural next step in Martin’s mission to help animals, after establishing and leading the VOP field, was to start finding excellent partners to take the designs and products to the next level. Dassiet, with their human medicine approved Woodcast material and other new material and medical innovations turned out to be just the right fit. The shared vision of constantly improving on existing products, materials and methods to help is what brought the two companies together - And to ultimately improve the way animal patients are cared for. The two teams enjoy the phrase: ‘Tested on humans, approved for animals!’
“Over the past 10 years, I have envisioned the expansion of the veterinary orthotics and prosthetics industry and how I can continue to lead the VOP industry to serve more animal patients. One primary barrier has been materials that allow a wider range of products to be designed. When I first was introduced to Dassiet and the amazing materials they have developed, I immediately saw how collaboration could not only jumpstart but revolutionize the VOP industry. My vision is to partner with leading companies that can exponentially increase the quality of products, care, and mobility options for our animal patients.”
The companies are already conducting first clinical trials on their new products that will change the way orthotics and support is done in the veterinary medicine. Early results, as well as leading veterinarian and researcher feedback has been extremely positive, and the companies hope to announce some of the new products already this year.
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