Lucas, a 4-year-old African Penguin living at the San Diego Zoo was diagnosed with a degenerative foot condition known as bumblefoot 3 years ago. Left untreated, his condition could lead to sepsis and death. The zoo’s wildlife care specialists called on Thera-Paw, an organization which creates rehabilitative and assistive products for animals with special needs to help. Thera-Paw created custom-designed Neoprene/Rubber “Boots” to support Lucas when he walks and prevents pressure sores from developing as he stands.

“I’ve known Lucas for a long time, so having the ability to provide him with a chance to live a normal life brings a smile to my face,” said Dr. Beth Bicknese, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo. “The boots are cushioned and Velcroed in place, so they will help Lucas to fully participate in the colony and showcase behaviors that are more typical for a penguin—such as climbing the rocks, swimming, nesting, and finding a suitable mate.”

Wildlife care specialists noted that after fitting Lucas with his new boots, his gait improved, increasing his ability to navigate his rocky habitat with greater ease and his posture became more natural, allowing him the faculty to gain better balance while standing.

“We were pleasantly surprised at the immediate change in Lucas after we fitted him with his new boots,” said Debbie Denton, senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo. “Seeing him move about now gives us hope that he may be OK going forward, and able to live a full life.”

Penguins are a remarkable family of birds,” said Denton. “There is no other type of animal that is so widely spread across an enormous geographic range, or displays so many unique characteristics among its members. As their numbers fall, every individual bird matters. It’s vital that we continue our work to ensure their continued survival for generations to come.”         

An animal in pain is a difficult sight to see, and even more heartbreaking when it’s an animal in your care. Thera-Paw is a US-based company that works with both veterinary professionals and pet parents to design and fabricate products for special-needs animals. For over 20 years, Thera-Paw remains the only company worldwide that designs, fabricates, and manufactures soft orthoses, protective garments, and mobility aids for pets.  A team of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals works to help clients find the best solution for pets with pain or mobility issues, whether it is a Thera-Paw product or that of another company. Through public feedback and assistance from veterinary professionals, the team continues to create new ways to improve the function, mobility, and comfort of pets. To learn more about Thera-Paw and the products offered, visit


Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.