The jarring image you see above isn't a real dog — but it is a hero of sorts.

In fact, this synthetic canine could be the solution to a vexing problem for veterinary schools: How do you teach vet students to save cats and dogs if they don't practice surgical procedures on real animals? A biotech company says it has developed the answer: the SynDaver Synthetic Canine, an anatomically correct, skinless model of a dog.

The artificial canine comes complete with tissue that is similar to a dog's living tissue, and it has functioning bodily systems. It has a heartbeat and a circulatory system and it bleeds when surgical incisions are made. According to the manufacturer, the model can be customized to mimic specific diseases, illnesses and even certain medical complications.

According to the press release, some veterinary students must work in "terminal surgery labs" where they work on live, anesthetized shelter animals and then euthanize them after the procedure. In addition, they work on canine cadavers, which typically are euthanized animals that come from shelters.

“A significant number of students do not care to be involved in terminal surgery procedures or the use of live animals when there is an alternative,” said Dr. Michael Blackwell, a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “I am so happy to have this change because that is where we need to be today.”

Blackwell points out in the video above that most veterinary students at some time or another have to anesthetize a dog or a cat and perform a procedure as part of the learning process, "but at the end, the animal is not allowed to wake up."

The company has launched a $24 million crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. So far, about $3,000 has been raised. With the funds, SynDaver promises to give 20 of the synthetic dogs to every accredited veterinary college in the world.

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.