Phone: (610) 286-0018    Fax: (610) 286-0021

Canine Knee Braces: A rehab professional’s guide

Knees, Rehabilitation and Braces: A Guide to Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury

By: Kirsty Oliver, VN, DipAVN (surgical), CVT, CCRP, CVPP

Kirsty OliverThere’s no denying it, we all have knees, even our canine companions. Knees are sometimes a source of discomfort and most often, injury. Athletes and non-athletes alike are likely to have some sort of knee issue during their lifetime.This can also be said of our canine counterparts.

Just because they walk on four legs instead of two, does not make them any less likely to encounter an issue.The knee, or stifle joint in dogs (and cats), is prone to a common injury where one of the two ligaments that criss-cross in the knee, tears or ruptures.

This ligament is the cranial cruciate ligament and it is responsible for keeping the joint from overextending, overt inward rotation and incorrect forward movement. The cranial cruciate ligament or CCL is also frequently referred to as the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament.

Injury may occur after such actions as: sudden starts, sudden stops, tight turns, jumping and running. Pretty much all the fun things dogs enjoy doing! Cruciate tears may occur suddenly (acute) or more chronically over time. Most pet parents notice a limp, stiffness, pain and sometimes, swelling or heat in the joint.

At some point, surgical intervention is required to restabilize the joint; however not all pets are candidates for surgery. There are several different techniques to restabilize the joint and your veterinarian will guide you as to which procedure is right for your pet.

Physical rehabilitation is used both pre and post operatively to treat joint pain and swelling, promote better joint range of motion, improve weight bearing and thigh muscle mass. This can be done using a variety of modalities including manual therapy, aquatic therapy, low level laser, exercise and thermotherapy.DSCN0284 Cropped Final

Not all pets are candidates for surgery. This may be due to underlying medical conditions or concerns. Cruciate or canine knee braces play a pivotal role in being able to maintain stifle stability, while maintaining adequate weight bearing in the limb to limit thigh muscle atrophy. The wonderful folks at My Pet’s Brace will custom make a brace for your pet to support the stifle in an anatomically correct position. This will allow your pet to walk, bear weight and limit the stress and strain on the other limb. They can even make it in your pet’s favorite colour!

These braces are also extremely useful after surgery. They allow for weight bearing and support as tissue heal and take the load off the other knee. They can also be used during the rehabilitation process.

Just remember that most human cruciate tears are associated with top athletes, so even though your pet may prefer surfing the kitchen counters rather than big waves, your pet is in good company!

KIRSTY OLIVER is a veterinary rehabilitation professional seeing patients at the Center for Integrative Veterinary Medicine at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Red Bank, New Jersey. (732) 747-3383

How do dogs adjust to wearing a canine knee brace for ACL injury?

canine knee braceAt My Pet’s Brace, we often are asked “How do dogs react or adjust to wearing an ACL knee brace?” After fitting over 600 ACL braces for dogs with knee injuries, we feel confident that we know the answer:  they do extremely well.

How will my pet react to a dog knee brace?  It’s quite amazing when dogs take their first steps in an ACL brace (also known as a Stifle brace). They generally look back at the brace and seem to wonder “What the heck did you just put on me”? Then after some slow walks they feel the stability it provides and begin to ignore the brace altogether.  Often, after just a few days (sometimes a little longer) we’ll see that as the dog is walking the rear paw pad becomes flatter on the ground and not raised up as before. This shows that they are putting more and more weight on the injured knee.

Will my dog wear the leg brace all the time?  Generally ACL braces for dogs are worn during their waking hours; not at night when sleeping.  We always provide a break-in period that allows the family to get used to applying the brace on a regular basis and helps the dog adjust to the straps and some knee motion limitations. The break-in period for a canine ACL brace typically starts by having the pet wear the brace for three hours on the first day and then increases wearing time by one hour a day until full-time use is achieved. Less active, senior dogs only need to wear the brace while outside, going for walks, playing with other dogs and during other vigorous activity. We recommend that dogs with new knee braces (aka stifle braces) maintain a reduced activity level for three weeks as they work their way up to normal activity levels.

Will my dog leave the ACL brace alone?  Occasionally a dog will try to remove a strap or pad but rarely do we see bite marks on the braces. We’ve found that if a dog wants to remove the brace it is because something is bothering him or her:  a strap fastened too tightly, an abrasion from a sleeve or strap, or hair caught in the Velcro. If this occurs the first thing to do is remove the brace and look closely at the dog’s skin and under the hair to determine the cause of the discomfort. Most minor scrapes can be addressed with powder, or if the condition persists contact My Pet’s Brace at (610) 286-0018 to discuss an adjustment.

dog with ACL brace
Getting rehabilitation and/or exercise is one of the most important things you can do to help your dog recover from an ACL injury. Our next blog will address how to get stronger legs and build up the muscle lost due to an ACL injury.

Follow these links for more information:

Ask us a question about your dog’s specific situation.

Order a brace for your dog.

Jim Alaimo CPO Owner

Leg braces for smaller dogs

While our capability to make braces for small dogs is somewhat limited, we can often make a brace for a small dog (under about 25 pounds) if the leg is long is long enough AND we can work with the patient face to face in our clinic. This small stifle (knee) brace was made for Andy, a spunky 18-pound Terrier mix. You may be able to see that the buckles were attached with rivets as opposed to screws and the straps and pads all had to be reduced from the original size. It often takes longer to fabricate a small brace than a large brace due to this labor-intensive work.


Goliath the camel and his custom orthopedic shoes

Evidently, you can’t just go out to the shoe store and buy shoes for a camel!  What you need is a shoemaker who makes shoes for the tallest people in the world, plus a company specializing in rubber components and specialty shoe materials, and a dedicated camel owner.

A friend of ours shared these pictures, knowing we’d appreciate the connection to custom products for animals.

Goliath the camel and his owner were on a trip through Europe, raising funds for children’s charities, when Goliath’s feet were burned in a roadside grass fire.  Goliath’s feet also had a genetic defect which, combined with the burns, caused serious foot pain.

Some kind of protection and support was needed.  Enter shoe retailer Wessel from Vreden, Germany, where creating special shoes is what they do every day.  Wessel worked closely with nora® shoe, which advised him on material choice and supported his undertaking financially.

The resulting sturdy orthopedic boots helped Goliath continue his trip.  We applaud Goliath’s supporters for going the extra mile so that Goliath could go the extra mile for his charities!

(in addition to pictures and background information from our friend, we found an article here:


Beautiful dog photography from National Geographic – the evolution of dogs

natgeo-evolution-of-dogsWe love National Geographic’s unique combination of beautiful photography, science, and touching human/animal stories.

Take a look at this slideshow about dogs, “From Wolf to Woof” which covers the evolution of dogs, their present-day jobs, and at the end a story about a man’s devotion to his best companion.

(link to slideshow below)

(Photograph by Robert Clark.  Wolf and maltese dog provided by Doug Seus’s Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Utah.)

Obesity a risk to dog’s health and joints – updated April 2015

At My Pet’s Brace we often see obesity as a contributing factor to our patients’ injuries.  A brief article in the November 2012 Bulletin is still relevant–it quoted Dr. Deborah E. Linder, director of the new Tufts University Clinic for Animals, “Obesity is a serious problem with companion animals and, as with people, can contribute to other health problems, such as diabetes, respiratory disease and joint disease.”

The article piqued our interest so we decided to do a follow-up to our earlier blog post on pet obesity, this time also looking at what’s out there in the way of advice and programs for dealing with pet obesity.

apopThe Association for Pet Obesity Prevention‘s 2014 survey, published late March 2015, shows continued concern for dogs and an even bigger number for cats:  An estimated 52.7% of US dogs are overweight or obese (about the same as two years prior), and an estimated 57.9% of US cats are overweight or obese (this is up from 55% in 2012).

The 2012 survey quoted Dr. Steve Budsberg, Orthopedic surgeon and APOP board member, as saying “The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian. The body of evidence that shows the negative impact of obesity on all the body’s systems is overwhelming. As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients. Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”

The APOP website has several helpful tools.  One is the Pet Weight translator which helps us understand how our pet’s weight might convert to humans–for example, a 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound 5’4” female or a 217 pound 5’ 9” male.  Wow.

The survey lists the following as “Primary risks of excess weight in pets”:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

See the latest survey and other obesity facts and weight loss tools on the APOP website.

Purina has an interactive online program which “tracks your progress, dishes out helpful tips, offers friendly reminders and awards badges for your successes that are fun to share with friends and family.” This could be a good option for involving the whole family in an interactive, fun way. Participants track their progress online, sharing achievements with friends and family via facebook and earning activity badges for their progress.

We found a PetMD article that, while not a true “program,” does explain and expand on some of the basic advice for weight loss.  They list all the serious consequences of obesity, one of which is orthopedic concerns. Their weight loss advice focuses on solid, common-sense points: stop table food and treats, reduce portion size, try special diet food, exercise, and consult your vet (followed by medicine only if the other options have not been successful). The article also links to a helpful slideshow with tips on exercising with your dog.

The Tufts program is more involved than the others we looked at. They offer a customized weight management plan specializing in helping owners where previous weight loss efforts have failed, as well as pets with special needs and households with more than one pet. Board-certified veterinary nutritionists take a detailed history, evaluate diet, answer questions and provide written feeding strategies and dietary and supplement recommendations. They ensure that any reduction in portion size will still meet all nutrient, vitamin and mineral needs. At monthly weigh-ins the nutritionist reviews the pet’s condition and makes dietary adjustments; in between weigh-ins they are available for email or phone consultations. The average time needed for safe weight loss in this program is 4-5 months.

Cesar Millan of Cesar’s Way magazine and the TV shows Dog Whisperer and Leader of the Pack is a big advocate of walking with your dog–both for human health and dog well being. In a February 2013 issue of the magazine he encourages readers to walk often with their dog, and gives advice for overcoming some of the barriers to regular walks, including overcoming the dog’s resistance and learning the best way to hold the leash and adjust the collar. On the website there’s an article called “6 Tips for Mastering the Dog Walk.” He’s also an advocate of giving your dog a job by having him wear a pack (he says to add no more than 10% of the dog’s weight).

Regardless of the type of weight loss method being considered, the logical place to start is the family veterinarian, who can evaluate the pet, suggest a course of action, and refer to a specialized program if needed.

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Hiking With Your Dog

Most of our clients love to be outdoors with their pets, and that can range from sitting in the backyard while their dog romps, to partnering with their pet on a more adventurous outing like hiking, boating or camping.  We often hear that the brace we made helps their dog be more active–around the farm, on longer walks, hikes, and mad dashes after local wildlife–and they have the peace of mind that the support provided by the brace will help protect and prevent re-injury.  Of course, we work closely with our veterinary and rehabilitation professionals and recommend you check with them before embarking on any out-of-the-ordinary exercise or trips.

We’re big fans of hiking, and it goes without saying that we love dogs.  So we went looking for more information and tips for hiking with your dog.  Here’s a sampling of what we found, with links to our resources and additional information at the end.

Find just the right trail for the activity level of both you and your pet.  Before visiting a new spot or taking an unfamiliar trail, learn as much as possible about the terrain, local weather, water sources and location.  Bookstores and online searches will yield resources for great pet-friendly trails in your area.  We listed a few below.

Be prepared, with supplies and know-how for pet first aid, proper clothing and dog boots for colder, snowy or wet weather, wipes for cleanup, sunscreen, and waste disposal bags (this is only a partial list–follow links below for further information and links to education and supply sources).  Learn symptoms of common conditions like heat exhaustion and hypothermia.

Preventive measures:  these are important all the time, but getting ready for a hike or longer trip is a good time to make sure your pet is generally in good health and is up to date with vaccinations, rabies tag, contact information on collar, etc.

“Trail manners” are important.  For dogs with less trail experience, stick to less-traveled spots at first, to let your pet gradually get used to passers-by and other dogs.  Our resources all agreed that a leash is a necessity, both for your dog’s safety and the safety of others.

Food and water:  smaller meals may be better when getting lots of exercise, but at the same time if the trip will be strenuous you need to make sure your pet is getting enough calories, so check with your vet for advice.  If you’re going somewhere unfamiliar, find out if stream or spring water is safe to drink; otherwise pack water or a filter system.

Share the load:  packing can be a great experience for your dog and will ensure you are able to carry enough supplies for both of you.  Check with your vet first to make sure your dog is in shape to carry a pack, and start light to allow them to get used to the added weight.  There’s loads of tips, information and gear out there if you want to give it a try.

Back home:  a bath is probably in order; check for burrs, rashes or cuts, ticks and other unwanted passengers.  Contact a vet if you see anything of concern.


My Pet’s Brace has made many leg braces for “rescue dogs”–we wanted to find out more about our pet welfare communities and how they work

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In our business of crafting custom leg braces and prosthetics for dogs and other animals, we see quite a few dogs whose owners or foster families located them through rescue organizations (check out James, Rosie and Gabe on our Dog Stories page). We admire these folks and the work of rescue groups to save pets from otherwise lonely, stress-filled or abusive lives. We wanted to find out more about rescue organizations, what they do, and their place in the network of pet-related cruelty-prevention, shelter, and other such groups.

We weren’t able to find concrete, widely held definitions of shelters vs. rescue groups, but our research involving quite a few website resources led to this general understanding of the process:

Shelters are usually the first stop for animals that have been abandoned or whose owners can no longer care for them. They are often funded by local governments with limited budgets (though not always–there are also small local shelters that are privately run), so that services provided are necessarily basic. Shelters typically house animals onsite, but also utilize foster homes when possible.

From there, rescue organizations adopt pets from shelters and attempt to find permanent homes for them. Rescue groups, like shelters, are run by caring animal advocates who go to great lengths to ensure pets have happy lives. There are breed-specific rescues for most dog breeds, as well as all-breed groups. Widespread networks of volunteers create and maintain the rescue groups, doing their best to match up pets with their “forever homes.”

Rescue organizations are usually funded by donations and are able to provide training and in depth medical care and focus on getting to know the animals, the better to help each prospective adopter find the best match for their family. Sometimes placement means moving pets across long distances, with volunteers setting up chains of transportation across many miles. And it’s not just road transport–one of our clients recently told us about Pilots N Paws, whose volunteer pilots reduce the time and stress caused by long trips, by flying pets from shelters to rescue groups, and from there to their new families.

The ASPCA estimates that approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized. The good news, from an article in Veterinary Practice News, is that in a survey comparing March 2012 to March 2011, euthanasia of cats and dogs at North American shelters declined by 19% and 12% percent respectively. And “live release” outcomes increased 5% for cats and 11% for dogs during that same period (live release includes adoptions and returns to owner).

Here’s a disturbing reality we weren’t aware of: the ASPCA warns that animal hoarders can pose as legitimate rescue organizations. Shelters looking to foster animals, as well as pet owners looking to place animals with shelters or rescue organizations, need to use caution. Animal hoarders often seem very sincere in their love for animals and can have websites which appear legitimate. The ASPCA website lists these signs which could indicate a shelter or rescue group involves a hoarder:

  • The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where animals are kept.
  • The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care.
  • Little effort is made to adopt animals out.
  • More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals.
  • Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy.
  • Animals may be received at a remote location (parking lot, street corner, etc.) rather than at the group’s facilities.

Below is a sampling of national, and some local, organizations supporting pet rescue–there are many more out there.  Along with links, we’re showing a quote directly from the “about us” section of each organization’s website.

Humane Society: “The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization, backed by 11 million Americans. We help animals by advocating for better laws to protect animals; conducting campaigns to reform industries; providing animal rescue and emergency response; investigating cases of animal cruelty; and caring for animals through our sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, emergency shelters and clinics.”

ASPCA: “Founded in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere. Our mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide.”

American Humane Assn: “Since 1877 the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society.”

Petfinder: “Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals who need homes. It is also a directory of more than 13,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.”

AnRAA: “Animal Rescue Association of the Americas is the advocacy association for the animal rescue community. We believe in the power of a unified voice. Our mission is to mobilize our members’ combined strengths and resources in order to rescue thousands more animals, reduce intolerable rates of euthanasia, promote a rescue code of ethics and elevate the entire animal rescue field.”

Pilots N Paws: “Pilots N Paws is an online volunteer organization where general aviation pilots can connect with rescue volunteers to transport animals in need to safe havens. The mission of Pilots N Paws is to provide a user-friendly website communication venue between those that rescue, shelter, and foster animals and pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of these animals.”

Greyhound adoption: “The National Greyhound Adoption Program was founded in Philadelphia, PA in 1989. Our main goals are to help find loving, adoptive homes for former racing greyhounds; to provide superior knowledge and support for greyhound adopters and other adoption groups; to educate the public and spread awareness about the plight of the greyhound; to provide specialized medical care specifically geared towards the greyhound.”

Lab rescue: “Wild Heir Labrador Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non profit animal rescue organization benefiting unwanted Labrador Retrievers.”

Wikipedia’s page on animal rescue groups

The Animal Rescue League of Western PA: “Mission: To provide temporary shelter, food, medical attention, and comfort to all abandoned, neglected and injured animals brought to us by the community; to restore lost animals to their owners or seek new homes for them, and educate the public about humane care of animals with a goal of reducing overpopulation.”

Dog obesity a risk to pet health; stress to bones and ligaments can necessitate a leg brace

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An article on notes that approximately 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications. Also, the extra stress on joints caused by excess weight can lead to damage to some ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament which is susceptible to tears or strains. At My Pet’s Brace, the prescriptions we get from veterinarians often list excess weight as a contributor to the injury that necessitates the brace. Veterinarians also tell us that the extra weight slows down the healing process in the joints. We are always careful to consider the animal’s weight when designing a brace.

Pet obesity is a serious and growing problem. Over 50% of dogs and cats were classified as overweight or obese in a recent veterinary survey conducted by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention. APOP’s 5th annual survey finds that an increasing number of pet owners aren’t even aware their pet is overweight. A vet quoted in the study warns that preventing obesity is much easier than treating it.

Some of the side effects of obesity:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Damage to joints, bones and ligaments
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing problems and heat intolerance
  • Kidney disease
  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Reproductive problems

Wondering how to tell if your dog or cat is overweight? APOP’s “Pet Weight Check” page has a guide for determining if your pet is overweight–here are the symptoms (check their website for “pet condition scoring charts” with visuals):

  • Difficult to feel ribs under fat
  • Sagging stomach – you can grab a handful of fat
  • Broad, flat back
  • No waist

We also found a more in-depth and technical discussion about determining “body condition scores” for dogs–see link below.


Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

Health Risks in Overweight or Obese Dogs, Doctors Foster and Smith, Holly Nash, DVM, MS

Body Condition Score Techniques for Dogs, Sherry Lynn Sanderson, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM & ACVN, University of Georgia

Strider Remembered

We mourn the loss of a good friend and companion and one of the three founders of our company. Strider the loveable Golden Retriever and our Chairman of the Board succumbed recently to extensive cancer and a related heart condition. Jim and his wife Nancy had to make the very tough decision to let him go. Strider was 10 years old and had been part of Jim’s and Nancy’s family his entire life.

Strider was part of what eventually became My Pet’s Brace from the early days when he kept us company in Jim’s kitchen while we did our research, debated potential business names endlessly and created our plans. Strider was content to supervise and let us do the pencil-pushing.

When we decided to move forward with My Pet’s Brace he converted from dog to Guinea Pig and was the model for all of our prototype braces and test subject for our processes and later was the main subject of our training videos. (We often told people he was probably the most casted dog in the world.) All of this he undertook with good humor and natural grace but always seemed a little relieved to get back to supervising from over there on the rug.

Strider was the happiest, most outgoing dog that I’ve ever spent time with. He loved people and other dogs. When clients came through the front door here at the clinic he would come bounding up the hall to meet the new people and try to make friends with their dogs. Many times I’ve watched him “work the room” as he circulated from one human to another, getting petted and scratched as much as possible. One favorite delivery man always had a treat for him.

Strider would follow Jim around the clinic and plop down in a favorite spot so he could supervise in comfort. The ringing of the telephone seemed to really  hurt his ears and if it rang more than three times he set up a loud wailing howl the would make us all clinch our teeth. Many times when the phone rang one of us would run down the hall, hurdle Strider, usually parked in a doorway, to try to answer the phone before the third ring. If we failed we often had to explain to the person on the line what was going on and assure them that the dog they heard howling was not being abused.

He was also a very intelligent dog. Some of our patients were more relaxed if there was not another dog around so we would keep Strider in another part of the building during these appointments. This is what Strider disliked the most: not being part of the action! So as the appointment time neared, Jim would try to lure or entice him into the back of the clinic using treats, tricks and persuasive talk. All of these worked only one time; the next time Strider was wise to game and would not cross the threshold to the back rooms. Did I mention his stubborn streak?

When we wrote the  About Our Experts section of the My Pet’s Brace website we ended Strider’s paragraph with this sentence, “He is a constant inspiration and always reminds us of what we are really all about.” At the time some of our advisors thought this was too mushy and sentimental and suggested we take it out. Ultimately, I decided to leave it in because, mushy or not, it was true. And, for me it will remain so.

I will miss his supervision. Mark Hardin

April 12, 2012

How today’s materials have made orthotics & prosthetics an emerging field in the veterinary industry

It wasn’t too long ago that orthoses (bracing) and prostheses were made from steel, aluminum, wood, and leather. These materials were quite heavy and made mobility awkward even for human patients. As a result of technological advances gained from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, new materials were developed to protect soldiers and improve treatment options for injuries.

A resin impregnated fabric material called Kevlar™ was used in helmets and bullet proof vests to protect the torso and head of the soldiers. Lightweight material called carbon graphite was used in rifles and packs in order to lighten the load for troops on the ground. Special foams and silicones were developed with anti-bacterial properties to fight infections from wounds and spread weight-bearing forces over a larger area. Soldiers that sustained injuries to the feet, and lower limb were many times fit with braces made from lightweight thermoplastics such as polypropylene.

Today we use these same materials in the veterinary orthotic and prosthetic industry. Carpal, hock and stifle leg braces are made from lightweight polypropylene, co-polymer and polyethylene. These plastics clean easily and are long-lasting and durable. For extremely active, agility, or even obese dogs, we often use carbon graphite or pre-impregnated composites which are very light and extremely strong. In special cases when radiation and chemotherapy results in very delicate or sensitive skin we make carpal or hock wraps that use silicone based materials to protect the affected area and provide a cushion from impact.

This is an exciting time for us in the veterinary orthotic and prosthetic community and we are happy to use some of these new materials to help pets live happier lives.

Pet insurance: will it pay for leg braces for dogs?

In a word…YES! At least it did for two recent patients of ours. Their experiences may shed some light on what to expect when submitting a claim.

“Crimson” is a very determined four-year-old female Pug who has bilateral carpal deformities and contractures on both elbow joints. She presented to us walking on both elbows. Jim made a custom carpal brace for each elbow to prevent her from knuckling and reduce any further contractures of the carpal and metacarpal joints. Crimson’s family chose hot pink for the color of her braces as appropriate for her name and reputation.

Crimson’s family submitted the insurance claim with a veterinarian’s prescription and clinical notes from us as well as her veterinarian and animal physical therapist. The insurance company agreed to pay for one brace but refused the other.  The family came back to us asking for additional statements for the insurance company that further explained the purpose and uses of the braces. Ultimately the insurance company paid for the second brace.

Our second story is about “Warden”, a young, male, Neapolitan Mastiff that weighs in at a mere 120 pounds. He has one of the most engaging faces I’ve seen in the dog world and a fun-loving personality to match. He presented to us with significant external rotation of the left carpal joint, probably from a traumatic injury that occurred before he was rescued by his current family. Because Warden is a juvenile and his epiphyseal plates have not finished growing he is not a candidate for surgery. Jim made a custom carpal and paw brace for Warden that will prevent the rotation from getting any worse.

                                                  Warden with his Carpal Brace

Warden’s family submitted our invoice and his veterinarian’s prescription for the leg brace to the insurance company and they were quickly reimbursed. The family had determined in advance that Warden’s insurance covered leg braces and this may have influenced the promptness of payment.

Whether pet insurance is a “good thing” or a “bad thing” is still a hot topic for debate in the veterinary community. Many veterinarians believe that pet insurance will help their clients afford the highest quality care now offered by the increasingly sophisticated treatments the clients are expecting for their pets. On the other hand, many veterinarians are very concerned about the frequent horror stories they hear about “managed care” insurance from both human healthcare practitioners and their patients.

The pros and cons of pet insurance is a complicated subject. A lot of information can be found by searching “pet insurance” at  A good overview of the issues – as seen by the insurance industry – can be found by following this link to one of Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s articles in Veterinary Practice News:

While I can’t speak for the veterinary community, I can tell you that the family of one of the two patients I wrote about earlier probably would not have been able to purchase a leg brace – and the improved quality of life that goes with it – had it not been for their pet insurance.  On the other hand, Jim and I spent many years in human healthcare and experienced the power and influence of the managed care insurance companies. In response to this conundrum, we offer one of Mark Twain’s observations to our friends in the veterinary community, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.”

When is a leg brace or prosthesis a good option for a dog or pet?

That question is familiar one that comes up on a regular basis. I suppose it arises because orthotics and prosthetics for pets is a rather new ancillary service not seen in the veterinary industry until just the last decade. The fact is, most American Board for Certification, orthotists and prosthetists have provided braces and artificial limbs for animals during their entire careers of helping humans. These orthotists and prosthetists would interweave their knowledge of human biomechanics, anatomy and craftsmanship to help dogs, cats, llamas, ostriches, cows, dolphins, birds, and a host of other animals to walk, run, swim or fly again. Many times the referral comes at the request of a caring veterinarian who was completely out of medical or surgical options in order to help these animals. The inquiry from the veterinarian always started with, “I don’t know if you can do anything, but can a brace or prosthesis work on this type of animal?” Today, many veterinarians are realizing that a leg brace or prosthesis is a good option that they can use in order to help their patients live better, happier lives.

We wanted to know why veterinarians, rehabilitation professionals, and owners felt prosthetics or bracing the elbow, carpal, stifle, or hock was a good modality of care in helping pets. To find out that answer we reviewed our patient practice records and noticed some very distinct reasons why bracing or prosthetics in animals is becoming common place in allowing pets to lead more active lives. Since My Pet’s Brace is only one of three companies in the U.S. that provide bracing and prosthetics solely for animals, we felt the data we gathered would be useful and worthwhile not only for veterinarians and rehabilitation professionals who have never use orthotics and prosthetics, but for pet owners who are looking for options to help their pets.

The chart below shows three broad categories of why patients were referred to our clinic. The research shows that 54% of our patient base was referred to us because surgery was not an option for the animal; 21% of our patients base was from pets owners who didn’t want their pets to have surgery; and, 25% was from vets or rehabilitation professionals who wanted an orthosis or prosthesis to assist in the rehabilitation of their patients.