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

Weight, Joint Issues & Leg Braces

By: Terry Lackmeyer, My Pet’s Brace Customer Service Representative

A sad fact is the more excess weight a dog carries the more likely it is to have joint issues and develop osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts additional stress and strain on joints. When dogs are overweight, they tend to be more lethargic, resulting in poor muscle tone and reduced ability to keep joints stabilized and supported.

Research has shown that fat tissue is active. It secretes chemicals and hormones – namely leptin, a hormone that gets into joints and causes inflammation. It may also contribute to changes in the bone that affect osteoarthritis. The point is that excess fat contributes to degenerative joint disease and joint inflammation. Joints problems result in weakened ligaments and tendons leading to injuries.

Now that you know the heavier your dog is the more likely it is to have joint problems the question becomes, what do you do about it?

Ideally, the best answer would be to not let your dog pack on those extra pounds in the first place. However, most of us are not too good about that. So, here are a few tips to help prevent those extra pounds from settling around your dog’s waistline.

First, make sure the daily food ration is the appropriate type and amount for your dog. Serious working dogs require a high protein food to keep them well fueled for their active days. While the 12-year-old dog that spends its day lounging on the couch requires far less protein in its food. Feeding package guidelines assume the dog is of moderate activity level.

Second, if training your dog with treats, keep in mind the size of the treat given and the overall daily amount of food consumed. If you are doing numerous training sessions daily, those treats have calories so slightly reduce the amount of food your dog receives for its morning and evening meals.

Keep in mind dogs don’t care what they get for treats, so consider giving low calorie treats such as green beans or slices of carrots. Fresh fruit is another treat option dogs frequently like, especially those sweet summer fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe.

Trying to prevent joint injuries and taking care of them once they occur is a multi-dimensional endeavor.  Many dogs with joint issues can benefit from a custom dog leg brace.  Once the joint is supported, it is more comfortable for your dog to walk and play.  An active dog is more likely to lose those extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.

Monitoring your dog’s food intake and seeing it gets ample exercise will help to keep its weight in check and its muscles strong to provide good joint support. Finding the right solution for an injured joint, be it surgery or a brace, and then striving to get your dog to an acceptable weight will go a long way in helping your pet to live a healthier, happier life.

How Do Dogs Adjust To Wearing A Brace?

By: Terry Lackmeyer, My Pet’s Brace Customer Service Representative

People are always worried about how their dog will adjust to a brace and rightfully so. A custom leg brace is a time and financial commitment and you want your dog to like to wear it. Well, the truth is dogs are far more adaptable and intelligent than we give them credit for being. Put yourself in your dog’s place. Someone puts this foreign object on your leg, your injured leg no less and expects you to walk on it. No explanation, nothing, just starts calling your name and expects you to walk. Most of us would not react too well. We would grumble, yell, cry, refuse to walk, maybe even throw a tantrum, yet we expect our canine friends to just do it. Here’s the best part…with a little help, usually they do!

When we fit a brace here in our clinic, the average length of the appointment is forty-five minutes to one hour. The fitting process for each dog is basically the same – the brace is placed on the dog’s leg, the fit checked and adjusted, if needed, and the dog walked up and down the hallway. Just about every dog has a similar reaction. They will look down/back at the brace as if to say, “Hey, what is this thing on my leg?” Sometimes, they kick their leg out oddly as they walk down the hallway doing what we call “kicking sand.” Other dogs will hold up the leg and not want to put it down. Dogs with hock or carpal braces may make a loud “thump” when walking with their braced leg.  However, by the end of that appointment most dogs have a normal walking motion while wearing the brace and are not paying any attention to it.  Overtime, limping will decrease as the brace provides the necessary support and the injury heals.

So how do we make that magic happen? Dogs need to learn to trust the brace and realize that they can again put weight on that leg. Since we can’t explain to the dog what they need to do or how the brace will feel, we need to help them do that. The most important step to take to get your dog used to the brace is to walk them SLOWLY on a short leash. Walking slowly forces them to put the braced leg down and keeps you in control while they are learning.

Some dogs require more of our involvement than others, especially if they are adjusting to a hock or carpal brace. When dogs are used to walking on three legs; that’s far faster, in their mind, than learning to use their injured leg again. So we need to retrain their brain. In these cases, we sometimes need to “walk for the dog.” That means we actually do a walking motion with the dog’s leg – manually picking their leg up and putting it down for them, repeatedly, walking up and down the hallway over and over until they get the idea. Repeatedly may mean two or three times or it may be dozens of times; it depends on how determined the dog is to continue to do things their way.

Each step is accompanied with LOTS of praise and, sometimes, treats. At home, we encouraged you to associate the brace with your dog’s favorite things- walks, going outside, kisses and extra treats. We need to convey the idea to the dog that this is what we want.

Over the years we have watched thousands of dogs respond to a new brace and seeing that “Aha” moment in a dog never gets old. The ears go up, the tail goes up and the gait becomes quicker and more animated. The moment the dog finally understands that he can trust that leg and start to use is pure magic!

Does Altering Your Dog Increase the Chance of Orthopedic Problems?

By: Terry Lackmeyer, My Pet’s Brace Customer Service Representative

You may have heard talk in the pet world concerning spaying or neutering your dog at

an early age may increase the occurrence of certain orthopedic disorders. The reason being that removal of the testes or ovaries interrupts production of hormones which affect bone growth plates possibly causing them to close too early. This may result in problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament injuries. Does this now mean that in order to prevent injuries we need to stop spaying or neutering our four-legged friends? Well, let’s shed some light on that issue.

The study out of the University of California –Davis studied 759 golden retrievers, one of America’s most popular breeds, over a thirteen year period. They looked at the relationship of spaying and neutering in dogs being treated for hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate tears, and three types of cancers – all conditions to which the breed is predisposed.

What they found with regards to orthopedic disorders was:

• 10% of males castrated prior to one year of age had hip dysplasia, double the amount of intact males
• 5% of males and 8% of females neutered or spayed prior to one year of age developed cranial cruciate ligament tears
• No cranial cruciate ligament tears were diagnosed in intact males or females

Before you promise to never spay or neuter another dog let’s think about the study and

why we spay or neuter. The study involved one breed of dog already proven to be predisposed with these conditions. This study with one breed and a small sampling of that breed does not a conclusive answer make.

What it does do is give us food for thought… Do you want to alter your dog at all? Should you wait until your pet is one year old or older to alter it? Are you prepared for the issues of living with an unaltered pet, such as aggressive behavior in males, roaming, marking, heat cycles in females and, of course, the unwanted pregnancy and contribution to an already overpopulated pet population? If these issues weigh heavily on your lifestyle with your dog then spaying or neutering may be the best choice for you and your pet.

What are your plans with your dog? Will your dog be used for hunting? Do you plan to be involved with agility, search and rescue, or any pursuit with heavy physical activity? Then it may be wise to postpone altering your dog in exchange for the possible reduction of injuries.

If your dog is already altered, or even if it is not, and you wish to help prevent injury to your dog one of the best things you can do is keep his weight down. Excessive weight is one of the worst things for joints whether they are injured or not. Feed a good quality of dog food. The adage “we are what we eat” applies not only to us but also to our pets.

Finally, when you get that new puppy and contemplate the spay/neuter question, discuss the pro and cons with your vet. Be honest about your plans with your dog. Be honest about your ability and desire to live with an unaltered pet. Remember there is not perfect answer, just the best one for you and your dog.


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

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:


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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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

image source:

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.”