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

What Happens During An Evaluation Appointment At My Pet’s Brace?

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

Frequently, owners express concern about the evaluation appointment for their dog’s leg brace. Many fear that we aLeg Casting During Evaluation Appointmentre going to manipulate the dog’s leg and cause pain, or that they will not be able to remain with their pet. Neither of those thoughts are true. So, let me explain what happens during the evaluation appointment.

The first thing needed for the appointment is a written diagnosis from your vet or rehab professional telling us about your dog’s injury. Since we are not veterinarians, we need to know the exact diagnosis so that we can be sure we are making the correct leg brace for your dog’s injury.

Next, you and your dog will be taken into an exam room where you will meet with the clinician. After taking time to review the information from your vet and meeting you and your dog, the clinician will ask several questions regarding your dog’s living arrangements, time spent inside vs outside, activity level, and any other pets in the household. The clinician will discuss your dog’s injury and observe your dog walking up and down the hallway several times. The clinician may feel your dog’s leg to check for any swelling or discomfort. We may bend your dog’s leg, in a normal flexing motion, to listen for any type of clicking or popping sounds. This will not hurt the dog. If the dog shows any type of discomfort with this flexion, the clinician will stop.

Once the clinician has gathered all the information, we will explain what is going on in your dog’s leg and how and why the brace will help. You will have ample opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Sometimes, the clinician has the unfortunate task of telling the client that the brace is not the correct solution for the dog’s injury. Rest assured that if we do not feel a brace is appropriate for your pet, we will be honest and let you know that. If that occurs, there is no charge for the evaluation appointment.

After explaining your dog’s injury and how and why the brace will help and making sure you want to move forward with the brace, the clinician will make a cast of your dog’s leg. You will be with your dog the entire time, helping to keep them calm. Someone will support your dog under their belly, so they are comfortable while the clinician does the casting. The casting process takes less than 5 minutes and is completely painless and non-invasive for the dog. The toughest thing your dog will need to do is stand there, with support of course. After casting, the clinician will take measurements of your dog’s leg. If your dog is getting a hock or carpal brace, the clinician will make a tracing of your dog’s paw.

Once the cast is complete and the owner has no further questions, payment will be handled at the front desk. All braces must be paid in full before the brace goes into production.  We accept all credit cards, cash, check and Care Credit.

Our goal during the evaluation, or any of our appointments, is to provide a warm, friendly atmosphere for both the dog and owner. We want to answer all your questions and alleviate any concerns you may have regarding the brace and your dog.

Case Study: Kirahime – a Doberman with a CCL Tear in her Left Hind Leg

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Kirahime, a 90-pound, 6-year-old Doberman with a CCL tear in her left hind leg.

Case of Interest: Our stifle braces aid in the healing of Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) tears by stabilizing the stifle and controlling the forward thrust of the tibia. This healing process occurs within 9 months with the application of a custom stifle brace. After this time period, the dog may continue to wear the brace for extra support during more strenuous activities or inclement weather.  Kirahime is a strong energetic dog who returned to full activity with the help of her stifle brace.  Over two years after her initial injury and brace fitting, Kirahime occasionally uses the brace during highly active times.

Diagnostic History: In 2016, Kirahime jumped up several stairs and started favoring her left hind leg. She rested for 7 months and returned to normal weight-bearing.  She reinjured her left hind leg in December of 2016 running after a squirrel. She was seen by a veterinarian in March 2017 and was diagnosed with a partial tear of her left CCL and mild Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). The owner determined that they were not interested in surgery for a variety of reasons and thus decided to pursue conservative management of a custom stifle brace.

Kirahime presented to our clinic for a left stifle brace to assist in the healing of a partial CCL rupture. An evaluation of Kirahime’s body condition and lifestyle was performed and it was determined that she would benefit from a left stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of her leg from hip to hock using fiberglass casting tape. A brace was constructed using the cast that was taken. This process involves filling the cast with plaster, modification of the mold, vacuum-forming of the co-polymer plastic onto the mold, machining the brace to the correct shape and the addition of buckles, straps and veterinary urethane and nylon stifle joints.  A week after the evaluation, Kirahime was fitted with her brace and the brace was adjusted for a proper and comfortable fit.

Kirahime was given a restricted exercise program, which included 2 or 3 leashed walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each.  No running, dog or ball playing.  Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 steps and if more than 4 were required then some help in the form of a sling under the hips or blocking off the area was suggested.  This limited exercise regimen was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow for the formation of scar tissue. After that time, she was gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Kirahime was seen approximately 1 month, 3 months, 5 months, 8 months, 1 year, and a year and a half post-delivery. At each check-up appointment her walking was assessed and it was noted that she was doing well.  Her weight-bearing and muscle mass on her inured left leg increased to normal. Kirahime’s owner said, “Kirahime and I cannot thank you all enough for giving me back my insane girl! No limping or “toe touching” at all and we’re 5 mile off-lead hiking every day again! Not bad for a 7 year Doberman who had a partial tear.”

Why Do We Need A Diagnosis?

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

“Thank you for calling My Pet’s Brace. How can I help you?”

“My dog is limping on his hind leg and needs a brace,” replies the caller.

“Sure, I can help you with that. What is your dog’s injury? What is the diagnosis from your vet?”

“Oh, I didn’t take him to the vet. He’s just limping so I want a brace. Can you make one for him?”

“Sure, we can make a brace but in order the make the correct type of brace we need to know what your dog’s injury is.  It is important the dog see the vet so that we know what is causing the limp.”

“Oh, he’s had this limp for a while. It gets better then it gets worse. I had another dog that had a cruciate ligament injury, and he’s acting the same way. I see no reason to take him to the vet because I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing.”

Unfortunately, the above conversation happens all too often. While we can guess from the conversation and our experience that this dog probably has a torn cruciate ligament in his knee, we cannot nor should we make that assumption. Although our owner is a board-certified prosthetist orthotist which means he has lots of medical knowledge and experience, and our clinicians have bio-medical engineering backgrounds, they are not veterinarians and legally cannot make a diagnosis.

There could be many problems causing this dog to limp and some may not even originate in the knee. For example, the dog may have a problem in his hock for which we could make a brace, but it is an entirely different type of brace than one we would make for a problem in the knee. Maybe the dog has a problem in his hip, such as hip dysplasia, for which we have no type of brace. The dog may have some type of neurological problem for which braces usually do not help. As you can see, getting the correct diagnosis is very important.

Veterinarians go to school for many years in order to learn how to evaluate and differentiate among the countless problems that they see in pets daily. Whether we are talking about your pet’s front or back legs, knees, hocks, carpals, or elbows, getting the correct diagnosis is imperative and required for us to make the most appropriate brace for your pet. Sometimes, in conjunction with the diagnosis we also need x-rays and, if that is necessary, we would let you know. For example, if we are seeing a dog for a prosthetic device or fracture, x-rays may be helpful.

We are here to provide your pet with the best solution for their orthopedic problem and to do that we need to have the proper diagnosis, in writing, from your vet.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, What Color Brace Shall I Do?

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

While getting a leg brace for your dog is very serious, believe it or not, it does have a lighter side – choosing a brace color. For some people it is very easy, for others it requires much thought and sometimes, a family pow-pow. The good part is, we have 35 different colors and patterns from which to choose.

Some people prefer that no one notices the brace and want it to blend as nearly as possible with the dog’s coat. For those people, a solid color closely matching the dog’s coat color works well. You even can take it a step further and choose one of our patterns that looks like dog hair (but without the shedding).

Other folks feel that since the dog must wear a brace, making it fun is the way to go. For those people we have every solid color to fit the ROY G BIV mnemonic code plus white, black, brown, silver and tan.  Our most popular brace color is hot pink.

For those adventurous folks, we have various patterns that can be fused to the brace to really spice up the appearance. The hunter in the family may want the camouflage pattern; the kids, the shark or graffiti design. The star gazer may look to the cosmos or starry nights pattern; the sophisticate may lean toward the carbon fiber design; while the fashion conscience may opt for the cheetah or zebra print. Finally, for those that like abstracts the yellow/orange or blue swirl may be the way to go.

Regardless of the color or pattern chosen, rest assured that the brace will be durable and easy to maintain. Water will never harm the color or patterns and all braces are completely waterproof and easy to clean with anti-bacterial soap and water. Dog braces can even be worn in the pool or during hydrotherapy with no ill effects.

As we like to remind owners, braces work the same no matter what color or pattern is chosen. The important point is that while we enjoy providing fun color choices, our first and foremost goal is to make the most comfortable, effective, and functional brace to help your dog with their orthopedic condition and to help them to live happier lives.

Case Study: Rockne – a Golden Retriever with a CCL Tear in her Left Hind Leg

By: Katie Mirobelli, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner from Pittsburgh location

The Patient: Rockne, a 67 pound 11.5-year-old Golden Retriever with a CCL tear in her left hind leg

Case of Interest: Rockne was the inaugural patient for the My Pet’s Brace – Pittsburgh location. Rockne is an 11.5-year-old Golden Retriever who presented with a full tear of her left CCL.

Diagnostic History: Rockne presented to her veterinarian in October of 2018 for lameness on her left hind leg after chasing a squirrel in her backyard. The veterinarian diagnosed Rockne with a cruciate ligament tear. Surgery was discussed, but due to her age and concerns about anesthetic risk, Rockne’s owners opted to look into conservative treatment options for Rockne’s injury and made an appointment at My Pet’s Brace Pittsburgh.

Upon evaluation for a brace, Rockne was bright and responsive, with a pronounced limp of the left hind leg. An evaluation of Rockne’s physical condition and lifestyle was performed, and it was decided that she would benefit from a stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of her leg from hip to hock. A brace was constructed using this cast. The brace was made with medical-grade plastic and veterinary urethane knee joints. Two weeks after the evaluation, Rockne was fitted with his brace and adjustments were made as needed.

Rockne was placed on a restricted exercise regimen, which included no running, dog or ball playing. Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 and if more than 4 were required than some help in the form of a sling under the hips was suggested. Leashed walks or walks in a restricted area were encouraged but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 20 minutes each walk. These walks could be increased as her healing progressed. This limited exercise regimen was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for healing. Afterwards she was gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow Up: Rockne was seen 3 weeks and again at 5 months after receiving her brace. Rockne adjusted quickly to using the brace, and she and her owners were happy to have her mobile again. Rockne’s primary form of exercise were calm walks around her neighborhood. When walks weren’t an option due to weather or schedule, Rockne’s owners would play a calm game of “fetch” by rolling a frisbee slowly across the room for Rockne to walk after and retrieve. At her 5 month appointment, Rockne’s gait was markedly improved and she was able to be more active and to begin to use stairs if desired (squirrel chasing was still discouraged however). As of July 2019, Rockne is 12.5 years old and walking well. Though she is starting to slow down a bit with age, she still enjoys the occasional game of fetch, her walks and saying hello to her many friends. She is able to start weaning off the brace, though she generally still wears it for most of the day.

When Are X-Rays Needed To Make A Dog Brace?

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

When a dog incurs an injury, sometimes x-rays are taken to get the “inside” scoop on exactly what’s going on with that injury.  Does that mean that we need to see x-rays to make a leg brace for your dog? Well, it depends on the injury.

If your dog has a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL/ACL) injury, the injured ligament will not show up on x-rays. However, your vet may take X-rays of the knee because they want to rule out other possibilities. They may be looking to see if your dog has arthritis, a tumor or cancer. Once they see that there is nothing else lurking in your dog’s knee and they have gotten a positive result on what is called a “drawer test” on your dog’s leg, they can feel comfortable diagnosing your dog with a CCL injury.

Braces can often be used to help dogs that suffer from arthritis. These can be stifle, carpal, hock, or elbow braces since arthritis can occur in any joint. In that case, we would want to see X-rays to determine the location of the arthritis and if a brace would be an appropriate solution.

Carpal, hock, and elbow braces for dogs can be used for a variety of issues – everything from hyperextension to elbow dysplasia and many conditions in between. If we feel X-rays are needed, we will request that x-rays be provided to us before or at the time of the initial consultation.

Many times, owners contact us because their dog has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer than often leads to spontaneous fractures. Then x-rays are very important to determine the exact location and involvement of the cancer. Frequently, we can provide a brace which is created with a front and back piece so the brace acts like a splint to help prevent or prolong the possibility of a fracture yet can be easily removed to care for the leg.

Rest assured, if we feel x-rays are required, we will request that they be provided so that we can be sure to make the best and most appropriate brace for your dog’s injury.

 

To Shave Or Not To Shave (The Dog’s Leg)

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

Owners frequently ask us if their dog’s leg needs to be shaved for the casting process or to wear a brace/prosthesis. The good news is that no, you do not, and there are several good reasons for that.

The first reason is that we are in favor of anything that reduces stress for the dog. For many dogs, shaving the leg is stressful and upsetting and if there is any way we can avoid stressing our patients, we will. The skin on the leg can also get irritated from shaving and we don’t want to do anything that causes more irritation to an already injured leg.

The second reason is that we have learned how to work with hairy dogs, and the hair does not get in the way. When casting a dog’s leg, the leg is first covered with a stockinette (a thin sock-like material). This compresses the hair on the leg. For those hairier dogs, such as Golden Retrievers or Newfoundlands, as much of the hair as possible is gathered inside the stockinette. This helps the casting process by keeping most of the excess hair out of the way as the cast is taken. The fiberglass tape is wrapped snuggly around the leg, thereby compressing the hair even more, helping to ensure a good cast is taken and, subsequently, a well-fitting brace is made.

Finally, when the dog is wearing the brace that extra hair under the brace acts as a nice protective cover. This helps to reduce possible irritation as the hair provides additional cushioning.

Sometimes owners will comment that all that extra hair gets caught in the Velcro straps and makes putting the brace on more difficult. In that case, owners may choose to use scissors to trim away some of the excess hair. That’s perfectly fine and will not affect the fit of the brace.

Our ultimate goal is to make the casting and bracing process as pleasant and stress free as possible for not only the patient, but also the owner. If an owner wishes to trim excess hair to make putting the brace on easier, that’s fine, but from our point-of-view the dog’s hair is a benefit and shaving the leg is not needed.

Case Study: Bentley – a Doberman with a CCL Tear

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Bentley, an 86-pound 7-year-old Doberman with a CCL tear in his right hind leg

Case of Interest: Bentley is an example of a typical patient that would be seen at our clinic. Bentley is an 86-pound 7-year-old Doberman. Bentley presented with a partial tear of his right CCL. Surgery was performed on Bentley’s left CCL three years earlier.

Diagnostic History: In 2015, Bentley injured his left CCL and underwent TTA surgery to repair the ligament. When Bentley injured his right CCL three years later, his owner decided to go the conservative management route of a brace versus surgery due to heart issues that had developed after the original surgery.

Bentley presented to our clinic in July of 2018 for a stifle brace for his right hind leg to aid in the healing of the rupture of his CCL. An evaluation of Bentley’s body condition and lifestyle was performed, and it was determined that he would benefit from a right rear stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of his leg from hip to hock. A brace was constructed using the cast. The brace was made with medical-grade plastic and veterinary urethane knee joints. A week after the evaluation Bentley was fitted with his brace and adjustments were made as needed.

Bentley was given a restricted exercise regiment, which included no running, dog or ball playing. Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 and if more than 4 were required than some help in the form of a sling under the hips was suggested. Leashed walks or walks in a restricted area were encouraged but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each walk. These walks could be increased as his healing progressed. This limited exercise regimen was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for healing. Afterwards he was gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Bentley was seen at approximately three weeks, three months and four month post-delivery. At each check-up appointment his weight-bearing and walking were assessed and it was noted that he was doing well. Adjustments and maintenance were performed at each appointment. Bentley’s owners discontinued use of the brace after nine months. Bentley’s weight bearing increased and muscle mass returned to normal. Bentley’s owners were also instructed to continue to use the brace if the dog will undergo unusual strenuous activity or will experience unstable footing such as during winter snow/ice or on sand.  Now he enjoys playtime with his doggie sibling brace free.

Sam Gets A Stifle Brace, Part 2 – The Fitting

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

My name is Sam and I’m the four-year old Labrador Pit Bull mix that you met last month when I told you about having a cast made at My Pet’s Brace. This time I want to tell you about my experience getting the brace.

About seven days after my first visit to My Pet’s Brace, Mom took me back to get the brace.  I was excited when we arrived. Everyone was very friendly and came over to greet me. I wasn’t so scared this time; I remembered that no one hurt me. We were showed to a room and the same lady from last time chatted with Mom and gave me water and lots of pets.

A few minutes later, the man who made the cast of my leg came into the room. He was carrying this very funny looking thing in his hand called a brace. I thought maybe it was something to eat or play with. I sniffed it and it wasn’t anything to eat (darn!) so I tried to mouth it. The man said, “No”, and moved the thing away so I couldn’t bite it. I walked up to it again and sniffed it. It was boring so I just laid down.

The man spent a lot of time talking to Mom and pointing at different items on the brace. He removed something called a suspension sleeve from the brace and said he was going to place it around my hock. He did that while I was lying down and it didn’t hurt at all. I just watched him and wagged my tail a few times. Then he put the brace on my leg. He positioned it high up on my leg and pressed the bottom of the brace onto the suspension sleeve. He continued to explain things to Mom and tightened the straps around my leg. When he finished, he said we were going to walk up and down the hallway. Yeah, right!

When I first stood up, I thought, What the heck? and looked at the brace on my leg. Trying to walk was strange at first. I kept kicking my leg out thinking I could get it off, but that brace followed me everywhere I went. Then I tried to walk fast so I didn’t have to put my leg down, but Mom started walking me very slowly and I had no choice but to use both of my rear legs. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want my leg to hurt. Finally, I put my injured leg down and I was really surprised to find it felt a little better.

After the man watched me walk, he told Mom the brace was a little high in the groin and he was going to trim it so that it would be more comfortable. When he returned a few minutes later, he put the brace on me again and it did feel better. Then Mom got to practice putting the brace on me. It took her longer than it took the man and she fumbled a bit. The man told her not to worry; after a few times she would find putting the brace on just as easy. He then put white lines on the straps of the brace and told Mom those lines would tell her how tightly to pull the straps.

I got to practice walking again. That was the best part because of all the great dog smells in the hallway. I could tell who was there before me… a big male Rottweiler, a male Maltese, and a female Sheltie. I wondered, Is she still in the building?  I was so busy sniffing that I forgot about the brace and before I knew it, I was using my injured leg! It was great to be using four legs again. Well, I wasn’t completely using my sore leg but at least it felt better, and I wasn’t so off-balance any more.

Mom had some more questions and the man patiently answered all of them. He gave Mom a wearing schedule and explained that I had to get acclimated to the brace. I would start by wearing the brace a few hours the first day, increasing my wearing time daily until I was wearing the brace full-time. I got a break from wearing the brace at night when I was sleeping because I didn’t need to wear it then.  I wouldn’t be allowed to run and play just yet, but they said I would be able to soon!

Finally, we were finished and went out to the front desk. The lady at the desk went over paperwork with Mom and schedule a re-check appointment in three weeks. I got treats, again. That was one of my favorite parts, and the pets too. Then I posed for a picture. I hope they got my good side. I wonder if I’ll be another Lassie?

Sam Gets a Stifle Brace, Part 1 – The Casting

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

My name is Sam and I’m a four-year old Labrador Pit Bull mix who wants to tell you about my experience getting a brace.

About a month ago I was out playing with my sister. We were having a really great time running around. I turned quickly and suddenly the fun was all over. My right back leg was really hurting and I had to hold it up because I couldn’t walk on it. I hobbled to the back door. When Mom let me in and saw I couldn’t put any weight on it she got really upset.

Mom called the veterinarian right away and took me in for a visit. I don’t like the vet and this appointment didn’t make me very happy. The vet pushed and pulled on my leg and moved it different ways that made it hurt. She told Mom I had something called a Cranial Cruciate Ligament tear and needed surgery that was more than Mom could afford right now. I would need to be crated for 10-12 weeks while I healed. No playing, no running with my sister, no time outside the crate except to potty (that sure didn’t sound like fun). Mom started to cry and I really got worried. The vet then said there was a place that could make a brace that would help me and she handed my Mom a brochure.

A few days later we went to My Pet’s Brace. It looked and smelled a lot like a vet’s office; I got scared again. However, things there were just different enough tha

t I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. The lady at the desk greeted Mom and came out to meet me. I was really scared and hid behind Mom. The lady kneeled but kept talking with Mom. She talked quietly and nicely, so I came over and sniffed her. She didn’t do anything, just let me check her out and that made me feel better.

The lady led Mom and me into a room and talked to Mom about a lot of stuff. I walked around the room and kept going up and sniffing the lady. At one point she reached out her hand to me and I sniffed that too. She just held her hand there and I kept sniffing up her arm. She was OK so I let her pet me. She brought me water, too.

After a few minutes a man came in and talked to Mom for a while. He sat on the floor and talked and let me come up and sniff him. Eventually I decided he was OK and let him pet me. They talked for quite a bit and I just laid down and relaxed. After a few minutes Mom and I walked up and down a long hallway while the man watched us. That was lots of fun because there were all these great dog smells to take in. Then we went back in the room and the man talked with Mom some more.

Next, the lady that greeted us came back into the room. She and the man put on gloves and I started to worry again. Mom moved to sit on a low table, and I stayed on the floor.

Mom had my head while the other lady sat on the table next to my Mom and gently placed her hands under my belly. I wasn’t sure I liked being held like this, so I started to wiggle around. The lady just kept talking to me and then she started to rub my butt right at that special spot just above my tail. I started to relax and decided this might be OK. Maybe…

Everyone was talking in nice calm voices. The man slipped this thing like a sock on my leg, but it had no toe. He began to wrap my leg with some other stuff called fiberglass casting tape. He wrapped it snuggly around my leg then massaged it for a minute to two. It started to get a little warm and snug but it didn’t hurt. In less than 5 minutes he was cutting the stuff off my leg; they called it a cast. Nothing that he did hurt at all, it just felt a little funny. Plus, he let me sniff everything before he put it on my leg, which helped me to know there was nothing to fear. After the cast came off the man took some measurements of my hurt leg and one of my good leg, but that didn’t hurt either.

Before I knew it, we were done. I was out front being fed treats, people were petting me, and everything was good. My leg didn’t feel any better, but it didn’t feel any worse either. I decided this place wasn’t so bad. The lady said she would see me again soon for something called a fitting.  Next time, I’ll let you know how it went.

Case Study: Lucy – a Cocker Spaniel with a Stifle Brace for a Postsurgical CCL Repair

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Lucy a 7-year-old, 17-pound, mini Cocker Spaniel with bilateral stifle braces for postsurgical CCL repair and protection.

Case of Interest:  We have been asked if stifle braces can be used post-surgically and the answer is yes. Braces can be applied after sutures have been removed.  Lucy was one such case.  On July 5, 2017 Lucy jumped off the porch and began limping on her right hind leg. She had previously been diagnosed with bilateral luxating patellas and was scheduled for surgery for bilateral patella stabilization. During the patella surgery it was determined that the right CCL was ruptured and an extracapsular stabilization was performed. Lucy recovered from the surgery with minimal side effects. However, during recovery Lucy jumped from her owner’s arms as she was being carried down from bed and Lucy started limping again. The veterinarian examined Lucy during her two-week post-surgical follow-up and determined that drawer motion was present but was significantly less than the movement felt prior to the surgery. The veterinarian suggested Lucy be fit with a right stifle brace for post-surgical support and a left stifle brace for additional protection.

Lucy with My Pet's Stifle Brace

Diagnostic History: In September 2017 Lucy presented to our clinic for bilateral braces for post-surgical support of the right hind leg following a CCL stabilization surgery and for support of the left hind leg to reduce the chance of injury due to compensation.  We evaluated Lucy’s weight-bearing during walking and standing, contractures, range of motion, muscle atrophy, inside and outside activity levels, owner participation and home environment.  It was determined that Lucy would benefit from bilateral stifle braces to resist tibial thrust during activity.  Casts were made of both legs and the braces were fabricated using medical-grade plastic and closed-cell foam. The braces were fit a week after the casts were taken and adjustments were made as necessary.

Lucy with My Pet's Stifle Brace

Lucy was given a restricted exercise regimen which included no running or dog and ball playing. Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 and if more than 4 were required it was suggested she be carried. Leashed walks were encouraged but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each walk. This limited exercise regimen was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for scar tissue to form. Afterwards she was gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Lucy was seen 3 weeks and 3 months after delivery. Lucy adjusted quickly to the braces and both Lucy and her owner were happy. During the follow-up appointments straps on the brace were replaced as necessary. Lucy’s limp disappeared and she was able to return to her normal activity level. Lucy wore the braces for nine months.  Currently, she only wears them for extra support during walks.

Lucy with My Pet's Stifle Brace

Braces and Water

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

While water and oil may not mix, water and our braces do not have that same problem.

All of our braces are completely waterproof. The shell of the brace is made of co-polypropylene plastic. The inside lining of the brace is made of closed-cell foam which means it does not absorb moisture or bacteria. The buckles, screws and rivets are all stainless steel. All of this means the brace is very easy to keep clean and water will not affect it.

If the brace should get dirty it is very easy to clean with antibacterial soap and a washcloth. If it gets dirty, feel free to use a non-toxic cleaner, such as Simple Green, on it along with water.

If your dog has water therapy, they can wear the brace (with the therapist’s approval, of course). If your dog likes to swim in the family pool, fine. If your dog enjoys the creek while on those trail hikes, great. Just follow a few simple steps when your dog comes out of the water to keep the brace performing at its best.

  1. Remove the brace from the dog’s leg and dry the brace and straps off completely.
  2. Dry your dog’s leg off as well as possible.
  3. Powder the suspension sleeve really well. This will reduce friction which increases with moisture present.
  4. Put the brace back on your dog’s leg.

One final note, if you live near the ocean and your dog enjoys playing in the waves just remember that salt water is very caustic. When your dog comes out of the ocean remember to rinse the brace very well with fresh water then follow the steps noted above.

Following these simple tips will ensure that your dog can participate in the water activities they love and the brace will serve them well for years.

Case Study: Tonka – a Saint Bernard with a CCL Tear

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Tonka, a 137-pound 7-year-old Saint Bernard with a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) tear in his right rear leg.

Case of Interest: We have fabricated braces for over 180 breeds of dogs, from Pitbulls and Retrievers to Afghans and Greyhounds. Tonka is definitely a dog that we do not see everyday. Tonka is a Saint Bernard and is one of the larger dogs that has walked through our doors. Tonka presented with a CCL tear of his right hind leg. A drug-resistant bacterial infection was present in his leg prior to the tear so Tonka was not a candidate for surgery. A stifle brace was fabricated with special heavy-duty aluminum joints to handle the increased stress of a larger dog while preventing the tibial thrust that is associated with a CCL injury.

Diagnostic History: In August of 2017, Tonka slipped on the stairs and proceeded to limp on his left rear leg. He was seen by a veterinarian and was diagnosed with a tear of his right CCL.

Tonka presented to our clinic for a stifle brace for his right rear leg for support and to aid in the healing of the rupture. The brace resists the anterior drawer motion associated with a CCL injury. Excessive drawer motion puts stress on the newly growing scar tissue. An evaluation of Tonka’s body condition and lifestyle was performed and it was determined that he would benefit from a right rear stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of the leg from hip to hock. A brace was made using the cast. Due to his height, weight and activity level, the brace was made with heavy-duty aluminum joints. A week after the evaluation, Tonka was fitted with his brace.

Tonka was given a restricted exercise regiment, which included no running or dog and ball playing. Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 and if more than 4 were required than some help in the form of a sling under the hips was suggested. Leashed walks were encouraged but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each walk. This limited exercise regiment was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for healing. Afterwards he could be gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Tonka was seen at 1 month, 2 months, and 4 months post-delivery. Tonka had taken well to the brace and was happy and moving better.  The limp disappeared and the atrophied muscle mass was regained. Adjustments were made to the brace and straps replaced as needed. Tonka has since been weaned off the brace but does continue to wear it only during hikes or longer walks.

     

Frequently Asked Questions- Choosing A Knee Brace From My Pet’s Brace

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

Cranial cruciate ligament injuries (ACL/CCL) are one of the most common orthopedic injuries in dogs.  For this injury, veterinarian and rehabilitation professionals recommend surgery, physical therapy and/or a knee brace.  As one of only a handful of companies in the world providing custom knee braces for ACL/CCL injuries, we receive inquires every day about our knee brace.  Here we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

How does a knee brace help my dog’s ACL/CCL injury?
Our knee braces are specifically designed for ACL/CCL injuries to prevent the tibia from thrusting forward (drawer movement) and the hyperextension of the joint.  The brace greatly reduces your dog’s pain and allows your pet to put more weight on the leg and limp less while the natural healing process of scar tissue formation occurs.  Once good strong scar tissue has built up, your dog will be back to their normal activity level and they no longer need to wear the brace.  Most dogs only need to wear the brace for nine months, during which time they’ll be able to have an almost normal lifestyle.

Is the brace comfortable for my dog to wear?
Your dog’s brace is custom-made from a cast of their leg and comfortable for them to wear all day.  In fact, many clients tell us their dog can’t wait to get the brace on; they lie down and offer their leg for the brace.  The brace is:

  • Custom- forming to the exact contours of your dog’s leg to create the perfect fit
  • Lightweight- most braces weigh only a few ounces
  • Jointed- your dog can easily bend their leg to sit, lie down, go for walks, play and even swim while wearing the brace
  • Well padded- the entire inside of the brace is lined with foam and extra padding on the straps of the brace

Read our blog “How Do Dogs Adjust To Wearing A Brace?” to learn how dogs quickly acclimate to their new brace.

How do you put the brace on/take the brace off?
The brace is easy to put on and take off your dog’s leg with three to four Velcro straps that go around the back of the leg.  You’ll soon be a seasoned pro and it will take less than 60 seconds to put the brace on in the morning or take it off at night.

Our brace design has no harness system that attaches to another leg and you do not have to thread your dog’s leg from the top to the bottom of the brace, like other companies.

How does the brace stay up on my dog’s leg?
The brace stays securely in place through the use of our innovative suspension sleeve which suspends the brace on your dog’s leg.  The suspension sleeve Velcro’s to the inside of the brace and wraps around above your dog’s hock.  Your dog’s natural anatomy helps suspend (hence the name suspension sleeve) the brace on your dog’s leg with the help of this sleeve.

Other braces use harness systems or they continue tightening the bottom strap of the brace to keep the brace from slipping down.

What is the brace made of?
All of our braces are made with the same high-quality materials that are used for human braces and are waterproof.  The outside of the brace is a hard medical-grade plastic which is required to provide the necessary support for ACL injuries.  The inside is lined with closed-cell antibacterial foam for padding and the screws and rivets are stainless steel.  The entire brace is very easy to clean with mild soapy water.

What happens if my dog chews the brace or I need a replacement strap?
To many peoples’ surprise, it is rare for dogs to chew the brace. If they chew anything it is usually the suspension sleeve or one of the straps. Here’s where good customer service, which we pride ourselves on, comes into play. Before any brace leaves our clinic, we record the measurements of the all the straps and make a copy of the suspension sleeve. That way if a replacement part is needed all you have to do is call us, let us know which item is needed, and we can mail it to you. Straps can easily be changed using a flat-head screwdriver. Replacement parts usually go out the same day requested – like I said, good customer service.

What happens if I have a question about my dog’s brace?
We are just a phone call away! Again, we want your dog to do well with its brace and if your dog isn’t happy, neither are we. If you call with a problem, a clinician is only a phone transfer away and they are always ready and willing to speak to customers. Many customers can’t come to the clinic because they live too far away or possibly in another country, but we still want those dogs happy too. Therefore we will ask for a video or photo to be emailed to us so that we can see exactly what is going on. We often do that for local patients as well as that may save them from having to come in to the clinic.

How long have you been making braces?
My Pet’s Brace was co-founded in 2010 by Jim Alaimo.  Jim Alaimo is a Board Certified Prosthetist Orthotist and practiced human orthotics and prosthetics for over 20 years.  For the past eight years, he has evaluated, cast and fit dogs with our braces at our Main Office in Morgantown, PA.  His daily hands-on interaction with patients of all breeds and orthotic needs allows us to continuously improve the devices and gives us the practical expertise necessary to answer even your most detailed questions.  We have fabricated over 5,800 braces for dog living all over the world.

Why can’t I just buy a soft knee brace or braces made from measurements?
While soft braces have their uses for strains or minor injuries, they simply can’t provide the support or stability needed to support a seriously injured joint, such as a torn cranial cruciate ligament in the knee. Soft braces are usually made of neoprene fabric, the same fabric used in wetsuits. That means it’s pliable and bendable; it can be squished up with your fist. A seriously injured joint requires support from something that will not bend or give – a rigid material.   Braces made from measurements alone are not able to accommodate for breed differences or the exact curves of your dog’s leg. 

The My Pet’s Brace Difference:

  • Efficacy – above all, the brace works
  • Comfortable for your dog to wear
  • Easy application and removal of the brace
  • Easy replacement of parts
  • Readily available clinicians
  • Excellent customer service

The bottom line is that we want to help your dog walk and play comfortably again for you to be satisfied with our product and service. Let’s be honest, when your dog is happy, you’re happy, and when you and your dog are happy we’re thrilled because for us it’s not just a job, it’s a dedication!  If you have any other questions, please give us a call.

Am I done with this thing yet? —Weaning your dog from your My Pet’s Brace Knee Brace

By: Clayton Blunk, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

Clayton here, your friendly, helpful Dog-Brace expert and My Pet’s Brace Practitioner. Whether you have had your brace for an hour or 6 months, you will likely wonder when it is appropriate to no longer use the brace. I know it is an exciting prospect to think about a spot in the back of a closet to stash the brace! Before you can do that, we need to talk about when to wean your dog from the brace. Then, we can discuss how to remove the brace from your dog’s daily routine.

There are a few questions you should ask of yourself and other family members who are involved in daily care of your pet:

  • How long has your dog had his/her brace?
    1. We recommend wearing the brace for 9 months.
      1. If your dog had to take a break from the brace because of a sore, or your dog was at a kennel where the brace was not used, add a few more weeks.
  • Do you notice any limp? If yes, continue using the brace.
    1. It sometimes is hard to remember how lame your dog was when they first got the brace. With the brace off, do you see any limping? What about a neighbor? Would someone who does not see your dog every day notice a limp?
    2. Does your vet still notice a limp/lameness or atrophy?
  • Is your dog’s quality of life back to “normal”?
    1. Do you and your dog do the same activities with the brace as before the brace?
      1. If there are things your dog still can not do, are you okay with those limitations? Is your dog still trying to do those things?
        1. If you feel there are limitations your dog still has, keep using the brace.
      2. Does the brace give you and your dog peace of mind/insurance?
      3. Was your dog “depressed” when the injury first occurred?
        1. Did the brace make your dog happy? Does it still make your dog happy?

Hopefully some of the above questions can help you and your vet make an educated decision on the right time to start taking the brace off. If you recall when you first got your brace, you started by slowly increasing the time your dog was in the brace by an hour a day. If it is time to start weaning your dog off the brace, the most basic plan would be to reverse the break-in process by putting the brace on less each day over a few weeks.

A more detailed plan would be as follows:

Start with taking the brace off when your dog is inside and quieter, so maybe take it off a little earlier in the evening. Once you are just using the brace for outside activity, give your dog time to adjust to this new routine for a few weeks.

Here is a hypothetical next step in the plan. Let’s say you are active dog owners and take your dog for 3 walks a day. I would start taking the brace off for your middle walk and still use the brace for the first and last walk of the day. The first walk of the day it is still important to use the brace because your dog has been cooped up overnight and likely has more energy. We do not want a little extra excitement to cause your dog to have some troubles. On the last walk of the day, your dog is probably starting to get some muscle fatigue, so we don’t want fatigue to case extra lameness by not using the brace. After that, just put the brace on for your longest walk of the day. Eventually you can leave the brace off entirely after a few more weeks.

After the 9 month wearing period, the brace can always be there “just in case.” You can always put the brace back on if your dog is going to be in a situation where they are abnormally active, such as playing with other dogs, going for a long walk or being in snowy/icy locations. Some senior dogs may wear the brace during their more active hours for the rest of their life, just for some extra support.  As much as you wish you could put your brace away in a deep dark corner of your hall closet, it might be worth keeping it in with your other dog supplies.

Hopefully this short article helps you develop a plan for how to know when and how to wean your dog from their brace. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us, or you can always give your vet a call for some advice.