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

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.

Case Study: Philomena – a Pug with a Brachial Plexus Injury

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Philomena, a 15 pound 1-year-old Pug with a spinal injury and a brachial plexus nerve injury resulting in a paw contracture and partial paralysis of her front left leg.

Case of Interest: The most successful clinical outcome for a pet with a custom brace is the result of a team effort between the pet family, veterinarian, rehab specialist and the My Pet’s Brace practitioners.  With everyone working together, Philomena’s condition continues to improve to this day.  Philomena originally visited our Morgantown, PA facility for a carpal brace at the referral of her physical therapist.  As her range of motion improved, a second carpal brace was fabricated.  Philomena was in need of a third brace, but had moved away from our main facility.  Luckily, she was within driving distance of our new patient care clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee where she was cast and fit with her third carpal brace.

Diagnostic History: In February of 2017, Philomena jumped from a couch and landed heavily on the floor. The impact resulted in a brachial plexus nerve injury which caused partial paralysis of her left side and contracture of the left front paw. The contracture of the paw caused her to drag her leg and walk on the top of her paw, resulting in abrasions. She attended hydro and physical therapy sessions and was regaining function in her left side. Her physical therapist referred Philomena to My Pet’s Brace for a brace to protect the left paw and carpal joint.

Philomena presented to our facility in July of 2017 with a contracted left paw. She had good mobility in the remaining limbs and was alert and eager to move. It was determined that a non-jointed carpal brace would be beneficial for Philomena. The brace would protect the top of the paw from abrasions and would halt any further collapse of the carpal joint. A cast was taken of her front left leg from the elbow down at an angle that was comfortable for Philomena. A custom brace was then created using the cast. The brace was made using medical grade plastic and straps with pads to hold the brace securely on her leg. The brace was also equipped with a rubberized sole to aid in walking and movement. Philomena returned a week later to be fit with the brace. Appropriate adjustments were made to ensure an accurate and comfortable fit.

Follow-Ups: Philomena returned in November of 2017 to be re-cast for a second brace.  Through therapy she was achieving greater flexibility in her paw and she needed a new brace with a more accurate angle. She returned a week later to be fit with her new brace.

Due to her progress with physical therapy, in June of 2018 it was determined that a third brace would be best for her continued improvement. Philomena and her family had relocated to Georgia during this time.  Happily, our Knoxville, Tennessee location was convenient for them to visit for appointments.  The practitioners at our Morgantown and Knoxville facilities discussed Philomena’s case and shared notes prior to the casting and fabrication of her third brace.

Philomena continues to go to physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture.  We look forward to seeing her progress as her condition continues to improve with the help of her brace and her entire team.

Follow Philomena on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube @PhilomenathePug!
Video courtesy of Philomena’s humans.

Can You Make Braces For Cats?

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

Sometimes, dogs and cats are as different as night and day. Call a dog and it will come running. Call a cat and it will take a message and get back to you.  That same attitude tends to follow through with braces as well. Dogs readily accept braces with few questions asked. Cats, on the other hand, can take longer to accept a brace and are typically more difficult to fit.  Cats may try to shake off a brace or freeze and not move at all. While we have made braces for cats, each one is on a case by case basis.  Determining factors include the type of injury, slickness of fur, their personality, ability to create suspension, current mobility and home environment.

The braces we have made for cats have been hock or carpal braces.  When an owner contacts us regarding a brace for their cat, we do an initial evaluation to determine whether the cat would be a good candidate for a brace. If we believe we can make a brace for the cat, we start by making a temporary brace. A temporary brace enables us to see how the cat adjusts to wearing a brace and how we can provide the proper suspension for the permanent device.

If the temporary brace is successful and the owner feels the cat is comfortable and happy wearing the brace, we make the permanent version. The permanent brace is the same type of brace we would make for a dog – same quality and precision fit.

Cats and stifle braces, the braces used for cruciate ligament injuries, are not characteristically a good fit. The fur is so soft and silky, almost rabbit-like in texture, that the brace tends to slip down and not stay in place. Additionally, the suspension sleeve which wraps around the hock and attaches to the inside of the brace to help suspend the brace on the leg adds just another “foreign object” to which the kitty may object.

While dogs constitute 99% of our clientele, we enjoy the challenge of making braces and helping other species of animals. From goats to sheep to llamas, cows, and sometimes ducks our main objective is doing what is best for the pet to help it live a happier life!


Junior- a cat with a carpal brace for a brachial plexus injury.

 

 


Zeke- a cat with a carpal brace for radial agenesis.

 

 

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.

Rehabilitation Therapy and Braces

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

Often clients ask if therapy would be beneficial in conjunction with a brace.  While it is not absolutely necessary, many dogs benefit greatly from combining physical therapy with the application of their custom brace. The next question then becomes what type of therapy? While that question is best answered by a discussion with your veterinarian or rehabilitation therapist, let me touch on various therapies available.

Physical therapy is a series of specific exercises performed under the guidance of a trained therapist. These exercises are designed to improve muscle strength and flexibility, reduce pain and encourage healing. Traditionally when we think of physical therapy we think of a series of exercises performed on a hard or matted surface utilizing balls, weights, balance, etc.

Hydrotherapy refers to exercises performed in water. The water provides buoyancy and enables the dog to exercise without the stress on joints and muscles that is experienced when exercising on harder surfaces. The therapy is beneficial for a variety of issues including arthritis, joint pain, cruciate ligament ruptures, as well as neurological disorders such as degenerative myelopathy or spinal strokes.

Depending on the type of hydrotherapy, the session may include an underwater treadmill, a whirlpool or a dog pool. Underwater treadmills are often used for patients with joint problems, such as cruciate ligament issues, carpal injuries or Achilles tendon injuries. The dog enters a plastic or glass chamber that fills with water once the door is closed. The amount of water used is dependent upon the type of injury. The dog walks on a treadmill and the water creates the resistance. The combination of treadmill and water resistance works together to strengthen muscles and joints in a low-impact environment.

Laser therapy, also known as cold laser, red therapy, or low-level laser, is used to treat a variety of conditions including muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries, post-surgical and soft tissue injuries, acute pain, and chronic conditions. It uses a deep-penetrating, non-heat producing light to create a number of chemical reactions knows as photobiostimulation. This process stimulates injured cells to heal at a faster rate and helps to reduce pain through the release of endorphins. It is non-invasive, non-surgical and involves no drugs.  Each treatment session may range from 3 – 15 minutes in length with the length and number of treatments dependent upon the type of injury being treated. The treatment is non-invasive and most dogs find it very relaxing.

The number of rehabilitation therapy sessions and the length of each treatment needed are dependent upon the type of injury being treated. The cost of the sessions would need to be discussed with your veterinarian or physical therapist. If you have pet insurance, be sure to check with your insurance company as these sessions may be covered under your pet insurance.

Keep in mind that while we all want the very best for our dogs, ease of accessibility and affordability has a great influence on what avenues of therapy clients are able to pursue. If your capabilities prevent you from getting professional therapy, remember that those frequent daily walks that we suggest during the healing process of ACL injuries are a form of therapy and will go a long way to strengthen your dog’s leg.

Sources:
https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/laser-therapy-dogs
https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-health-hydrotherapy-how-it-works
https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/14_12/features/Canine-Hydrotherapy_20409-1.html
http://www.thedrakecenter.com/services/dogs/laser-therapy-for-dogs
https://fidoseofreality.com/the-reality-of-cold-laser-treatment-for-dogs/

Case Study: Bella with Nerve Damage and Rotation of the Hock

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner


The Patient:
Bella, a 90-pound 7 year-old Anatolian Shepard/ Afghan mix with nerve damage resulting in internal rotation at the stifle and hock with subluxation at the hock.

Case of Interest: Custom bracing enables us to design and fabricate devices made specifically to meet the needs of each individual pet.  After fitting Bella’s first hock brace, there continued to be significant laxity and internal rotation at the stifle. A second hock brace was created with a special upper cuff around her thigh to prevent the unwanted rotation.

Diagnostic History: In September of 2010, Bella had been hit by a car which caused severe injuries. Bella underwent several surgeries to repair the broken bones, but unfortunately she had also sustained nerve damage. This nerve damage resulted in a subluxation of the right hock and severe knuckling on the right rear leg. After years of knuckling, sores and calluses had developed on the top of her toes as well as an abnormal walking gait and stance.

In September of 2017, she was referred to My Pet’s Brace by her veterinarian for a brace to aid in returning Bella to a more normalized conformation.

Treatment and Plan: Bella presented with severe laxity in the hock and stifle. This caused subluxation of the hock resulting in weight-bearing on the dorsal aspect of Bella’s right rear paw and severe varus at the hock. It was determined that a right rear hock brace would be fabricated to allow for weight bearing to return to the proper surface of the paw. An accurate cast was taken of the leg from the most distal aspect of the paw to the stifle. A week later Bella returned to be fitted with her brace.

Bella was given no restrictions and could continue her daily habits, however, the brace was to be slowly introduced to her by having her wear it one hour the initial day and increasing one hour each day until she had it on from morning until night, only taking it off if she was sleeping or if she was crated or kenneled.

Follow-Ups: Bella was re-evaluated at three weeks. At this three-week check-up it was determined that the brace controlled the subluxation and laxity in the hock, but did not account for internal rotation at the stifle which had become more apparent as the hock’s movement was restricted.

Another cast was taken with more flexion to control the internal rotation. A second brace was created. This brace combined a typical hock brace with an additional cuff around the thigh to control the unwanted rotation. This brace was fit approximately one week later. It was immediately apparent that she was walking with a normalized gate with little to no rotation at the stifle or hock. Bella was seen approximately three weeks and eight month post-delivery. Bella continues to improve, muscle mass has increased and the sores have healed.

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.

Sources:
https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/131101a.aspx
https://www.petful.com/pet-health/pros-cons-when-to-spay-neuter-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.

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Jim Alaimo CPO Owner

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 AARP.org 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.

Image sources:

  • Top photo:  huffingtonpost.com
  • Middle photo:  petobesityprevention.com
  • Bottom photo:  cesarsway.com

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.

Resources

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: filmmovement.com

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.

Resources
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

image source: petprescription.co.uk

An article on PetEducation.com 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.

Sources:

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