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

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.

 

Case Study: Purdy – a Golden Retriever with Bilateral Rear Prostheses

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Purdy, a 45-pound Golden Retriever with missing rear paws.

Case of Interest:  Purdy suffered from frostbite on both of her rear paws when she was around 1 week old and both of her paws were amputated.  At 8 weeks old, she was rescued and her new family provided her with all the love and medical care she needed.  Besides the missing rear paws, she was a happy healthy puppy.

As she grew, she put almost all of her weight on her front legs to walk which caused severe kyphosis.  The distal ends of her limbs had abrasions and callousing of the skin due to her walking on them without any protection.  She put some weight on her right rear leg, but her left appeared to cause her more pain, possibly from scar tissue adhered to the bone.

Purdy visited My Pet’s Brace for two protheses to protect her rear residual limbs and to provide her with greater mobility.  She was evaluated at our facility when she was 5 ½ months old and two prosthetic devices were fabricated.  A new design of prostheses were made when she was around two years of age.  She also attended physical therapy sessions to help desensitize the ends of her stumps and to walk with proper alignment.

Diagnostic History:  Purdy visited our facility to be evaluated for prosthetic devices.  Two prostheses were created and fitted in August of 2016, when Purdy was approximately 6 months old.  Adjustments were made to the prostheses to relieve any excess pressure and reduce the chance for rubbing and sores. Purdy’s owners were instructed to allow her to wear the devices for 30 minutes the first day and increase by 30 minutes each day, for a total of 6 – 8 hours per day. She was given no restrictions with regards to play and exercise but was encouraged to go out for short walks a few times a day.  With time, she learned to bear more weight on her rear legs, which reduced the stress on her front limbs and allowed her to flatten out her spine.

In February of 2017, when Purdy was approximately 2 years old, a second set of prostheses were fitted.  The new design was non-jointed at the hock, wrapped farther up the stumps of her legs and fabricated with a more flexible plastic for the outer shell.  Purdy never took to the new prostheses even though no pressure points or fit issues were detected.  She continues to wear her original devices to this day.

Follow-Ups:  Purdy returns every six months to My Pet’s Brace for follow-up appointments. At each of these appointments the condition of her skin and her activity level are assessed and the prostheses are adjusted accordingly. An adjustment that has been made several times was the replacement of the soles as they wear down due to her activity level.

Purdy is a very happy active dog and her prostheses enable her to use all four of her legs to walk, run and play with her human and doggie family.  She enjoys lots of love and going to the beach with her siblings, but she prefers to stay on the sand and out of the water.

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: Teddy Bear – a Samoyed with a Rear Prosthesis

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Teddy Bear, a 45-pound Samoyed with a missing left rear paw

Case of Interest: When a portion of a limb is missing, the dog compensates in one of two ways, either they put their weight down using the stump as a weight-bearing surface or they hold the limb up and off-load their weight onto the other three legs. Both responses put abnormal stresses and strains on the remaining limbs which could cause joint, ligament, tendon, or spinal issues. Putting weight down on the end of the remaining limb can cause sores, cuts, and scraps which have the potential for infection and pain to the dog.

A prosthetic device takes the place of the missing portion of the limb, allowing the body to be held in a more natural position. There are different levels of prosthetics available depending on how much residual limb is remaining. For our design, a minimum of 1.5-2 inches of residual limb is needed below the carpus and hock. This is needed to allow for enough suspension of the device and because dogs cannot manipulate a jointed prosthetic device.

Teddy Bear was rescued from a puppy mill while he was a small puppy. His mother chewed off his left rear paw and the tip of his tail. He healed from this traumatic injury and was taken in by his current owners who are avid hikers with three older Samoyeds. They were referred to My Pet’s Brace by their veterinarian for a prothesis to protect his residual limb and to correct the height difference between the rear legs. He was evaluated at our facility when he was 9 months old, but the casting was postponed three months to ensure he was fully grown and would therefore not out-grow the prosthetic device.

Diagnostic History: He returned in January of 2017 for a casting of the residual limb, which was used to create a positive mold of his stump. A prosthesis was created, the outside is a shell made of hard medical grade plastic and a rubberized sole. The inside is a flexible sleeve which is in direct contact with the remaining limb. The flexible sleeve slides in/out of the outer shell. This allows for the prosthesis to be slipped on and off in case the prosthesis becomes trapped while outside, but allows for ample suspension so it does not come off during play or running.

Teddy Bear returned approximately 2 weeks post-casting for the fitting of the prosthesis and adjustments were made to the inner sleeve and outer shell to relieve any excess pressure and reduce the chance for rubbing and sores. Teddy Bear’s owners were instructed to allow him to wear it for 30 minutes the first day and increase by 30 minutes each day until he wears it for a total of 6 – 8 hours. He was given no restrictions with regards to play and exercise, but was encouraged to go out for walks a few times a day for around 10-15 minutes.

Follow-Ups: Teddy Bear returned several times over the course of the next two years. At each of these appointments the condition of his skin and his activity level were assessed and the prosthesis was adjusted accordingly. An adjustment that was made several times was the replacement of the sole of the prosthesis. This is done for ground-contacting orthotics and prosthetics, as the sole wears out from use it can be easily replaced at our facility to allow for ample traction.

Teddy Bear is an active dog and he wears his prosthesis every day, for most of the day.  It allows him to keep up with his pack on walks and hikes and enables him to lead a happier life.