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

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

Leg braces for smaller dogs

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