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How to Groom a Dog with a Brace

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

People often ask if their dog can be groomed with a brace. Well, if your hand was in a cast would you still get a manicure? The answer may depend on your manicurist. If he or she is careful and gentle, you probably would. The same holds true with your groomer. If he or she is gentle and careful, your dog should be able to be safely groomed, provided they follow a few simple precautions and you have realistic expectations.

The brace is completely waterproof so technically it could be worn during the grooming process.  Your groomer will not be able to do the best job with it on so the brace should be removed for bathing and haircutting. The exception would be if your dog has such a severe injury and your vet does not want the brace removed. Check with your veterinarian to discuss if grooming is safe and follow their suggestions.

While your dog is at the groomer they will be in a controlled restricted environment. They will not be playing or running with other dogs. They will be led on a leash, tethered during the bathing and haircutting process and crated during the drying process. Being without the brace during this time should be safe with those restrictions.

Let’s start with safe bathing. Make sure the groomer puts a rubber bathmat in the tub. Your dog needs sure-footing while being bathed so that they does not slip and slide during the process. Even if the tub has a non-skid surface, a rubber bathmat is strongly recommended. (If your groomer does not have one, pick one up at your local discount store and provide it for use while your dog is being groomed.) When the dog is placed in the crate to dry ask that a rubber bathmat be placed in the crate under the towel. Then as the dog rubs the towel around in the crate – which dogs tend to do – there will still be firm footing on which to stand and your dog won’t slide on the crate bottom. Remember we don’t want the dog wearing the brace while crated.

Now let’s discuss the hair cutting process. In order to do a good job grooming your dog, your groomer needs to pick up each leg to work on it. Gently picking up the injured leg is safe.  Picking up the opposing leg forces your dog to shift their weight on the injured leg which may be harmful to your dog. Ask if your groomer has someone or some way to help support the dog when the opposing leg is lifted. This will also be needed when the groomer cuts your dog’s nails. Getting a nice haircut takes times and your dog will be standing through most of the process. Ask if your dog will be able to take a break or sit if they show signs of fatigue.

Make sure that your groomer understands your dog’s injury and is comfortable grooming your dog with the injury. No groomer wants a dog hurt while under their care so respect their concerns if your groomer does not wish to groom your dog while injured. Finally, don’t worry about getting that perfect haircut on your dog’s leg right now. Be satisfied with your groomer doing the best job possible while keeping your dog safe and happy.

 

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: 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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Case Study: Denali – a Labrador Retriever with a CCL tear in her left hind leg

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Denali, a 90-pound 7-year-old Labrador Retriever with a CCL tear in her left hind leg.

Case of Interest: Denali is an example of a typical patient that would be seen at our clinic. Denali is a 90-pound 7-year-old Labrador Retriever. Denali presented with a partial tear of the CCL of her left hind leg. Surgery was performed on Denali’s right CCL two years earlier. The CCL tear on her left leg was due to falling down the stairs combined with compensation.

Diagnostic History: In 2015, Denali injured her right CCL and underwent surgery for repair. It was also determined that Denali had developed arthritis in both of her stifles during this time. Two years later in early 2017, Denali fell down the stairs and was lame on both hind legs which were noticeably painful on manipulation. Diagnoses of degenerative joint disease (DJD) and CCL ruptures were determined, and options were presented to the owner. The owner chose conservative management with a custom brace versus surgery on the left leg which had not had surgery performed on it.

Denali presented to our clinic for a stifle brace for her left hind leg to aid in the healing of the rupture of her CCL. An evaluation of Denali’s body condition and lifestyle was performed, and it was determined that she would benefit from a left rear stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of her leg from hip to hock. A brace was constructed using the cast. The brace was made with medical-grade plastic and veterinary urethane joints. A week after the evaluation, Denali returned to My Pet’s Brace for the fitting of her brace.

Denali was given a restricted exercise regimen, which included no running or dog and ball playing. Stairs were to be blocked or limited to 1 to 4 steps.  If more than 4 steps were required than help in the form of a sling under the hips was recommended. Leashed walks were encouraged, but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each walk. These walks were increased as her healing progressed. This limited exercise schedule was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for healing. Afterwards she was allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Denali was seen at 3 weeks and at 4 months post-delivery. At each check-up appointment her weight-bearing and walking were assessed. At each appointment, general maintenance was performed on the brace and it was noted that she was doing well. Her weight bearing and muscle mass had returned to normal.  Denali’s owners discontinued use of the brace following the successful healing process.

Denali was seen again at 1 year 4 months post-delivery to perform routine maintenance on the brace in preparation for the upcoming winter season. It was noted that Denali continued to use the brace only during bad weather and that she had fully regained weight-bearing on her left rear leg and was moving about eagerly and normally.

Denali with Stifle Brace

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.

How Do Dogs Adjust To Wearing A Brace?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Altering Your Dog Increase the Chance of Orthopedic Problems?

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

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

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

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

What they found with regards to orthopedic disorders was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Study: Nikko with Bilateral CCL Tears

By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Nikko, a 92-pound 7-year-old German Shepard / Black Mouth Cur mix with bilateral cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears.

Case of Interest: The majority of our canine patients present with only one CCL tear.  Nikko’s veterinarian diagnosed bilateral CCL injuries.  At his initial evaluation/casting appointment at our clinic, he showed significant pain while walking with substantial weight transfer to his front legs and only slight weight bearing on both of his rear legs.

Diagnostic History: Nikko had been limping on and off for about two weeks on his right hind leg. The family then played ball with Nikko and he aggravated the injury causing non-weight bearing on the right hind leg. Shortly afterwards, Nikko started limping on his left hind leg.  Nikko’s veterinarian diagnosed bilateral CCL tears and recommended custom stifle braces for his injuries.  His owners decided to pursue conservative management treatment for his condition and contacted our facility approximately two weeks after injury of his left hind leg.

Treatment and Plan: An evaluation at our clinic confirmed Nikko’s bilateral CCL tears.  He presented with pain due to weight bearing, severe limping, toe-touching on both rear legs and shifting weight to his front legs during static standing. Bilateral CCL stifle braces and a restricted exercise regimen were determined to be the best treatment plan for Nikko. The CCL stifle braces restrict the tibial thrust and limit full extension at the knee.

Accurate casts of Nikko’s rear legs from his hip to his hock were obtained at our clinic.  Nikko returned a week later to be fitted with his bilateral stifle braces. The CCL stifle braces were created with antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, closed cell foam and medical-grade co-polymer plastic in royal blue. Specialized veterinary molded urethane knee joints were utilized to ensure full-range of motion to encourage movement and natural healing.

Nikko was put on a limited exercise plan, including the restriction of stairs, running, and dog or ball playing. Walks were encouraged but limited to 2 to 3 walks a day at 10 to 15 minutes each. These walks were increased as Nikko became accustomed to the braces.

Follow-ups: Nikko was re-evaluated at three weeks and four months post fitting of the braces. At each follow-up appointment visual pain and weight bearing was evaluated. At the four-month check-up, mild irritation was noted and addressed on the caudal region of the Achilles tendon by adding additional padding to the Achilles tendon pad. At the same four-month check-up appointment, the My Pet’s Brace clinician noted increased weight bearing in both rear legs, a normalized stance, increased muscle mass in the rear, decreased muscle mass in the front, an increased willingness to walk, as well as anecdotal evidence presented by the owners. Medial buttressing was present in both stifles indicating scar tissue build-up and stifle stabilization. Nikko’s family was instructed to continue wearing both braces for an additional 5 months.