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.