As a veterinarian specializing in canine rehabilitation and physical therapy, I have seen many patients suffering from a torn cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL (similar to an ACL tear in humans), luxating patella (dislocated or floating kneecap), Degenerative Myelopathy (a progressive disease that disrupts the neurological communication between the patient’s brain and hind limbs), missing limbs due to amputation or birth defect, and other tendon and ligament injuries common to dogs. My primary goal in treating these patients is to improve their quality of life by reducing pain and giving them back as much mobility as possible. For some that will mean surgery and physical therapy, for others it will be complementary treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and laser, and then there are those that will benefit greatly from orthotic braces, mobile carts, and prosthetics. Yes, you read correctly, pets can be fit for braces, prosthetics, and mobile carts!
As with humans, braces are customized to fit your pet. A specialized kit is used during a fitting to make a fiberglass impression. This impression along with specific measurements are then used to make an exact replica of your pet’s leg, which in turn is used to create a custom brace. In cases of CCL tears, the brace acts to stabilize the knee joint while allowing your pet to enjoy normal activities and knee joint range of motion.
While it may appear that a three-legged pet is “doing fine”, he or she is putting a lot of stress on other parts of the body due to compensating for the loss of limb. Custom fit mobile carts and prosthetics can be a great solution in providing restored mobility, comfort, and normal activity for your pet.
Please note that not all pets are good candidates for orthotics, mobile carts, and prosthetics and even if they qualify, may still require other courses of treatment to have an improved quality of life.