Today is your dog’s BIG day – they just got their knee brace! Now that it’s in your hands, what happens next?
It’s always a good idea to read over the instructions that came with your brace. Even if you visited the clinic for the fitting, read over the instructions again. There was a lot of information that was imparted to you during the fitting, and it can be overwhelming. So just review everything by reading over the instructions that came with the brace. You can also check out the video that we have online about putting the brace on your dog.
If your dog’s brace was shipped to you, definitely read the instructions, and watch the video. Please do not try to use the brace without reading the instructions. Once you get the brace on your dog, take a few pictures of them in the brace. Get down to your dog’s eye level to take the pictures and take views from different angles – front, side, and rear. Then, email or text the pictures to us. The clinician will review the pictures and let you know if it’s on correctly or if adjustments need to be made.
Once the knee brace is on your dog, have them start walking slowly on a leash. They may turn around and look at the brace wondering, “What in the world is this?” They may take a few steps, then flop down, and turn around and look at it. They may walk on three legs, with the braced leg extended out straight behind them – we call this the “superman walk.”
They may hold up the braced leg slightly and only move on three legs. They may walk/hop with the brace or walk kicking the braced leg as they walk. All of these behaviors are completely normal. Unlike humans who would have everything about the brace explained to them, dogs have to figure this new device out completely on their own. Surprisingly, they usually do this quite well and quickly.
The best way to get the dog using the brace is by walking them SLOWLY on a leash. If the dog walks quickly, they can do just fine on three legs and by now they are used to walking on three legs. Plus, they need to learn that with the brace, they can use their leg and it will support them and not hurt. The leash gives you control of the dog and the slow walking forces them to put their leg down. Now it’s just practice, practice, practice so they learn to use the braced leg.
If you have a small or toy breed, such as a Yorkie or Maltese, they can be some of the most challenging dogs with the braces for one simple reason. They have learned very early on that if they wait long enough and don’t walk, their person will come to their rescue and pick them up. This is one of those times that, as an owner, you need to practice some “tough love.”
In order for the brace to be beneficial, the dog needs to walk in it. Using lots of treats and praise, encourage your little buddy to walk in the brace. Sometimes this takes time and effort. The important thing to realize is that the knee brace does not hurt the dog, it helps the dog; they will feel better using it. So, stand your ground dog mom and pop, and don’t cave to your little friend. Make them walk in the brace.
With the knee brace, your dog will be able to do everything they normally do – sit, stand, lie down, and go to the bathroom. It will take some practice for them to learn to do these things. Sometimes, sitting and lying down can be a bit challenging because the leg feels a little differently with the brace, but the brace will not prevent these actions. With practice, your dog will learn that they can lie down and sit in the brace. You may notice that they stretch their leg out when they sit, this is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Some dogs have a favorite side on which they like to sleep. If it is the side with the brace, they may have difficulty getting comfortable. This, too, is normal. They will either learn to sleep on the opposite side or stick to sleeping on the side with the brace once they adjust to the feeling. Again, we can’t explain these things to our dogs, they just have to figure it out on their own.
Braces are not instantaneous fixes. While they will help your dog to feel better fairly quickly, the healing process will take some time. Ligaments have a very low blood supply, so they heal very slowly. That’s why we say the dog should wear the knee brace for about nine months.
Even though your dog seems completely better after several months, that scar tissue forming in the ligament is not finished healing. The scar tissue needs not only to form, but also strengthen and toughen. That process is not finished in a few months – it takes additional time.
Treats and praise will help your dog adjust to their new brace. Patience on your part will go a long way as well. Remember, dogs have to figure everything out on their own and sometimes it takes them a little time to do that. Having your dog wear their brace and giving them time to heal will definitely help them to live a happier, healthier life.