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 then 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. Afterward, she was allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Denali was seen at 3 weeks and 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 the 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.