By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Schatze, a 50-pound, 12-year-old Catahoula with a mid-body Achilles Tendon rupture.

Case of Interest: Schatze was a non-surgical candidate in need of support for her left hock due to an Achilles Tendon rupture.  She was initially seen at our clinic in December of 2017 and returns for regular check-ups almost two years later.  Most of our in-house patients visit our clinic three or four times over the course of a year.  In Schatze’s case, we’ve been able to watch her mature over seven appointments and look forward to providing her with care for years to come.

Diagnostic History: Schatze ruptured her left Achilles tendon while jumping into a car on December 5, 2017. She was seen shortly afterward by an orthopedic veterinarian and was diagnosed with a mid-body calcaneal tendon rupture. She was not a surgical candidate due to being on prednisone for a low platelet abnormality. A wait-and-see approach was followed but she showed no signs of improvement even after stopping the medication. 

It was determined that she would benefit from a custom-made hock brace. The goal of the brace was to reduce any further damage to the calcaneal tendon or the digital flexor tendon, as well as to protect the skin from excessive pressure while walking in a plantigrade stance.

Schatze presented to our clinic on December 29, 2017, limping on her left hind leg. She was collapsing in her hock and a plantigrade stance. She was contracting her digits on her left hind leg, indicating the superficial digital flexor tendon was still intact.

A cast was made of Schatze’s hind left leg from the distal ends of the nails up to the stifle.  From the cast, a jointed hock brace providing zero degrees of flexion at the joint was fabricated.  The degree of flexion was controlled by a range of motion straps affixed to the back outer shell of the brace.  As healing occurred and strength returned, the range of motion straps could be lengthened to allow for greater flexion at the joint.

Less than a week after her casting, she returned for her delivery appointment. At this appointment, the fit of the brace was assessed and appropriate adjustments were performed. Once the brace was donned, Schatze walked with an exaggerated step and consistently put her foot down with more force than necessary.  Her walk normalized as she became accustomed to the brace.

Schatze’s owner was instructed on the proper care of the brace and that Schatze was to wear the brace during her waking hours, but not at night. No exercise restrictions were given, but it was recommended that she begin with 2-3 walks a day for around 10-15 minutes each to allow her to become familiar with the brace as well as to build up the muscle that atrophied during the months she favored the leg.

Follow-Ups: Schatze returned for follow-up appointments approximately 3 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 1.5 years from delivery. At each appointment, the condition of Schatze’s skin and the overall leg were assessed. Appropriate adjustments and general maintenance were made to the brace such as replacing the sole of the brace.

Her walk continued to improve at each appointment as she became comfortable and confident in the brace. She was able to run and play in the brace. Schatze received a favorable report from her orthopedic vet when she followed up with them after receipt of the brace. Schatze continues to use the brace for her daily activities and is a happy and active girl.