By: Amy Rosenthal, My Pet’s Brace Practitioner

The Patient: Tonka, a 137-pound 7-year-old Saint Bernard with a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) tear in his right rear leg.

Case of Interest: We have fabricated braces for over 180 breeds of dogs, from Pitbulls and Retrievers to Afghans and Greyhounds. Tonka is definitely a dog that we do not see every day. Tonka is a Saint Bernard and is one of the larger dogs that has walked through our doors. Tonka presented with a CCL tear of his right hind leg. A drug-resistant bacterial infection was present in his leg before the tear so Tonka was not a candidate for surgery. A stifle brace was fabricated with special heavy-duty aluminum joints to handle the increased stress of a larger dog while preventing the tibial thrust that is associated with a CCL injury.

Diagnostic History: In August of 2017, Tonka slipped on the stairs and proceeded to limp on his left rear leg. He was seen by a veterinarian and was diagnosed with a tear of his right CCL.

Tonka presented to our clinic for a stifle brace for his right rear leg for support and to aid in the healing of the rupture. The brace resists the anterior drawer motion associated with a CCL injury. Excessive drawer motion puts stress on the newly growing scar tissue. An evaluation of Tonka’s body condition and lifestyle was performed and it was determined that he would benefit from a right rear stifle brace. An accurate cast was taken of the leg from hip to hock. A brace was made using the cast. Due to his height, weight, and activity level, the brace was made with heavy-duty aluminum joints. A week after the evaluation, Tonka was fitted with his brace.

Tonka was given a restricted exercise regimen, which included no running or dog and ball playing. Stairs were limited to 1 to 4 and if more than 4 were required then some help in the form of a sling under the hips was suggested. Leashed walks were encouraged but limited to 2 or 3 walks a day at around 10 to 15 minutes each walk. This limited exercise regimen was only required for the initial 3 to 4 months to allow time for healing. Afterward, he could be gradually allowed to do more strenuous activities such as stairs and running.

Follow-Ups: Tonka was seen at 1 month, 2 months, and 4 months post-delivery. Tonka had taken well to the brace and was happy and moving better.  The limp disappeared and the atrophied muscle mass was regained. Adjustments were made to the brace and straps replaced as needed. Tonka has since been weaned off the brace but does continue to wear it only during hikes or longer walks.