By: Terry Lackmeyer, My Pet’s Brace Customer Service Representative
Whenever someone contacts us about getting a brace for their pet, the first question we ask is, “What is your pet’s injury?” That is an especially important question because we need to make sure that we are providing the correct brace for the injury. It is also an important question because, unfortunately, a brace is not appropriate for all conditions. So, let’s take a look at when a brace is not an appropriate solution.
Hip Issues: Frequently, people contact us because the dog has hip dysplasia. This is a very difficult problem to solve since the range of motion at the hip joint is significant. Unfortunately, we do not have any braces for hip issues. Owners may want to investigate physical therapy for their dog as this may help. If the condition is severe and the dog is having serious difficulty walking, a mobility cart (wheelchair) or surgery may be a more viable solution enabling the dog to still get exercise and go for walks.
Shoulder Problems: Occasionally, we are contacted about dogs that have shoulder issues. We are not able to make braces for shoulders as we cannot isolate the area to create a workable brace. Again, depending on the problem, physical therapy may prove helpful.
Luxating Patellas: Although a luxating patella or “popping kneecap” is a condition of the knee. To prevent the kneecap from popping out, a brace needs to apply pressure to keep it in its proper position. We generally recommend surgery for this condition. If a dog is too elderly or medically compromised for surgery and the luxating patella is severe, again a mobility cart (wheelchair) may be a good solution.
Obesity: Dogs that are extremely overweight are not good candidates for stifle (knee) braces because the dog’s belly can literally prevent the brace from being positioned correctly on the dog’s leg. Also, even if we can get the brace on the leg, it can be pushed off the leg by the belly when the dog sits down. If the dog is otherwise a good candidate for a brace, the owner can contact us again after some weight loss has occurred.
Age-Related Muscle Atrophy: As dogs age they often experience muscle atrophy, especially in the rear legs. This presents with dogs having difficulty getting up after lying down or splaying their legs as they walk, particularly on smooth surfaces such as wood or tile floors. Braces would not be the correct solution in these cases because to use braces effectively, dogs need to have strength in their legs. If a dog cannot get up from lying down, braces would not make that any easier. In fact, braces may make the process harder. For these situations, adding throw rugs or inexpensive yoga mats around the house to help eliminate those smooth surfaces often makes getting up and down and walking easier. The dog also may benefit from wearing a Help ‘Em Up Harness or similar harness. The harness would enable the owner to help the dog get up from a lying down position or to assist the dog when walking on slippery floors, going up and down stairs, or getting into and out of the car.
Although some owners are not happy when we explain that the brace is not the best solution, we believe that being honest is the best policy even if that means saying no. While our goal is to provide the best possible solution to the pet’s orthopedic problem, sometimes that solution does not include a brace. In those cases, we do our best to provide an alternate, helpful solution so that your pet can continue to live a happy life.