How to know if your pet needs a dog brace

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As a dog owner, you want to do everything you can to take care of your four-legged friend. Part of doing that can sometimes involve taking care of their legs. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to leg injuries that make it difficult for them to move around and enjoy life. While surgery is an option that can be considered, it's a very expensive one that some people would have trouble affording. An affordable and suitable option that's worth considering is doggy braces. There are several needs it can fulfill and benefits it can give to your pet. Here are some important details to know about dog braces.

CCL insufficiency

If your dog has leg issues, more than likely, it could be a cranial cruciate ligament insufficiency. According to animal doctors, this is what commonly causes issues related to hindlimb lameness. The term "hindlimb lameness" describes any issue related to your pet having a shortened stride in their walk. Leg braces are believed to be useful for tackling this issue much the same way knee braces help humans. When a person wears a knee brace, it helps their injured limb to relax, protects against any impact, and gives the muscle time to control motion.

There are four types of braces, but the main one that may help your pet the most are functional braces. What functional braces accomplish is giving stability to your dog's knees if they've been unstable due to CCL insufficiency. In addition to providing stability, they can also be used for support after an operation for a ligament or tendon rupture.

How to know if your dog needs a brace

Determining whether your dog would benefit from a doggy brace should be based on a few factors. You should consider what your expectations for your dog are in using the dog brace, how much time you'll be able to devote to giving your dog the necessary care they'll need, and how active the dog is. If your dog is not as active when it comes to running around outside, a doggy brace can be really helpful for them to move around more again.

Custom brace

Custom canine braces are among the most recommended dog braces by veterinarians. The process of making them involves getting a cast mold of your pet's injured limb. They have your dog stand up with their limb in a neutral position and putting weight on the limb. When the cast has been created, it goes through a process modification that eventually makes it especially designed for your dog's leg. One thing that should be noted is that custom braces can be more expensive than regular braces. You should consider all dog brace options before deciding.

If you go with the custom brace option, there are a few steps you need to follow once it's been made. You should first schedule a fitting appointment. Doing this will help ensure that your dog's custom brace fits properly, and also show you how to put it on and take it off. It's important that you continually adjust your dog's brace within the first three days of wearing it. Dogs are generally able to adapt to the custom brace after the first few days. At nighttime, always make sure you remove the brace to avoid any potential swelling. 

You should also continue to check if there's any damage to the brace or sores on the dog in the first two weeks. Lastly, be sure to have an appointment for two weeks later to check if the brace is still fitting properly, and no issues are being caused. If there are open sores because of the brace, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Additionally, anytime the brace becomes wet, it should always be removed and dried before putting it back on your dog's leg.

Your dog's custom brace is designed to help your dog's stifle joint be able to move normally. More natural movement can potentially help your pet be able to do more of the activities they normally do in their day and reduce muscle atrophy.

Non-customized brace

If you choose to go with a non-customized dog brace, there are guidelines you can follow to make sure you choose the best equipment for your pet. The first feature you should consider is the fit. One way to avoid getting a knee brace that's the wrong size is measuring your dog. Once you know your dog's size, it might not be difficult to find the right one for them. There are leg braces that are designed for both rear legs and front legs. There are also different sizes that are offered too. With the various options, you can have a good chance of finding the right size brace that's a good fit for your pet.  

In addition to finding the right size, comfort should be considered as well. Some braces have a softer coating that helps reduce any friction against your dog's skin. With less friction, it reduces the possibility of sores forming that would need to be treated. Be aware that it's normal for callouses to form when dogs consistently wear a dog brace.

Another important thing to consider is support. The primary thing you want to accomplish most with a dog brace is giving your dog more control to move around. A brace with multiple straps can help give your dog some stability. In addition, you should look out for any brace that has the approval of veterinarians as well.

What dogs are most at risk of leg injuries?

Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and other dog breeds tend to be more at risk for leg injuries. Smaller breeds tend to be the least likely to develop any leg issues. You should also be mindful of managing your dog's weight, as the stress of the weight on a ligament can potentially cause issues. In some cases, dogs don't need any particular treatment to heal their legs. Sometimes all it takes is rest. A knee brace may still help relieve the pain in the leg and speed up the recovery time.

Could my dog's limp be a serious medical condition?

While some injuries can be due to strain from physical activity, it is possible that your pet's limping could be something more serious. Limps can also be caused by cancer, defects, degenerative diseases, and other serious conditions. In general, the most common cause of leg issues in a dog are injury and arthritis. Knowing what to pay attention to can help you determine whether to schedule an evaluation with a veterinarian.

If your dog taps the toe on the ground or doesn't put much weight on the leg when walking, it may not be much of a serious issue. Sometimes dogs will do some limping in between strides too. All of these may be just indications of a minor issue. If your pet is dangling their leg at an unnatural angle, this is a sign of potentially something more serious. Your dog may have a fractured or dislocated leg. 

You should pay close attention to see if there's bone piercing the skin, bleeding of the leg, or any swelling. When a dog is dragging their leg, that can be a possible sign of nerve damage. Touch your dog's limbs to see if they're hot as well. If you notice any of these issues, you should take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for evaluation.

How to care for a limping dog?

You should always first check to make sure it doesn't appear your dog is experiencing anything serious. See if the bones are broken by observing it at different angles. If the dog can bear weight on the limb, they likely don't have a serious condition. Once you've noticed there are no breaks in the dog's legs, the best thing you can do is keep your dog resting for a few days. Additionally, you can try placing a cold compress on your dog's leg to reduce any inflammation. Use a wet cloth or some frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth. A dog that appears to be in pain for more than 24 hours should be looked at by an animal doctor. You should never give your pet any pain medications unless advised by a veterinarian.

What should I expect when I visit a veterinarian?

Your veterinarian will do an initial physical and orthopedic exam of your dog's leg. They'll likely need to perform an X-ray to get a better understanding of what might be wrong. If its tissue-related issue, a CT or MRI scan might need to be performed. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and offer you steps to treat your dog's injury.

It's important to look into all the options you can to help provide the best care for your dog's legs. Braces can be an effective tool for restoring a dog's mobility and managing their pain. You can learn more about getting a brace for your dog at Doggy Brace.