Baku the Dream Eater

Baku the Dream Eater
Baku (source: the noominarium)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Orthotics and Your Pet

One of the most fascinating parts of learning about veterinary medicine is watching the way research and development are allowing us to help our pets in ways we never had before. Today we're going to talk about orthotics.

The medical definition of orthotics, as taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the support and bracing of weak or ineffective joints or muscles. This means things like braces, supports, or anything to help a person use a weakened joint or muscle group.  Veterinarians are now using special orthotics to help dogs and cats move more efficiently and help reduce pain, which is wonderful if your family member is suffering from orthopedic problems or illnesses.

For example:  Your 7 year old Golden Retriever has torn her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) during a play session with some other dogs.  You visit your vet, and after some xrays and a thorough examination, he diagnoses your dog with a partial or completely torn ACL.  

Surgery is usually the most common next step.  Estimate for surgery: $1500 to $3000 depending on the particular type of surgery needed, which is a lot of money to pay for surgery, unless you have pet insurance.  There is another choice: you could have your dog fitted for a special knee brace, to help strengthen the knee and prevent any further damage.  Along with physical therapy, the brace, which may cost only a few hundred dollars, can allow your dog to lead a normal life and play with her friends.

*picture taken from the OrthoPets Center for Veterinary Orthotics and Prosthetics,
Denver, Colorado, USA

With custom made orthotics for knees, elbows, ankles and writes, dogs who may be too old for surgery or too high-risk for anesthesia can benefit greatly and live longer, fuller lives. When used in conjunction with surgery, rehabilitation can be made smoother, and may even lessen the time your pet is in rehab. Dogs with partial paralysis due to a spinal injury or hereditary condition can be custom fitted for wheelchairs and slings to keep them active.  The number of pets who are humanely euthanized because of a poor prognosis or a diminished quality of life may be lessened with the development of orthotics.

Most pets can be custom fitted for the prostheses by your vet, and be ordered from a number of manufacturers around the US.  They’re usually made from tough plastic and fiberglass, and are made to be easy to clean and care for.   So if you have a pet who is having trouble moving around, and it’s affecting their quality of life, check out the amazing things that orthopedic veterinarians are making available for your dog or cat. Ask your vet and they will be able to steer you in the right direction, and help you fit your pet for the perfect prosthetic.