OrthoPets Blog

September 2016 Email News from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute


In Our September 2016 Issue …cac3180d-5d07-4baa-965d-a1807e08a0ee.jpg

  • We’re Headed Back to the UK in 2017!
  • Register Now for Classes in Australia in October and January!
  • Join Us in Maryland for Our Business Class!
  • Our Next Online Clinical Research Course Starts in January!
  • We Have Opened Registration for More 2017 Classes!
  • Our Colorado Classes Are Moving! … and more!

We’re Headed Back to the UK in April 2017! 

0384fdbc-8290-499f-b45c-8dd515f3633bThe Canine Rehabilitation Institute is excited to be returning to the United Kingdom!

We will be presenting our Canine Sports Medicine course at the University of Surrey’s new School of Veterinary Medicine on April 21-23, 2017. This brand-new veterinary school has amazing state-of-the-art facilities all in a beautiful park-like setting with hotels nearby in Guildford.

We plan to continue with the two remaining courses in our certification program – Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation and The Canine Rehabilitation Therapist – assuming we have sufficient demand.

Online registration will open soon. For more details, please see the UK Program page on our website.


The April 21-23 Canine Sports Medicine course will be held at the University of Surrey’s brand-new School of Veterinary Medicine.


CRI graduates Javier Gil Marinez-Darve, DVM, MRCVS, CCRT (left), Amy Watson, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, CCRT (third from left), and Pete van Dongen, DVM, Cert VR, MRCVS, CCRT(with his wife, Carry) met with CRI founder and CEO Dr. Janet Van Dyke (second from left) earlier this month to work on logistics for the course.

 Register Now for Classes in Australia in October and January!

 We are looking forward to holding two more classes Down Under in the next few months!


The CRI and VetPrac team in Australia in February.

Registration is now open for:

Please note that the venue for the October 14-18 Introduction class has changed. The new course location is:

Albion Park Raceway
Administration building level 1.
Yulestar St, Albion QLD 4010

Our Introduction course is open to all veterinarians and physiotherapists as well as any veterinary nurses who attended the Canine Sports Medicine course.

Our Canine Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy (Therapist Module) course is open to veterinarians and physiotherapists. Participants must have completed Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation with CRI either in Australia, Europe or the USA to qualify for this level of training.

Our host will again be Dr. Ilana Mendels and VetPrac, which did a spectacular job of organizing our first course.

To register online or learn more, visit the VetPrac website or see the Australian Program page of our website. If you have questions, please email Dr. Ilana Mendels of VetPrac at we.help@vetprac.com.

In the Words of Our Students … 

“What an amazing class (The Canine Rehabilitation Therapist)! Thank you to all of the instructors, TAs, and supportive staff for making this experience so great! My brain is full, and I can’t wait to transition from human physical therapy to canine.”

– Sunny Rubin, MSPT, Seattle, Washington

Join Us in Maryland for Our Business in Canine Rehabilitation Class!


Dr. Steve Steinberg

There are still a few seats left for The Business of Canine Rehabilitation, coming up October 22-23 in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The Business of Canine Rehabilitation will be held Saturday, October 22 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, October 23 from 8 a.m.-12 noon

at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, Maryland, approximately 1 hour from Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Faculty will include Steve Steinberg, VMD, Dip. ACVIM, Neurology, CCRT, Chief of Staff at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates.

Note: The second class offered this weekend, Aquatic Therapy in Canine Rehabilitation, is sold out. Please contact us to be added to our waiting list.

Please visit the Business and Aquatic Therapy course pages for more details about each course. To plan transportation and hotel accommodations, please visit our Travel Arrangements page for Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Don’t wait – register today to reserve your seat!

Register Now! Our Next Online Clinical Research Course Starts in January.


Chris Zink, DVM PhD

We have opened registration for the second session of our online course, Introduction to Veterinary Clinical Research. The course will begin January 10, 2017 and continue for 10 weeks, ending on March 20, 2017.

This online course, taught by CRI faculty member Chris Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR, is intended to help demystify clinical research for practicing rehabilitation therapists, interns and residents. Dr. Zink has spent more than 30 years conducting clinical research and is passionate about sports medicine and rehabilitation.

Students who took the first session of this course commented:

“I feel empowered to do clinical research. I now know how to ask the right questions and get the data.”

“This course has opened my eyes to how easily we could conduct clinical research in our own practice. For years we have documented outcomes from different treatment formats, and now we have a way to evaluate them and hopefully help others.”

The online course is open to all veterinarians and physical therapists. Each week there will be a 1-hour lecture to view on your own time, 2-4 hours for assignment preparation, and a 1-hour live discussion. This course also is RACE approved by the AAVSB for 15 credit hours.

This course is limited to 15 students, so register online now to reserve your seat in the class.

We Have Opened Registration for More 2017 Classes!

69bb9b2f-fba8-4e3d-8d94-8fed222b93bc.jpgWe have just opened registration for several more courses in 2017 – taking place in sunny Florida, online, and overseas. Classes are filling up. Register onlinenow to reserve your seat!

We also have just a few spaces left in our December 2016 Canine Rehabilitation Therapist class. Tuition increases in 2017, so join us in December to take advantage of the lower fee!

Registration is currently open for:

Please check our website for the most up-to-date course schedule.

Remember that we also offer discounted 2-course packages for either (1) The Canine Rehabilitation Therapist plus Canine Sports Medicine or (2) The Canine Rehabilitation Assistant plus Canine Sports Medicine. Please see the 2-Course Packages section at the bottom of the Online Registration pagefor more details. If you are not sure when you plan to take a course, you may choose the option of a “Future” class. “Future” registrations may be subject to tuition increases. (Learn more.)

If you have previously registered for a “Future” course and wish to attend a 2016 or 2017 class that is now open for registration, be sure to contact CRI and tell us which course you would like to attend. This is the only way to guarantee you have a seat in the course.

Don’t wait – register today to reserve your seat!

Our Colorado Classes Are Moving to a New Location!

975f5a53-5be6-4e90-ae92-57c444b11b2f.gifWe are excited to announce that starting in June 2017, CRI will be holding its Colorado classes at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, located just west of Denver.

Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital, part of the Ethos Veterinary Health group, is in the midst of constructing an all-new hospital that will include a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center and conference facilities. Construction is planned to be complete by spring 2017.

We expect our first class at Wheat Ridge to be Introduction to Canine Rehabilitd20457fd-e059-494f-8d27-39c425771a38.jpgation from June 18-22, followed by Canine Sports Medicine from June 24-26.

Everyone at CRI is excited about this new opportunity to partner with the team at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and the entire Ethos Veterinary Health group of practices.

To follow the progress on the new building, see the construction photos posted in the NEW Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital album on Facebook.

We’d also like to add our sincere thanks to Dr. Brian McKee and his crew at Aspen Arbor Animal Hospital and Lori Beuerle and her team at Canine Rehabilitation & Conditioning Group (CRCG) for being our hosts in Broomfield for the last 6+ years!

Save the Dates for Our 2017 Classes!

cef82afe-b126-481d-aa70-3b30428d6334.jpgCRI is excited to announce the dates for our January-May 2017 U.S. classes! If you are ready to move forward with certification, mark these dates on your calendar and plan to join us!

Our CCRT program is offered to veterinarians and physical therapists. Our CCRA program is offered to veterinary technicians. Please see our CCRT page and CCRA page for more information about each program and the sequence in which courses may be taken.

In Coral Springs, Florida:
Registration for each class will open approximately 6-8 months in advance. We will announce our Continuing Education courses planned for 2017 soon. Please visit the Course Schedule page on our website for the latest information.

Demand Growing for Animal Rehabilitation Services

1c9fada9-8969-4e5c-b913-49fae13de254.jpgA recent article in Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper spotlighted the increasing demand for animal rehabilitation services. The article, “Why demand for upscale animal rehabilitation facilities is growing in suburbs,” featured Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, which opened a new 8,600-square foot athletic center in August to meet the increasing demand for animal exercise and recovery services.

In the article, Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said the main reason for the increase is the changed relationship between humans and pets.

“Over the last few generations we have brought our pets into our houses, into our beds in some cases, and included them as a part of our families,” he said. “Along with that comes a demand or expectation that they can get the same kinds of treatments that we get as humans. … If people have a dog that is sick or injured, they are willing to go the extra mile to see what treatments are out there and give it a try.”

The article also noted that in 2010 the American Veterinary Medical Association established board certification for sports medicine and rehabilitation because of increased interest. CRI founder Dr. Janet Van Dyke and faculty members Drs. Felix Duerr, Laurie McCauley, Patrice Mich, Kristin Kirkby Shaw, Joe Spoo, and Chris Zink all have earned board certification through the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

germanyCRI Travels to Germany!

CRI traveled to Frankfurt, Germany earlier in September to hold its Canine Sports Medicine class at Praxis für Tiermedizin & Chiropraktik in its newly renovated practice and teaching facility.

Students take part in a gait analysis lab outdoors at Praxis für Tiermedizin & Chiropraktik in Frankfurt, Germany.


Students work on patient assessment labs indoors.

Our thanks to Dr. Alexandra Keller of Praxis für Tiermedizin & Chiropraktik for hosting this course.

CRI looks forward to returning to this beautiful practice in May/June 2017 to bring the Canine Sports Medicine module back and to offer the Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation module. Watch this newsletter for more details.

Be Careful With Protected Terms Such as “Physical Therapy” and “Veterinary Medicine.” 

CRI students and graduates, please remember that you may only use protected terms such as “physical therapy” and “veterinary medicine” in your advertising materials if you are licensed in these fields. We discuss protected terms during Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation, and we hope everyone continues to remember and follow the recommendations provided.

CRI Students: Remember to Back Up Your Files!

b70dc548-619a-4188-b367-181b51d3bf4cCRI students, be sure to take a few minutes to back up all the electronic files from your CRI courses. We have heard from a few students recently who have experienced hard drive crashes and lost their CRI materials. Our faculty members frequently update their electronic files, so we are not able to provide copies of previous course materials. Please back up your CRI files and all other important files so you will be protected in the event of a computer malfunction.

CRI Graduates: Is Your Contact Information Still Correct?

If you are a CRI graduate, please check your listing in the Find a Therapist online directory and make sure the contact information is correct. If you have any updates, please email Joyce Rudzitis, CRI’s chief operating officer.

OrthoPets Case Study: Casey

We’ve asked our colleagues at OrthoPets to share case studies with us as a way of providing more education about orthotics and prosthetics.


Casey is an English Pointer who is her owner’s hunting companion. A few months ago, Casey returned from the field lame in the hind end, so her owner thought it would be best to take her to the veterinarian. On gait evaluation, Casey showed a mild lameness worse in the left hind limb. While there was no evidence of increased tarsal flexion (“dropped hock” or “crab-claw” appearance), palpation of the common calcanean tendons revealed thickening bilaterally especially at the insertion of the calcaneus. Radiographs showed areas of dystrophic calcification at the insertion of the tendon. The rest of the exam was within normal limits. Casey was diagnosed with bilateral (Type 3, which is a tendinosis only with no increased hock flexion) Achilles tendonopathy, with the left being more symptomatic that the right. While Type 3 injuries can progress to more severe injuries (frequently Type 2c), surgery is generally not recommended for these injuries since the tendon is intact. Casey was placed on restricted activity and referred to a rehabilitation therapist to discuss options for this patient, specifically custom orthotic devices to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendons while they heal.

The OrthoPets tarsal orthosis creates an external moment to stabilize the tarsus when the soft tissues are not capable of stabilizing it. For cases like Casey, the first stage is generally a tarsus paw configuration with a locked-out motion limiter. This device does all the work for the Achilles mechanism allowing the early healing stages to proceed by removing tension on the impaired tendon. By doing so, the device provides an optimal environment to allow the body to heal.

Once early healing has been accomplished, the orthosis can be adjusted to allow additional flexion as the patient is able to handle some, or all, of the forces acting on the tarsus via the Achilles mechanism. Commonly used assessments to determine integrity of the Achilles tendon are palpation, clinical symptoms, goniometry, measurement of the standing angle and ideally ultrasound. When the veterinarian decides to begin additional loading of the Achilles tendon, destabilization of the device is warranted.

Casey’s owners opted to move forward with bilateral tarsal orthotics in the hopes that the tendons will heal on their own, so that she can get back to hunting activities. Casey received bilateral articulating tarsal devices with articulating paw segments. Initially, Casey was placed in 165 degrees of tarsal extension with very limited movement allowed. As the tendon heals, Casey will gradually be allowed increased range of motion at the tarsus in increments of 10 degrees. If Casey shows signs of a full recovery, the goal is to remove the paw segment and to use the devices at times of high activity (such as hunting) to prevent further injury to her Achilles complex.

When dogs are able to demonstrate a standing tarsal angle when challenged (i.e. holding up the contralateral limb) of >135 degrees, they generally are able to transition into a sports brace. The sports brace conversion consists of grinding down the distal metatarsal shell removing the hinge attachment for the paw segment and adding a foam edge band to aid in device suspension. If this option is chosen, we will also replace the metal motion limiting component with a Dacron motion limiting strap allowing flexion to 120 degrees. Please note that due to these changes, this conversion is irreversible and therefore has to be considered carefully (if recurrence is observed a new device has to be manufactured).

If a dog does not start to show signs of recovery, the goals and device requirements need to change to match the fact that the tendon is not healing to the degree desired. This is particularly common in dogs that have more severe disease with an increased tarsal flexion angle. If this is observed, despite the environment being provided via the orthosis and the required owner compliance, it may mean that a patient will be fully reliant on the orthosis. In these cases, further or other treatment options such as regenerative medicine or surgical treatment in combination with the orthosis may be considered. Of course, tendon healing is slow and sometimes just giving it more time allows progression through the phases.

CRI Offers Sponsorship Opportunities.   e37f3f32-5502-41a9-9758-70ef2b788082

CRI is now offering the following opportunities for sponsorship.

  • Place a Banner Ad in the CRI e-Newsletter
  • Sponsor a Lunch & Learn
  • Sponsor a Lunch
  • Sponsor a Dinner Presentation
  • Sponsor a Continuing Education Course

For complete details, download the Sponsorship Opportunities flier.

To become a sponsor, please contact Emily Selbe atemily.selbe@att.net.

efafd40a-b8e3-4335-ad9c-4be7fa228be4Thank You, Purina, for Your Support!

Our sincere thanks to Purina for supporting our Canine Sports Medicine courses through Lunch & Learns throughout 2016.


Sign Up for a New Email Newsletter from the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

0fe78a9c-ad5d-43b4-9d05-18b64d8a5c9cThe American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation now has a monthly newsletter edited by Dr. Janet Van Dyke, CRI founder and CEO. If you are interested in receiving regular updates from the college, sign up for this newsletter by going to the ACVSMR website.

Looking for Relevant Publications?  

ac072ca4-7eab-4425-939f-187793b5c04aWant more current publications? Want more evidence? Join the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians and receive access to the monthly Articles of Interest – a curated document listing published articles relevant to veterinary rehabilitation. In addition, members can browse the AARV archives for articles compiled over the past several years.

AARV Adds Membership Category for Allied Health Professionals.

ac072ca4-7eab-4425-939f-187793b5c04aCRI applauds the recent decision by the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV) to add a new membership category for Allied Health Professionals. The annual dues are $40, and this gives members access to the members-only pages of the AARV website, including the archived Monthly Articles of Interest (recent publications on research related to rehabilitation), and discounts offered by AARV sponsor companies. We encourage our PT and PTA colleagues to take advantage of this opportunity.

Visit the AARV website to learn more about membership benefits and how to become a member.

Dr. Janet Van Dyke, CRI founder and CEO, is an AARV past president. CRI graduate Dr. Carolina Medina currently serves as AARV president.

Thank You to the Following Sponsors for Their Support!


87ba7ab1-7abc-47c3-b237-46f85cc1efe6CRI courses are held year-round in locations across the country. Visit our website at www.caninerehabinstitute.com for more information including a complete course calendar.

Don’t forget that CCRTs and CCRAs are eligible for a 10% discount on most CRI Continuing Education Courses!

August 2016 Email News from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute

August 2016 Email News from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute


In Our August 2016 Issue … 

  • 4e17ddaa-703e-4c12-993c-2bcd0b3ef3cbRegister Now for Canine Sports Medicine in Germany!
  • Five Seats Are Available for Our Introduction Course in Australia … and We’re Planning to Return in January!
  • Register Now for Our Business Class – Only a Few Seats Remain!
  • Registration Is Open for January 2017 Classes!
    Save the Dates for Our 2017 Classes!
    Interested in Our New Online Clinical Research Course?
  • Be Careful With Protected Terms … and more!


read more…



Dear OrthoPets
Just a quick note to tell you what a huge fan of OrthoPets I am!! When we first got the carpus brace for Keeper, we needed it right away following an unexpected follow-up surgery. LiLen worked with me to get it delivered super fast. The product is excellent, keeps the joint completely stable, is easy to put on and take off, fits perfectly (after one year of hard wear, not a single sore), is easy to retread, and is also factory reburbishable. I only wish we’d had it since the very beginning on the injury. Maybe if we had, he wouldn’t need to wear it the rest of his life. As it is, I’m incredibly grateful for this high-quality solution, as it allows Keeper to remain a four-legged dog. He’s found many ways to use it beyond its original purpose (e.g. door knocker). Kudos to LiLen and OrthoPets for an outstanding product and excellent customer service!

Thank you! Maria and Keeper

Patient Feature: Colville


Handsome fella!

Meet Colville (aka CJ), a 2 year old rescued Pittie mix currently cared for by foster mom Jennifer of Black Dog Second Chance Rescue in New York. Colville was born with agenesis of his distal right forelimb, meaning that his toes and paw never fully formed. Colville previously had a prosthetic limb from another manufacturer, but he received that prosthetic early in life and eventually outgrew it. When it became obvious from the way he was using it that his old device was too small and he would need a new prosthetic, Black Dog and Jennifer reached out to OrthoPets to make Colville’s next leg for him.

In order to fabricate a functional forelimb prosthetic, OrthoPets needs at least 40-50% of the antebrachium (radius/ulna) remaining for the patient to have adequate proprioception and control of the limb, as well as device suspension. Colville’s OrthoPets case manager Silver began by assessing videos of Colville in his old device along with radiographs of his limb to determine how much limb he had, which in Colville’s case was plenty. Silver recommended a fairly standard below carpus prosthetic with a “clamshell” type design to fasten to the stump. His new device has a removable liner, which makes it easier to keep clean, as well as to just replace the liner when it’s worn out rather than refurbish the whole device every time the lining wears down too much to be functional any longer.


Colville hams it up.

Early after Colville received his device, he had it fall off from a bout of playing too hard, but otherwise he has had relatively few concerns since receiving his new prosthetic. Because he is a Pittie mix with typical thin/sensitive skin and haircoat, he did have some areas of friction and rubbing. Silver says, “Typically irritation [from a device] comes in 3 forms: Pressure, friction and heat retention.” Some of this irritation on Colville’s stump was most likely actually caused when he was not wearing his prosthetic , and then unfortunately exacerbated by the prosthetic when he was using it. Colville also struggles with chronic allergic hives, which sometimes mean he just has to take a break from wearing his prosthetic until the hives subside. Since he saw continuing skin irritation even with careful management, Silver eventually recommended that Colville wear a custom Drifit prosthetic sock underneath his device to help protect his delicate skin and keep things nice and dry. OrthoPets also made some adjustments to Colville’s device with “glide” material to help mitigate areas of heat/friction, and sometimes Jennifer uses various powder products to help with dryness and reduce friction inside the device.

The biggest challenge for Colville with his prosthetic, other than his sensitive Pittie skin, and his allergies, is that he is so incredibly active, but with careful donning technique, his prosthetic has kept up with his hard-playing style! Check him out showing off his skills with his prosthetic in the water and on a steep shale bank in this cute video from foster mom Jennifer:

Awesome job, Colville and Jennifer!

Colville is currently available for adoption through Black Dog Second Chance Rescue.

Mini horse gets his groove back with special hoof


Miniature horse Shine is fitted with a prosthetic hoof at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. (Photo: William A. Cotton/CSU Photograph.)

FORT COLLINS, CO — The James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU gave a 3-year-old miniature horse a new lease on life by using a 3-D printer and prosthetics to replace a missing hoof.

Shine was injured after a vicious dog attack left his left hind leg mangled and infected. Veterinarians at the hospital had to amputate the leg in order for Shine to survive.

According to Colorado State University, owners Jacque Corsentino and Lee Vigil told veterinarians to “do whatever it takes” to give the horse another chance at a normal life.

And thanks to Shine’s size — he’s 30 inches tall and 150 pounds — he was a good candidate for a prosthetic hoof.

It’s an uncommon approach, said Laurie Goodrich, associate professor of equine orthopedics at CSU.

Goodrich used measurements, Shine’s radiographs and a 3-D printer to build a replica of the horse’s hoof to help him stay balanced while he healed.

“It’s the first one I’ve done, but I’ve always wanted to try,” she said. “We had no way of preserving that limb … this was the only option to preserve his life.”

Shine was fitted with an artificial hoof from OrthoPets and now he is adjusting confidently to trotting. He is preparing to leave the teaching hospital and return home to his ranch in Florence, Colorado, later this week.

“He is so comforting. You know when you have horrible days? Shine is my therapy,” Corsentino said. “I think he would make an amazing therapy horse for wounded warriors or kids with disabilities.”

Colorado State University contributed to this report.

For more heartwarming stories, LIKE Humankind on Facebook.

This story about CSU/OrthoPets patient Shine first appeared at LIKE Human: http://usat.ly/1Swkw6g

Patient Feature: Thebault

10295424_10154049366753070_1546401641221682990_oMeet Thebault, a nine year old Sheltie who has suffered from intermittent left front limb lameness since he was a puppy. As he got older, he started to struggle with routine things like walks, stairs, slippery surfaces and even standing up from a sitting position. He was diagnosed with carpal hyperextension and DJD (degenerative joint disease), with a possible but unconfirmed diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Thebault’s owners initially went through our partner clinic, Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy, located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, outside of Detroit. Dr. Kern has trained extensively with OrthoPets in our process and works on a number of cases with us regularly in addition to being certified in canine rehabilitation and other pain management modalities. In Thebault’s case, she was able to help him acclimate to his device and, in conjunction with rehab techniques, learn to use it appropriately and comfortably in preparation for a big family move to Alaska.

Dr. Kern and Silver, Thebault’s OrthoPets Case Manager, selected an articulating carpus, articulating paw, “Carter”-style device design for Thebault. This device has a cranial (front) shell, as opposed to our non-articulating and fully caudal (back)  shell device. Thebault didn’t need his device to act as a non-surgical arthrodesis and completely stop all motion the way a non-articulating device would. He just needed help to control some of the movement and laxity in his limb that was making him uncomfortable.

Thebault received his device in early April 2016, and in spite of some shyness at his fitting appointment and even acting at first like the device was chasing him, he took to his orthosis (dog brace) very quickly. Because of the laxity of his digits, Thebault initially tended to supinate in the paw segment of his device which caused some irritation to his lateral 5th digit. This eventually necessitated the device coming back to OrthoPets to have the paw segment heat flared slightly to accommodate this tendency without encouraging it too much. His owners found that he tended to lick that area when his device was removed even after the adjustment, but were able to prevent him licking and further irritating it by putting a baby sock on the foot both to protect it and to distract him from licking as soon as the device came off.

Thebault and his family moved to Alaska in May and by the time they made the move, Thebault was so happy in his device that he actually raises his paw to have it put on. Because of his history and age, Thebault will likely require another orthotic device for his right front limb eventually, but for now he’s doing great with one device and is able to run and play and enjoy walks with his family again!

A Spot Blog Follow Up Share: Followup: Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

Please read this follow up to the previous blog we shared of Dr. Nancy Kay from Spot Speaks blog. Please visit her site at www.speakingforspot.com.

Followup: Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

Photo Credit: OrthoPets

In response to my recent blog post comparing surgery of canine cruciate ligament disease to treatment with a brace (orthosis), I received several excellent comments, one of which I want to be sure you have the opportunity to read.

The comment contains detailed information about orthoses (knee braces), how they work, how they are fitted, and when they should be considered. The comment was submitted by Dr. Ilana Strubel, a veterinarian who is certified in the fields of integrative veterinary physical rehabilitation, veterinary orthotics and prosthetics consultations, chiropractic, acupressure, nutrition, and animal behavior.

Not only did Dr. Strubel’s comment provide insights from her own experience, she also included material written by the folks at OrthoPets whose vision is, “to improve our patient’s quality of life through innovative prosthetic and orthotic solutions.” Before writing this, I spent some time on this company’s Facebook page. I invite you to scroll through their many photos and videos. I think you will say, “Wow!!” just like I did.

Here is what Dr. Strubel had to say:

Thanks for posting this well written piece featuring the first real published information about the use of stifle orthosis (knee brace) for conservative treatment of the ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in dogs. I am a veterinarian certified in canine rehabilitation, and I work very closely with OrthoPets. Together, as a team, we select who would be a good candidate for a stifle orthosis, and make very careful measurements to design custom stifle orthotics (as well as many other types of veterinary orthotic and prosthetics).


If the orthotic measurements and fittings are done by a more experienced and trained rehabilitation professional, the outcome is usually better. Also, in my experience, the level of skill and knowledge of orthotics manufacturers vary widely. This too will greatly affect the outcome for both fit and function.

A custom medical device usually does require acclimation and adjustment for both the dog and the caregiver who must learn to don the device correctly. But once the fit and function is good, the patients do really well!


Here are some more considerations written by OrthoPets for individuals thinking about a stifle orthotic solution as an alternative to surgery for the dog.

Is a stifle orthosis the right solution for you and your dog?

Injury to the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, also called the ACL) is the most common orthopedic injury in the dog. This injury is due to a partial or complete tear of a ligament inside the stifle (knee). The resulting instability leads to pain and arthritis.

Stabilization is recommended for best short and long-term function, quality of life, and comfort. Stabilization is traditionally done surgically, either with a joint realignment surgery (TPLO or TTA) or with a pseudo-ligament surgically placed outside the joint (tight rope or lateral suture). These procedures are considered the standard of care, in general. In the past 10 years, the use of custom orthosis (brace) has become available as an alternative to surgery when surgery is not appropriate for any reason. These reasons may include other health issues, unacceptable surgical or anesthesia risk, advanced age, and financial constraints, among others.

Because an orthosis is not the correct therapy for all patients, before choosing an orthosis the following points are important to keep in mind:

  1. The device MUST be put on every morning and removed every night. The device is to be used all day everyday, but must be removed at night. It is NOT like a human knee brace, worn only for sport. The orthosis stabilizes the stifle from the outside only when ON, while surgery does so from the inside permanently. Because of this, it must be used whenever your dog will be standing and/or moving about. The device is not used at night and your dog must not be allowed to move about at night (jump on or off bed, wander the house, go outside through a dog door, etc.).
  1. Adjustments are expected and are a normal part of the custom orthosis process. The device is custom-made for your dog. Every effort is made to accurately fit the device and 2 complimentary adjustments are included in order to meet the requirements for an appropriate fit. Your veterinarian will coordinate these adjustments. Importantly, your dog is much more active at home than at the veterinary clinic. Increased activity and activity intensity can expose fit issues requiring further adjustment. Additional adjustments, if needed, are most commonly required in the first few months and as time goes on (see importance of follow-up #4). Please follow all instructions with regard to monitoring the leg and contact your rehabilitation veterinarian promptly if you have concerns.
  1. Follow-up is critical to success. An orthosis is considered a “durable medical device.” This means that proper use is necessary to meet therapeutic goals and to ensure its safe application over the lifetime of your dog. During the first few months of fitting, your rehabilitation veterinary team with the help of your OrthoPets-trained veterinary case manager will work with you, coaching with regard to device use and rehabilitation. Annual to twice annual appointments are advised depending on age and activity of your dog. At these appointments your doctor will thoroughly assess your dog’s orthopedic condition and evaluate the condition and fit of the device. Recommendations will be made for continued success in the device. If adjustments are required, it will be necessary to ship the device to OrthoPets with a turnaround time of 1-3 business days excluding shipping time.
  1. Even with an orthosis, surgery may be required. When the cranial cruciate ligament is torn sometimes the meniscus is also torn. The meniscus is a comma shaped cushion on the inside of the stifle. There are two, one on the middle and one on the outer side of the stifle. The middle or medial meniscus is most commonly injured, and this may occur at the time of the initial cranial cruciate injury or any time later due to too much activity on an unstable joint. A torn meniscus is very painful and if not treated it will cause continued lameness despite stabilizing the joint with surgery or an orthosis. If this occurs, a surgical procedure called a partial medial meniscectomy is required.  It can be done by itself or with a surgical stabilization (see first paragraph). A torn medial meniscus is diagnosed either at surgery, by MRI (rarely), ultrasound where available, or based on clinical judgment with or without use of an orthosis. If your veterinarian suspects a meniscus tear please see our handout on options available for your dog.
  1. The Role of Rehabilitation: Whether your dog undergoes surgical or orthosis stabilization for a torn cranial cruciate ligament, and whether or not surgery is required for a torn medial meniscus, it will take time to recover to full, comfortable function. If an orthosis is part of therapy most dogs adapt quickly to wearing an orthosis. Behavioral techniques can facilitate this. Also, your dog will need to learn basic skills while wearing the device. These include: transitions (sitting, lying down, and getting up), stairs, getting into vehicles safely, and managing on different types of surfaces (ground, carpet, hardwood floor, etc.). Finally, orthopedic injury leads to compensatory abnormal movement and associated muscle strain and weakness. The best way to ensure the highest level of success is to follow recommended rehabilitation schedule and techniques. Each patient’s condition and abilities are unique and, as such, an individualized rehabilitation program is needed. It is important to work with a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT) who will custom design your dog’s physical therapy program.

Orthotics (braces) for dogs is a new solution to an old problem. Modern medicine moves forward at a rapid pace. It takes a lot of time and many tens of thousands of dollars to perform a controlled clinical trial to compare a new therapy to the standard therapies in common use. As such, there is limited published data directly comparing use of a stifle orthosis to surgical stabilization for CCL injury in the dog. As the industry leader using our unique, anatomically aligned, and mechanically sound custom design, OrthoPets provides stifle orthoses for nearly 1,000 dogs per year. This level of experience allows us to carefully select the patients best suited for a stifle orthosis, design appropriate rehabilitation protocols for best success, and troubleshoot interesting individual patient challenges. This is not a substitute for clinical data, but is referred to as empirical (or experiential) data. This is the current state of orthotics for animals. OrthoPets continues to work closely with university professionals at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine to develop studies to prove and improve the use of orthotic devices in animals.

If your dog tears a cruciate ligament, will you consider a brace rather than surgery as a first treatment?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available athttp://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

A Spot Speaks Blog Share: Cruciate Ligament Disease: A Comparison of Surgical and Nonsurgical Treatment Outcomes

Please read the following blog by Dr. Nancy Kay of Spot Speaks! You can read all of her blogs at: www.speakingforspot.com

Cruciate Ligament Disease: A Comparison of Surgical and Nonsurgical Treatment Outcomes

SFSBlog_cruciateligamentI was intrigued by the results of a recently published study in which the researchers focused on cranial cruciate ligament disease (CCLD) in dogs. Specifically, they evaluated owner satisfaction with outcomes of two very different treatment options, one involving surgery and the other using a custom fitted brace (orthosis).

An all too common injury

The cranial cruciate ligament is vital for maintaining stability within the knee joint (stifle). Tearing of this ligament is ridiculously common, particularly in medium and large sized dogs.

In most cases, the tear occurs abruptly, often in association with exercise or activity. It results in a sudden onset of lameness with the dog often unwilling to bear any weight on the affected leg. More and more, we are learning that neutering before one year of age predisposes to cruciate ligament disease, at least in some breeds. This association has been clearly documented inLabradors, Golden Retrievers, Vizslas, and German Shepherds.

Traditional treatment recommendations

As far back as I can remember, surgical repair has been the primary recommendation veterinarians make for treatment of CCLD in medium and large sized dogs.

The recommendation for nonsurgical management (restricted activity, a knee brace, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications, the tincture of time) is usually reserved for smaller dogs with the thinking that, the lighter the load carried by the knee, the less there is a need to restore “perfect” function. For medium and larger sized dogs nonsurgical management is typically the “go to” when there are extenuating circumstances such as financial constraints, anesthesia risks, advanced age, concurrent diseases, opposition to surgery, or an inability to successfully manage post-operative care. And, these extenuating circumstances commonly arise.

Study design

The researchers distributed online surveys to people whose dogs were treated for CCLD. The questions were developed to evaluate their overall satisfaction with treatment outcomes. All the dogs were medium to large sized dogs and all were treated via one of the following two methods:

  1. Surgical treatment with tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) procedure

Of the many types of surgeries used to repair torn cruciate ligaments, the TPLO has long been regarded as a gold standard. This surgery has an excellent track record for restoring normal function and minimizing development of arthritic changes within the knee.

TPLO surgery is performed almost exclusively by veterinarians who specialize in surgery. The operation is quite pricey, particularly for dogs who end up tearing ligaments in both knees (happens approximately 50% of the time). TPLO post-operative care is laborious involving a lengthy period of confinement and controlled activity for the dog. (I know this to be true from much personal experience!) The TPLO complication rate is reported to be less than 7%, and most of the complications resolve with appropriate treatment.

  1. Nonsurgical treatment with a custom made knee joint orthosis (brace)

With the recent rise in access to canine rehabilitation therapy (the equivalent of physical therapy in the world of human medicine), the use of custom fit orthoses (braces) to treat dogs with CCLD has grown in popularity.

Study results

Of the 1,022 surveys distributed, 309 were completed- 203 from the orthosis group and 76 from the TPLO group. There were no significant differences between body weight, size, and age of dogs between the two groups.

Factors influencing treatment decisions

The factors that most influenced the decision to treat with an orthosis rather than surgery were cost, convenience, and personal preference. Amongst the TPLO respondents, veterinarian recommendation was stated to be the most influential factor.

Treatment outcomes

The proportion of respondents who reported that their dog’s treatment outcome was excellent, very good, or good was higher (98%) within the TPLO group compared to the orthosis group (86%). The percentage of respondents who reported that their dogs had either mild or no lameness following treatment was also higher in the TPLO group (98%) than in the orthosis group (88%).


Forty-six percent of respondents in the orthosis group reported that medical attention was required for skin problems caused by the brace. The need for multiple orthosis adjustments was commonly reported. By comparison, only 4% of respondents from the TPLO group reported complications requiring medical attention.

Customer satisfaction

Overall satisfaction ratings were pretty much identical with 85-90% of respondents from bothgroups reporting that, given the chance, they would choose the same treatment again.


Plenty of prior studies have evaluated CCLD surgical outcomes. This study is one of the first providing well-researched data pertaining to a nonsurgical treatment option.

The results are thought provoking for me on a few different levels:

  • I was surprised that, despite the fact that reports of a normal gait (no lameness) and ratings of outcomes were significantly lower in the orthosis treated group, these respondents reported a high level of satisfaction and willingness to make the same choice all over again.
  • I was surprised that, in spite of the very high complication rate associated with orthosis treatment (46%), respondents reported a high level of satisfaction with this treatment plan and a willingness to make the same choice again.
  • Prior to reading this study, I would have assumed that nonsurgical treatment for CCLD would have resulted in lower customer satisfaction. I would have been wrong. My notion is that the high level of satisfaction within the orthosis group was related to good communication between veterinarians and clients about realistic expectations.

So, how is all of this information relevant to dog lovers and the veterinarians who advise them? It makes a strong case for veterinarians spending time in the exam room discussing all CCLD treatment options with their clients rather than focusing solely on surgery.

Despite the sentiment that surgery is the best treatment choice for CCLD, in many cases, this option simply isn’t feasible. Kudos to the researchers involved in this study for choosing to evaluate a nonsurgical alternative.

Has your dog ever torn a cruciate ligament? If so, what did you opt to do and what was the outcome?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available athttp://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

July 2016 Email News from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute


In Our July 2016 Issue …unnamed-1.jpg

  • Register Now for Fall / Winter and January Classes!
  • Save the Dates for Our 2017 Classes!
  • Interested in Our Continuing Ed Classes? Contact Us!
  • Register Now for Canine Sports Medicine in Germany!
  • Our Introduction Course in Australia Is Almost Sold Out!
  • We’re Headed Back to the UK in 2017.
  • CRI Students: Remember to Back Up Your Files … and more!

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