Common Injuries

Below are some of the most common injuries we see at OrthoPets from the pet owners and veterinarians we work with. Please call or email us with any questions about your pet’s injury to find out how we can help!

STIFLE/KNEE

Torn CCL/ACL Injury (CCL/Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament)

The most common injury when pet owners and veterinarians consider using a dog knee brace (stifle orthosis) is for a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). This ligament is similar to the human anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The canine cranial cruciate ligament is one of four ligaments that join the tibia and femur together to create a stable dog knee joint (stifle joint).

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is responsible for stabilizing the tibia from abnormally thrusting forward and away from the femur. This is called “cranial tibial thrust.” Cranial tibial thrust results when the CCL presents with a partial tear or is completely torn. When your pet is standing, there is stifle joint (dog knee) compression force is created and causes the tibia to thrust forward. This forward (Cranial) tibial thrust results from the slope of the tibia enabling the femur to slide down the back of the tibia while the tibia slides forward from under the femur.

Your veterinarian is able to preform two “hands on” tests to reveal instability of your dog’s knee (stifle joint) in addition to radiographs. One test is to replicate stifle joint compression similar to weight bearing. This test is called the compression test. If the result of stifle joint compression forces the tibia to slide forward from under the femur (cranial thrust), the test is positive and a CCL tear or CCL rupture is suspected. The other test is the cranial drawer test. This test isolates the CCL and eliminates joint compression. Your veterinarian holds the upper bone (femur) static and pulls the lower bone (tibia) forward and way from the femur. This motion is just like pulling a drawer open. If the tibia can be pulled forward (cranial drawer), then the test is positive. Your veterinarian will also be exploring and evaluating the “feel” of the end range of this abnormal motion. This feel will help indicate the degree of injury and is helpful in determining treatment options.

OrthoPets has conducted significant research and has published a peer reviewed scientific paper describing the successful use and outcome of an OrthoPets Stifle Orthosis (dog knee brace). Our dog knee brace (stifle orthosis) for the canine ACL tear provides the necessary biomechanical force coupling to replicate stifle joint stability while allowing your pet to enjoying normal activities and stifle (knee) joint range of motion.

To learn more about our dog knee brace, take a look at our Stifle Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their OrthoPets dog knee brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets dog knee brace. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support your dog’s knee injury!

Canine Luxating Patella

A common injury when pet owners and veterinarians consider using a dog knee brace (stifle orthosis) is a Luxating Patella (AKA: dislocated knee cap, floating knee cap). The patella (knee cap) is held in place by a groove shape on the end of the femur (thigh bone) known as the “trochlear groove.” This groove allows the patella to glide up and down the end of the femur during stifle (knee) flexion and extension and prevent the quadriceps muscle tendon mechanism from sliding off the side surfaces of the femur.

A patellar luxation can occur due to malformation of the trochlear groove, curvature of the femur, or the shape of the patella. Trauma can also cause the patella to dislocate. The patella can luxate medially (inside surface) or laterally (outside surface). Patella luxation is common among smaller breeds but occurs in large breeds as well. Typically, a grading system is used to diagnose the severity of luxation; Grade 1 being less severe and Grade 4 being most severe.

Your veterinarian is able to perform simple diagnostic tests to rule out or diagnose a luxating patella of your dog’s knee. Diagnostics may include radiographs, joint taps, among other manual manipulations of the knee joint (stifle) to “feel” the stability of the knee cap and determine a grade of luxation if present.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s dislocated knee cap, an OrthoPets Stifle Orthosis (dog knee brace) may be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan. In order to address a luxation of the patella, the tibia (shin bone) has to be positioned in a way to properly align the patella within the trochlear groove by aligning the quadriceps muscle tendon mechanism. This realignment of the greater tibial tuberosity (top part of the shin bone) improves the direction of pull of the quadriceps and patellar tendon across the trochlear groove. This is similar to the surgical outcome of the tibial tuberosity transposition (TTT). However, an OrthoPets dog knee brace can only be effective in realigning the quadriceps mechanism within Grade 1 and 2 presentations.

Unfortunately, if your dog’s luxation has been diagnosed as a Grade 3-4 luxation, an external coaptation, such as an OrthoPets dog knee brace will not be able to achieve adequate tibial alignment nor would the patient tolerate the extreme twisting force needed to keep the knee cap in alignment. This is due in large part to femoral curvature deformity.

To learn more about our dog knee brace, take a look at our Stifle Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their dog knee brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets dog knee brace. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s knee injury or abnormal alignment!

TARSUS/ANKLE

Hock/Ankle Hyperextension

A common condition when pet owners and veterinarians consider using a dog hock brace (tarsal orthosis) is for hock (ankle) hyperextension. You may observe your dog’s hock (tarsal) joint present very straight rather than bent while walking or even standing. In severe presentations, your dog’s hock may even appear to bend in the opposite direction.

Your dog’s hock (tarsus) is composed of five joints that make up 7 tarsal (hock) bones, 2 crural bones (tibia/fibula or shin bones) and four to five metatarsal bones. There are several ligaments responsible for stabilizing the canine tarsal (hock) joint. Even though this presentation is not well described in veterinary literature, it is thought to be breed specific and occurs due to a laxity of the ligaments. In addition, if there are existing conditions higher up in your dog’s leg, this condition can occur due to compensation.

Your veterinarian is able to perform hands on tests to reveal the severity of laxity of the ligaments. They may suggest additional advanced diagnostics such as radiographs, and in some cases a CT to look for abnormalities within the joint.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s hock (tarsal) hyperextension, your veterinarian may recommend an OrthoPets Tarsal Orthosis (dog hock brace) to provide stability and support while holding your dog’s hock in an appropriate and comfortable position.

To learn more about our dog hock brace, take a look at our Tarsal Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their dog hock brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets dog hock brace. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s hock injury.

Dog Achilles Tendon Injury

One of the most common injuries that can occur to the tarsus (hock) is a rupture or partial rupture of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is made up of 5 different tendons divided into 2 different groups. The Achilles Tendon Complex is responsible for extending the tarsus into a normal weight-bearing position. When these tendons are disrupted, the dog presents a “dropped” or “hyper-flexion” of the tarsus. The Superficial Digital Flexor tendon can also be involved. This tendon is responsible for flexing the digits (toes) creating a “spring like” action to the paw mechanism. An excessive pull on this tendon when the Achilles is damaged can cause the toes to “curl under.”

Your vet will be preforming a hands-on evaluation and may choose some additional diagnostics to determine the extent of the injury before deciding on a plan. In many cases, a surgical intervention including the use of a custom orthosis post-operatively is prescribed for this type of injury. The benefit to using a custom orthosis post-operatively include customized tendon reloading during surgical recovery, controlled return to tendon loading during return to function, and device conversion to sports brace. The orthosis enables ease of access to the limb to inspect for skin irritations, breathability, and allows the pet to engage in water therapy such as underwater treadmill.
 
An OrthoPets Achilles Orthosis (hock brace) can be used as a “palliative” care solution. This would be used for patients not proceeding to surgery or patients who have experienced an unsuccessful Achilles tendon repairs.

To learn more about the dog hock brace, take a look at the Tarsal Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their OrthoPets dog hock brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets hock brace for your pet. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s Achilles injury!

Degenerative Myelopathy

The most common injury when pet owners and veterinarians consider using a Toe-Up Device (sciatic nerve sling), is for Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). The cause of Degenerative Myelopathy is unknown. However, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has developed a DNA test to identify patients who carry the mutated gene associated with DM. While having the mutated gene is not a diagnosis, it does significantly increase the likelihood that the patient could develop it. It is believed that DM causes the myelin sheath to break down in the spinal cord disrupting the neurological communication between the patient’s brain and hind limbs.

DM is a progressive disease that originates at the spinal cord. It may initially present as hind end weakness or knuckling progressing to ataxia and eventually hind limb paralysis. Degenerative Myelopathy is diagnosed through the process of elimination. Unfortunately, there is no cure. Formal rehabilitation in conjunction with an OrthoPets Toe-Up Device can improve a patient’s mobility and quality of life.

The OrthoPets Toe-Up is a dynamic assistive device designed to dorsiflex (return the paw to a normal position) the paw. By placing the paw into a normal alignment, the patient can walk without causing injury to the dorsum (top) of the paw. The OrthoPets Toe-Up device is used as a therapeutic intervention in conjunction with a formal rehabilitation program. OrthoPets Toe-Up candidates must be able to bear weight on the affected leg as well as advance the affected limb forward during gait.

To learn more about our Toe-Up Device (sciatic sling), take a look at our Toe-Up page to view patients enjoying life with their OrthoPets Toe-Up Device. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets Toe-Up Device. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your pet’s sciatic injury!

CARPUS/WRIST

Canine Carpal Hyperextension

One of the most common injuries when a pet owner or veterinarian considers using a carpal orthosis (dog wrist brace) is for a condition known as Carpal Hyperextension. The canine carpus is composed of three joints. Palmer fibrocartilage and ligaments support these individual joint levels. Fibrocartilage and ligaments support the palmar (backside) of the carpus while additional ligaments are located on the sides and dorsal (front side) of the carpus support those respective surfaces.

Any of these supportive structures can be affected by congenital deformities, trauma, degenerative disease processes and immune mediated conditions. Most commonly, patients are presented to OrthoPets for acute trauma to the palmar fibrocartilage (located on the back side) of the carpus causing the carpus (wrist) to collapse/drop into a hyperextended position.

Typically, carpal injuries such as canine carpal hyperextension, are diagnosed using a combination of physical exam and diagnostic imaging. During examination, your veterinarian will be looking for soft tissue swelling, pain or discomfort, abnormal range of motion and instability when the joints are stressed. Radiographs and other imaging techniques can be helpful in determining the severity and level of instability.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s carpal injury, an OrthoPets Carpal Orthosis (wrist brace) may be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan. Our dog wrist brace solutions can be built as a non-surgical, post-operative alternative to traditional casts, or as an advanced sports brace solution.

To learn more about our dog wrist brace, take a look at our Carpal Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their dog wrist brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets Carpal Orthosis. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s carpus injury.

Canine Osteosarcoma

A common condition OrthoPets is presented with are patients with Osteosarcoma affecting the carpus (wrist). Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer known to be very aggressive and can spread to other parts of the dog’s body. Bone cancer is most commonly diagnosed in larger breeds, but can affect all breeds.

In addition to a thorough physical exam, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic imaging to assess the severity of the affected bone and identify if the cancer has spread elsewhere. Once the progression of your pets cancer has been assessed, your veterinarian will be able to recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Not only can Osteosarcoma be very painful, but when the bone is affected, it loses its integrity and the dog is more susceptible to pathological fractures. Typically, amputation is recommended. In some cases, the patient may not be candidate for surgery or is physically incapable of being able to support themselves as a 3-legged dog. In these cases, an OrthoPets Carpal Orthosis may be an appropriate addition to your veterinarian’s treatment plan. The An OrthoPets Carpal Orthosis is designed to support the limb, decrease instability, decrease the chances of pathological fractures and hopefully in conjunction with your veterinarian’s pain management protocol, decrease pain and discomfort.

To learn more about our dog wrist brace (carpal orthosis), take a look at our Carpal Orthosis page and our gallery to view patients enjoying life with their dog wrist brace. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets dog wrist brace. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your pet’s condition.

If you and your veterinarian are considering an amputation, please take a look at our Common Injuries: Animal Prosthetics and our Thoracic (forelimb) Prosthetics page for more information about limb length requirements and how an OrthoPets Prosthetic Solution may be beneficial for your pet.

Missing or Non-functional Front Legs

The OrthoPets Hoppy/Wheelie Vest (front-end cart) is a custom mobility device for patients with a variety of forelimb presentations including absent limbs, amputation, hemimelia and congenital deformities. The Hoppy/Wheelie device is appropriate for patients weighing less than 25 pounds.

Patients missing or with non-functional thoracic limbs often adapt to their unique conformation. They learn to stand and walk on their pelvic limbs or learn to “tripod” with their chest and pelvic limbs. However, over time this presentation can create chronic back and neck pain while exposing the vertebrae to consistent abnormal pressure and torque. Patients may also experience trauma to their chest and/or abdomen.

The OrthoPets Hoppy/Wheelie Vest is designed to support the thorax (chest) allowing the patient to propel his/herself forward with the hind limbs. The Hoppy/Wheelie Vest is fabricated of durable, yet lightweight materials. Your pet’s specific biomechanics, anatomy, and veterinarian’s therapeutic goals are used to design the Hoppy/Wheelie Vest.

Most patients will require device acclimation time and a formal rehabilitation program to maximize their mobility and function in their OrthoPets Hoppy/Wheelie Vest. Your pet will need to learn how to control and maneuver in the device.

To find out more about our Hoppy/Wheelie Vest (front-end cart), take a look at our Hoppy/Wheelie Vest page to view patients enjoying life with their OrthoPets Hoppy/Wheelie Vest. Talk to your veterinarian about an OrthoPets Hoppy/Wheelie Vest. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility.

ELBOW

Dog Elbow Dysplasia

There are a number of reasons why you or your veterinarian would consider using an elbow brace for your pet. The most common dog elbow pathologies are Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), Osteoarthritis (OA), Osteochondrosis Dessecans (OCD), Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP), Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP) and Medial Compartment Disease. These terms can also fall into the category of dog Elbow Dysplasia.

The term Dysplasia refers to a joint that has abnormally developed and this can cause discomfort to your dog when walking and enjoying their normal activities. It is more common for large breed patients to be diagnosed with Elbow Dysplasia, though some smaller breeds can suffer as well, or could have had a traumatic event that caused there to be an instability in the elbow.

An OrthoPets canine elbow brace can be used for Elbow Dysplasia as well as other common elbow abnormalities. An OrthoPets dog elbow brace is not able to eliminate the vertical loading that happens when a pet stands on the limb, but is able to control and guide movement on the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes. This means that with the help of your veterinarian, OrthoPets is able to design an elbow support for your dog’s specific biomechanical needs.

When the diagnosis includes Medial Compartment Disease, we are able to provide an elbow brace that can aid in offloading the medial compartment to provide some additional relief to your pet.

It is very important when using a canine elbow brace for Elbow Dysplasia, OA, DJD or any of the above issues that you continue to work with your veterinarian on the best pain management protocol for your pet as these conditions can be very painful and a canine elbow brace is only a small portion of the treatment plan.

To learn more about our dog elbow brace, take a look at our Elbow Orthosis page to view patients enjoying life with their dog elbow brace. Talk with your veterinarian about an OrthoPets dog elbow brace. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s elbow injury or abnormality!

SHOULDER

Canine Medial Shoulder Instability

The most common injury when pet owners and veterinarians consider using an OrthoPets Hobble Vest is for Medial Shoulder Instability (MSI).

In dogs, the shoulder is stabilized by the subscapularis, supraspinatus, teres minor, infraspinatus muscles as well as the biceps tendon, medial and lateral ligaments. Injury to the medial collateral ligament occurs either when the forelimbs are harshly abducted through injury or through chronic abduction causing the ligament to slowly tear such as weaves poles used during agility trials. Elderly patients may also experience MSI after splaying on hardwood floors.

Medial Shoulder Instability (MSI) occurs when the medial collateral ligament has either partially or fully torn. Pain can often be elicited from abduction of the injured forelimb. Radiographs are not generally helpful for diagnosis MSI. CT or MRI can also be helpful diagnostic tools if MSI is suspected.

The OrthoPets Hobble Vest is designed to adduct the forelimbs creating a safe environment for the body to safely create a potential curative outcome. Evidence suggests that most dogs can experience an improved condition with the use of the Hobble Vest. More severe cases may still require surgery. It is important to note the Hobble Vest is not designed to be a sports device and is only meant to provide stability through restrictive support and control. The OrthoPets Hobble Vest should be used as a therapeutic intervention in conjunction with a formal rehabilitation program.

To learn more about our Hobble Vest (shoulder support vest), take a look at our Hobble Vest page to view patients enjoying life with their Hobble Vest. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s candidacy for an OrthoPets Hobble Vest. OrthoPets has US Partner Clinics and worldwide Distributors to help you and your pet on your journey to restored comfort and mobility. We are here to support you and your dog’s shoulder injury!

PROSTHETICS

Dog Prosthetics for Limb Amputations

A quickly growing treatment option in veterinary medicine is the use of animal prosthetic devices.

There are many conditions and injuries that occur in animals that require limb amputation. Limb amputation has historically included removal of the majority of the affected limb despite the level of affected or injured structures. Animal prosthetics provides new solutions enabling limb amputation to simply include removal of the affected aspect of the limb rather than full limb amputation. Surgical techniques to retain as much limb length as possible are being developed through the collaboration between OrthoPets and veterinary surgical professionals.

Many of the cases presented to OrthoPets have unknown medical histories but are suspected to be either congenital (born with deformity) or acute injury resulting in pre-planned partial limb amputation. Another common condition where amputation is discussed would be disease processes such as Osteosarcoma in which affected limb segments need to be amputated with clean margins and maximal limb length retention.

In all of these cases, traditional medicine for animals typically recommends a full limb amputation because “dogs do fine on three legs.” However true that may appear, biomechanically, dogs were built to be on four legs and when one limb is removed, significant compensation occurs. Remaining limbs are required to take on more weight distribution and forces than they were designed to withstand. The spine and neck can also be adversely affected as these structures experience compensatory changes.

A common level of amputation of the front and back legs is the removal of the paw and metacarpals or metatarsals. These lower limb injuries can result from horrific incidents such as accidents involving lawn mowers, fractures that have not healed or even cancerous disease processes.

Other common levels of pre-planned limb amputation occur at the level of the carpus or tarsus joints. These levels of amputation typically result from significant injury or trauma involving the majority of the lower limb segments. These can also be considered “salvage procedures” when traditional orthopedic surgeries are unable to be performed.

The above described potential animal prosthetic candidates have optimal outcomes due to their retained limb segments and anatomical joints. With retention of the limb through pre-planned amputation, the patient is able to control their prosthesis with ease.

OrthoPets continues to push the boundaries of animal prosthetics through innovations in prosthetic technology for patients who present with higher limb amputations. This is especially true for patients who are affected by conditions such as Osteosarcoma. Through our retrospective and prospective prosthetic studies, we are able to continue to improve our device design while assisting orthopedic surgeons in the development of amputation techniques.

While there are many levels of amputation and causes necessitating limb amputation, pre-planning and discussing surgical considerations and prosthetic solutions provide the best information and outcomes.

Contemplate before you amputate!

View our Forelimb Prosthetics page and our Hind Limb Prosthetics page.