Russell – L Rear Limb Prosthesis

Meet Russell, our August 2017 Pet of the Month.  Russell was born in August 2016 without the lower part of his left rear limb.  His left stifle (knee) was present along with 1/3 of his left tibia compared to the length of his right tibial.  His left hock (ankle) and paw were completely missing.

We met Russell on 12/21/16, when he was only 4 months old, because his family was interested in getting a prosthesis for his L rear leg, if possible.  We love to meet puppies early in life when they have conditions like this for many reasons.  We can monitor their growth and know when they are likely to be done growing, so that we can cast them as early as possible for their prosthesis.  We can also teach them (and their families) exercises to help the process of preparation for a prosthesis and adapting to it as quickly as possible.  The longer an animal goes without a prosthesis, the harder it is to convince them to use it consistently.

The length of Russell’s residual L rear limb, particularly the lack of his L hock/ankle & paw, posed some challenges for successful prosthesis development.  It is much easier to fashion a prosthesis if the hock is present because it gives a more stable foundation for the device to attach onto the rest of the body.  This doesn’t make it impossible, but more factors must be considered in the development of the prosthesis.  In order to attach a device at the stifle (knee), you must recognize that if they straighten the stifle completely, it might slide off or twist around and then prevent normal stifle motion.  This means adding components which will effectively attach the L rear limb prosthesis onto the body with some additional attachment to the opposite rear leg.  Additionally, when a dog sits down, all of this could potentially slide right off the rump too.  For added security and proper positioning, a strap is used to connect the entire device to a harness around the chest.  Sounds like a lot and, realistically, it is…but you need to prepare for success and that means the prosthesis can’t fall off!  Fortunately, our friends at OrthoPets have done this for several other pets like Russell and he was in good hands for the building of his prosthesis.

Russell and his family worked hard on his exercises at home between his pre-prosthesis training sessions at Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets.  They worked on handling his L rear leg as much as possible and protected it from scrapes and injury because Russell is an active young German Shepard with lots of energy.  He adapted well and even used his L rear leg most of the time despite its significantly shorter length.  All of this gave us confidence that he would adapt well to his prosthesis, even though it would be a bit more complicated than most.  On 6/16/17, Russell was casted for his prosthesis.  We waited until he was 10 months old because as a larger breed dog, his rear limbs had plenty of length to achieve before the big day.

Russell got to try out his new prosthesis on 7/14/17 and he was a champ.  Despite all the components and new things he had to wear, he took his first steps without any drama.  The first day is the hardest, but he was a rockstar and we were all so proud.  He will continue to get used to wearing his device for longer periods of time over the next several weeks.  We are confident that he will build up endurance to go for long walks and play in no time at all.  The hardest part will probably be slowing him down because in order to teach consistency in using any prosthesis they have to put the device down and bear weight fully with each step.  Quick movement and running allows for cheating and only contributes to using the rest of their body to compensate and do more work.  We are looking forward to helping Russell make a successful transition to a 4-legged life and monitoring for any issues over his lifetime.

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