Orthotic, Prosthetic and Assistive Devices

orthotic devices

Veterinary orthotic and prosthetic care has dramatically improved over the last decade. More options are available now to help our beloved pets maintain mobility and quality of life, but knowing which will work best for individual pets can be complicated. At Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets, our goal is to help make the best possible choices when assistive devices are needed for our patients.

Assistive veterinary intervention can range from simple items to very individually planned devices. The following list includes some of the options available: boots to protect paws, harnesses to help with mobility, splints for temporary support, orthotic devices for conditions that require long term support, prosthetic devices to “replace” a limb, and carts/wheelchairs for use if limb use is completely lost. Over time, more options will certainly become available.

Not all support wraps or orthotic options work well in every patient, so proper evaluation and planning for the treatment goal is advised. If the fit is not good, secondary problems can develop, such as pressure sores, constriction of underlying skin, tissue and vessels and even nerve damage. Depending on the severity of the condition, an “off-the-shelf” support may not work well at all and a more advanced device may need to be designed specifically for the individual pet.

When considering using an orthotic support or a prosthetic device as a treatment option, it is essential to always remember how the body part(s) involved are meant to function normally. Although there are many similarities between human and animal anatomy, there are extremely important differences also. This is particularly evident in looking at how limbs function. Humans are bipedal, meaning designed to walk on two legs. Most mammals are designed to use four limbs and, as such, their joints can function much differently than ours. Depending on the species or breed, additional variations to limb length and joint conformation create more challenges (just look at a Dachshund’s leg compared to a German Shepard’s). It is our goal to provide the best option for each of our patients, so please ask us about orthotic options so we can help with your decision making.

OrthoPetsPawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets is a proud veterinary practice partner with OrthoPets, a world leader in veterinary orthotics manufacturing, located in Denver, Colorado. Our unique relationship with them, as OrthoPets Michigan, allows us to help provide individualized orthotic and prosthetic device options for more complicated cases. Through careful planning, measurements, development and rehabilitation care after the device is built, successful veterinary orthotic and prosthetic outcomes are possible.

Conditions which may benefit from Orthotic Supports/Devices:

  • Orthopedic conditions – carpal hyperextension, tarsal hyperextension, Achilles Tendon Instability, post-operative support for cases requiring long term support (devices can be designed to have staged return to motion), cruciate injuries if surgical intervention is not an option, other ligamentous injuries, etc.
  • Neurologic conditions – Degenerative Myelopathy, fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), other polyneuropathies, etc
  • Arthritis support for severely affected joints
  • Support for joints of the remaining limb in front limb amputation patients
  • Chronic wound care involving limbs - a well-planned orthotic device can allow both support for the limb and access for frequent dressing changes for wounds

Conditions in which Prosthetic Devices can return or preserve function use of a limb:

  • Congenital limb deformities
  • Traumatic injuries and fractures
  • Cancer treatment options, if the distal or lower limb is involved

Please note that patients requiring orthotic or prosthetic devices should have some rehabilitation care to help them adjust to using their device as quickly and efficiently as possible. Periodic monitoring for fit and function will also be needed in these cases. Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets is uniquely prepared to assist you with this level of care for the benefit of your best friend.

Advanced surgical options are becoming available for veterinary patients, including joint replacement and even prosthetic implant surgeries. These options were not specifically addressed above since we do not provide surgical care at Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy for Pets. Surgical options would best be discussed with a Board-certified Veterinary Surgeon and, if elected, should be followed with a rehabilitation care program.