Orthotics & Prosthetics — Getting a Leg Up

Dog with 4 prosthetic legs

Dog with 4 prosthetic legs

I grew up with my great grandfather, Eli, having a wooden leg. Now he had different legs for different occasions – there was the staying at home leg, the Sunday go to meeting leg, and numerous other ones.

He once sent me in to get his leg, I was about five years old, and I crawled under the bed to get it and there were a bunch of legs laying there – I came out screaming and running. My great grandmother, Sadie, did not find this amusing but granddad protected me.

I later became a veterinarian and we were taught how to amputate legs but never how to help the pet after the amputation; in fact, we were taught that they would be fine because they had 3 others! So my career has amputated and recommended amputation numerous times but we never really thought about the consequences of what we had done.

I have a three legged cat, Icee, and she has done well throughout her life but we have made some adjustments for her. Icee has a step stool to get up and down on furniture because I could see how repetition of landing on that one front foot could cause arthritis but that was as far as I saw unfortunately.

I went to the North American Veterinary Conference in January and suddenly the world of orthotics and prosthetics is in the forefront of veterinary medicine. I went into the talk with the same old mindset that we weren’t really hurting the pets by amputating their legs but helping them.

Dr. Patrice Mich shined the light on the dark side of amputation; she showed research about how we are affecting not only the compensatory leg but the other legs, back, shoulder and neck – it was astounding and so very sad. I felt very sad about all the pets, including my own, that I had “helped” and not helped.

The saying is that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and that is so very true. I felt all those years that I was doing something good for those pets and helping them, but in some ways I was hurting them also. The orthotics and prosthetics talk was truly enlightening.

Right after that talk, I was working the dog show here in Greenville and I saw an amputee pet walking around; it physically hurt me to see her hobbling around and I went to her owner to speak with her about orthotics and prosthetics – hopefully she will be able to get her pet one very soon.

Last week, I made a cast mold of a dog’s hind leg to send to a company that will make her an orthotic for her cruciate disease. The pet is older, overweight and not a good surgical candidate so her mother is pursuing a brace to help with the knee.

This week I fitted a small dog for a wheelchair (video below) – one that he hopefully will not use long because I think he can eventually start to walk on his own. These two incidents have made me feel better because now I know how to help these pets live happier, fuller, and more comfortable lives.

If your pet has an orthopedic problem that needs some assistance, please call and let’s help your pet have a better quality of life.

A cast mold for a knee brace

A cast mold for a knee brace

Otto’s First Time in His Chair

8 Responses to Orthotics & Prosthetics — Getting a Leg Up

  • Carol and Rowdy/Hershey/Cash and Shepard says:

    Good for Otto!! It is bittersweet when advances in veterinary (and human) medicine cause us to look back and see what might have been, but for a little time travel into the future.

    • Dicki says:

      I know — the one super power I always wanted was teleportation. It would be sweet but now we know how to treat and it is a giant leap forward.

  • Rhonda says:

    Thats awesome, so glad you are in this part of the world for us and our pets. I am so interested as a Therapist about helping our pets have the best quality of life for our precious animals and so interested in what you do. Awesome!

  • Dicki says:

    Rhonda – come by and let’s talk about it. I am giving a talk about certification at the SC Vet Tech Association this weekend and another at Greenville Tech next week so I need a guinea pig to listen to the speech. Bring the girls!

  • Don Milton says:

    I have a Daschund (Schnitzel) who suffered a back issue last year. She could not use her hind legs. The vet said our options were limited, and surgery was not guaranteed, and quite expensive. We started her on glucosamine, and I made her a device to aid her in walking and getting her some exercise. She is now able to walk, and has recovered quite nicely. The device I made is inexpensive compared to others I have seen on line, and if you are interested, I have a walker that I can bring and show you. For small dogs, the price is about half what the others are offering, and the light-weight pvc construction is perfect for small dogs. Don Milton Cell# 407-729-5016

  • Adolfo says:

    This is really useful, thanks.

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