There are a myriad of stifle braces available online and in pet supply stores. When I was still in conservative management mode, I decided to purchase one for my dog. I read stellar reviews and just as many negative ones. That's how I learned that certain braces slip, twist, rub against the knee, irritate skin and slide off while dogs wear them. The last thing a dog with a torn CCL needs is a brace that causes more pain and dysfunction.
I believe the best stifle braces come from companies that have a Certified Orthotist-Prosthetist on staff. These professionals have the deepest level of understanding regarding joint biomechanics, so their braces more effectively address and control abnormal joint movement patterns. I like braces that are specifically made by making a cast in the exact shape of the dog's leg; and then a brace is made specifically for each dog. Once made, the pet owner is educated on all aspects of using the brace. The orthotist will take the final steps to ensure comfort, fit and function.
Wearing a brace won't heal your dog's torn CCL, but it could lessen the backward slippage of the femur on the tibia (which is how the CCL tears). When this excessive motion is controlled over time, scar tissue begins forming around the dog's knee joint. This is exactly what we're aiming for because scar tissue helps to stabilize the joint. It's almost like the dog has an "internal brace". This is a S L O W process. So, if you're planning to get a brace, you've got to commit to having your dog wear it for around 9-months and possibly longer.
Some veterinarians believe stifle braces cannot effectively mitigate tibial thrust, so before making the investment in a brace it would be wise to have a discussion with the doctor.
Scar tissue isn't like supple, healthy, normal tissue. As it forms, it can just as easily tear and break down. This can happen when dogs roughhouse, run too fast, jump, slip or fall. Having a dog wear a brace takes commitment on the part of the pet owner, not just to fit it correctly, but to monitor activity, keep track of how long he/she wears it and then giving the brace ample time so that the dog's body can build-up the necessary scar tissue.
What has been your experience with getting your dog a stifle brace? Please share your input in the comments section below.
* If you know someone whose dog has a CCL injury, please copy and share my website address with them. Together, we can can have a more far-reaching effect on other pets' lives.
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