From the repair of torn ligaments to mending broken bones, veterinary orthopedic medicine has made huge advances. But, what happens when the cost of a surgery is prohibitive or when surgery alone cannot give a pet a good quality of life?
By: Debra Garrison
Like their human counterparts, animals are also prone to a variety of debilitating injuries and pains including torn ligaments, broken bones and debilitating arthritis.
Human medicine has battled these ailments with the help of orthotics for years. By using custom braces and devices to support and correct limb function, orthotics help individuals with neurological problems such as cerebral palsy, strokes and spinal cord injuries, as well as orthopedic injuries like ligament tears and fractures. Additionally, these devices are used to support an injured joint before and after surgery.
Luckily, advances in veterinary orthopedics, combined with the ingenuity of human injury specialists, are bringing this type of relief to many pets – even saving lives!
With more than a decade of experience in human orthotics, Dr. Martin Kaufmann began exploring the potential of pet orthotics after his cousin’s Schnauzer suffered from a stroke and lost all ability in one leg. Facing amputation, Kauffman developed an ingenious brace allowing the dog to use his leg normally – saving his leg, and quite possibly – his life.
Since then, Kauffman has devoted his talents to helping pets. His company, Ortho Pets (www.orthopets.com) is dedicated to supporting the quality of pets’ lives through the science of orthotics.
So far, Kaufmann’s company has helped thousands of animals across the United States and Europe. Today, he continues to advance his work by teaching courses at Colorado State University.
But by far, one of Kauffman’s biggest success stories is about an adorable, overweight Labrador retriever named Otis.
Otis ruptured his rear leg Achilles tendon. Although the tendon was successfully repaired with surgery, Otis’ extreme obesity made it difficult for his leg to heal. To make matters worse, Otis began transferring his weight – eventually developing problems in his good leg. As a result, Otis was extremely uncomfortable, had great difficulty walking and poor quality of life.
Working with Otis’ veterinarian, Ortho Pets designed a pair of custom braces to protect the damaged leg, and at the same time, support his good leg. Now with a strict diet and miracle braces from Ortho Pets, Otis is a healthy, happy Labrador retriever.
Often, a painful orthopedic condition can cause severe suffering and disability in a pet. Unaware of companies like Ortho Pets, pet owners often believe that easing the pain of their companion through euthanasia is the only option – this is not always the case.
In some cases, a custom orthotic brace alleviates pain and corrects dysfunction, allowing the pet to move normally and without pain.
Likewise, owners often face difficult decisions due to surgery costs and extended aftercare services their pet may require. Additionally, many veterinary surgeons recommend strict cage rest with no activity for six to eight weeks after surgery. For many dogs, this enforced rest period is difficult.
Custom orthotic braces may support the post-operative joint, allowing the animal to become active earlier. For some elderly pets or pets who are not good surgical candidates, a brace may support the injured joint well enough for the pet to live a normal life without surgery.
Custom orthotics provide more options when striving to help an injured or disabled pet. Working together, pet owners, veterinary surgeons and orthotic specialists improve and save the lives of many pets that may have been forced to live with pain – or perhaps, may not have lived at all.