Choosing a dog brace is by no means an easy process, with different brands advertising different uses, deciding on a brace can quickly become overwhelming. However, choosing the right brace is important and just any brace won’t necessarily work for your dog. A Dog Knee Brace, often referred to as a Stifle Brace, is a simple supportive device that works by restricting the overall movement of your dog's leg to allow the muscles to relax and to promote healing. They can be used for a wide variety of hind leg injuries.
Soft Neoprene Wraps are typically a breathable compression wrap that provides stability to your dog's legs without compromising flexibility. You may be looking at braces from companies such as OrthoDog, Doggy Brace, MuttKnee, and, of course, our very own EMbrace line. Each of which offer a slightly different version of this simple brace.
These wraps are made of soft, stretchy materials that are comfortable for your dog to wear and come in many forms and sizes. For example, some are a simple sleeve with a Velcro strap, others are a padded wrap held on by an over-the-back strap. Some configurations may have the option to insert rigid support stays that function as splints which limit the motion of the joint, stabilizing the ligaments. Furthermore, the wraps compress the knee which reduces swelling and protects the limb from your dog trying to lick the injured area. These devices are best for mild injuries, such as sprains and strains, or mild arthritis support.
Ultimately, these wraps are not the best option if you’re looking for support for a CCL tear or chronic conditions such as severe arthritis. Neoprene wraps aren’t designed with a specific injury in mind and they have limited sizing options. In order for the device to fit, your dog must fall within a specific size range, meaning very small or very large breeds likely won’t be able to use these braces. They also don’t take into account your dog's unique shape, therefore the fit isn’t always guaranteed. Additionally, if your dog is high energy or of a specific breed, these devices are not recommended for your dog. Lastly, since these braces are meant for short term injuries, they only last around 6 months, thus indicating they aren’t a durable option.
Thermoformed Semi Rigid/Rigid Braces are made from medical grade polypropylene plastic formed around a cast of your dog's leg. Often times, these knee braces include hinges which allow for full range of motion without compromising support.
These custom and semi-custom dog braces are a great option for fully supporting your dog's joints since the materials used for custom dog knee braces provide robust support and are lined with comfortable padding. Since these devices are custom, they can be made for any breed, small or large. The main difference between the two braces is that the semi rigid braces aren't meant for long term use or more severe CCL injuries, including complete tears and luxating patella's.
The downside to these braces is their cost as they are at a higher price point than their soft material counterparts. They may also require adjustments that can’t be done at home and must be sent in for modification to ensure the best fit possible. However, the fully custom dog knee brace options come in a wide variety of colors so your dog can look amazing when wearing their brace. These dog knee braces can also be tailored to your dogs specific knee injury.
Depending on your dog's injury, these dog knee braces allow for the choice of full range of motion, limited range of motion, or fully restricted motion hinges. This is also especially necessary for CCL tears as holding the tibia in place, preventing Cranial Tibial Thrust also known as Tibial Drawer, is extremely important so the tibia does not shift forward or out of place, which is better achieved with an additional strap included with the custom knee braces. Most importantly, it allows beneficial scar tissue to form, naturally stabilizing the knee joint. Finally, these dog braces are extremely durable and are waterproof, meaning these braces will last the duration of your dog's lifetime.
Consider your dog's injury - The first step in deciding what brace your dog needs is to figure out what injury they have and to see what brace will offer the best solution. If it’s a chronic or more severe injury, or if you’re not sure, then a rigid or semi rigid brace is best. If it’s a simple strain, then a soft brace may work.
What's the budget - When looking at braces, it’s easy to want to lean towards the cheaper option. While a soft neoprene brace is more affordable, it may not provide the best care for your dog. If you are really concerned about the quality of care and are looking for a long term solution, then a custom dog knee brace is the best option.
Consider the treatment options - It’s always a good idea to consider all the treatments available to you and your dog. These may include options such as surgery, physical rehabilitation, or of course a brace. You may talk to your Veterinarian to see what they suggest based on the severity of your dog's injury as well as their age and lifestyle. Dog braces are versatile and can be used along with other forms of treatments, meaning if you do choose surgery then you can get a brace to aid in healing and add support to prevent your dog from re-injuring their leg before, and after, it heals.