Prosthetic & Orthotic Information Resource

Prosthetic & Orthotic Devices for Animals


Orthotics aim at improving or protecting a limb that has been disabled through an accident or illness. The most frequently used orthotics in canine rehabilitation are splints. The splints are used to:

• protect a limb from abrasions and self-mutilation
• support weak tarsus or carpus
• help stretch tissues over a sustained period of time, or
• stabilize a carpus with a neurologic deficit

A prosthesis can also be implanted into the limb of a companion animal and fixed through a surgical procedure known as osseointegration.

Animal Prosthetics & Orthotics

The use of a "stifle" or knee Orthoses is an effective way to stabilize and manage torn meniscus or a cruciate ligament. By using an Orthotic device, you add can increase stability and support at an affected joint, and more importantly, you lessen the ground reaction forces that can cause increased discomfort and injury as opposed to an unbraced joint. Orthotics made with a composite rubber joint (Tamarack Joints), are energy storing and returning joints, and work and moves with the dog's movement. The stifle brace absorbs the stress off the knee and displaces those forces through the specialized joints within the orthosis. This type of device reduces the acting forces generated at the knee joint and the supporting ligaments.

Prosthetics for pets

The use of Orthotics and prosthetics for humans goes back for centuries making remarkable gains in the last 25 years including prosthesis and orthesis development in the animal realted industry. Typically, the use of orthotics and prosthetics in animals has been carried out in speical situations when an orthopedic surgeon was approached by a pet owner looking for options other than surgery or putting the pet down.

What are Animal Orthotics?

Animal orthotics is the science of splinting and brace making, and is primarily being used to provide limb stability, and for immobilization after surgery. Orthoses are being used for animals with limb deformities, carpal hyperextension, ligament injuries, and nerve damage (radial nerve paralysis, sciatic nerve damage, brachial plexus injuries).
Amputation is not always required for animals with radial nerve paralysis (a common condition in animals that are hit by cars). A leg brace can prevent dragging of the paw, muscle contracture of the wrist, and provide needed support for the bearing weight on the limb. An orthotic brace also allows time for the damaged nerve to heal without traumatizing the paw from having been dragged. An orthoses can also work to allow a damaged limb to heal in the proper shape thus preventing deformity.

Does your pet need a prosthesis or orthesis?

Animal prosthetics is the science of making a device used to replace a missing part of the body. Prostheses are being used for animals with congenital or acquired limb deformities or animals requiring limb amputation due to trauma or bone cancer. Use of a prosthesis can return an animal to near normal function.
Orthoses and prostheses are made out of various materials including neoprene and various forms of plastic, depending upon the condition being treated and the activities of the animal (walking, swimming, etc.). Plastic devices can even be made to match the animal's haircoat and color. While astheticaly pleasing to the owner, a custom prosthetic or orthotic that matches a particular haircoat or color is not likely to be more effective than a more generic style of replacement limb or brace.

While high quality orthoses and prostheses can be made by licensed orthotists and prosthetists, it is usually best to find one that has experience working with animals and is willing to work in close contact with your veterinarian. Some veterinary practices focusing on animal rehabilitation (or animal physical therapy), have working relationships with orthotists & prosthetists and can evaluate your pet, determine if your pet is a candidate for one of the devices, and make the necessary arrangements to have one made.

Osseointegration is the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant, typically made of titanium. It is a property virtually unique to titanium and hydroxylapatite, and has enhanced the science of medical bone, and joint replacement techniques.
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