Over the last few years, there have been a great interest in developing devices to provide ambulation assistance for pets and give them a sense of independence. As the aim of Veterinary Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation also involves the goal to assist our patients to have optimal mobility and functionality, we make use of various devices, orthotics and prosthetics to assist us as rehabilitation specialise to achieve these goals. Devices are commonly used in patients that are recumbent, patients that may be completely or partially paralysed, animals that need support with weakness or to protect unstable joints. Pet that have a limb or part of a limb amputated, or pets that simply needs assistance to facilitate locomotion can all benefit from assisted devices, orthotics or prosthetics.
In “Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation – Second Edition” The authors describe the following:
“An orthosis is any medical device attached to the body to support, align, position, prevent or correct deformity, assist weak muscles, or improve function (Deshales, 2002). These devices provide protected motion within a controlled range, prevent or reduce severity of injury, prevent or relieve contracture, allow lax ligaments and joint capsules to shorten and approach normal distensibilty, and provide functional stability for an unstable limb segment. Prosthetic limbs provide the opportunity to return quadripedal motion by replacing a limb segment”.
Some devices that are generally used, can be divided into the following categories:
- Orthotics (Hinged / Flexible, Semi-Rigid or Rigid),
- Prostheses (Exoskeletal or Endoskeletal)
- Braces, Sleeves, Thermal Braces, Back Braces, Hobbles
- Mobile Hoists, Slings, Lifting Harnesses, Individual Back or Front Supportive Harnesses
- Straps and bands – Therabands, Toe-Lifts,
- Wheels, Carts, Strollers
- Non-slips Support such as Boots, Slippers, Stick Paws, Toe-Grips
- Stairs, Ramps (Indoors or for Vehicles), Elevated Feeding Stations
At Paws-itive Paws-abilities where necessary and if the need arise, we will advise and help the client to select the most appropriate device for a particular condition.
As therapists, our understanding of biomechanics in terms of gait, joints during motion, muscles in motion, vertebral column in motion and lameness in dogs are vital for the successful application of any assisted device. How these devices will affect, assist, impact or modify patient body mechanics, while considering any compensatory issues and the patients’ comfort is critical. Final thought should also be given to the ease of application (for the pet and owner), the pet’s home environment, and client education is pivotal in setting the patient up to be as mobile and as functional as can be.