Daily bandage changes or temporary leg braces created by your vet are hard to manage as your dog’s leg heals. But what other options are there? How do you ensure your pet has the leg support they need to heal correctly?
A ready-made pet splint designed by pet experts is often the right solution, but many different splint styles exist. Here are five things your need to know to choose the right pet splint for your dog.
1. Where is Your Dog’s Leg Injury?
Understanding your dog’s leg injury is pivotal to choosing the right splint for your pet. The location and severity of your dog’s injury will determine the type of dog splint they need.
Your dog’s leg anatomy also determines which style of splint your pet needs. The shape of a dog’s rear leg and front leg differ significantly, and to provide the proper support, the splint needs to conform to the natural bend of a dog’s leg.
Most pet splints are designed to brace and support a dog’s lower leg. If your dog has injured their hip or knee, it will likely need a neoprene support like the Hip-EEZ or a custom-made brace. Custom orthotics are designed to fit your dog perfectly. However, they are not always your best option. A custom brace takes time; the process usually involves casting a dog’s leg and shipping the casting back to the orthotics specialist for them to form. Lengthy delays combined with the expense of a custom orthotic make this option challenging for some. A ready-made splint is more affordable, easy to use, and typically ships the same day.
2. The Benefits of a Dog Splint
Dog splints are designed to fit and support the natural angles of your dog’s leg. Additionally, splints are comfortable to wear and easy to use. With a few simple measurements, you can easily find a splint that would fit your pet.
Provide Joint Support and Stabilization
A dog leg brace is modeled after a human splint, with the splint’s hard exterior molded to conform to your dog’s leg to provide stability and support to the lower leg. A proper leg brace keeps your dog’s legs in a natural position as the joint or ligament heals. Dog splints also make it easier for your dog to put weight on a weak, sprained, or broken limb.
The Walkin’ Rear Splint, Front Splint, Bootie Splint, and Adjustable Splint feature a non-skid rubber pad to prevent slipping and give added traction.
Wound Management and Bandage Changes
Typical veterinary bandaging and spoon splints need to be removed and rewrapped regularly for daily wound therapy, cleaning a wound, or changing dirty bandages. A splint is easy to remove and eliminates the hassle of rewrapping your dog’s leg or visiting the vet for frequent bandage changes.
3. Understanding the Different Types of Dog Splints
Pet splints are designed to fit either a dog’s front leg their back leg, and some fit both! Choose the pet splint based on your dog’s injury:
Splints for Front Leg Injuries
A splint can be used for dogs with osteoarthritis of the carpal joint, degenerative joint disease, front leg ligament injuries, carpal joint instabilities.
Walkin’ Front Splint
The Walkin’ Front Splint supports above and below the carpal joint to support the lower front leg and wrist and continues under the paw. This splint is perfect for dogs with carpal or metacarpal joint injuries, sprains, and strains.
Splints for a dog’s front legs feature a curve designed to hug the carpal joint, located above a dog’s wrist. The front splint fits both dogs and cats (most cats will need a size XXSmall or XSmall).
Front leg conditions that benefit from a front splint include:
- Neurological conditions
- Carpal joint instabilities
- Soft tissue injuries
Walkin’ Carpal Splint
The Walkin’ Carpal Splint supports the carpal joint and stops above the paw. A carpal splint is ideal for dogs who need joint support but are more comfortable walking with their paw free.
Why would a dog prefer a carpal-style splint? Some dogs like to feel their foot touching the ground at all times, and wearing a splint that runs under their paw may make them uncomfortable.
Front leg conditions that benefit from a carpal splint include:
- Carpal hyperextension
- Carpal joint instability
- Osteoarthritis of the carpal joint
- Soft tissue injuries
Splints for Rear Leg Injuries
Rear dog splints support hock injuries, tarsal or metatarsal arthritis, degenerative joint disease, hind tendon, ligament, or Achilles tendon injuries.
Walkin’ Rear Splint
The Walkin’ Rear Splint supports above and below the hock joint, supporting the lower rear leg, ankle, and underneath the back paw. Stabilizing the lower back leg to help the limb heal and protect it from further injury.
The hock joint juts out the back of the rear leg. This steep angle needs to be supported, and the rear splint is designed to hug the whole joint. Either dogs or cats can wear the rear splint. Most cats will fit into an XXSmall. However, larger cats may wear the XSmall splint.
Rear leg conditions that benefit from a rear splint include:
- Neurological conditions that cause paw dragging
- Tarsal joint instabilities
- Soft tissue injuries
Walkin’ Hock Splint
The hock splint supports a dog’s hock or tarsal joint and above and below the joint while leaving the paw free.
If a dog’s paw and toes remain uninjured, a hock splint allows them to walk and move their back paw normally. This helps a dog with its proprioception and paw placement.
Rear leg conditions that benefit from a hock splint include:
- Tarsal hyperextension
- Tarsal joint instability
- Osteoarthritis of the tarsal joint
- Soft tissue injuries
Dog Splints for Both Front and Rear Legs
Versatile splints like booties or adjustable splints can be worn on either a dog’s front or back leg.
Walkin’ Bootie Splint
The bootie splint is a much shorter dog splint, allowing it to sit below the hock or carpal joint. With its low profile, the bootie splint is perfect for dogs with wrist, ankle, paw, or toe injuries. In addition, many pets will wear a spoon splint, like the bootie, to protect their paw from dragging or knuckling.
Reasons why a pet needs a bootie splint include:
- Neurological conditions that cause knuckling
- Toe injuries
- Metatarsal and metacarpal osteoarthritis
Walkin’ Fit Adjustable Splint
The Walkin’ Fit Adjustable Splint is the most versatile of all off-the-shelf dog splints. Featuring an angle adjustment, the Walkin’ Fit can fit either a front or back leg. Dogs with a deeply angled hock joint, like a German Shepherd, are usually difficult to fit for a splint, but the adjustable splint makes it a breeze! The width of the splint adjusts as well, allowing you to widen the splint for the perfect fit.
The adjustable splint benefits pets with the following conditions:
- Degenerative joint disease
- Hyperextension issues
- post-surgical protection
- Brachial plexus and radial nerve damage injuries
4. Accommodating a Bandaged Leg or Swollen Joint
Dogs with bandaged legs or incredibly swollen joints struggle to find the proper leg support. Dog splints need to fit the widest part of your dog, and when their leg is swollen, this becomes even more challenging. The adjustable splint allows you to widen the splint to go over your dog’s bandages and joints. As the swelling goes down and bandages are removed, the splint width can be narrowed, allowing for the same splint to fit your dog as they heal and their needs change.
5. How to Use a Dog Splint
Simple solutions to help your dog feel more comfortable in their new splint:
Check the Splint Fit
You want your dog’s splint to be tight enough that it stays on, but it should still be comfortable for them to wear. When the splint is on, you should be able to fit your finger under the strap. If you can’t – the splint is too tight.
After five minutes of splint wear, check your dog for any signs of discomfort. A too tight splint can cause swelling in the toes or leg.
If you’re not sure how to use the splint, have your veterinarian put it on for the first time. Most vets are happy to show you how to use your dog’s new splint.
When putting the splint on your pet, never start from the top strap and go down or vice versa. Without knowing it, each strap gets tighter and tighter as you go. Instead, you can start with the top strap followed by the bottom strap before fixing the other splint straps. This helps prevent accidentally overtightening your splint.
Eliminate Rub Points
Dogs with joint malformation or swollen joints may have areas that gap. These spaces can be filled with adhesive-backed foam. Foam can be cut and shaped to eliminate gapping and rub points to prevent possible sores from forming. Always use medical-grade foam to prevent moisture and bacteria from building.
Let the Leg Rest Overnight
A dog should only wear a splint during the day and not at night. Your dog’s leg needs to breathe. So when resting, remove the splint and swap it for a lightweight neoprene wrap. Hock wraps and carpal wraps offer light joint support that’s comfortable for your dog to wear.