The Difference Between a Custom Leg Brace & a Splint

Trying to decide on the best kind of splint for your pet can be intimidating at first. There are many off-the-shelf or premade options available and custom braces. Figuring out which one is best for your dog can be difficult, but knowing the benefits of each will help you determine what will work best for your pet. Whether the issue is high or low on your pet’s leg or if the condition is acute or chronic. Considering the factors of your dog’s requirements and needs will ensure you are picking the correct type of leg brace and support for your pet.

Off-the-Shelf Splints for Dogs

small to medium size dog in a Walkin' Pets front leg splint

While some pets will need a customized brace or splint, many pets need a quick solution to stabilize an injured leg. Pre-made or off-the-shelf splints offer a quick and easy way to brace a dog’s leg without delay. An off-the-shelf solution is an ideal leg support solution for a dog or cat with an acute injury that will heal within two to three months.  

There are several styles of pre-made dog splints; each style is designed to support a different part of a dog’s leg:

  • Rear Splint – hind leg and paw support
  • Hock Splint – support for the tarsal or hock joint on the lower back leg
  • Front Splint – front limb and paw support
  • Carpal Splint – support for the carpal joint and lower front leg
  • Bootie Splint – paw, toe, and ankle support

When is a pre-made splint the best option?

A pre-made splint is the best solution for dogs dealing with sudden injuries which need immediate leg support as they heal. Other uses for an off-the-shelf dog splint include:

  • Temporary joint support as the dog waits for a custom orthosis or brace.
  • The dog has an acute issue or one that is not severe and has caused a deformity.
  • Provide stability and correct paw placement for pets with neurological conditions.
  • Protect the paw from dragging or knuckling as the pet walks.
  • Immediate assistance to support a sprain or broken toe.
  • Limit the mobility of the injured area while still helping to support.

A wide range of pre-made splints can assist a front or rear paw, and some can work for either. These usually do not have a Right or Left as they are primarily designed to go as high as the hock or carpal joint or a bit over to provide support above and below the joint for more stability. On top of being a quick delivery, these prefabricated splints are more affordable than a custom-made canine orthotic.

The Benefits of an Adjustable Splint for Dogs

Every pet is unique, and so is the way they’re built. An adjustable splint bridges the gap between off-the-shelf splints and custom leg braces. Featuring both an adjustable width and angle, the size of the brace can be controlled for a better fit overall. The adjustable splints are great for pets with either a lower front or rear leg injury, as they will work for any leg.

When is an adjustable splint the best option?

Brutus is in a Walkin' Pets adjustable splint for a dogs rear leg

An adjustable splint offers leg support for pets who need an immediate solution to brace their leg and need a more customized fit. Other uses for an adjustable leg splint include:

  • An injured leg that is extremely swollen, the width of the splint can be adjusted as the swelling decreases.
  • Temporary leg support as the dog waits for a custom brace to be fabricated.
  • Additional bracing over a wrapped or bandaged leg.
  • Pets with a deep bend in their leg that can not comfortably fit in an off-the-shelf splint.

The adjustable splint can easily fit a wide range of pets of all sizes with some minor adjustments. This style of leg support offers a more custom fit without the added cost of a fully customized leg brace. To get the support and angle they need. Adjustable splints are great for larger pets that weigh a bit more than pets who would usually fit in the off-the-shelf splints and pets with an odd angle to their legs or paw. The adjustability to the angle will help convert this splint from a rear splint to a front splint or allow a dog to heal with just one splint without getting several pre-made splints as they recover.

Understanding a Custom Leg Brace or Canine Orthotic

Custom dog leg brace for elbow

While pre-made splints and adjustable splints have their advantages, a custom brace or orthosis offers pets the most leg support with the best fit. Although a more expensive option, a custom leg brace is fabricated with your pet’s diagnosis in mind and offers the perfect fit.

An orthotic brace for dogs is ideal for a pet that requires consistent support for an extended period or even permanently. While pre-made rigid splints are on the market for lower legs, there are fewer options for those looking for support higher up on the leg. Knee and elbow braces can be more difficult to fit if not customized to the dog wearing them exactly.

Canine orthotics come in a variety of styles designed to support specific joints. Some of the most common canine orthotics include:

  • Stifle Brace, ACL/CCL Brace, or Knee Brace for dogs – supports the knee joint on the hind leg.
  • Elbow Brace – provides front leg support high on the leg and the elbow.
  • Carpal Brace – supports the lower front leg, carpal joint, wrist, and under the front paw.
  • Hock Brace or Tarsal Brace – provides lower back leg support, supporting the hock or tarsal joint, ankle, and under the rear paw.

When to choose a a custom orthosis for your dog

Custom orthosis or dog knee brace

A custom leg brace is necessary for any dog with a chronic joint condition or severe injury. Custom dog orthotics are designed to fit your pet and give them long-term leg support. Durability is just one of the many benefits of a canine orthotic.

These braces hold up longer, eliminating the need for replacement. A custom orthotic brace is more expensive than its ready-made counterpart, but they are built to last and fabricated for the perfect fit.

Custom orthotic braces for dogs are ideal for pets who:

  • Suffer from a chronic joint condition or injury with a long recovery time
  • Need leg support that is for the individual pet’s condition or anatomical need
  • Those that have a severe injury that needs to be stabilized for an extended period
  • Are not candidates for surgery or require an alternative to surgery
  • Require joint support either pre or post-surgery

A custom brace may be more comfortable for a pet to wear in many cases. The brace is created based on an impression of your dog’s limb. Which means the brace is perfectly fit to their unique shape and eliminates the risk of rubbing or chafing.

Conclusion

Thankfully there is now a large variety of canine braces and splints that you can choose from. This allows you to find the perfect match for your dog based on their injury and your budget. There are many available resources from your Vet to customer service that can assist you in making sure you’re getting the most accurate size for your pet from the get-go! Whether your dog needs a pre-made splint, a custom splint, or an adjustable splint, there are ways to find the perfect fit and support for your dog and your budget. If you aren’t sure which is best for your dog, always reach out to your Vet or rehab specialist for recommendations.

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