Robo-Dog – The Future?

This week I would like to time travel into the near future.  I wish to take you on a journey to see some of the advances in veterinary medicine, and how they could benefit your dog.  Specifically I would like to look at the future of bionic support for dogs – using modern materials to help them walk.  This may sound a bit “Robo-dog”, but it isn’t.  It’s actually much more simple and logical, and is closer than you may think.

One of the common presentations we see at Downe Vets is dogs who have ruptured their cruciate ligaments.  You may have heard of professional footballers suffering the same injury.  The cruciate ligaments are found in the knee of a dog, just like in people.  They function to hold the two big bones of the leg together – the femur and tibia.  There are two of them – and they cross over in the middle – giving us the name “cruciate” – meaning “cross” in latin.  The problem when these ligaments rupture is that the big bones of the leg start to wobble in the knee joint when the dog walks or runs. This can be painful and you may notice your dog beginning to limp if this happens.  They can often been seen “carrying” the affected leg.

Traditional treatments for ruptured cruciate ligaments in dogs vary.  We can administer pain relief and advise 6 weeks or more of rest.  It won’t fix the ligament, but the joint may stabilize a bit with time.  Or you could opt for surgery.  The knee is cut open, and an “artificial” ligament is inserted, or the knee can be reconstructed with bits of surgical implant.  Both methods carry some risk of operation failure, and can be expensive.  In addition, not all dogs are suitable candidates for surgery.  They may be too old, or too active to control after the operation.  Typically these operations require the dog to be calm for 6 to 10 weeks post-op.

However, there are newer alternatives becoming available for dogs who for some reason can’t have surgery.  Knee braces have been developed which will support a dog’s leg.  Your vet can tailor them to the shape of YOUR dog’s leg.  Then they can be firmly strapped on when the dog is taken for a walk.  The tight binding stops the leg bones from moving.  The results can be very good.  A dog that previously was limping can then start running on the beach and even jumping.  Yes, the look a bit “Robo dog” with the brace on, but the dog can run again!  It’s great that there alternatives to surgery out there for our furry friends now – thanks to veterinary research.  If you would like further information on this cutting edge treatment, please just contact us at Downe Vets.

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