2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Custom-Fit Braces For Injured Dogs
“I’ve been making braces for dogs for 11 years,” says Blecha. “More dogs than people tear their ACL. It’s a pretty common diagnosis.”
Braces are Blecha’s second venture into helping injured dogs. An amputee himself due to bone cancer as a teen, he is a certified prosthetist-orthotist. Initially he worked with a Denver, Colo. veterinarian developing a prosthesis for dogs.
“The problem with a prosthesis for a dog is getting it to hold onto a dog due to the fur,” explains Blecha. “We worked on implanting a rod in the bone and connecting the prosthesis to that.”
Unfortunately the veterinarian developed cancer and retired. Blecha took what he had learned and applied it to braces. He formed a partnership with an uncle who is a veterinarian in rural Nebraska.
The two developed a “stifle” brace for an ACL injury. Similar to a knee brace for people, it allows the animal to climb stairs paw over paw, put weight on their leg, walk with less pain and even play. Custom fit to the animal, its design with “under-sleeve” suspension eliminates the need for a harness to hold it in place.
The co-polymer plastic shells and urethane joints are durable and strong, don’t stretch or wear out, and they’re waterproof. The under-sleeve padding can be hand-washed and replaced if it wears out.
Blecha uses the same technology to make hock or ankle braces as well as carpal or wrist braces. Joints and plastic of a stifle brace are guaranteed for the life of the dog. Ankle and wrist braces are expected to last from 2 to 5 years.
“We only work with animals under a veterinarian’s care,” explains Blecha. “We have the vet take a cast of the leg and send it to us. The cast is filled with plaster to make a model of the leg.”
Blecha heats a sheet of plastic over the model and vacuum shapes it to the model to make the shells. “When the plastic cools, it is the shape of the dog’s leg,” he says. “We smoothen it off and add padding and treads as needed.”
Surgery to repair a dog’s ACL can cost from $1,200 to $3,000 or more, depending on what type of surgery is done. Recovery without reinjury is slow and requires the dog’s activity be limited. At $800, Blecha’s braces are a cost effective alternative or an aid in recovery from surgery.
You can see a video of Hero braces at www.farmshow.com.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Hero, 419 Eagle St., Benkelman, Neb. 69021 (ph 877 684-5659; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.goherogo.com).
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