There were three options given to us by the vet:
- Do nothing and hope that it heals; few do.
- Get a brace, which would eradicate pain, and hope that it heals; about 50/50 chance.
- Have surgery and hope that it doesn't happen again; some do.
Surgery is expensive. I know the surgeon, he used to actually be our vet, but his prices were very expensive so I had to switch to another vet. How ironic that we'd end up right back where we started. Maybe.
In any case, #1 was definitely out of the question. If we had the money we could not simply sit by and let her hurt and hope she gets better. #3 could be done, but we wanted to try #2 first. We decided to go with the brace option and see how that goes.
The vet actually recommended this one. Let me first say that as a human nurse, I have learned that your doctor is not God and is not the One-All-Know-All that the world (and media) seems to think that he or she is. I try to teach my patients to do their own research and make their own informed decision, despite what the doctor says.
For this reason, I practice what I preach. I did my own research. When I watched the video, I was a little concerned. Because I am a human nurse, I've worked with a lot of orthopedic patients. I'd say the number one most common orthopedic surgery is knee replacement. This means that I'm very experienced with knee injuries, surgeries and recoveries.
The first thing that bothered me was the lack of support. Now I'm not anti-muttbrace, I'm just saying what I personally thought about it related to my dog's personal injury. To me, I am only seeing a sock slipped over for support. Now there are plenty of human knee injuries that only require that type of support. You can buy a similar brace at Walmart and they ARE helpful for minor injuries. However, I felt like the injury my dog has requires more support than that. I see her pain and she needs more stabilization.
I would say that the percentage of tear the dog has makes all the difference. I still don't know her exact percentage, but I'm guessing it's near 100% because this is not a dog who whines with a little pain. She's a tough old bird and if she's in severe pain something is really wrong.
Anyway, you get my point. Also, remember that the vet recommended muttbrace and has had experience with that company and that brace in particular. She is happy with it and this means that they're a good company.
We looked at two more. One was the Atrac and the other was Orthopets. Ortherpets was easily eliminated. To begin with it requires casting and anesthesia but the brace itself is also VERY expensive. Well let's face it, they're all expensive! The muttbrace starts at around $235 but the Orthopets is somewhere around $800. For that price, I could just let the dog have surgery and KNOW it's better. The reason I'm looking at the brace is to reduce cost.
Finally there was the middle of the road Atrac. I watched the video and was very impressed with how it worked. I like the rods on the sides, I like that it is removable and fairly light weight looking. I feel like this is a really good brace. The price though is not so friendly. I think the entire cost is around $350. It is more expensive than the muttbrace, but it has a stronger support and is definitely less than the Orthopets.
I did find this blog who compared the three. Let me first say though that their requirements for a brace and what they compare is pure silliness. Let me address some of these because it is a VERY biased page.
To begin withe, one requirement is that it has to be an actual medical device. Hey, if it works and stabilizes that knee, then who cares if it's a certified medical device? What you want is support, not certification here.
Next is whether or not it's the first cruciate brace. Really? Why does that make any difference whatsoever? It could be the 200th and as long as it does the job that I want I could care less. How many of us stick with the iPhone just because it was the first smart phone? There is no logic in that and FYI I'm an Android user, thank you.
As for the number sold, I would really like to know how the blogger knows this information. In the end, sales don't matter either. There are probably more Big Macs sold than Mcgrilled chicken sandwiches, but that doesn't make the Big Mac a better food. Well, taste wise perhaps... ;) but not health wise.
Other information that seems suspect is the percentage of dogs that are weight bearing and not requiring surgery after using the Atrac. That sounds like inside information and perhaps Atrac freely gives out that information and the others don't have those answers, but still, just because it's unknown does not mean that the others aren't don't have high percentages either.
A human orthopedic surgeon did design the Atrac brace, but again, what matters is function. In any case, I spoke directly to the inventor himself (and CEO) and he is a very kind man. I think his design is a fantastic one. He said that what made him design it was that he had a dog who experienced a cruciate injury and was astounded to discover that there was no device out there at the time.
That is not to say that I have no seen complaints about the Atrac, because I have. One woman was angry and said the brace didn't fit her dog at all. She says she tried to call over and over again, and no one ever called her back. I personally didn't have that problem, but of course, I also was buying and not returning so we'll see how the post purchase goes.
Another crazy person (I say crazy because he posted the same thing over and over and over again like an obsessed maniac) said that he received a used one because it had dog hair on it. To be fair, there could be a couple of reasons for that. One, someone may have tried it on their dog and found it didn't fit, so they sent it back. Of course, it should have been cleaned but the point is that doesn't mean it was actually used. The other explanation would be that they tried it on another dog for testing, such as for durability. The cleaning problem still applies here. In the end, the only valid complaint he should have is that it arrived dirty. Again, I'll see how it goes and the condition it arrives in.
The end result is that we want our girl to heal and be out of pain. She is our everything and has been with us since she was a puppy. My husband who is in his 50s and has had many, MANY dogs throughout his life says that she is the best dog he's ever had. She is very special and we want to do all we can to help her.
So stay tuned on how the brace goes. It comes tomorrow and I'll update progress.
UPDATE February 2015: See post here... Dog and Knee Braces for cruciate injuries, part II.