Many people assume that only large breed dogs deal with joint issues. The truth is, any dog of any size, weight, and age can struggle with painful or injured bones and joints.
While there are several ways you can go about helping your fur kid through painful joint problems, one of the most effective is the use of a dog knee brace.
In today’s article, we are going to discuss which types of dog knee braces are best for your dog, learn about the pros and cons of using a dog knee brace, and share some of our favorite brands with you.
Let’s get started.
What Is A Dog Knee Brace?
Leg braces for dogs come in many shapes and sizes.
Also sometimes called a stifle brace or a stifle orthotic, a dog knee brace is basically what it sounds like; it is a brace designed to fit your dog’s leg, particularly to protect or support the knee joint.
There are a few different types of dog knee braces available, with many coming in different sizes, materials, and support levels depending on your dog’s needs.
We should also note here that the use of a dog knee brace is somewhat controversial in the vet world, and not all experts agree that using a knee brace for a variety of ailments for dogs is the best option.
In fact, most experts agree that physical therapy is often one of the best remedies for knee issues in dogs, as using a knee brace without therapy can sometimes lead to a worsening in the injury or weakness of the affected area.
Dr. Julie Buzby states that most veterinarians she comes across typically opt not to choose a dog knee brace as their first option for rehabilitation after a knee injury or surgery on a dog. However, she also points out that dog knee braces do have their place, and that they are often a beneficial tool when used correctly to help dogs heal, reduce pain and enhance performance of daily tasks.
Furthermore, a study conducted by Dr. David Dycus found that pet parents were highly satisfied with the use of a dog knee brace, and that the majority of veterinarians often did opt for them when surgery wasn’t an option for dogs struggling with joint issues.
The truth is, you as a pet parent can easily acquire a dog knee brace without a prescription from your veterinarian at most local pet supply stores or even online. However, most experts agree that your vet is going to be your best resource for determining what is best for your dog’s overall health and quality of life, especially when it comes to joint injuries and arthritis.
For this reason, we agree that it’s best to consult with your vet before you make the decision to use a dog knee brace. It’s also best to consider the pros and cons.
Pros of A Dog Knee Brace
- A dog knee brace is a relatively affordable alternative when surgery isn’t an option
- Dog knee braces are easy to find and simple to use
- A quality dog knee brace can help reduce inflammation in joints
- Some braces may help your dog live a better quality of life by reducing pain
- They may help encourage recovery after surgery when used correctly
- A dog knee brace can be help senior dogs suffering from arthritis or other congenital joint or bone issues
- They may help provide support to giant breeds and potentially prevent injury
Cons of A Dog Knee Brace
- If not used correctly, dog knee braces can result in worsened symptoms
- Some dog knee braces can increase chances of lameness
- Dog knee braces may increase muscle weakness and pain when not worn correctly
- A dog knee brace can actually slow recovery if not used correctly
- Some dogs will not tolerate wearing dog knee braces
So, if you’re not sure if a dog knee brace is right for you, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons, consider your unique dog and his needs, and most certainly consider speaking with your veterinarian.
And now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of whether or not to brace your fur kid, let’s now talk about the types of dogs who might actually benefit from a knee brace.
What Kind Of Issues Will A Dog Knee Brace Help?
Dog Knee braces can help aid in healing after a dog has had an injury or is recovering from surgery.
As we previously mentioned, a dog knee brace can help aid in healing and recovery as well as aid in pain reduction for a variety of joint issues in dogs, especially when used correctly.
Some of the most common issues that vets may recommend a dog knee brace for are listed below.
A Dog Knee Brace May Be Used To Help Speed Up Recovery After Surgery
If your dog does undergo surgery for knee or joint issues, he will often need a dog knee brace to help evenly distribute his weight and reduce excess pressure being put on the recovering limb.
When used in conjunction with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications your vet recommends for post surgery, a dog knee brace can be an excellent tool used for enhanced recovery.
A Dog Knee Brace May Help Speed Up Recovery From An Injury Due To Sprains or Strains
Like humans, dogs of any age, breed, or size can become injured. Injuries can be caused by a variety of activities, but it is more common for large breed dogs to struggle with joint issues and be at higher risk for joint injuries.
A dog knee brace can help protect an injured sprain or strain and help increase the rate of recovery when used alongside physical therapy. Of course, remember that a dog knee brace should typically be used under veterinary supervision if you believe your dog is injured.
Using a dog knee brace incorrectly can lead to worsened problems for your dog, and could potentially cost you more money in the long run.
Dog Knee Braces Can Help Ease Torn ACLs or CCLs
A ruptured cruciate ligament, also known as a torn ACL or torn CCL, is common in a variety of breeds. These types of injuries can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from intensive activities, to poor breeding practices, to canine obesity, to natural aging.
Ruptured cruciate ligaments in dogs can be incredibly painful, and sometimes may require surgery or physical therapy. In cases where these treatments are not an option, your vet may recommend a knee brace.
Even in cases where surgery or physical therapy are options for your dog’s treatment, vets may still prescribe a dog knee brace to help aid in protecting the joint and to help increase the rate of your dog’s recovery.
Knee Braces Can Help Aid In Reducing Arthritis Pain
For aging dogs and giant breed dogs, a dog knee brace can make all the difference in aiding in their quality of life. Giant dogs especially are prone to suffering from arthritis, but so are specific breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors.
Braces specifically designed to help evenly distribute weight and when worn during exercise can help reduce inflammation caused by arthritis, which in turn helps reduce pain in dogs.
A Dog Knee Brace Can Help Soothe Muscle Soreness
Very athletic dogs may be prone to developing muscle soreness, especially if they enjoy jogging or running. A dog knee brace may be used from time to time to help ease stiffness and muscle soreness in athletic dogs.
Dog Knee Braces May Be Important For Puppies Born With Birth Defects or Syndromes
A dog knee brace can sometimes be used to help aid in physical therapy endeavours for young puppies born with certain syndromes. One of the most common syndromes that may require the use of specific dog knee braces is known as Swimmers Syndrome.
This syndrome will require a specialized dog leg brace and quite a bit of physical therapy to help ensure the puppy grows up to live a normal life. Luckily, this is an uncommon syndrome in puppies and you are not likely to see it unless you are a breeder or you are considering fostering or caring for special needs animals.
Why A Dog Knee Brace Should Not Replace Professional Medical Care
If your dog seems injured or in pain, it’s best you seek professional care before trying to use a dog leg brace.
While a dog knee brace can work wonders for dogs in conjunction with other treatments and therapies, it’s very important for owners not to forgo seeking out veterinary care or treatments.
A dog knee brace is not intended to replace vet care, surgery, or other professional treatments when it comes to an injury in your dog’s joints.
While dog knee braces may seem like they are aiding in recovery, (and while they often can), when used incorrectly or without a veterinarian’s supervision, they could do more harm than good.
It’s also important to know what your dog is suffering from before opting to use a dog knee brace for treatment. Even if you already have a dog knee brace on hand, if you notice your dog is limping, walking stiffly, or favoring one limb over the others, it’s best to get a medical professional to take a look.
Treating a dog with a dog knee brace without properly diagnosing him could lead to more complications down the road, add more pain or discomfort to your dog’s joints, and could even wind up costing you more money in corrective treatments.
What To Look For In A Quality Dog Knee Brace
The best dog knee brace for your dog is going to depend on a variety of factors.
Not all dog knee braces are created equally. Some are made with softer, more pliable material that allow your dog to move more naturally while others are designed to be more supportive. Some dog knee braces look more like sleeves while others may be worn up over your dog’s shoulders and hind quarters.
Before you decide which type of dog knee brace is right for your dog, it’s best to do your research. Along with speaking to your veterinarian and ensuring your dog’s injury or ailment is conducive to wearing a dog knee brace, we also recommend considering the product.
Be sure to look for a dog knee brace that is designed specifically for your dog’s unique ailment. Also be careful to avoid dog knee braces that are not conducive to certain dog breeds. Some braces are specifically designed for dogs of a certain type, so be sure to read all the instructions, reviews and specifications for different brands.
It’s also best to look for a dog knee brace that is made of durable material. Many dogs will not tolerate wearing a dog knee brace initially, and some will even try to chew it. Get materials that are not only strong, but that are dog-safe.
The Best Dog Knee Brace For Small to Medium Sized Dogs
Small dog knee braces should be lightweight to allow for smaller dogs to move as naturally as possible.
Yes, it is true that even smaller dogs can be prone to suffering from knee and joint issues. Small to medium sized dog knee braces are not that different from large dog knee braces, though there are some specifications that can make them more ideal.
Most smaller dog knee braces should be designed to fit snuggly, should allow your small dog to move with ease, and should provide support without adding additional weight.
The best dog knee brace for a small dog is also going to be a knee brace that is made with quality material, and material that is safe for dogs to chew or lick, and it will be designed to help aid in whatever your dog’s specific ailment is.
MOCOHANA Dog Knee Brace
The MOCOHANA dog knee brace is a great knee brace for small and medium sized dogs. It is actually more of a support sleeve for dogs and is designed to help increase the rate of healing after injuries. However, this dog knee brace can also be used as a preventative brace, reducing chances of injury if your dog is older or is at high risk of joint injuries.
Some benefits of this particular dog knee brace is that it can be ordered to your specifications, including whether or not you need it for the front or the back legs.
However, it is designed to be worn up and around your dog’s shoulders or hind quarters, which some dogs may find difficult to get used to.
NeoAlly Dog Leg Brace For Small Dogs
This dog knee brace is specifically designed with smaller dogs or dogs with shorter legs like Corgis or Dachshunds. This knee brace is more upfront, and is a wrap that is made to support the rear hock of your dog’s legs.
The brace is ideal for helping soothe arthritis pain, healing old injuries, and distributing weight after surgical procedures (as specified by your veterinarian).
That said, we do recommend that if you choose to invest in this dog knee brace that you opt to buy two. Pairing the knee braces can help balance the limbs out and reduce potential the injury to other otherwise unsupported joints.
The Best Dog Knee Brace For Large And Giant Breed Dogs
Because of their rapid development and size, large breed dogs can be more susceptible to developing leg issues as they age than smaller breeds.
While smaller and medium sized dogs can be prone to suffering from knee and joint issues, it is their larger dog counterparts that are most at risk.
Large breed dog knee braces are often made with more durable materials that will support heavier dogs while evenly distributing their weight. However, it’s just as important to look into each dog knee brace you’re considering and make sure it is designed for your dog’s ailment and will aid in your dog’s recovery as opposed to hindering it.
Ortocanis Original Knee Brace
The above dog knee brace by Ortocanis is ideal for large and giant breed dogs because it is designed for dogs that struggle with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, joint dislocations, torn ACLs or CCLs, and arthritis. It can also work as a preventative, help aid in healing after surgery or injury, and will even help support stiff or aging joints as dogs reach their senior years.
However, like many braces, this dog knee brace must be worn over the hind quarters, which can be difficult for some dogs to get used to.
Labra Extra Support Dog Knee Brace
Last for large to giant dogs we have the Labra Extra Support Dog Knee Brace.
This knee brace is also available for small to medium sized dogs, so it isn’t only specified for larger dogs. We like it for dogs of all sizes because it can be specified to fit them comfortably while also providing that bit of extra support dogs with joint issues may need.
Like many of the dog knee braces listed in this article, the above dog knee brace is designed to help increase healing from sprains or strains, and help reduce pain and inflammation from arthritis.
We also like that this brace can be used for larger breed dogs that are predisposed to suffering from joint issues as a preventative during exercise, walks or more extensive activities.
Other Ways To Help Support Knee Health In Dogs
Try and invest in your dog’s health early on to prevent or alleviate joint issues.
Investing in a dog knee brace is somewhat controversial if not used correctly, and not all experts agree that knee braces are the best option for every knee injury. On the flip side, when used correctly and under the supervision of a veterinarian, a dog knee brace can work wonders.
Of course, you can also work to keep your dog’s joints healthy by ensuring you implement other good habits.
Some of the best ways to enhance knee health for dogs include the below tips:
Senior dogs, dogs with arthritis, and dogs recovering from surgery can often benefit and strengthen their bones and joints with routine swimming. Of course, be sure and speak with your vet before implementing this type of therapy, and make sure your dog is safely under your supervision at all times.
Dogs who use swimming as forms of physical therapy and exercise should often wear a dog life jacket, like the one listed below.
Vivaglory Dog Life Jacket
We like this life jacket for dogs who are swimming for joint therapy because it comes with a rescue handle owners can hold onto. This life jacket is also available in four different sizes, and is a standard fit so it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for your dog to wear.
However, this life jacket for dogs is not ideal for very large or giant breed dogs, and you may find you have to go to a speciality store for a life jacket of a larger size.
Take Your Senior or At Risk Dog On Shorter, More Gentle Walks
Just like people, as dogs age their bodies begin to deteriorate. If you have a senior dog or even an at risk dog like a Labrador or Great Dane, it’s important to go easy on them during walks or exercise.
You might consider walking them with a dog knee brace, but you should also slow down as your dog becomes older. Shortening walks can also help to decrease stress on bones and joints, as can walking on softer surfaces like grass or asphalt as opposed to cement.
Play Games That Encourage Hind-Quarter Use
Encouraging your dog to use his hind quarters can help strengthen bones and joints. Games like tug of war are an excellent option for gently and slowly encouraging your dog to use those muscles, bones, joints and ligaments.
Of course, if your dog has an injury or is recovering from surgery, refrain from playing these types of games without your veterinarian’s approval.
Speak With Your Veterinarian Regarding Anti-Inflammatory Medications To Help Reduce Swelling and Pain
While a dog knee brace can help reduce pain and inflammation, it often won’t work 100% of the time all on it’s own.
A dog knee brace is going to be most effective when used in conjunction with physical therapy, gentle exercise, and pain medications like anti-inflammatory drugs provided by your veterinarian.
Consider Alternative Therapies Like Acupuncture
Acupuncture is considered a safe and natural way to help alleviate pain and inflammation in dogs. While it was once considered an alternative form of veterinary medicine, there are a variety of modern vets opting to implement acupuncture therapy into their practice to help aid in things like pain management, arthritis relief, and surgical recovery.
Provide Your Dog With Joint Supplements
You don’t have to wait for your dog to experience an injury or undergo surgery, or even to come down with arthritis before you can start supporting bone and joint health.
In fact, you can begin providing your dog with bone and joint supplements as early as 8 weeks of age, according to Sarah J. Wooten, DVM. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a dog that is predisposed to struggling with joint issues as he ages.
Mobility Bites (All Ages)
We are big fans of these Mobility Bites joint supplements. They are safe for dogs of all ages and help support hip and elbow health. They include a combination of Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM, as well as other natural and healthy ingredients like kelp, vitamin E and vitamin C.
These supplements are ideal for helping support healthy development and joint health in dogs of all ages, and they are even flavored to taste like treats to your dog.
Other Tips On Promoting Bone And Joint Health In Dogs
Keeping your dog on a healthy diet, ensuring he is exercised, and keeping up with routine vet visits can help reduce chances of bone and joint issues.
All dogs can be susceptible to certain health conditions, but some breeds are just more at risk for knee and joint issues than others. With that being said, you can help reduce winding up with a dog that suffers from joint issues by ensuring you go through reputable sources to get your puppy or rescue dog.
Responsible breeders and most shelters will have had their dog’s health screened, and this will help you better prepare for any potential health issues your dog will face down the road.
Furthermore, it’s important to make sure your dog eats a quality dog food species for his age, weight and activity level. This is especially vital if you do have a breed that is higher risk than others for knee and joint issues or conditions like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, or arthritis.
It’s also wise to keep your dog at a healthy weight as obesity in dogs can lead to excess strain on joints.
We also recommend that you try to ensure your dog is properly exercised every day. If you have an at-risk dog, look into the healthiest types of exercise for his size and weight, and avoid letting him overexert himself, climb stairs, or jump on or off furniture if he is prone to joint issues.
Along with ensuring you get a quality dog knee brace, you can also speak with your veterinarian about physical therapies, exercises, supplements and routines you can implement in your dog’s daily activities to keep him healthy and happy for years to come.
So, what do you think about investing in a dog knee brace for your dog now that you know about the pros and cons? While we do love these dog knee braces listed above, we remind you again that it is best to use a dog knee brace under veterinary supervision.
We hope this has been a helpful guide on keeping your dog’s bones and joints as healthy as possible. Keep us posted on what you choose to do when it comes to a dog knee brace in the comment section below.
Best of luck and thanks for reading!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.