Robbie and his OrthoPets Tarsus Device (Dog Ankle Brace)

Case Study: Robbie the “Robo-Dog.”

Our case study this month comes from CRI graduate Dr. Pete van Dongen of Pennard Vets in England, who worked with OrthoPets UK.


Robbie is an 11-year-old, male neutered, Tricolour Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) who has been coming to Pennard Vets, Sevenoaks, Kent, UK, for the last five years now. Robbie is a beautiful and lovely little dog, owned by a very caring owner, Miss Steel from Chislehurst, who, over the years, has proved to be the most dedicated carer for Robbie.

Robbie has, over the years, suffered from lots of different conditions, including intestinal allergies/sensitivities, osteo-arthritis, paw injuries, bilateral shoulder injuries (mild MSI), dental disease, Cushing's Disease, weight problems (partially due to his other problems!), and various benign skin tumours.

For the last year or so, he has also suffered from orthopaedic problems, in both his hind legs, caused by a weakness / failure of the plantar ligament. This was initially dealt with through orthopaedic operations (plate and screw implants) on both hind legs, performed by specialist orthopaedic surgeons, but eventually these failed, due to lack of boney healing and chronic recurrent infections, mainly due to some of Robbie's other conditions, including his hormonal imbalance. In the end, unfortunately, the orthopaedic implants had to be removed. Robbie then had to again deal with collapsing hind legs and he got subsequent skin lesions to deal with as well! He also had very weak muscles and tendons, again due to his hormonal imbalance, which made walking ever more difficult.

For a long time, Robbie was on various medical treatments, including pain killers (NSAIDs and opioids), antibiotics and hormonal replacement therapy, and he had regular hydrotherapy for his arthritis and muscle weakness and therapeutic LASER treatments for his skin lesions as well! The two latter treatments are not available everywhere, but at Pennard Vets, Sevenoaks, we have the most up-to-date modern complementary treatments available for all our patients.When all the above treatments failed to give Robbie a sufficiently good quality of life, with a pain free and functional movement, Pete van Dongen, Clinical Director at Pennard Vets, and a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT, one of only 13 in the country), suggested that Robbie have orthotics, or orthopaedic braces, fitted, specially made-to-measure for him, by a company, OrthoPets UK, specialising in helping pets with these kind of conditions! Robbie's legs had to be photographed, measured, x-rayed and casted to manufacture precisely fitting orthotics and after a few weeks, Robbie's "new legs" were complete!

Initially, when his new legs were fitted, Robbie struggled to use them, as they didn't bend where his natural legs would (they were non-articulating at the tibio-tarsal joint), but he soon got used to using them. Within minutes he was walking around outside! Robbie is now walking well on his legs, without causing any further damage to his legs or skin and without any pain! He can even sit and lie down and get up again, and he seems happy and content. He will wear the orthotics whenever he goes out with his mum.

This interesting case highlights the many different treatment methods which are available to vets, their clients and their pets, with sophisticated specialist surgery, the use of many different modern drugs, the access to canine hydrotherapy, the availability of canine rehabilitation and physiotherapy, therapeutic LASER treatment and many more options! And little Robbie gets to be "Robo-Dog!"

- Pete van Dongen, Drs, MRCVS, CertVR, CCRT, Clinical Director at Pennard Vets, Kent, Great Britain, UK 


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