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Her New Fourth Leg

Nellie the honorary Tripawd gets a custom fourth leg brace for better mobility and less pain getting around.

Nellie's carpal flexion contracture orthotic for dogs

We think that for most of her life, Nellie has been unable to do many things that three and four legged dogs can do. When we adopted her, vets couldn’t tell how long she had a “carpal flexion contracture,” but they knew it had been at least a couple of years since her leg could completely extend and work properly. But now, her life may be changing for the better, thanks to a special orthotic that is already helping her enjoy better mobility.

Nellie's carpal flexion contracture orthotic for dogs
Her new nickname is “Bootsy”!

For two years, we have sought out vet opinions about what to do with her bad leg. Our favorite ortho vets at Colorado State suggested a little studied corrective surgery that would cut her carpal tendons so her paw could extend. Meanwhile, rehabbers recommended ongoing therapy to try to restore her mobility. But none could say with any certainty if their treatment would give Nellie normal movement again.

Amputation has always been a last resort, because Nellie still uses the wonky leg for some weight bearing, balance and moving objects. Amputation surgery would also put an even greater stress on her over-burdened spine and shoulder.

But recently, interviewing a guest for Tripawd Talk, we stumbled into a solution. The founder of TheraPaw, a canine orthotics and braces company, suggested trying a carpal brace attached to a “toe up” boot, like the kind made for dogs with degenerative myelopathy. Therapaw’s founder Ilaria believed a brace could support and straighten her wonky leg. The toe up device would gradually stretch her wrist as she put weight on the limb.

The device would be modeled after a rough draft that our Tripawds musher friends made a few weeks earlier while dog sitting Nellie for us. They took a “SAM Splint” device used to temporarily support a fractured dog leg. And they made it into a brace.

Once the Therapaw founder saw Nellie walking on the DIY device, she went to work on the real deal. The boot device would be an experiment. But Therapaw’s got a long track record of creating successful medical supports for dogs. We figured it was worth a shot. “Now why didn’t anyone else think of that?” we wondered.

A few weeks and one revision later, Nellie has gone from that painful, awkward gait to an almost “normal” quadruped movement that looks like this:

What a joy to see Nellie move like a four-legged dog!

The day we saw her walk like a quadruped brought tears to our eyes. She seems happier when she’s outside using that leg! We are taking it slow, extending her walks a little at a time. Her body hasn’t used many walking muscles for a long time.

She doesn’t use the boot inside, because we don’t want to keep her paw in a boot all day. So Therapaw is currently making an indoor version for her. It’s a bit lighter, without an boot.

We don’t know for sure if this is the answer. It requires constant monitoring for abrasions and it’s tricky to put on correctly. But we’re all getting the hang of this new normal, and not complaining!

Eventually we hope Nellie will have regained enough wrist extension to not need the brace at all. That seems like a dream, so for now, we’re taking it slow and easy. And we can’t be more thrilled to watch Nellie find new joys in a less painful and more mobile way of getting around.

5 thoughts on “Her New Fourth Leg”

  1. Brilliantly done Miss Nellie!!!!
    I can truly see the difference in her gait and in her posture too! Everything seems much more fluid now and virtually no struggle at all as she moves forward.
    Definitely a pep in her step with a happy
    A happy Tail Wag held high.
    A beautiful, beautiful sight to behold!

    Paws crossed it continues to work better and better as all the Kinks get worked out.
    Kudos to all involved in figuring out the best type of brace for Nellie.

    1. Aww thanks Sally. I’m glad you can see that difference too. I feel like it’s taken forever to reach this point but I guess it had to happen on its own time. We will post about her progress!

  2. This is awesome. I can see the difference. I truly hope it helps her. Glad you figured this out for Nellie. And she is smiling out there on her walk.


    Michelle & Angels Sassy, Bosch, Baby Simba and Sweet Snickers.

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Nellie B. Dawg is brought to you by Tripawds.