Tails were wagging in the hallways of Bakery Square as special guests from My Pet’s Brace came for the day to teach our Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) students about creating leg braces and prosthetics for animals. In the morning, these University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) students listened to a lecture from the business’ founder, Jim Alaimo, about the fundamentals of this specialized profession.
Alaimo spent his career as a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist working with people, but later discovered the need for animals to have similar help with mobility. He began My Pet’s Brace in 2010 and it is one of only a few practices in the country. Designing prosthetics for animals is not a skill taught in veterinary schools. Rather, veterinarians rely on the expertise of prosthetic professionals like Alaimo to bring this specialized skillset and technology to the animals. He says that over 90% of his patients are dogs. Occasionally there are cats, but they are more finicky. He has also worked with farm animals like sheep and horses.
The afternoon session included hands-on work with non-disabled dog “models” to practice making casts on their legs. There appeared to be some skepticism from a few of the dogs as their owners and the students gently held them still while another student wrapped the casting material around one leg. Once the cast was set, it was carefully cut off to reveal the piece that would eventually be used to make a customized, supportive leg brace for the dog. When shown their new casts, the dogs greeted them with sniffs of approval. A full supply of treats and ample playtime between sessions made for lots of dancing and the pitter-patter of happy paws.
Published August 24, 2022