The Difference Between a Custom Leg Brace & a Splint

Trying to choose the best type of splint for your pet can be daunting at first. There are many options available off-the-shelf or pre-made and custom braces. Determining which one is best for your dog can be difficult, but knowing the benefits of each will help you determine what will work best for your pet. Whether the problem is high or low on your pet’s paw or if the condition is acute or chronic. Considering the factors of your dog’s requirements and needs will ensure that you choose the right type of leg brace and support for your pet.

Standard splints for dogs

small to medium sized dog in a Walkin' Pets front leg brace

While some pets will need a custom brace or splint, many pets need a quick fix to stabilize an injured leg. Pre-made or ready-made splints offer a quick and easy way to brace a dog’s leg without delay. A ready-to-use solution is an ideal leg support solution for a dog or cat with an acute injury that will heal in two to three months.

There are several styles of pre-made dog braces; each style is designed to support a different part of a dog’s leg:

  • Hind brace – hind leg and leg support
  • Hock Splint – support for the tarsus or hock joint on the lower back leg
  • Front splint – front limb and leg support
  • Carpal Splint – support for the carpal joint and lower front leg
  • Bootie Splint – paw, toe and ankle support

When is a prefabricated splint the best option?

A pre-made splint is the best solution for dogs with sudden injuries that need immediate leg support while they heal. Other uses for a standard dog brace include:

  • Temporary joint support while the dog waits for a custom brace or brace.
  • The dog has an acute or non-serious problem that has caused a deformity.
  • Provides stability and proper leg placement for pets with neurological conditions.
  • Protect the paw from dragging or bumping while pet is walking.
  • Immediate assistance to support a sprain or a broken toe.
  • Limit the mobility of the injured area while helping to support.

A wide range of pre-made splints can help a front or back leg, and some can work for either. These usually don’t have a right or left as they are primarily designed to go as high as the hock or carpal joint or a bit higher to provide support above and below the joint for more stability. Besides being fast delivery, these pre-made splints are more affordable than a custom-made canine brace.

The Benefits of an Adjustable Brace for Dogs

Each animal is unique, just like the way it is built. An adjustable splint bridges the gap between standard splints and custom leg braces. Featuring both adjustable width and angle, the size of the brace can be controlled for a better overall fit. Adjustable splints are ideal for pets with a lower front or rear leg injury, as they will work for any leg.

When is an adjustable brace the best option?

Brutus is in a Walkin' Pets adjustable splint for a dog's hind leg

An adjustable splint provides leg support for pets that need an immediate solution to bracing their leg and need a more personalized fit. Other uses of an adjustable leg brace include:

  • An extremely swollen injured leg, the width of the splint can be adjusted as the swelling goes down.
  • Temporary leg support while the dog waits for a custom brace to be made.
  • Additional bracing on a wrapped or bandaged leg.
  • Pets with a deeply bent leg that cannot fit comfortably in a standard splint.

The adjustable splint can easily fit a wide range of pets of all sizes with a few minor adjustments. This style of leg brace provides a more personalized fit without the added cost of a fully custom leg brace. To get the support and angle they need. Adjustable splints are great for larger pets that weigh a little more than pets that typically fit in standard splints and pets at an odd angle to their legs or paws. The angle adjustment will help convert this splint from a back splint to a front splint or allow a dog to heal with just one splint without having multiple pre-made splints during their recovery.

Understanding a Custom Leg Brace or Canine Brace

Custom dog leg brace for the elbow

While pre-made splints and adjustable splints have their benefits, a custom splint or brace gives pets the best leg support with the best fit. Although a more expensive option, a custom leg brace is made with your pet’s diagnosis in mind and provides a perfect fit.

A dog brace is ideal for a pet that needs constant support for an extended period or even permanently. While pre-made rigid splints are on the market for the lower legs, there are fewer options for those looking for support higher up the leg. Knee pads and elbow pads can be more difficult to fit if they don’t fit the exact dog wearing them.

Canine orthoses come in a variety of styles designed to support specific joints. Some of the more common canine orthoses include:

  • Stifle Brace, ACL/CCL Brace or Knee Brace for dogs – supports the knee joint on the hind leg.
  • Elbow Brace – provides front leg support high on the leg and elbow.
  • Carpal Brace – supports the lower front leg, carpal joint, wrist and under the front leg.
  • Hock Brace or Tarsal Brace – provides support to the lower back of the leg, supporting the hock or tarsal joint, the ankle and under the hind leg.

When to choose a custom orthotic for your dog

Custom brace or dog knee brace

A custom leg brace is necessary for any dog ​​with chronic joint disease or a serious injury. Custom dog braces are designed to fit your pet and give them long term leg support. Durability is just one of the many benefits of a canine orthosis.

These braces last longer, eliminating the need for replacement. A custom orthopedic brace is more expensive than its off-the-shelf counterpart, but it’s built to last and manufactured for the perfect fit.

Custom orthotics for dogs are ideal for pets that:

  • Suffer from a chronic joint condition or injury with a long recovery time
  • Need for a leg support adapted to the animal’s condition or anatomical needs
  • Those with a serious injury that needs to be stabilized for an extended period
  • Are not candidates for surgery or require an alternative to surgery
  • Requires joint support before or after surgery

A custom splint may be more comfortable for a pet to wear in many cases. The splint is created based on an imprint of your dog’s limb. Which means the splint fits perfectly to its unique shape and eliminates the risk of chafing or irritation.


Fortunately, there are now a wide variety of canine splints and splints that you can choose from. This allows you to find the perfect match for your dog based on their injury and your budget. There are many resources available, from your veterinarian to customer service, that can help ensure you get the most accurate size for your pet from the start! Whether your dog needs a pre-made brace, a custom brace, or an adjustable brace, there are ways to find the perfect fit and support for your dog and your budget. If you are unsure of what is best for your dog, always contact your veterinarian or rehabilitation specialist for recommendations.


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