Wrap It Up: Using Soft Supports For Your Dog

by Susan E. Davis, PT 

It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your pet avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   

External devices such as braces, splints or wraps, may be recommended by a therapist or veterinarian to support your dog’s injured limb or body part after trauma, fracture or surgery.  

Splints or braces (also called “orthotics”) are made by therapists and professional orthotists, based on a number of factors. These devices can be costly and require casting, adjustments, modification, time, etc. They may be your best option, but in many cases you might be able to use a soft wrap support instead.

Wraps do not require cast molds and can be ordered by taking measurements with a ruler or tape measure and submitting a photo &/or video of the dog.

Wraps offer great solutions for support of weakened areas and shock absorption of joints, especially with lighter, smaller-framed dogs. Large dogs can benefit from wraps if only mild support is needed or for use during light activities. Wraps can also be used during sports to add extra protection and provide heat to exercising muscles.

Prefabricated wraps are typically manufactured and sold by commercial pet retailers. 

Pet owners can take simple measurements with a ruler or tape measure and order these products directly.

There are specialized vendors that can fabricate custom wraps for your dog. 

Custom wraps typically require a veterinarian or therapist to measure and order the product. Wraps are made from specialized fabric and neoprene. They come in light, moderate and heavy weights depending on the amount of support needed. Straps and padding can be added to give additional support or limit movement.

Here are some examples of wraps I have ordered for patients, with good success:

This is a simple home wrap used for a traumatic brachial plexus injury, to support the weakened shoulder and elbow while the nerve regenerated. I used a rolled elastic “Ace” type of bandage.

The wrapping was done in a spiral pattern starting at the wrist and moving upward toward the shoulder, then completed with a full turn around the Boston Terrier’s back as an anchor, and a final turn back down on the limb, and secured with clips.


The next case involved the use of Custom Carpal Wraps (wrist and forearm) for a Pit Bull puppy to support weak and unstable joints from congenital Carpus Hyperextension.

The wraps were ordered with mild support, and protected joints while the puppy developed and received PT for strengthening, and functional electrical stimulation. After about 6 months, the pup gained full strength and no longer walked “flat” on his front paws. The wraps preserved health of the joints, to prevent future arthritis.

Here is prefabricated Foot drop bootie to help a dog that was hit by a car and sustained a sciatic nerve injury, resulting in a weakened rear limb with dragging of the paw.

The bootie not only helped to support the hock and paw but also prevented drag abrasions.  This dog attained partial nerve recovery and continued to use the bootie only for leash walks.  He was able to walk indoors without it.  This particular bootie was fairly inexpensive but needed to be replaced after about 5 months.


Next is a prefabricated neoprene sling with elbow supports, used for a stocky, slightly overweight Lab with elbow dysplasia on both sides.  It was used outdoor walks during the cold winter months. The neoprene offered warmth, in addition to mechanical shock absorption. This helped the Lab tolerate longer distances comfortably, without limping.

This photo shows a simple Velcro strap, wrapped around a hock of a Golden Retriever, to support a ligament that was involved in a stretch injury.

The relevant feature of this wrap is the slanted, diagonal direction of the final turn of the wrap (also called spiral). This spiral pattern of wrapping offers greater support and prevents impeding blood circulation.

Below are side and front-views of custom Dorsi-Flex Assist Wraps for the rear limbs of a geriatric Weimaraner with early stage Degenerative Myelopathy.  Though the dog walked with excessive flexion in the limbs, the wraps allowed him to walk outdoors for brief periods and to relieve himself, without dragging and falling.  Note that the wraps have 2 sections: a bootie for the paw, and a cuff for the lower leg, joined together with a crisscross Velcro strap to assist in pulling the paw upward.

This final example is of a custom wrap used for a torn Achilles tendon with dropped hock.  The wrap has crisscross Velcro straps on the underside to assist in pointing the “toes” down and lifting the heel up. This dog could not have surgery to repair the torn tendon due to financial hardship, so the wrap offered a low-cost, effective solution for this small Shi-Tzu.

There are so many possibilities for dogs and other pets to benefit from soft supportive wraps, whether prefabricated or custom-made.  When choosing what is right for your dog it is best to enlist the help of your veterinarian or physical therapist for optimal accuracy and results!

Recommended vendors for Wraps and supports:

Able Pet
Handicapped Pets


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website www.joycareonsite.com , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ideas to Chew on - Can Physical Therapy Help with my Dog’s Digestive Problems? 


  1. Wow - thanks for sharing all of this. I had no idea there were so many specialty wraps like this. With two senior dogs, I see the use of some of thee in my future.

  2. this is wonderful!!! i have a question. my bouvier tried to catch a car and in doing so ran off of the curb and onto her back. She hurt her L shoulder/elbow. now her right elbow is giving her grief (i am thinking similar to having both knees go out when one is injured due to off loading of weight onto the 'unaffected" leg) we are thinking of s brace but not sure which would be best (dogleggs?) thank you!!!!!!

    1. I would not recommend treating without diagnosis; particularly if your dog fell on her back. Please start by seeing a veterinarian. You can then find out what is going on and discuss the best options.

  3. My dog was diagnosed with a torn acl. Because of age vet suggested no surgery. Treating with medication for comfort. The brace above would be perfect. Any ideas where I can find it? I have looked for a week now. Thanks

    1. Sorry about your baby's knee. Is it a partial or full tear? With a partial tear, you MIGHT have good success with prolotherapy or platelet-rich plasma therapy.

      If I were to use a brace, I'd go with the Orthopets stifle brace.

  4. What type of brace would you recommend for a 5 pound pappilion with a shoulder that slips out of place. The vet referred me to another vet, but at this time I can't afford a surgery.

    1. I recommend you talk to Orthopets. They do all kinds of different braces, including custom ones. They will be the best to advise you whether a brace is a good option for your dog and which one or how they'd make it.

  5. I have a german shepherd that weighs about 120.. He was playing and I noticed a limp so I took him in and she said it was arthritis, which I found hard to believe since he is only 4 yrs old never had any issues but allergies. The next day he was playing and all of a sudden he picked his leg up high and wont walk on it at all. When he puts it down on his toes to go out to potty i hear a click sound like the bone is moving.well after my husband got cancer and we lost everything but the house and dog, I'm broke, needless to say.I can't even afford an xray right now.its horrible as I love my boy very much! Is there any ideas as to how I can brace it or wrap it! There just is no help out there it seems for people that have been through what were going through... Thank you for your time.

    1. Which leg is it? Hind leg I figure? If so, sounds more like a knee injury. Did your vet to the drawer test? There are ways to assess this injury without x-rays; in fact, x-rays provide only marginally more information.

  6. My puppy broke her elbow and got surgery to put two pins in. The vet wrapped it so loosely that I'm not sure what good it's doing if any. I decided to wrap it a bit more bc she's a puppy and can't keep her still very long even though I'm drugging her 3 times a day with trazadone. Is there a reason it was wrapped so loosely and am I hurting the healing process by wrapping it a bit more?

    1. I imagine the wrap is to protect the incision, not to stabilize the break. Trazadone 3x daily not working? Did you try any games? Teaching tricks, puzzle games, there are many activities that will tire the brain and in the process tire the body as well.


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