Winnie loves to run. On paths and up and down hills, through blackberry bushes. The energetic dog had a rough start to life. She was stray with and injured leg. But with help from kind strangers, her resourceful pet parent, and a new splinting system – Winnie could keep the leg and thrive.
“The very first time they shared it with me I was like, ‘Are you kidding? This is going to change veterinary medicine!”, exclaims Dr. Christin Finn. She is an experienced veterinarian, but also the doting pet parent of Winnie, a mixed-breed dog with quite a tale to tell.
A very lucky three-legged dog
Winnie the dog was found at a gas station in Arizona. A couple on a vacation driving through the country had stopped for fuel when Winnie crawled out of the nearby woods. She had suffered a massive injury to her front leg.
The dog-loving couple scooped Winnie up in their arms and placed her in their truck with their other dogs. Winnie’s first pet parents took her to several veterinarians across the country. All gave the same verdict: The leg would have to come off.
The couple was adamant, there must be another solution. They took a two-hour trip to see Dr. Finn at her home close to the San Juan Islands in Seattle. The young and enthusiastic dog stole her heart.
“We fell in love with Winnie immediately. We joke at the clinic that we stole her”, recalls Dr. Finn. She was the first veterinarian who agreed that amputation was not the only solution for Winnie.
Why do many veterinarians still favour surgery and amputation? Our experts answer.
Finding better solutions for Winnie
When Winnie came to Dr. Finn’s care, she still had fresh wounds on her paw and was missing some toes. There was also a fracture of her radius and ulna that had healed by itself.
“It’s hard to say how long she had been in the woods, but it may have been anything from a month to six weeks”, Dr. Finn estimates.
She decided to start Winnie on a training and rehabilitation program. She also began to look for an orthotic device for the energetic dog. Dr. Finn had been working with OrthoPets for years. Dr. Martin Kaufmann founded the company with his wife Amy to create orthotic devices for small animals. Dr. Kaufmann, now COO at Dassiet, agreed that Winnie would be a good candidate for one. But these devices are made to measure and take some weeks to make.
Meanwhile, Dr. Finn received the early version of a revolutionary product. UPETS had not even been launched to the public. Dr. Finn received just a few rolls of Unitex™ bandage and some Woodcast-material scraps to start treating Winnie's toes.
“Winnie’s toes were curled up due to her injury. But when I put UPETS on her paw, her toes would be in a natural position. The device started training her foot to be in the correct position”, she says.
Become a pioneer like Dr. Finn and Winnie – learn more about UPETS.
In the video: Winnie getting the hang of running with UPETS.
Goodbye to sores
Before she had the OrthoPets device and the UPETS splint, Dr. Finn treated Winnie’s healing foot with bandages.
“I went through over $1,200 of bandage material, plus wet wraps and cast padding. I also had to try several different bandages, because the leg had decreased blood flow and was compromised. Any little wound would take weeks to heal even when I treated them with my powerful class-four laser”, recalls Dr. Finn.
The OrthoPets device needed to be redesigned as Winnie was still growing during the healing process. But even with the new design, Dr. Finn would see pressure sores appear.
“When the UPETS arrived and we started wearing it, I have not had a sore”, she says. Now, Winnie wears her UPETS and OrthoPets devices interchangeably. This gives the skin on her leg a break and helps keep the sores at bay, Dr. Finn believes.
Empowering pet parents with UPETS
Learning to wrap and heat-mold UPETS was a walk in the park, according to Dr. Finn. So much so, that she has also taught pet parents how to do slight adjustments themselves.
“I would be super cautious before with clients re-managing their pets’ devices or bandages. But with UPETS I’ve felt comfortable teaching them. I would watch them do it and – I just don’t feel like the dangers are there. UPETS has allowed me to empower the pet parents: you can do this!”, Dr. Finn says.
She has also been treating her patients with UPETS. According to her, the product is a great choice when a dog is waiting for an orthotic device, for example.
“For the price of a new dress, you can change your dog's life”, Dr. Finn sums up.
Animals are made to move
Dr. Finn approaches veterinary medicine with the idea of integrative care. Instead of treating separate symptoms or injuries, she rather focuses on the whole animal.
“Animals need movement, it defines them. That’s why I was so thrilled about UPETS, it allows the animals to move naturally. I had been a practice partner of OrthoPets for over 14 years when UPETS came along. It is just mindblowing and revolutionary”, she says.
Her and Winnie's story is a great example of how important the ability to move is. The pair are happy that the days of cumbersome bandaging, pressure sores, and not being able to go for walks are behind them.
“She doesn’t miss a beat. We go on our normal walks. I have 18 acres with trails up and down hills – and blackberries. She still occasionally will race into them. And at night we take a wrap off and we have a little cuddle time, and she goes to bed”, Dr. Finn shares.
Looking back, Dr. Finn admits being both the pet parent and veterinarian for Winnie was a difficult balance: “It was hard on me. At times I thought if we were going to make it past these injuries, even though I was determined to win. It was a long road and then UPETS came along. Obviously, I have no skin in the game to say this: It was just like a liberation”, Dr. Finn praises.
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Thank you to Dr. Finn and Winnie for sharing their story with us. Be sure to follow Dr. Finn on her website, on Instagram, and on Facebook.