ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — Lance the Cavalier King Charles spaniel was never the same after his “great escape” from his Eden Prairie yard.

When owners Mike and Maggie Diede found their 12-year-old dog, he was limping badly, having torn a muscle in his hind leg.

“He wasn’t using his leg at all,” Maggie Diede said. “He was kind of hopping around on three legs.”

The couple didn’t want to shell out $3,000 for surgery and weren’t sure a dog of his age would tolerate the recovery well. They didn’t want to put him down, either. They needed another option.

They found it in an Arden Hills company that has found a niche market for animal owners in just such a predicament. The company takes established orthopedic equipment used for people and modifies it for animal use.

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Animal Planet fame

Animal Ortho Care, which falls under its umbrella company Caerus Corp., prescribed a $650 custom-made brace that helped Lance run on all four legs again.

“It really comes down to helping the owner with affordability,” said Caerus CEO Fariborz Boor Boor. “I believe we are the only company in the country and probably the world where we have every type of bracing an animal would need.”

Animal Ortho Care was founded by Derrick Campana, an orthotist who originally worked with prosthetics and braces for people until a veterinarian brought her dog, a black Labrador named Charles, into his office for help.

Campana switched to animals and has found fame on the television show Animal Planet and a digital media brand The Dodo. For Animal Planet, he once traveled to Botswana to make a massive brace for an elephant named Jabu with an injured leg.

He has helped make braces or prosthetics for over 20,000 animals, including gazelles, camels, sheep, deer, goat, llamas, turtles, a bald eagle and, of course, lots of dogs.

Building the business

In 2016, Campana sold the business to Caerus, but he retains a special working relationship with the company, fashioning custom items and drawing attention to this emerging market.

In 2017 Caerus acquired another brace company called L’il Back Bracer, a company that makes body braces for dogs like dachshunds who have trouble with intervertebral disc disease.

Boor Boor, who has degrees in chemistry and business administration, had grown several other companies before Caerus, one being Visiled Inc. which developed the first LED-based surgical headlight system. With Caerus, which is named for the Greek god of opportunity, he hopes to build a major global veterinary medical rehabilitation company for animals and keep it headquartered in Minnesota.

“We love Minnesota,” he said. “We want to expand this business to help as many animals as we can and grow this business to as big as it can be.”

Dogs are family too

The company sells directly to consumers through its online store and has seen increasing interest in its products as dogs have moved from the barn to the basement to the bedroom.

“Animals, especially dogs and cats, have become members of the family,” he said. “If one of the members of your family got ill, you would do anything to help them.”

Consumers often take to Google to see if there are other options to help their pet, and that’s where they find Animal Ortho Care, he said.

Custom-made braces

So, how does it work?

With the current technology, owners must first buy a casting kit, which consists of a roll of gauze-like tape that when put in water becomes flexible. They put a cloth “sock” on the dog’s injured leg and then wrap it in the tape, which dries and becomes firm.

Consumers send the cast into Animal Ortho Care and the company makes a plaster mold from it that is used to custom-fit a brace. The process can take three weeks.

Glenn Meidl, vice president of sales for the company, sees that technology changing in the near future. Consumers soon will only need to measure the dog’s leg and a 3D computer program will create the dimensions needed for the brace. That would cut out the cast kit completely and winnow the process down to little over one week, he said.

Besides offering custom and adjustable braces, the company recently has adapted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy to help animals manage pain without drugs. The plastic disk easily attaches to a brace or blanket with Velcro and sends a radio wave into the soft tissue, increasing the nitric oxide in the cells, which helps reduce swelling and pain.

Animal lovers want options

Meidl is quick to point out that Animal Ortho Care is not anti-surgery; it’s simply providing another option that makes sense for the pet owner.

For Lance, only surgery would have repaired his torn muscle. But since the Diedes felt that was not reasonable for their situation, Lance likely will wear his brace for the rest of his life. The brace, Meidl explained, doesn’t necessarily heal the injury; it provides support so the injured muscle can either heal itself or at least allow the animal to walk on it as it did before the injury.

Without the brace, Lance wouldn’t climb stairs and didn’t run. With the brace, he does both and does not seem to be in pain. The brace also prevented him from overusing his other hind leg, which could have resulted in a second injury, Meidl said.

While Caerus may have mastered the brace market for animals, Boor Boor believes it’s just the beginning for the company as word spreads and human orthopedic methods are adapted.

“The company has literally been growing from zero revenue on a 45-degree slope,” Boor Boor said. “I won’t give you the exact dollars, but they are substantial.”