When Should a Dog’s Leg Be Amputated?

Choosing to get your pet’s leg amputated is one of the most drastic decisions about their life that you will ever make, and unsurprisingly, it’s not one to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which removing a limb is the best way to preserve an animal’s health, quality of life, and in some cases, could even save their life.


Reasons Why Your dog’s Leg May Need to be Amputated


There are a variety of reasons why your veterinarian may think that amputation is the best decision to make for your dog. Some of the most common reasons why amputation is suggested include:


  • Irreparable trauma to the leg, such as a crush injury from being hit by a vehicle

  • Severe infection in the leg that has caused tissue necrosis or that your vet is worried will spread to other parts of your dog’s body

  • Paralysis in the affected leg

  • Cancerous tumors in the bone (bone cancer) or soft tissue (sarcoma)

  • Severe arthritis or osteoporosis affecting the leg

  • Limb deformity which affects your dog’s quality of life


Sometimes, such as in the case of an infection, removing the limb will cure your pet. However, in others, it may simply relieve very debilitating symptoms and improve their quality of life.


How do Dogs Cope with Three Limbs Instead of Four?


One of the main worries that pet owners have is how their canine pal will cope with having three legs instead of four. Fortunately, the vast majority of animals learn to function extremely well following amputation, with many being just as mobile after their surgery following a period of adaptation.


It probably comes as no surprise that larger breeds can find it harder to adapt than smaller breeds, and this is simply due to their size and weight. The ability to adapt also depends on which limb is amputated too. Large breed dogs carry most of their weight in the front part of their body, and this means that it could be much harder for them to lose a front leg than a hind one.


The age of your pet will also have an effect on how well they adapt to living with fewer limbs. Older pets who may be overweight or suffering from arthritis may also have a harder time adapting to moving around on three legs rather than four.  


Helping Your Dog Adapt to Life on Three Limbs


Your vet will give you very specific instructions on how to help care for your dog once they return home following their amputation. These instructions will involve wound care, such as keeping the wound site dry and clean, and how to prevent your pet from interfering with it as it heals.


They will also give you advice on how to help your dog adapt to their new body. They will need to build muscle and adjust their posture and body position to take their missing limb into account, and the best way for them to do this is to continue to move around as much as possible. Carpeted floors will provide your dog with more grip while they find their balance and get used to walking, running, and climbing stairs.


It’s important to help your dog maintain a healthy weight following their amputation, since the heavier they are, the more likely they are to struggle with their new body.




For more information about limb amputations in dogs, please contact our experienced veterinary team at Van Lue Veterinary Surgical in Oviedo, Florida at (321) 348-6300.

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