What is Forequarter Amputation?

When disease or severe injury compromise the lower portion of a dog's limb, amputation of the affected area can be a successful way to address the issue. Amputation is performed more than many other salvage procedures due to its cost effective and low complication aspects. 

A limb may need to be removed after a devastating injury or to prevent the spread of cancer. In dogs that exhibit neurological damage resulting in pain to the lower limb, an amputation may be considered after six months of symptoms. If possible, other treatments may be attempted before an amputation. In dogs, amputations are somewhat common and can be performed by any ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon.

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Forequarter Amputation Procedure in Dogs

Before an amputation can be performed, the dog should be in the most optimal health condition possible. Blood work can be run to assess the dog's overall state and determine if it is a good surgical candidate. X-rays will be used to identify the issue affecting the limb. If growths are located, a biopsy may be needed to diagnose any cancer in the dog. The dog will be required to fast for several hours before the surgery can begin. Antibiotics will be administered intravenously to help prevent infection after the procedure is done. A large catheter may be placed in case fluids or blood need to be given at any point in the surgery.

The limb will be clipped and carefully cleaned before incision. To perform the amputation, the leg must be hung vertically. Any wounds that exist on the leg should be thoroughly washed. The skin can then be cut all the way around the leg, with excess skin being left for the closure. All veins and arteries will be tightly tied off and then cut. The muscle tissue will be cut using a scalpel. The surgeon may pull the nerves gently so that they do not retract into the limb. 

At this point, bacteria may be collected for examination. Any tumors or existing metal implants should be removed. The periosteum (connective tissue around the joint) will then be excised. Using bone cutters, wire or a saw, the bone can then be severed. A file will be used to smooth the end of the bone. To remove all fragments of bone dust, the stump will be washed. Sutures can then be placed through the muscle, and drains may be inserted. The skin flaps will be sutured closed and an elastic compression bandage can be applied.

Efficacy of Forequarter Amputation in Dogs

Amputating a portion of a dog's limb is simple compared with many other surgical options. It is the most common form of treatment when dealing with cancerous leg tumors. Most dogs adjust very well to the procedure and are able to live normal lives. The amputation of a fore limb is more difficult to tolerate than a hind limb because of weight distribution in a dog. The survival rates in dogs suffering from cancers of the leg may be as low as five months post surgery, however these may increase if other forms of treatment are used in conjunction with an amputation.

Forequarter Amputation Recovery in Dogs

An abundance of pain relief should be administered as the dog comes out of surgery. Opioids are often used to address the extreme pain associated with an amputation. During this time, the dog will need to be monitored for any signs of hypothermia or bleeding. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed for up to five days after the operation. 

If swelling exists, a cold compress can be placed on the limb. All activity should be decreased as the dog heals. Any movement should be assisted so that bruising does not occur. A compression bandage may also be used for this purpose. If any signs of infection begin, antibiotics may be administered and hot packs may be placed on the area. The sutures will be removed two weeks after surgery. A sling is often used for large and giant breeds dogs to help assess how the animal will adapt to the amputation. Prosthetic limbs are rarely used, however, if two limbs are amputated, this option may be considered.

Cost of Forequarter Amputation in Dogs

The cost of an amputation is relatively low compared with other procedures, ranging from $800 to $3,000. If biopsies or tissue samples are sent for histopathological examination, this can add to the overall price. In dogs diagnosed with cancer, a treatment regime may be needed after the operation, which can be expensive. X-rays, pain medication, and antibiotics will also add to the cost. 

Dog Forequarter Amputation Considerations

As many different types of body tissue is dealt with in an amputation, various complications may arise. Hemorrhage can occur during or after surgery, and may develop slowly or present immediately. This results in the need for further surgery to ligate the affected vessel once again. Infection can develop at the surgical site. Improper suturing may lead to skin ulcers or circulation being cut off. 

If the surgery has been performed incorrectly, the bone may need to be resected. The use of general anesthesia also brings with it rare but serious risks. Euthanasia is generally the only alternative in most amputation scenarios. The quality of life after surgery for large or giant breeds may not be worth the pain of the procedure in some cases.

Forequarter Amputation Prevention in Dogs

Different measures can be taken to prevent the need for a forequarter amputation in dogs. Keeping your dog's weight down can greatly improve how it will heal from any leg issue. This can be done by going on daily walks with your pet, which can be beneficial for the owner as well as the animal. Feeding your dog a high quality, species appropriate diet may prevent the development of some cancers. Limiting exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke and car exhaust can also decrease the chance of cancer forming in your dog.

Many issues affecting a dog's legs are inherited. Because of this, it is imperative to request your dog's family health history when obtaining the animal. Dogs with severe deformities or health issues should not be bred. To prevent traumatic injury, keep your dog leashed at all times when on walks.