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What are Prosthetics?

Prosthetic limbs give your dog the mobility and freedom they had before losing a limb. Prosthetics can bear weight and assist your dog with movement. Allowing for shared support of each limb, a prosthetic can also prevent additional injuries from weight shifting or imbalances.Though many animals perform well on three legs, doing so can cause your dog neck and back pain as well as strain on the remaining limbs they depend on for mobility, especially the one opposite the missing limb. Fitting your dog with a prosthetic from your veterinarian or a veterinary orthopedic specialist could give your dog a better quality of life and more mobility.

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Prosthetics Procedure in Dogs

Once your veterinary surgeon has performed the amputation and your dog’s soft tissues have healed, you can have your dog fitted for a prosthetic. Your veterinarian may be able to do this fitting in the office, or they may send you to a veterinary orthopedic specialist or prosthetist.

Your dog’s limb may be cast into a mold, and the prosthetic custom-made for exact fit for your dog. This may take four to six weeks to custom manufacture.

Once the prosthetic is available, your dog will undergo rehabilitation or physical therapy to ensure proper fit and comfort. Your veterinarian or prosthetist may ask you to have your dog wear the prosthetic for only a few hours a day for about two-week period. Once the skin has adjusted to the prosthetic and your dog is used to the feel of the prosthetic, your dog will be able to wear it during waking hours.

You may be required to revisit your veterinarian a few times in the first few months to ensure proper fit. If your dog is still growing, you may need to have new prosthetic devices fit as the dog ages. As your dog grows or ages, the prosthetic may also be adjusted for proper fit.

Efficacy of Prosthetics in Dogs

Well-fitted and regularly checked prosthetics will give your dog close to normal, if not completely normal, mobility and movement. Proper care and appropriate use of the prosthetic is necessary for your dog to enjoy a lifetime of prosthetic mobility. Adjustments will be necessary, but even with adjustments, your dog should be able to use the prosthetic for their lifetime. 

Some dogs perform well without a prosthetic device. However, your dog may experience other limb injuries over time from favoring one limb in lieu of the missing limb.

Prosthetics Recovery in Dogs

There is little recovery involved in receiving a prosthetic limb. However, your dog will require time to adapt to the new prosthesis. Rehabilitation with your veterinarian or prosthetist may also be required to teach your dog to use the prosthetic.

Some dogs are able to place full weight on their new prosthesis in a few weeks, but most take a few months before they are able to use the device fully.

Cost of Prosthetics in Dogs

A prosthetic for your dog requires an impression casting to manufacture the properly fit prosthetic. This casting usually costs around $100. Many prosthetists or veterinarians will include this price in their entire quote for the device and office visits.

The prosthetic device may vary in cost depending on the size of the dog and the length of the prosthesis. The range of devices is typically between $600 and $3,000. The variance in pricing much depends on whether the prosthesis is simply a foot device or a leg prosthesis. There are also multiple manufacturers of prosthetics across the United States.

If physical therapy is recommended by your veterinarian, these visits usually range from $50 to $75 per visit, depending on whether you are seeing your veterinarian or a specialist.

Dog Prosthetics Considerations

Your dog may do well as a tripod dog. However, for long-term overall health, it might be best to take unbalanced weight off the three healthy intact limbs. Fitting your dog for a prosthetic limb will take the strain off the intact limbs and improve core strength while taking pressure off your dog’s neck and back. If your dog is still growing, you may need to refit the prosthetic as he grows. Some owners wait until puppies are full grown to have them fit for a prosthetic limb. This may require additional physical therapy as the dog grows using only intact limbs. But the dog’s core strength may be strong enough to quickly support their weight on the new prosthetic limb once they are evaluated and fitted.

Keeping a close eye on your dog’s weight will be imperative if your dog has a prosthesis. A healthy dog with an ideal weight will be a candidate for a prosthetic device. An overweight dog may need to lose weight before being fitted for a prosthesis. 

Prosthetics Prevention in Dogs

If your dog has lost a limb due to trauma, consider how the trauma occurred. Many free roaming dogs are hit by cars. Keep your dog on a leash and within your sight when you are outside. Keeping your dog safe and healthy is a core responsibility of being a pet owner. However, not all accidents can be prevented.

Cancer is also something difficult to prevent. However, you can give your dog the best possible chance at a long and healthy life with a healthy whole food, veterinarian-recommended diet and regular exercise.  When exercising your dog outside of a fenced in yard, please keep your dog on a leash and away from obvious dangers such as traffic.

Prosthetics Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Missing limb

We are adopting a dog with a hind foot prosthetic. Does he need to see an orthopedic vet who might understand his abilities better than a general vet? Thanks.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2959 Recommendations
If there is no issue with the prosthetic, I wouldn’t see the need for an Orthopaedic Specialist; most prosthetics are tailored to the specific dog and should cause any issues. If there is a specific orthopaedic injury or problem it may be worth consulting with an Orthopaedic Specialist if your Veterinarian is unable to help. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Shepherd mix
Five Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

three legs, missing right back leg

My dog is almost five months old and I just adopted her from second chance rescue. I want to get her a prosthetic because she is missing her back right leg. I want to prevent her from any future health problems. Where can I get a prosthetic for her in San Diego?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1384 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. WIthout knowing more about Nubbins and her situation, I can't comment on her prosthetic. Your veterinarian should be able to locate a source for a prosthetic if that is an appropriate therapy for her, as that is a fairly specialized procedure.

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