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How Easily Do Dogs Adjust to Having an Amputation?


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Updated: 9/21/2021

Has your dog been injured in an accident that requires the vet to amputate one of their legs? Or do they have a medical condition such as osteosarcoma that has reached the point where the affected limb needs to be amputated to save your dog's life? How will your dog adjust to having a leg amputated? These are all issues dog owners across the nation deal with on a daily basis. With so many different truths and myths, the idea of your four-legged companion losing a leg can be very scary.

Sometimes Amputation Is The Only Answer

There are times when your vet may have no choice but to amputate one of your dog's legs. This can be the result of a traumatic injury that has left the leg so badly damaged it cannot be saved. While this type of amputation happens frequently, it is not the most common.

Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is the most common reason vets end up having to amputate a limb. Although this disease typically affects older dogs, it can also occur in younger dogs. The disease may start in your dog's wrist (carpus), shoulder (proximal humerus), and the knee joints. Once this happens, the vet may recommend amputation to stop the spread of the disease and to give your dog a chance at a much longer life.

Dogs Can Recover Quickly From Amputation

There are myths going around that big dogs are not good candidates for amputation due to their size. The truth is that all dogs are perfectly capable of surviving an amputation, providing the vet says they are healthy enough. A dog's ability to survive an amputation is based on their health and any accompanying condition, not just their breed or size.

Some will tell you that older dogs cannot adapt to walking on three legs. Again, this is not the case as dogs are far more resourceful than we give them credit for. In fact, dogs have a much faster recovery rate from this type of surgery than humans.

Others will tell you that your dog will never be the same following the amputation of a limb. In many ways this is true: they won't look the same and the pain pills may make them drowsy for a few weeks. But beyond this, your furry companion will soon return to being their same playful self. You may even find that they are a lot happier if the limb in question was causing pain before being amputated.

After The Surgery

Once you bring your pup home from the hospital, it will take them a few days to recover from the anesthetic and you may have to help stabilize them until your dog is steady on their feet. Most will figure it out within a couple of days, but don't be surprised if it takes up to two weeks. Older dogs are more likely to take longer than younger ones. Once your companion has recovered and adjusted to walking on three legs, they will be up to their old tricks and able to run after the incisions have healed. 

Things You Can Do to Help

  • Reintroduce your dog to other furry family members one at a time and monitor their interaction
  • Keep your four-legged friend's weight under control to reduce stress on the three remaining limbs
  • Give your dog a nice soft bed to lie on¬†
  • Keep their toenails trimmed as this will help make it easier to gain traction¬†
  • Keep them off slippery surfaces and place non-slip runner mats around the home¬†
  • Once recovered, take them for plenty of regular exercise, including non-weight bearing swimming to begin¬†
  • Put the food and water bowls on a raised platform
  • Get out there and have fun together!¬†

Keep In Touch With The Vet

In most cases, you as your pup's best friend are far more stressed about the amputation than your dog will ever be. As humans, we don't like the idea of the vet having no choice but to amputate a limb. This is only natural as we don’t want to see our furry friend suffering. 

But, the reality is that your dog will be just fine and in a very short period of time will getting about on three legs just as well as they did on four. Monitor your dog for several weeks after the surgery and if they seem to be uncomfortable or still experiencing pain, consult the clinic. If you have any questions about amputation, pre-care, aftercare, or helping your dog to adapt, be sure to talk to your vet.

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