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Limb Amputation in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Indications for Limb Amputation

  • One of the most common indications for a limb amputation in dogs is treatment of osteosarcoma, which is the most frequently diagnosed canine bone tumor. This tumor tends to occur in large and giant breed dogs. It may occur in young dogs (12 to 18 months of age), but is more common in older animals. The most common locations are just above the carpus (wrist), the proximal humerus (just below the shoulder joint), and around the bones of the knee joint. Amputation is an excellent way to control the local disease, which is the actual tumor on the limb. Unfortunately this is a malignant tumor and it has almost always spread elsewhere by the time an amputation is performed.

  • Soft tissue sarcomas are another type of tumor that can develop on the limbs. These tumors are malignant, but tend to be slow to spread to other parts of the body. They are locally aggressive (that is, they damage and invade the structures at their location). If they occur on a limb it is often difficult to get rid of the tumor in its entirety while maintaining muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and bone needed for normal limb function. Thus, amputation may be the surgical procedure of choice.

    In addition to surgery, radiation therapy or combinations of radiation/chemotherapy may be appropriate for certain limb tumors. Treatment options can be discussed with your veterinarian or with a surgical or oncological specialist.

    As in humans, even when money is not an issue, amputation may be the treatment of choice for limb trauma where nerve supply or blood supply is severely damaged or bone and soft tissue injury is beyond what can be repaired by modern surgical techniques. Damage to the nerves that supply the limb, for example following trauma that results in pelvic fractures, may be irreversible, resulting in a non-functional limb that drags. This may result in abrasions of the paw through failure of the animal to pick up the leg properly. Amputation may be indicated in such cases.

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