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Limb Amputation in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Bone tumors are often painful and thus your pet may actually feel better soon after the limb is removed. The ability of a dog to get up and move around the day after surgery often depends on the amount of limb function prior to the procedure. Many dogs with bone tumors will not have used the leg for some time and are therefore well adapted to life on three legs. The tumor becomes extremely painful in its own right whether the leg is used or not.

Amputation takes away the painful tumor and these pets are already used to the change in gait the surgery produces and, therefore their recovery is often surprisingly quick. If the tumor is not producing a significant lameness, if a dog is overweight, has other orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia, or is an old pet, getting up and around after surgery may be more difficult and more support and encouragement may be needed.

Generally it is easier for a pet to adapt to a hind leg amputation than a forelimb amputation, because most dogs bear more weight on their front legs than their rear legs.

Make sure that your dog remains indoors until the surgical site has healed and the stitches have been removed. Check the surgical incision daily for swelling, redness or discharge. Bruising around the incision is common and there may be some fluid accumulation in certain areas of the incision that require hot packs. To apply a hot pack, take a face cloth, run it under very warm water that you can just tolerate, wring it dry and then apply it to the swollen area (not directly on the incision) for a few minutes, 2 to 3 times a day. The swelling should resolve within a few days to a week. Notify your veterinarian if you are planning on applying a hot pack to the surgical site and have him/her check it if necessary.

Stitches or staples can be removed in 10 to 14 days.

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