Amputation

It is very rare that we see a dog with a limb missing but amputation is actually far more common than it used to be.  Due to medical advances amputation is now a realistic and relatively straightforward way of saving a dog’s life.  In the past, putting a dog down was the only option if they were severely injured or had a problem with one of their limbs.  Now, amputation is a viable option that can help your dog live for longer and often removes the source of pain.

However, it should not be assumed that your dog will be perfectly fine after they have had a limb amputated.  The scar will take time to heal, they will have to wear a special collar to stop them scratching and it will require a great deal of effort to learn how to walk with three limbs.  As with other disabilities, there are things you can do to help your dog, both after surgery and in the future:
  • Make sure you receive all the correct aftercare points from your veterinarian.  This should include the right medication, how to clean and care for the wound and how much movement you should allow your dog to have.
  • Keep your dog away from children and other pets straight after the operation; allow them time to rest and recuperate.  This will not only help the wounds heal but it will allow your dog to adjust to only having three limbs.
    Always try to keep your dog comfortable at all times.  This will involve ensuring they can reach their food and water, and helping them to go outside to do their business.  Your dog won’t be able to walk at first so either carry them or help support their weight with your arms or a sling.
  • Because your dog won’t be able to get any exercise at first, it is extremely important that you monitor their weight.  Your dog may not want to eat immediately after the operation but leave it in easy reach.  Make sure you are feeding a healthy, nutritional diet – you may need to provide slightly less to begin with to keep their weight.
  • Ensure your home is as accommodating as possible for your dog while they recover.  Keep everything they need within a short distance so it is no struggle to reach them.  Make it as easy to attempt to walk as possible; aid them by putting down rugs on hard surfaces and support their weight if necessary.
  • Only allow your dog to undertake exercise, or attempt to walk, when they are ready.  If they are too frail or have not recovered sufficiently, show them back to their bed.
After your dog has had a limb amputated there is no guarantee that they will be able to walk again.  However, a large proportion of dogs can regain some sort of mobility, whether it is walking or even running.  It will take an incredible amount of time for your dog to learn how to adjust to their new body, whether it is dealing with how their weight should be distributed or how to balance on three legs.
 
It is important during this period to stay positive and always show encouragement to your dog.  If they fall down, pick them up but never let your head drop as it sends out the wrong signals.  Reward them for achievements and show consistency when they are struggling – your dog will learn what the best way to stand and walk is, hopefully resulting in them being able to walk on their own.

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