How to Care for a Dog with an Amputated Leg
Pet owners are, without a doubt, some of the happiest people in the world. How could you not be with a dog as part of your family? Dogs, in particular, are pets that bring an abundance of joy to their families. In theory, you can find a way to walk any of your pets, from hamsters and cats to bunnies and horses. But the most commonly walked pet is a dog, hands down.
Starting your morning off with a stroll through the neighborhood is a very calming and healthy way to begin your day. The experience of morning air and the view of a sunset is even more enjoyable when you have a dog to accompany you. The best part of all is that dogs are just as happy to be roaming around outside as you are, if not more so!
Canines of all breeds, personalities, and ages have one thing in common, and that one thing is a sense of adventure. Granted, as a disclaimer, it is important to mention that elderly and geriatric dogs have a harder time walking around, especially when compared to their youthful counterparts. If you've ever been the proud owner of a little puppy dog, then you know full well that the young pups do not understand the concept of down time!
Energy levels aside, dogs are known for their love of outdoor activities. Whether the day calls for an early morning walk with your dog, or a trip to the dog park in the afternoon, dogs are ready to go, go, go at a moment's notice. But sometimes, dogs are not always out of harm's way in the process of enjoying daily walks, runs along the beach, playtime with their canine friends, or any other form of physical exertion.
On very rare occasions, dogs can end up injuring themselves or being hurt by a fellow dog. Running on uneven surfaces can cause a puppy's foot to land in a pothole disguised as a patch of grass, for instance. One wrong step and the poor pup could potentially break a bone. As one of many examples, there are many different possible scenarios that can play out and result in a dog's injury.
In very serious cases, a dog that has been hurt could have sustained such an intense injury that ultimately requires amputation. This is a very scary word for pet owners to hear, especially when it concerns their precious furry friends. The last thing you ever want to think about as someone who owns a dog is making the choice to amputate your pet's legs.
As you might be able to imagine, amputation is not an easy circumstance to find yourself in, no matter if you are the patient or if it is a conversation about your dog's future. Pet owners end up in situations where they have to make a decision that will completely change the life of their doggo. So, let's say you suddenly find your dog in a situation where he or she is facing the possibility of amputation. What are you supposed to do next? How do you cope? Are there things you can do to actively lessen the stress levels and reduce the pain of amputation for your dog?
Before you take any actions, try to center yourself and remember that an amputation is frightening, but it is a step in the right direction. The silver lining in a situation regarding a dog with an amputated leg is that it is not the end of the world. In fact, something we will go into far more detail about is that amputation is more often a life-saving procedure than anything else. This fact is especially true in cases where infections come into the picture.
So, back to the original question. How do you care for a dog with an amputated leg? There are many different ways to go about the situation. Being a caretaker for a dog that is recovering from a successful operation is not an easy task. You'll need to work alongside your pup and prioritize his or her health. On top of showing as much love as you can muster to your dog, you'll need to assist your pup as the little buddy learns to move around with three legs instead of four.
Let's talk about caring for dogs with amputated legs in more detail. First, we'll explore more of the specific causes behind dog amputation. Then, we will give you some insight into what you can expect to hear from your dog's veterinarian, as well as explaining some of the various treatment options you have for postoperative pain. We have just the solution for dogs that are loopy and nauseous as the pain medication wears off and the dogs begin to feel physical discomfort. Keep reading to learn how to care for a dog following surgery to amputate a leg.
Why a Dog Might Need to Have a Leg Amputated
Amputations are not a random event. There is always a serious reason behind a dog needing to have a leg amputated, and amputations are always the last resort. You don’t usually hear of a dog entering a surgery for an amputation unless no other option is capable of solving the problem.
Some of the causes of amputations for dogs include...
- Bone cancer in a dog’s leg
- Injuries that cause damage to leg bones
- Birth defects that affect daily life
- Neurological illnesses
- Accidents of any nature
- Leg fractures that worsen to a septic state
To give you an idea of how common cancer is, let’s take a look at the statistics of cancer in dogs. Bone cancer is a type of cancer that dogs are more likely to run into at some point in their lifetimes. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, untreated cancer in dogs is the cause of death for approximately 47% of dogs that get cancer. The same goes for cancer that is caught later on, and at that point the treatment is no longer effective.
As one of seven main types of canine cancer, bone cancer can be the cause behind a dog needing an amputation. Dog cancer spreads very rapidly, so it’s essential that medical attention is obtained immediately upon realizing that your dog has bone cancer. The same goes for every other cause of amputation. The sooner you notice that your dog is behaving in an odd and unfamiliar way, the sooner you can get your dog the help and care he or she needs.
Side Effects of Surgery for Dog Leg Amputation
As the owner of a dog with a leg amputation, you can expect to experience side effects of your own. Most pet owners have difficulty with maintaining a positive and hopeful outlook when their dog has a leg amputated. That is to be expected. After all, your canine companion is going through a tough time during the initial amputation. Keep in mind that dogs do not react to leg amputations the same way people do. If you think about the situation from a first-person perspective, you probably feel a lot of sadness, loss, and preemptive grief when you envision yourself going through the process of leg amputation.
People don't respond very well to amputations. There is a high amount of stress that coincides with amputations for people. See, we think about the situation as a massive loss, and our brains wander into a state of devastation. We view the circumstances as negative and all we can do is mourn the fact that our leg is going to be gone in the near future. On the other hand, dogs do not contemplate life without one of the legs. For canines, it is more so viewed as a change that they will learn to adapt to, making the process that much more manageable.
Dogs cope incredibly well with amputations. And if it helps you as a pet owner to feel better, just remember that your pupper is going to feel so much relief when the leg causing so much pain is no longer attached to your dog's body. Amputations take away the source of debilitating discomfort, so even though you have every reason to shed some tears over the experience, try to focus on the fact that amputations are good, when needed. They are life-saving procedures, and your pup will adapt just fine.
What Does a Dog with an Amputated Leg Need Most?
When your dog leaves the operation room and receives the go-ahead to return home, things will be new and different for a little while. Once your family and your pup adjusts to the new way of living, it'll feel like second nature. But until then, you'll need to focus on rehabilitation and helping your dog adjust.
So, what does a dog with an amputated leg need more than anything? Thankfully, the average recovery time for amputated legs is approximately one to two months. That's how quickly a healthy dog bounces back from an amputation surgery! It's an amazing statistic that should comfort you.
Knowing that your dog won't spend years of his or her life trying to figure out how to live with three legs is a great source of hope. You can expect that your pup will be sleepier than usual. Surgeries are always a very tiring process, so exhaustion and a need for more sleep than usual are not causes for concern. It is perfectly normal. Because of this, your dog will need somewhere extra comfortable to lay down and sleep.
Try adding more cushioning to your dog's bed. It's important to help your dog be as comfortable as possible, so your dog will need accommodations to his or her lifestyle for a little while. The comfort of a dog's bed is especially important because an amputation will leave your dog feeling very awkward. Their usual sleeping positions will probably not be possible anymore. At least, not until they have fully healed from their surgery. So, a cozy bed is step number one.
Step number two is focusing on how to relieve amputation pain. Often, this step involves pain meds. Make sure you follow the directions on the pill bottle and always watch over your dog for a few minutes after you’ve given him or her their medication. Dogs sometimes have a hard time keeping pain medicine down, especially when the painkiller is higher in potency. Keep an eye on your pup to make sure the medicine doesn’t upset your dog’s stomach.
Another step in the process of caring for a dog with an amputated leg is to do everything in your power to prevent any further amputations from becoming necessary. You can do so by being more attentive to your dog's mobility and protecting the three limbs that are still healthy. Keeping a cone of shame or other type collar on your dog to prevent them from licking the incision is best, you do not need to completely cover the incision as it can heal quicker without it.
It is absolutely vital that you maintain a healthy diet for your dog with an amputated leg, too. It is always a wise idea to keep your dog from becoming obese, but you really need to watch your dog's weight if they have had an amputation. Your dog's balance is affected by an amputated leg, and the distribution of your pup's weight due to dog obesity will fall upon three legs, rather than four.
If your dog gains too much weight, the legs that remain are going to have to carry even more weight than they are supposed to, and you'll run the risk of your dog having even more health concerns down the line. All in all, the overarching point is to keep your dog as healthy as possible following an amputation.
Dog Leg Amputation Aftercare
After your dog’s surgery, you will receive specific instructions from your pup’s surgeon, as well as advice from your veterinarian on how to care for a dog with an amputated leg. Your vet will probably discuss these words of wisdom with you before the surgery date, so we suggest taking notes at that appointment. Be sure to ask questions if you have any, too! The more prepared you are, the more capable you will feel.
Aftercare for leg amputation typically involves pain medication. The point of post-surgery pain killers is to help your dog recover and heal in the most comfortable way possible. Even though the leg is already amputated, bodies need time to recuperate, especially when something as major as a body part has been taken away.
Show your dog all the love in the world. Extra head scratches and cuddles are a definite way to make sure your dogs know you’re there for them.
How CBD Can Help Care for Canine Amputation
The pain medications that your dog’s surgeon prescribes are sure to help your dog heal and experience as little discomfort as possible. There is nothing inherently wrong with prescription medicine when administered in accordance with medical advice. However, not everyone is comfortable giving manmade medications to their pups. If you are interested in a more natural and alternative approach to caring for a dog with an amputated leg, we got your back!
Cannabidiol may be the perfect pain reliever for your pup. The best part? CBD has absolutely zero drawbacks or averse side effects. There is nothing but good things to say about cannabidiol as a pain management option for dogs with an amputated leg. From possibly taking away nausea and relieving pain, to minimizing the feelings of anxiety and reducing heightened stress levels, CBD may help your dog feel normal while recovering from an amputation surgery.
Where to Find CBD Oil for Canine Amputation
CBD for dogs in need of an amputation is one of the best ways of managing pain and changes in mood as a result of a massive surgery, as well as keeping your dog's body relaxed as your pup learns how to live with his or her new body type. With all the prescription medications and pain pills that veterinarians give you access to, it can be easy and reasonable to opt for manufactured medicine as a way of caring for a dog with an amputated leg.
You are free to do as you wish, but we want to place an emphasis on the fact that CBD is completely natural. It is always safer and wiser to stick to all-natural remedies as an alternative, whenever possible. Introducing cannabidiol from Innovet! The most common product in the inventory is the CBD oil designed specifically with dogs and cats in mind.
If oils do not sound like the best option for your dog, there's no need to worry! Innovet also offers creams, chewy snacks, puppy treats, and capsules that your dog can swallow in seconds. No matter which form of cannabidiol you buy for your pet, CBD from Innovet is a match made in heaven for dogs with amputated legs. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We can't wait to hear about all the benefits our CBD is providing as you care for a dog with an amputated leg.
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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The Innovet Team