Leg Amputations

It can be incredibly scary and stressful to learn that your pet needs a leg amputation. It can be so alarming, in fact, that you may begin searching for any possible alternative, hoping that maybe you can find a way to save your pet’s limb. Rest assured that your pet’s veterinarian will not recommend a leg amputation lightly, or before thoroughly exploring any possible and workable alternatives. This major surgery is recommended only when it is deemed absolutely essential to the restoration or maintenance of your pet’s good health. More importantly, you should bear in mind that pets who have had a leg amputation tend to recover well and quickly, with little indication that they are aware of a change in their physical status and certainly no indication that they are emotionally bothered by this change.

What to Expect

The top reasons for leg amputations include birth defects, neurologic disease, cancer and trauma. Contrary to what you may believe, amputating a pet’s leg can actually provide them with immediate pain relief, since the conditions that necessitate leg amputation can be quite painful to deal with. The amputation surgery itself normally takes between one and a half to two hours to complete, and many pets are recovered enough to go home the same day. Prior to surgery, the veterinarian will administer painkillers so that pain receptors are blocked before they even receive pain signals, and the pet is less likely to experience significant post-operative pain and discomfort. Your pet’s veterinarian will also prescribe a course of painkillers for them to take after surgery so that they experience a more smooth and comfortable recovery.

Your pet’s veterinarian will go over post-surgery instructions so that you understand your role in your pet’s recovery. This includes informing you about whether your pet’s sutures are dissolvable or will need to be removed two weeks after surgery. Post-surgery home care for your pet will include:

  • Keeping the incision site clean and dry, while not excessively disrupting the site.
  • Changing bandages as necessary and directed.
  • Preventing your pet from licking or chewing at the incision site.
  • Administering any necessary medications.
  • Regulating your pet’s activity throughout the recovery period.
  • Notifying the veterinarian if there is sudden and unexpected swelling, discharge or discomfort.
  • Bringing your pet back to the veterinarian for follow-up appointments.

Many pets can walk with very little or even no assistance just twelve to twenty-four hours following amputation surgery. However, it is their owner’s job to ensure that they don’t overdo it, and rest in order to heal as smoothly and quickly as possible. This is especially important since the incision site will swell and bruise a bit immediately after surgery, and will become even more swollen and bruised if the pet is too active. If your pet is particularly active, your veterinarian may recommend that you keep him in a soft, padded crate for the week immediately after amputation surgery so that you can limit and supervise his movement and activity. It is important to encourage some basic movement each and every day in order to keep their muscles active and strong. However, they should not be permitted to go up or down stairs on their own initially, and they may need help with smooth floors so that they don’t slip (you may even consider placing rugs or runners on the smooth floors in your home to assist your pet in negotiating them). Additionally, overweight pets will need to be placed on a veterinarian-recommended weight loss plan so as not to put undue stress or strain on their remaining limbs.

Obviously a pet that has undergone leg amputation surgery will need to learn how to balance their body weight differently as they perform physical activities, and this includes going to the bathroom. It is not unusual for pets to have no bowel movements for several days following amputation surgery, as they want to be sure of their ability to balance prior to attempting elimination. They should return to normal shortly, but of course you can check with your veterinarian if you are at all concerned.

Remember, your pet can recover quickly and fully from a leg amputation with your thorough attention, and is unlikely to care about their changed physical appearance as long as they continue to receive your unconditional love.

For more information about leg amputations, contact La Crosse today.