About Leg Amputations
Having your pet’s leg amputated is a very scary thing. At Lowell Animal Hospital we understand how scary it can be. Pet’s have no vanity. They do not care what they look like, only that they are loved. We think people have a harder time adjusting to their pet’s amputation than the pets do. Three legged pets live happy lives, with minimal adjustment. Most are up and walking within 12- 24 hours of surgery with little to no assistance.
Reasons for a Pet Leg Amputation
There are several different reasons a pet may need to have a leg amputated. Birth defects, neurologic disease, or most commonly, cancer or trauma in the leg. Generally, amputation offers immediate pain relief, as post surgical pain pales in comparison to the pain of leg cancer or trauma to the leg. All sizes of pets can recover well and go on to live a happy life after having a leg amputated. If your pet is overweight, weight loss will help reduce the strain on the remaining joints that now support your pet. A trim body condition is healthier for your pet regardless of how many legs they have.
Immediately after amputation surgery, it is very normal for there to be swelling and a lot of bruising around the incision site. We are always happy when they feel great after surgery and want to move around, but the more active they are immediately after surgery, the more swelling and bruising and bleeding may occur. Remember, they have had major surgery and rest is important. Please do not allow your pet to over do it in the first week after surgery, even if they feel up to it.
The amount of drainage from the incision can be minimized by keeping your pet calm and quiet. The easiest way to keep them calm and quiet is to put them in a well padded crate. No matter where they rest, please be sure it is well padded for their comfort. If you see drainage from the incision, a warm, moist washcloth can be used to keep the area clean. Sometimes we place sutures on the outside of the skin. Sometimes, we are able to bury them under the skin. Your discharge instructions will tell you if the sutures need to be removed, but usually, if you can see sutures, then they need removal in 2 weeks. If you do not see them, they are under the skin and will dissolve on their own.
When you get your pet home, they will need supervision and support until they can walk on their own. For some pets this will happen right away and others may need support for a few days. Stairs may be a challenge at first, so please be sure they are supervised until they can go up and down with confidence. Smooth floors may pose a challenge so rugs and runners with non skid pads can be super helpful to your pet.
Keeping their nails clipped short can also help prevent slippage. If extra support is needed, you can purchase a sling that is made to fit your pet’s size. You can also improvise by using a towel or cutting up a canvas shopping bag with handles. For front leg amputees, sling it under their chest and for rear leg amputees, place the sling under their belly. Be sure to stand on the same side as the amputation to act as a counterweight when helping them with a sling. Your pet will have to adjust how they use the potty by learning to balance differently. They will figure this out quickly, but it may take a few days before you see a bowel movement, as they may hold it for as long as possible while they are learning to adjust. Don’t worry, they will move their bowels when they are ready.
Rest is important for the first few days as their incision heals, but after a few days, getting them up and moving slowly is good for them so that their muscles stay strong. Other pets may not understand what has happened and may try to play too rough, so keep your amputee away from other well meaning pets until they are healed. You can allow them to return to full function after a week or 2 if they can get around on their own with confidence. If your pet enjoys the water, swimming is great physical therapy.
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