An increasing number of veterinarians and dog owners are realizing that dogs who lose a limb to diseases such as cancer, birth defects, or to a serious injury can survive and even live long, happy and fulfilled lives… even on three (or less) legs. What’s more, dogs who have suffered the loss of a limb often show resilience and determination that’s admirable.
If you’re currently facing the heart-breaking decision of having to amputate your dog’s leg, or are considering adopting an amputee dog, here are some factors to keep in mind when it comes to giving them the best possible care and a shot at a great life.
If Your Dog Needs an Amputation…
First of all, it’s important to keep your pet’s best interests in mind if your veterinarian has suggested an amputation for your dog. Bear in mind that a dog who’s been injured or is suffering from a deadly disease such as cancer just wants to feel better and, in many cases, amputation can be the answer to this. According to veterinarians, once the painful limb has been removed, dogs will typically feel much more comfortable and settled. And owners report that after an amputation, most dogs will return to normal life within just a few months.
In fact, according to experts, dogs can be just as happy on three legs. They tend to be much more adaptable than us humans would be if we were faced with the same kind of physical challenge.
Helping Your Dog Recover…
Initially it is important to be prepared to give some extra care to your dog for the first few days after an amputation when the healing process is occurring. Your dog may need some help getting up, down and around for the first few days, and they’ll probably need to wear a veterinary cone to prevent them from licking or biting at their stitches and causing an infection.
If your dog is crate trained, this is the best place for them to be during the initial healing process, as it will ensure that they are safe and it makes it easier for you to supervise them.
When it comes to helping them get around, a towel can be used under your dog’s belly to lift them up and provide some extra support as they adjust to life without their limb and come to grips with moving around and taking trips to the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to help your dog’s road to recovery with carpets or other non-slip surfaces in your home.
In severe cases or in a case where more than one limb has been removed, you may want to consider prosthetics or other alternatives to help your dog move around. Custom wheelchairs for your pets are a great idea as they’ll give your dog the same range of mobility they are used to and make exercising easier.
Prioritize Healthy Exercise…
After the procedure, making sure that your dog remains fit and healthy, and stays at a healthy weight is crucial. Additional weight can put extra pressure and strain on their remaining limbs, so exercise that will keep their core strong is key. You can help your dog with strengthening his abdominal muscles through games that involve balance disks or wobble boards.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s essential that you don’t overdo things. Any exercise should be added gradually and carefully, just as you would do yourself if you were in recovery from major surgery. It’s important that you continuously monitor your dog for any signs of fatigue, such as sitting down on walks – this usually means that they’ve done too much.
It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with a veterinarian for rehabilitation therapy, so they can work with you to protect and strengthen your dog’s remaining limbs with a custom exercise and physiotherapy plan.
If You’re Considering Adopting an Amputee Dog…
It’s important to think about your daily routine and how your newly adopted dog is going to fit into it. If you already have other dogs at home, you may need to consider walking them separately since your four-legged dogs will likely have more endurance and will be able to go farther and longer when walking, which may wear out your new friend.
Many injured and amputee dogs are overlooked at shelters, but you can keep them healthy, happy, and fit with very little effort, particularly if your dog has long recovered from the amputation and has adapted to life minus a limb.
What to Do if You Find an Injured Dog…
If you come across a dog who has a potentially injured or broken limb, you will understandably want to help them. However, experts say that you should always consider your own safety first and approach with caution, as even the most docile and loving of dogs can snap if they are in pain, particularly if you are a stranger to them.
Once you have assessed the situation, you should place a blanket under the dog’s affected limb for support, and lift her carefully. Make sure that you are able to keep the dog restrained until they get to a veterinary clinic or hospital. If you do not feel comfortable moving the dog yourself, the best thing to do is get in touch with a local emergency veterinary clinic who can offer advice and potentially send somebody out to you.
If you’re in a situation where you’re being faced with the decision of whether or not to amputate your dog’s limb, it’s crucial to keep your feelings and emotions in check. Most dogs will be much happier and healthier afterward and can adapt to the change easier than you might think. And if you stay positive, your dog will pick up on this and be assured that everything is OK. Most dogs respond well to amputation and go on to lead a healthy and happy life. If your vet advises that your dog isn’t a good candidate and recommends euthanasia, it’s a wise idea to get a second opinion.
After the procedure, make sure that you proof your home to make it safe during the recovery process, and then gradually introduce exercise into your dog’s routine that will help them maintain a healthy weight and fitness level.