Amputating a pet's limb
Posted October 12, 2017
For many pet owners, the thought of their furry
friend losing a limb can be scary or sad. However, pets with
certain conditions, such as bone cancer, can benefit from
amputating a limb. In fact, in some situations, amputation can
actually improve a pet’s quality of life.
Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, clinical professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained
how animal amputees can still live normally.
“Amputation can definitely improve a pet’s quality of life,
particularly when the pet is in pain that cannot be controlled with
medication,” Davidson said. “Most pets do so well with three legs
that they can return to their previous level of function within
several weeks after the surgery.”
Some of the most common reasons for amputation include cancer in
the leg and severe trauma that damages the limb so much that it is
not possible to treat it. In other cases, the limb can be saved,
but the cost of treatment is too expensive for clients. Other
reasons for amputation may be nerve damage to a leg or a severe
infection that is not treatable with antibiotics.
No matter the reason, amputation is a major surgery that
requires anesthesia and recovery time. How quickly the pet recovers
after surgery depends on the reason for the amputation.
“If the pet was already lame because of pain from the cancer or
trauma, then the pet may be almost immediately more comfortable
after surgery,” Davidson said. “In situations where the pet was
still using the leg, it may require several weeks to develop
strength in the other legs. Regardless, almost every pet will be up
and walking as soon as they awaken from the anesthesia.”
In other cases, such as when only the lower part of the leg
needs to be removed, pets can be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
Davidson explained that most pets will use the prosthetic leg
within minutes, but there is a “break-in” period during which the
pet gets accustomed to the prosthetic by gradually increasing daily
“Some pets have personalities that are not well-suited for a
prosthesis, or they function just as well without one,” Davidson
said. “Although prostheses can be beneficial for some pets, they
require additional expense and dedication on the client’s
Missing a limb doesn’t mean missing out on any fun; amputees can
live a normal, happy life.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for
future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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