The difficult decision to amputate your dog’s leg


Early last year, a friend of mine groomed a puppy through a long recovery from extensive surgery. The dog had been hit by a car and handed her over to our local animal shelter. They wanted to amputate her broken leg, but a rescue team raised money for a surgical repair instead. She was placed with a care provider – where she broke her leg again.

The rescue brought in more money and paid for another, larger operation. This time they were looking for someone with experience caring for a convalescent dog. After seeing her own dog through two surgeries, my friend volunteered. She kept the dog on a leash for two months. She used feeding puzzles, food distribution toys, “brain games” and enrichment to keep the active, playful dog calm. The dog was then taken to an adoptive home but had to undergo another operation to remove some of the hardware that held her leg together. Overall, the dog was in pain (or at least discomfort) and was not allowed to be kept on a leash for about 10 months. And she has a permanent limp!

My girlfriend and I both thought it would have been kinder to the dog if her leg had been amputated. She was only 5 months old when her leg was broken; She could have recovered from the operation in a few weeks! Instead, she spent practically all of her youth on a leash or in a box!


Just weeks later, when another rescue group was looking for a caregiver with a puppy found in a ditch with a crippled leg, I volunteered, and not just because he was crazy, adorable – a little brown muppet with him a blurred face. I was hoping to work to ensure that the puppy is treated more responsibly than those met on behalf of my friend’s foster dog. I made an appointment to see the vet and to meet the leader of the rescue group (and the puppy). I would take the puppy home with me after the appointment.

The vet was grim when she came out of the clinic to show the rescue team leader and me the puppy’s x-rays. The puppy’s ankle looked like a cigarette that someone had put out from under a shoe – crushed and twisted. Worse, the vet thought it happened Weeks in front; In her opinion, the injury was too old to be repaired. She recommended an amputation.

“What if we took him to Davis?” asked the head of the rescue team, pointing to a veterinary school not far away. “Could we see an orthopedic surgeon? He’s such a lovely puppy! I hate cutting off his leg when there is hope! “The vet shook her head. “I mean you could,” she said reluctantly. “But it would take several surgeries to clear it all up – and he would have to stay calm for months. And even then everything could fail and he would have to lose his leg anyway … “

The rescue group leader had also met the dog my friend was caring for. I said, “Do you remember everything she went through? Months in a box – and three expensive operations? If we amputate he’ll be ready to move to a new home in a month! “I felt like I had to be the strong voice working to get the puppy relief and get into a home as soon as possible.

The rescue team leader tearfully agreed, but the earliest available surgery date was 10 days away. This happened during the pandemic and the vet’s office had just started seeing a full patient plan again. I used a confident tone and tried to reassure her that this was the right thing to do. “Do not worry!” I told her. “I’ll keep him calm, take him back for surgery, get him through recovery, and by the end of the month he will be ready to go to his new home!”

When I brought the little guy home, I introduced him to my dogs. Like all of my foster pups, he was magnetized by “funny uncle” Woody, my 5 year old pit / lab mix. He joined the big, lovable dog and they played, ate, and slept together. I controlled his activity by keeping Woody under control.

Here’s the thing: the more time I spent with the puppy, the worse I felt when I amputated his leg. He used it a little, mostly for balancing on turns. He didn’t put much emphasis on it and when he did it tended to make you sick, not correct Ways that would have hurting even with the painkillers the vet gave us. But he did use it – and I found myself wavering. Could the crushed connection be fused as repair seemed impossible?

Another conversation with the vet confirmed my shaky resolve. “They talk about thousands of dollars and months – and even if it works, this joint become be arthritic. Or the whole thing could fail and he will still need an amputation, “she told me.

Diesel uses his long tail for balance. His family assures me that neither he nor the squirrels he keeps out of the backyard know that he is disabled.

To cut a long story short: A family fell in love with his adorable face on the rescue group’s Facebook page and came towards him while we waited for his vet appointment. They named him Diesel and agreed to adopt him once he recovered. On the day of surgery, I cried when I dropped him off at the vet’s office (masks and sunglasses are really helpful in this situation) – but he looked as happy as ever when I picked him up that night. While it is always annoying to see a major surgical incision on a dog, it paid no attention to it. Perhaps because he hadn’t been able to put much weight on that leg for a while, he didn’t seem to miss it at all. Diesel’s new family took possession of it a week after the operation. He’s a normal, mischievous puppy who gets into all of the normal puppy problems and loves him.

I can tell from experience: making the amputation decision for your dog’s health is the hardest part. While you may mourn the loss of your dog’s normal appearance, I can assure you that your dog will not. The pain-free time you spend together after recovery will more than make up for the fear you previously experienced.

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