What to expect before and after amputation…

Every day, sadly, Owners are told “your dog needs an amputation to improve their quality of life,” Or indeed to save their lives.

Dogs say, “So when am I going for a walk again?”

Humans, on the other hand, have a harder time with this news.

I have put together 5 of the most common questions asked, and the answers (just click!), which I hope will help you at this awful time.

Am I making the right decision?

First of all, there are no “right” decisions. You know your dog better than anyone else. Ask yourself, “is my dog strong/healthy/spirited enough to endure an operation like this?”

If your dog is fighting cancer, most times amputation will not make it go away. Most bone cancers do metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) eventually. But whether a dog is fighting cancer or undergoing amputation because of an accident, the greatest thing about it is the immediate gift it gives both canines and their humans; a pain-free life, and more time together.

The biggest risk is being on the operating table, and like any surgery, you must prepare yourself for the chance that something can go wrong. But once a dog recovers, they typically go about living just as they did before.

The biggest benefit that amputation offers is that it will immediately alleviate the unbelievably horrible pain your dog is experiencing from bone cancer or a shattered limb. It can give you extra time together and improve your dog’s wellbeing.  Watching your dog’s ability to get on with life as if nothing is wrong is very humbling to owners.

My vet says my dog isn’t a candidate for amputation. Now what?

Every circumstance is different, and not every dog is a great candidate for amputation. Cancer severity, weight and age can sometimes be an issue (although most times, even senior dogs get through it without a hitch).

Sometimes, vets who aren’t as familiar with the extraordinary lives of amputee dogs may quickly dismiss your dog as a candidate because of his age, or size. If your vet does this, please get a second opinion.

What can we expect the first few days after surgery?

Immediately after the surgery, the horrible pain your dog was in will be gone. Any post-surgery pain will pale in comparison to that of bone cancer. But, there will be post-surgery challenges. Remember, amputation is a major surgery, and as easy as dogs can sometimes make it look, the road to recovery can be long and challenging. Some things you can expect when you pick up your dog from the hospital include:

  • It’s going to be a shock, the wound site does not look good, and to see your dog without its leg for the first time quite frankly is horrible.  So prepare yourself have a look at post surgery photos beforehand. Do give your dog’s lots of fuss, loves, cuddles and kisses talk to them, try not to get upset as your dog will sense this. The vet will give you medication for your dog follow their instructions to the letter.
  • It’s always best if you can to take someone with you to pick your dog up, to help you maneuver them in and out of the car and to support and steady them on the journey home. Take a towel or sheet with you. You can put it under the dog and hold both ends and lift them up, (like a giant sling) this will help to support your dog whilst walking to and from the car. When you arrive home hold your dog using the sling to enable them to go to the toilet before you go inside the house, if possible. Hopefully you will have prepared the bedding area beforehand, the best kind of bed for them to have is a firm bed a memory foam bed is the best as it’s easier for them to get up and off the dog bed. Consider putting a blanket or towel on the dog bed as there may be blood, or urine in some cases, as sometimes your dog is not in control of his bladder after major surgery. One of the most important things to remember if you have wooden or tiled flooring is to create a walkway using non slip rugs or carpet or rubber mats. You do not want your dog to slip and fall onto the wound.
  • Offer your dog water often.
  • Give your dog medication as directed by the vet.
  • Offer your dog some food the smellier the better, mashed up ham and turkey with a bit of cheese in it is good
  • The first couple of days your dog will be groggy, tired, weak, they may even cry out, which can be very distressing for you and scary. This is normal, they will also want to sleep a lot, let them. If at any time you are worried get in touch with your vet for further advice.
  • You can help your dog go to the toilet, by using the towel or blanket method or invest in a quality harness. Details will be given in the product information site on here.

Each dog is different in their recovery stage, I have known dogs be up and about after about 10 hours after surgery, but some take longer before they take their first few steps. Or should I say hop.  They may hop about for a few minutes and then want to lay back down again, this is all normal.

How can I help my dog in their recovery?

It’s not going to be easy you will need a lot of patience, you may even question at times if you made the right decision, don’t beat yourself up. Your dog may appear to be depressed at first, this could be because your dog has very strong painkillers and antibiotics, also as you wean him off the medication he might also feel strange and it does take time for them to feel normal like before. It does get easier, hang in there.

The good news is your dog will show progress every few hours, whether it’s learning how to stand up or figuring out how to walk from the living room to the kitchen.

Your vet will want to see your dog after a few days to check that they are healing well and that their general health is good.

Try not to have your dog in a noisy environment, and anywhere in the house where there is a lot of activity. I.e. children running around playing etc. as your dog may want to join in and initially that’s not good, it would be like us going to a disco after major surgery you wouldn’t do that would you??

Instead consider being with your dog in a closed quiet room somewhere in your house initially. Until the stitches are out, keep your dog calm; do not if possible let them start running, even if they appear to have bags of energy. Don’t let them climb stairs; jump up on furniture as this could rupture the stitches.

You could consider a cone so they do not scratch at the wound area, or put a medical pet shirt on.

Give your dog lots of praise even for the smallest bits of progress.

If your dog seems bored, you could take them for a car ride, but make sure you have someone to assist you with this, to keep them calm and safe.

One of the things you could do is give your dog a regular massage on all their good legs to increase blood flow to those areas and generally keep muscles supple.

You could get or make a snuffle matt for your dog and put their favorite treats in it for them to find, which will encourage them to eat and also stimulate the mind.

When you do start to go for gentle walks it might help your dog if you walk on her amputee side, or have a fence on one side and you on the other. It will offer a better sense of balance.

If you have other dogs in the house you may want to supervise playtime so your dog does not over exert themselves.

How do I help my dog in the future lead a happy normal life?

After a few weeks you should see a marked improvement, once the stitches are out and you have your harness, you could try going for longer walks, you may find that initially your dog may lie down quite often to have a rest.

Keep your dog at a healthy weight; this is to stop undue pressure on the remaining limbs.

Take care of your dog’s skin and pads, check them regularly.

Give glucosamine, fish oils and other anti-inflammatory supplements for dogs.

Maintain a good diet and good overall health.

Swimming is really really good for them, or hydrotherapy.

Don’t let your dog overdo it; it can lead to undue stress in the joints, which can lead to injuries and arthritis.

In all just have loads of fun just like you did before the operation with your three happy paws x

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Please send us your questions, we’d be happy to help!


07719 659664



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