FORELIMB AMPUTATION

Baily, a young Border Collie dog was found abandoned on the side of the highway in the interior.  Our client came across the dog standing in the ditch “in the middle of no-where”. She had sustained an injury to her forelimb and was unable to bear weight on it.  She was in pain.  As there were no homes within miles, our client collected the dog and drove her to see us at Valley Veterinary Services.  We diagnosed an catastrophic fracture of the limb that included nerve damage and damage to the blood supply.  The limb could not be saved.  The owner was reluctant to have the limb amputated as they live on an acreage and it was difficult for them to envision this dog being mobile enough to get around.  As you can see in the video, this is one happy, healthy, pain-free dog who can hold her own.

Limb amputation is necessitated usually by catastrophic injury.  Dogs and cats can sustain massive injury to a limb that can render the limb irreparable thus resulting in a life-saving decision to remove the damaged limb in order to save the pet’s life.  The decision to opt for this procedure can be a very heart-rending one for owners.  They often “anthropomorphize” the decision.  That is, they relate human emotions and potential psychological misgivings with what they believe their pet might experience.  Thus if we were to have to undergo limb amputation, this would be accompanied by a requisite amount of emotional trauma.  Fortunately in veterinary medicine our patients aren’t so encumbered.  The pet that has a limb that has been damaged so severely as to render it irreparable is often incapable of purposeful movement and is suffering significant pain.  Once this offending limb is removed, the capacity to move returns and the pain quickly dissipates.  Even before the surgical, soft-tissue wounds are completely healed, these patients have adapted to the new way of movement and return very quickly to a normal life.  Owners find themselves overjoyed to have their pet restored to them when they may have believed all hope to be lost.  And as one of my long-time farming clients said about his dog that lived 14 full years as his companion on the farm as an amputee, “the only thing she couldn’t do on 3 legs was jump up onto the picnic table in the summer to steal my lunch!”

Dr. Mark Steinebach