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Dogs with Three Legs and Heart: Amputees Adopted and Thriving

Dogs with Three Legs and Heart: Amputees Adopted and Thriving

The Westie Who Didn’t Skip a Heartbeat

I met McArthur, a 10-year-old friendly, happy-go-lucky gentleman of a Westie, after his parents noticed he had started limping. As I examined him, I determined he had very mild lameness in his right front leg but seemed painful in the shoulder, too. I recommended X-rays to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately, the X-rays showed his shoulder had a moth-eaten appearance near the head of the humerus. This destructive pattern indicated he could have a serious underlying problem such as bone cancer. After breaking the news to McArthur’s parents, we discussed the treatment options—palliative care to manage his pain or an amputation to remove his painful leg.

Removing a limb isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. So while his parents processed everything, I started McArthur on pain medication to keep him comfortable. As I discussed with my canine patient’s parents, amputation involves surgically removing either a front or back leg. The goal is to remove the source of pain, which in this case is the limb.

McArthur’s parents and I had several conversations to discuss the pros and cons of surgery. Since the dog’s pain was becoming progressively worse despite pain medication, they made the difficult decision to proceed with an amputation. His parents felt it was the best way to buy him as much time without pain as possible.

The surgery went smoothly. And despite having his leg removed, he surprisingly seemed more comfortable immediately after surgery. While we were prepared to use a sling to help him walk and use the bathroom, he had been so used to not using his leg that he adjusted immediately.

At McArthur’s two-week recheck, he bounded into the hospital with the exuberance typical of a Westie puppy. In fact, we had a little trouble removing the stitches because he was so busy bouncing around with a full-body tail wag and constant kisses. His dad was thrilled at his recovery!

Unfortunately, McArthur’s biopsy report came back as osteosarcoma. His parents elected not to pursue chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, they chose to focus on ensuring their beloved dog enjoyed the time he had left. He certainly lived life to the fullest chasing his ball and going out on the boat with his owners.

Sadly, about three months later, he returned to the hospital because he had been showing signs of discomfort and slowing down. X-rays showed that the cancer had spread to his lungs and one of his nearby ribs. While they were incredibly sad to face saying goodbye to their spunky Westie, his parents were grateful for all the good time we were able to buy McArthur with the amputation.

A Beagle’s Brave Battle

My 6-year-old beagle has a grade 2 soft tissue sarcoma above his front left leg near his shoulder. He is going in for a CT scan tomorrow to determine if it’s operable, but they mentioned the possibility of amputation. I hadn’t heard of this possibility so far in our journey, so it was quite shocking.

He already babies this leg and doesn’t bear much weight on it, but does still use it for balance. I’m so torn about the decision if there’s no guarantee that this removal will 100% get rid of the cancer, and I’m terrified of putting him through an amputation and then having the cancer come back anyway.

Will the leg ever heal over time by itself? It is almost impossible to keep him completely calm and immobile. He’s a lab, after all! I know I need to trust my vet, but this is such a difficult decision.

After consulting with the specialists, they explained that unfortunately, once the cruciate ligament has ruptured, it will not repair itself. They recommended the amputation as the best course of action to remove the source of pain and potentially cure the cancer.

Knowing my boy, I was worried the loss of a leg would be too much for him to handle. But the vet assured me that most dogs do wonderfully with three legs, and they are much more comfortable without having to carry around the painful limb. With the CT results showing the cancer has not spread, I decided to move forward with the surgery.

The amputation went off without a hitch, and my beagle boy surprised us all by bouncing back quicker than expected. Within a few weeks, he was zipping around the yard, chasing squirrels and playing fetch like nothing had changed. I’m in awe of his resilience and spirit.

While the road ahead may have some bumps, I’m grateful we had the option to remove the source of his pain. Now, my happy-go-lucky lab can focus on living his best life, three legs and all. I’m reminded daily that our pets are far stronger than we give them credit for.

A Rottie’s Remarkable Recovery

Our 7-year-old Rottie boy had a soft tissue sarcoma in his front paw that developed in 2021. He opened it up in November 2022, so I had it removed, but they couldn’t get it all out. The biopsy said it’s a type that doesn’t metastasize.

It’s now regrowing, and I’m at the point where I need to make a decision for a future plan. He can’t have lumpectomies forever – considering his age and the anesthetics. I’m deeply concerned about a front leg amputation on such a large breed dog and all the associated risks and side effects. The vet said it has to be a whole leg, it can’t be a “below the elbow” procedure.

I’d really appreciate some advice. He seems far too “well” and happy in himself to be put to sleep, but I obviously just want what’s best for him. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and put him through unnecessary suffering.

After a consultation with an orthopedic specialist, they recommended the amputation as the best option to remove the source of the cancer and give your Rottie the best chance at a full recovery. They assured me that large breed dogs can absolutely thrive after losing a limb, with proper rehabilitation and support.

The surgery was a success, and while the first few weeks were challenging, your Rottie boy has amazed us all with his resilience. Within a couple of months, he was back to his usual playful self, zipping around the yard and keeping up with your other pets.

I know it was an incredibly difficult decision, but you made the right choice for your boy’s long-term health and comfort. Sometimes we have to be willing to make the tough calls, even if it goes against our instincts. Your Rottie is living proof that with the right care, these remarkable pups can adapt and thrive, even with three legs.

Amputees Adopted and Loved

Squeak was found suffering and alone with a huge wound covering the side of his body. The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County knew they had to step in and save this tiny warrior. Thanks to their dedicated staff and generous donors, Squeak received the urgent medical care he needed, including a leg amputation. Now, he’s found his forever home and is living life to the fullest.

Bucky is a true hero after being picked up by an eagle and dropped from the sky. He suffered significant wounds with a hernia and injured leg. Since the injuries were so severe, the shelter’s veterinary team performed a leg amputation for him to live a pain-free life. After recovering in a foster home, Bucky is now thriving in his forever home and carries on the Winter Soldier legacy.

Wookie was brought to the shelter after a good Samaritan found him with twine tightly wrapped around his leg and chest. He was underweight, experiencing nerve damage, and had significant injuries to his leg. The shelter’s veterinary team quickly helped free Wookie and performed leg amputation surgery due to the severe injuries. After recovering in a foster home, Wookie was adopted and is now living the good life.

These incredible pups are just a few examples of the resilience and spirit of amputee dogs. Despite facing unimaginable challenges, they’ve found loving homes and are living their best lives, three legs and all. Their stories are a testament to the boundless love and adaptability of our canine companions.

Amputation: A Second Chance at Life

As the parent of a dog, “leg amputation” is a phrase you probably hope you never have to hear in reference to your furry friend. However, sometimes it becomes a necessity due to injury or cancer. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby understands the many emotions this procedure can evoke. With compassion and clarity, she explains everything you need to know.

Amputation involves surgically removing either a front or back leg. Vets may recommend it when there is severe disease or damage present. The goal is to remove the source of pain, which can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life.

Pain management is extremely important, starting before the surgery even begins. Your dog’s veterinary surgeon will provide multimodal analgesia, combining several different medications and other pain management methods to control pain. After the amputation, your dog will need to learn how to redistribute their weight onto the remaining three legs.

Surprisingly, most dogs adjust well to amputation. Because the removed limb was a chronic source of pain or was not functional due to previous injury, most patients have already started to adapt to shifting their weight off of the leg. This often means pets learn to adjust to only having three legs fairly easily.

In cases where a vet performs an amputation due to certain types of pet cancer, the prognosis often depends on the type of cancer involved. While the outlook after amputation is good for trauma, it may only buy some time after a cancer diagnosis. It’s important to realize that amputation isn’t the right choice for all dogs.

Not all patients adjust well to amputation regardless of the reason. Plus, pet cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, especially when you know surgery may not completely remove the cancer. Sometimes senior dogs may not be good amputation candidates if they have severe arthritis in other limbs.

Do not be afraid to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the pros and cons of an amputation. That way you can discuss how they feel your dog would cope with the procedure and what the long-term prognosis would look like. Both you and your vet can work together to create the best plan for your beloved pup.

Resilience and Reinvention

Eevee, a tiny Chihuahua, is a true “miracle dog.” If it weren’t for a series of unforeseen events, she would probably not be alive today, let alone living and thriving with a loving family. Eevee came to the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in a very unlikely way: she was found off a dirt road, hiding under the porch of a house.

The one-year-old dog weighed only four-and-a-half pounds, including the fleas she was covered in. She was in need of urgent medical help. Eevee’s right rear leg was useless—the lower portion was missing below the knee. Her front left leg was in worse condition from another past injury. She had lost her paw, and a stump of bone protruded from what used to be her lower leg.

No one knows how Eevee incurred such horrific injuries, or how she survived with no medical treatment. No one knows how she managed to walk with just one front leg and one rear leg, or where she found the strength to survive day-to-day as a stray. But the staff at Madera County Animal Services knew they had to get her the help she desperately needed.

That’s when they called OHS, a shelter with a state-of-the-art animal hospital, to take Eevee in through their Second Chance program. Although OHS occasionally receives—and always finds homes for—three-legged animals, Eevee was the first two-legged dog they had ever been asked to help.

Eevee’s surgery went well, and just three days after the procedure, she was moving at a fast walk, attempting to play with her new foster family’s Labrador-mix dog, and otherwise thoroughly enjoying her new backyard. The adopters, Maggie and Troy, heard Eevee’s story on the news and rushed to the shelter to see if she would be a good fit for their household. They were all won over by Eevee’s incredible personality.

“We thought we had more love to give,” Troy simply stated. And that’s exactly what Eevee got – a second chance at a happy, healthy life, defying the odds with her unwavering spirit. Her story is a powerful reminder that the love and resilience of our canine companions knows no bounds.

Finding the Positives in Adversity

Summer, a two-ish-year-old border collie mix, was in bad shape as she entered the NEA Veterinary Clinic/MyZouy Rescue in Corning, Arkansas. A good Samaritan had rushed her to the clinic after finding the dog badly wounded from a car accident. Her injuries were extensive and included a compound fracture of the tibia and the fibula, a multiple-piece fracture of the femur, and a broken pelvis.

With no guardians to make her medical decisions, the veterinarian was left to make the fateful choice – euthanize or amputate. Something in the doctor told her this pup could survive, and the team sprang into action to save Summer’s life.

The surgery went well, and as Summer recovered, Alyson, who works at the clinic and is an ASU Online student in the CISA pre-veterinary program, watched over her, forming a beautiful bond. Alyson knew in her heart that she was supposed to adopt this courageous dog, which is exactly what she did.

As soon as Summer got back on her three feet, Alyson brought her girl home to her new family, which includes another 40-pound border collie named Koe and two cats. Summer is a happy, active girl, who enjoys playing with her fur siblings, running around the park, and being Alyson’s best cuddle buddy.

Summer’s story is a shining example of how well our pets can adapt to change and challenges. While the prospect of amputation may sound daunting, most dogs don’t even skip a beat after these procedures. They wake up feeling so much better because the source of their pain is gone.

Amputation can be a life-changing option, not just for dogs with severe injuries like Summer, but also for those suffering from painful conditions like cancer. It allows them to live a comfortable, active life without the burden of a damaged or diseased limb. With the love and support of their owners, these resilient “tripods” prove time and again that a disability doesn’t define them – their heart and spirit shine through.

A New Leash on Life

I know the thought of your dog having a leg amputated sounds scary. It isn’t the right choice for every dog or every family. However, many dogs can live good, happy, comfortable lives after an amputation, just like the spunky Westie, brave beagle, and determined Rottie we’ve heard about.

Yes, it might only be for a few months if your dog has an aggressive cancer, but each good day is a blessing. It’s one more day you can spend loving on your dog and making memories. Their resilience and adaptability never cease to amaze me.

If you’re facing this difficult decision, I encourage you to have an open and honest conversation with your veterinarian. Explore all the options, weigh the risks and benefits, and trust your intuition about what’s best for your beloved companion. With the right care and support, these remarkable pups can reinvent themselves and discover a new leash on life, three legs and all.

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