My dog has been run over and I have no insurance to afford a repair of his leg. The vet has offered to amputate it as a cheaper alternative, but I’m not sure about the idea. Will my dog cope?

James Farrell advises…

Firstly, yes, most dogs will cope with three legs, especially small to medium breeds. It’s never a nice thought and vets hate having to resort to this option, as we’d always rather fix things, but sometimes the damage is too extensive for repair, or the costs are too prohibitive.

Amputation is a good alternative and has very few complications. Once all is healed and the hair has regrown, you sometimes have to look twice to notice the difference. Obviously, amputee dogs run a bit awkwardly and they will struggle more when they are older and get arthritis, but there are lots of medications and supplements to help with this. Some owners use carts to support their dogs, and swimming is also excellent exercise, supporting a dog’s weight as he builds up the muscles.

Generally, dogs cope better with a hindleg missing than a forelimb, as they find it easier to place a single hind leg centrally under their body. Dogs use their forelimbs to change direction and so a forelimb amputee does appear to hop more when moving compared to one that’s missing a hindlimb.

Usually a decision can be reached between the vet and the owner, considering the dog’s usual lifestyle and temperament, and planning a solution that will make the dog’s quality of life the best it can be given the circumstances. As long a dog has loving owners that feed him regularly, most are very happy!


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