I’ve been told that my dog needs to have one of his back legs amputated due to having had a large tumour on it. How is he going to cope on three legs? Is there anything I should be doing to make his life easier?
Wolfgang Dohne advises…
I am sorry to hear this, but as the proud owner of a three-legged cat myself, I can say from my own experience that both cats and dogs tend to have an excellent quality of life even on three legs. However, there are some limiting factors.
As a general rule, your dog will manage better the smaller he is – a Jack Russell Terrier on three legs will pretty much run like a four-legged dog, while larger breeds, such as German Shepherds, are more likely to struggle. Depending on the site of the tumour, it might be possible to fit these dogs with an external prosthetic lower limb or even with an endoprosthesis like the PerFiTS.
Another important factor is the age of your dog and all conditions affecting your dog’s lower back and the remaining limbs. Serious problems like arthritis in the stifle joint or hip dysplasia might make a dog unsuitable for an amputation.
The biggest problem for amputees after surgery is slippery surfaces and it might be a good idea to lay carpets over any laminated or tiled areas in your house. Using a well-fitted boot with a rubber sole on the paw of the remaining limb can also be useful.
Your dog will need help to get into your car and you should discourage him from trying to jump into it. Any uphill walking or jumping will put a huge amount of extra weight on the remaining limb and the joints, which might result in abnormal wear and tear of the joint surfaces and, in the worstcase scenario, damage to the cruciate ligament. Walking on flat surfaces or downhill should be fine, though.