Life on three legs: helping your pet recover from amputation

With some care and support, three-legged pets can have a quality of life just as good as their four-legged counterparts. In fact they usually learn to get about just as quickly as they did before, much to their owners’ surprise!


Why is amputation sometimes necessary?

Pets can get into all sorts of predicaments, and sadly they don’t always make it out completely unscathed. Sometime serious fractures won’t mend, infections won’t heal, or your pet’s injuries are so bad there’s no way to heal that area. Whether it is from an injury or a disease, your vet might decide that amputation is the best option to help your pet recover.

This can be a really upsetting time for a pet owner and it’s a big surgery for your pet to go through. The good news is that most pets quickly learn how to adjust to life on three legs, and will still be playful and agile.

Although amputation involves complex surgery, limb amputations are fairly common and shouldn’t interfere with your pet’s quality of life. In fact, they can often help your pet by removing the source of pain.


Adapting to life on three legs

Amputation is a serious operation so it will take your pet a bit of time to recover and get back to their usual self. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to help them out:

  • Keep them indoors while they recover. When they come home from the vets your pet may be a bit distressed and confused. It’s important to give them time to heal. Keep them indoors at least until the wound has healed and they are steady and confident on their paws again. When your vet says your pet is ready to go outside again, it’s important to keep a close eye on them in a secure area so they don’t cause themselves another injury. If you have a dog, it’s a good idea to keep them on their lead at first.
  • Help them find their balance. Your pet won’t understand what’s happened at first and they might still try to use their missing limb. They could be unsteady, fall, or try to use their missing leg to scratch an itch! Your pet may need a little help going to the toilet or using the litter tray at first. Cats may also need some help with grooming or cleaning themselves to start with, until they relearn how to balance themselves and which limbs to use.
  • Give them a step up. Getting up onto furniture may be an issue at first. Putting a step by the sofa or bed can help them access to their favourite sleeping spots until they learn how to jump up again.
  • Motivation, motivation, motivation. Everyone loves a little confidence boost! When your pet learns to do something by themselves again give them lots of praise or a tasty, healthy treat.
  • Stop the boredom. Recovering from a big operation can be boring, especially if you pet needs a lot of rest. Keep their body and mind active with some fun, low-impact games. Ones that don’t involve a lot of running or jumping are best at first – but your pet will soon get their bounce back.


Helping your pet into the future

Caring for a pet with three legs doesn’t end when they’re fully recovered from their operation. They’ll need a little bit extra care in the future too.

It’s really important to keep a close eye on your pet’s weight. As well as the additional health problems being overweight can cause, carrying a few extra pounds can put a lot of strain on their remaining legs and joints.  Extra weight can also make it more difficult for them to balance and move around. Building up their muscles with gentle exercise can help with this.

It’s also important to look after your pet’s joints because they’ll take more wear and tear on three legs. There are lots of supplements available to help keep your pet on top form.


Obee’s story: how he adapted to life on three legs

Obee had to have his leg amputated after being shot with an air rifle. Thanks to care from our vets and his loving family, he’s now recovered and enjoying life on three legs – it hasn’t slowed him down!

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