During one of Dr. Cliff’s volunteering trips to Jamaica, a small dog named Bubbles arrived at the JSPCA clinic in Kingston, completely dishevelled and sporting a massive injury on her front left leg. Her owners did not know when or how she hurt herself, but the untreated wound was several days old and infested with maggots. Dr. Cliff’s first task was to make her comfortable with pain killers and a sedative. Then, she required a haircut so he could take a closer look at the injury. And what a grooming she received! She looked like a completely different dog after and Dr. Cliff estimated she was a senior at 17 years of age.
The veterinary technicians flushed her wound, cleaned it and removed the maggots that were feeding on her flesh. Then, they wrapped up the leg and allowed her to rest for a few days.
Amputation Surgery on Bubbles
When Dr. Cliff examined Bubbles a few days later he concluded that the only thing he could do for her was an amputation. Her injury was severe and the maggots had damaged her flesh beyond repair. She would never be able to use the limb and the pain from the damage would be intolerable. An amputation offered her a cure and much better quality of life.
So they prepared her for the major procedure. Dr. Cliff’s biggest worry was excessive bleeding, and she also had a heart murmur that was of concern. So, rather than rely on sedation for the entire time, he administered Lidocaine to Bubbles, a local anesthetic that would numb pain during surgery.
With a series of clamps and a dismally blunt surgical scissor at his disposal, Dr. Cliff pushed through the surgery to remove her limb safely. He used the opportunity to teach the vet techs who were assisting him. Also present by his side was Mr. Henry, the JSPCA’s most tenured vet technician of 35 years, who Dr. Cliff had come to respect as a mentor.
Bubbles did remarkably well after the surgery. She was up and walking within a day and a half. Before they released her back to her owners, Dr. Cliff briefed them on the TLC, exercises and aftercare she would require.
Amputations on Dogs
Amputating a pet’s limb is one of the most drastic recommendations a veterinarian can make. Almost always, pet owners will not receive this news well. Consequently, veterinarians will exhaust all other avenues before presenting this as an option for treatment. While many dogs (and cats) adapt well to a three-legged life, amputation of a forelimb may not bode well for large breed dogs with broad shoulders, who carry much of their weight on the front limbs. Vets will only recommend amputation if it humanely extends the dog’s life and removes pain and suffering. Some amputations actually offer a cure for severe bacterial infections or unrepairable trauma. For other dogs, the removal of a limb can bring welcome relief from chronic pain caused by severe arthritis and cancer.
Following surgery, pets require a period of adjustment to learn how to redistribute their weight. If the limb was non-functional before the amputation, then the transition might be even easier. Many live healthy, active and pain-free lives after amputations.
About The JSPCA
The Jamaican Society for the Protection and Care of Animals is a 100-year-old organization that promotes compassionate treatment of animals through education, advocacy, veterinary care and the placement of unwanted animals in loving homes. For more information, or to donate visit JSPCA.
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About Dr. Cliff
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham, Ontario, Canada. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.