Amputation of a front leg is performed by making an incision on the side of the chest that removes the entire limb including the shoulder blade (scapula). In some cases, the scapula may not be removed and the amputation is performed at the shoulder joint.
Amputation of a hind leg is performed by making an incision around the thigh. A portion of the thigh bone (femur) may be left behind or the limb may be removed at the hip joint.
Limb amputation is performed for the treatment of cancer that cannot otherwise be removed. Most commonly, bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is treated with amputation. Amputation may also be performed for severe trauma to the limb.
Amputation is very well tolerated by dogs and cats, provided they do not have extensive neurologic or orthopedic disease affecting other limbs. Amputation relieves pain due to disease or injury and allows the pet to return to normal or near-normal activity. Recovery from an amputation is usually rapid, with incisional healing in 1-2 weeks, and many patients able to stand and walk shortly after surgery.
Patients that have significant mobility issues other than the affected limb may not be candidates for amputation. Risks of the procedure include bleeding, infection, and post-operative swelling at the surgery site.