Whats the topic for today?

3 legged cats and dogs

You mean animals that are born with 3 legs?
No I'm going to talk about amputation of a badly injured limb as an alternative to euthanasia.

What situations do you see where the limb needs amputating?
There are lots of reasons for needing to amputate but usually its following a road accident where the bones are so badly damaged that it would be impossible to mend them or sometimes there is so much muscle and skin missing that the leg can’t be saved.

Are there other reasons for removing a leg?
Sometimes the owner cant afford to have the leg mended and it is a cheaper option to amputate. With complicated fractures surgery can cost over $2000 whereas amputation is usually half of that.

Do many people choose to have a leg amputated rather than euthanasia?
Some do and some don’t. Its a very personal decision. Some people just don’t like the thought of a 3 legged pet and don’t believe their pet would cope with the situation.

Do cats and dogs cope well with 3 legs?
Generally they cope very well and have a good quality of life. The smaller the animal the better they cope and so cats and small dogs cope extremely well. Cats will still be able to hunt and climb trees. Small dogs will be almost as fast on 3 legs as they were on 4.

What about larger dogs?
Medium sized dogs still have a great quality of life but will be slower than with 4 legs. I used to know a 3 legged border collie that worked on a dairy farm. It was still great at herding the cattle and could still jump onto the back of the ute. With larger dogs certain things need to be taken into consideration to try and assess how well they would do on 3 legs.

What sort of things do you need to consider.
The biggest factor is whether it is a front or a back leg thats needs removal as 70% of the dogs weight is carried by the front legs. They are front end heavy and so losing a front leg has a much bigger effect on them.

What other factors are involved?
The weight and age of the dog.  A large obese dog would not cope well with 3 legs and neither would a very old weak dog with arthritis and muscle wasting.  A pregnant dog would find it difficult on 3 legs too.

So would you encourage owners to have limbs amputated rather than euthanasia?
It must always be the owners decision as they must feel comfortable with it. As a vet all I do is offer advice on the situation. It is an ethical decision for the owner to make not the vet. There are times though when it is not in the pets best interest to have a limb amputated and that is the time when the vet will suggest that euthanasia is the best choice.

Have you ever seen a pet with TWO legs missing?
No not personally but i have certainly heard about a couple. There is a two legged greyhound that lives in Rarotonga. It has one front and one back leg and still outruns many 4 legged dogs.

Are there many 3 legged pets in Marlborough?
Not large numbers but I personally know of about maybe a dozen. Two of those have been my own pets. I have a 3 legged cat at the moment. She has a great quality of life.

What happened to her other leg?
She was a stray that got caught in a gin trap but she was such a lovely cat I decided to amputate the leg and keep her myself.

Those gin traps can cause nasty injuries cant they?
They sure can and that is a whole topic in itself. Perhaps i will talk about gin traps next time.

And todays question?
What percentage of its body weight does a dog carry on its front legs?