Three Feet of Fun

Jax - three-legged dog Boxer

“You want to do what?” This is most owners’ reaction to the idea that their beloved pet’s leg needs to be amputated. People tend to think about how they would do with only one leg, not understanding that dogs and cats can easily get around with only three legs; and even run and play. Who hasn’t seen the two-legged dog?

The majority of the time, by the time a leg needs to be amputated, the pet is already not using the leg and getting along on the other three legs. The injured leg is only balancing the weight of the pet at that point. When it is sudden, yes, it can take some time for the pet to adjust.

I, myself, had a three-legged poodle. He had been hit by a car and was found by two teachers.  His right rear leg had two major fractures. I tried two different surgeries to repair it but it just wouldn’t heal. The day after I amputated his leg he was running and playing. For the rest of his life, he loved to run and jump.

Jax - three-legged Boxer dog

Of course, amputating a leg is major surgery and can be a major shock to the pet, rarely resulting in death. In the 28 years that I’ve been a veterinarian, I’ve lost only one patient and that patient still hurts my heart.  He also had a painful fracture that wouldn’t heal and was dealing with chronic pain. Even with that, I would still recommend amputation if I believe that it will help the cat or dog live a better quality of life.

This is Jax. Jax is a 16-month-old handsome Boxer who, at the age of 3 months, had his rear leg amputated. He was brought to the shelter with a broken leg at 3 months of age and taken in by a local rescue group. It was determined that the fracture was too old and too complex to heal so the leg was amputated. He stayed with a foster family for 3 months before being adopted by his forever family.

My purpose in writing to you about Jax is to encourage and implore you, please don’t put your pet to sleep rather than amputate a leg.  I have never had an owner tell me that they wish they hadn’t amputated their dog’s or cat’s leg once they see how happy and pain-free their pet is.  If you are facing this situation now or in the future, have a long talk with your veterinarian.  Your pet’s future depends on it!