A limb amputation is a major surgery and the decision to have one performed on your pet can be a difficult decision to make. Before your dog undergoes the procedure, there are a few things you will need to take care of.
Make sure your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia and surgery. Your vet will want to run bloodwork to evaluate kidney and liver functions, as well as a general CBC, blood chemistry test, and a urinalysis. If your dog is overweight, start them on a diet plan prior to surgery. It is necessary to keep amputees on the lean side to help the remaining 3 limbs from carrying too much extra weight. Also consider your dog's age and health, and whether such a major surgery would improve their quality of life. A geriatric dog who has other serious health issues in addition to the reason for the amputation might be better off with pain medication as a relief from pain related to osteocarcoma instead of surgery. On the flipside, an otherwise healthy geriatric dog might very well gain many quality months or even years with an amputation to remove an affected limb .
Find a veterinarian that you can develop a good working relationship with. It is important that you find someone who you feel comfortable turning to with any questions or concerns and who is confident about performing such a major surgery. Even if your regular veterinarian has performed many common surgeries (spays, neuters, wound repair, etc.), they may not have experience with amputations and might refer you to a specialist. If you feel like you need a second (or third) opinion about your dog's condition, by all means do so. Also make sure you have the names and numbers of local emergency clinics if the clinic you have chosen is not open 24 hours.
You may need to make some adjustments to your home for the safety of your dog after he has had surgery. If possible, make these adjustments in advance so your dog has time to get used to the changes. If you plan on using an exercise pen or large crate as containment during recovery, be sure that your dog is familiar with it beforehand. Consider purchasing floor runners, stair treads, or rubber mats for slippery surfaces, or use baby gates to block off areas of the home that may be challenging for your dog at first. If your dog's bed is upstairs, get him used to sleeping on the first floor. If you have other animals at home, decide how you will keep them separated from your amputee if necessary during the recovery period.
A few other things that you will want to familiarize your dog with before surgery are items that you will use to assist them in walking and anything you will be using to cover the wound. A towel will usually suffice as a sling for potty breaks, or your can purchase a sling or harness. For wound protection, consider using a tee shirt for front leg amps, and boxer shorts for hing leg amps. These may need to be modified a little depending on your dog's size.
Even if you have prepared yourself for the first sight of your dog after surgery, it can still be an emotional experience. Before you leave the veterinarian's office, make sure you have a good idea of what the suture site is supposed to look like so you can evaluate it regularly (at least twice a day) and know when there is a problem. Ask your vet about what to expect as the wound heals. Bruising and some swelling are to be expected, but try to get an idea of how much is too much. Ask the doctor about what to look out for. Double check to make sure you have phone numbers of local after hours emergency clinics.
Expect your dog to be groggy for the first few days. Take it easy and only take him out for potty breaks at first. Get an idea of a recovery timeline from your veterinarian so you will know when you can start incorporating more activity into your dog's routine. The usual recovery period is estimated to last about a month.
Some dogs will lick at their sutures as the wound heals. If this happens, you will need to find a way to cover it (shirt, boxers, bandage, etc.), or use an elizabethan collar (aka cone, lampshade, buster collar) ) if just covering it is not enough.
As your dog learns to ambulate on 3 limbs, he will stumble at least a few times. Try not to be an overprotective parent and comfort or rush to him every time he falls. Every time he takes a spill, he will be learning how not to do whatever he was doing the next time around, and his confidence will grow over time.
Above all else, remember that your dog does not view his amputation as a disability, like people do. It's easy to get caught up in everything, especially if cancer is involved, but remember to, try your best to just let him be a dog. He will appreciate it!