In coming to Belize to work on a small island where there really is no veterinary back up plan, I had a few procedures that I was dreading even before I arrived. To me, those feelings of angst fit into a few categories: I have never done it, I lack experience with it, or the classic…I just don’t like it. One of the few things that kept me up at night before arriving was limb amputation. It falls into the realm of lack of experience, as well as limited equipment to help control bleeding.
CAUTION GRAPHIC PHOTOS
Chucky had an owner. Somewhere along the line either she or someone else had bandaged his lower hind leg. The reason for this I’ll never know, but it was not properly maintained and was left on for a long time. A really long time. So long in fact that the leg under the bandage and his foot below it died. At this point a kind Belizean man stepped in and asked the owner to allow him to take the dog. He then brought the dog to us and asked if we could help. He could not afford to pay what it would cost but he could make a contribution. Chucky was young and surprisingly lively despite the fact that his leg was rotting. How could I say no?
The above picture was taken AFTER we took the bandage off. You can see the imprint it left. If you can imagine how bad this smelled just multiply by 100 and you’re right there with me. So with the choice of amputation or euthanasia I made a plan to get the leg off. With some help from my brand new gigli wire and my tech Ingrid away we went.
A week or so later we put Chucky under anesthesia one more time to get him neutered. You can see in this photo that his leg has healed nicely and although it is short and barely noticeable he has a little bit of femur bone left on that side.
Once fully healed and as promised, Chucky went home with his new owner!
Pippy is a young Yorkie that was running loose and followed a stranger home one day. After a couple of weeks with him she got in a small scuffle with the neighbor dog. Although brief, it was enough to cause a bite wound to her side and to break both the radius and ulna on her left front leg, just above the wrist. Although I don’t have easy access to xray, it was very obvious on physical exam. It is likely that Pippy needed extensive orthopaedic surgery, something she can not get here. So she underwent surgery to clean and close her wound (not yet done in picture) as well as to splint her leg.
Splints are tricky business. They have to stay clean, dry, in place, and ON. They also involve a bandage, and if you read the previous story, well, need I say more. So after 3 weeks of bandage changes and very strict confinement I had to concede defeat. This leg was not going to heal.
Unlike a hind limb removal, where the leg is cut near the hip and a piece is left behind, in most front limb amputations (but not all) the entire front leg is removed. There is no bone cutting required. Although Pippy’s problem was down near her wrist, it would not be appropriate to amputate near the bottom. I decided to remove the whole leg.
Pippy woke up from surgery and immediately started walking successfully on 3 legs. Even I was impressed! After a week she came back to the clinic to have her sutures removed. The incision was doing well and almost entirely healed. The neighbor took complete financial responsibility for her veterinary care. She is doing great at home.
Dogs usually do very well on 3 legs. Many times amputation can save their life. I might even start to dread it just a little bit less.
Note: In the final pic you can see my one and only pair of suture scissors. They’re broken at the tip. I’m accepting donations;)