Case Report: Forelimb Amputation

Mia, an 11-week old intact female Pit Bull Terrier, fell down the stairs on May 10th and injured her left front leg. Mia’s Mom immediately took her to a 24-hour emergency clinic. X-rays were taken, and Mia’s Mom was told that the leg was not fractured just swollen. Mia was sent home on Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory, and Tramadol, a pain medication.

After 12 days Mia was showing no improvement on the medications, so Mia’s Mom took her back to the same clinic. Again, she was told to rest Mia and give it time to resolve. She was told that if there was no improvement in two to four weeks the leg should be x-rayed again. The problem with this is that puppies’ bones heal in about six weeks.

Mia’s Mom’s intuition told her that something was not right. She took Mia to a different veterinarian, one she had used for a pet that passed away last fall. This veterinarian took new x-rays and found that the elbow was indeed fractured. Mia was then referred to the Surgery Division of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia to see if a fracture repair was possible.

Dr. Morris did not give Mia’s Mom much hope that the fracture could be repaired due to the age of the fracture. His suggestion was to amputate the limb. Still Mia’s parents wanted to give the repair surgery a try.

Unfortunately, as Dr. Morris had expected due to the length of time elapsed since the fracture occurred a repair was not possible. Amputation was the only alternative. Mia’s parents agreed, and Dr. Morris proceeded with the amputation.

The morning after surgery Mia was sweet, happy, and ready to go home.

It’s very difficult for people who walk on two legs to think of amputation as the best alternative in a situation, but in the case of our furry friends who walk on four legs—it really can be. Fractured bones that heal incorrectly can lead to a lifetime of pain and other anatomical issues.

There are two important lessons to learn from Mia’s story. The first is if your intuition tells you something is not right it probably isn’t. The second is that the bones of puppies grow so fast they can heal in six weeks whether they are properly aligned or not.

We’re happy to report that Mia has adjusted beautifully at home. She is back to the sweet, rambunctious puppy she was before the amputation.