Better Living Through Chemicals?

So it seems a lot of people struggle with the decision to amputate. Being the frail, vain, two-legged creatures that we are, it seems we are unable to wrap our minds around the possibility that our greyhound companions will be far better off rid of a leg that is causing them great pain and is harboring the means for their destruction. We’re also, apparently, pretty concerned about how all the other dogs will look at them down at the dog park. If you research amputation on the internet, you can find all sorts of articles that address whether or not to amputate, the vanity concerns, and the mobility concerns. They assure you the dog will get around just fine and all the other dogs don’t care what your dog looks like whether with four legs or three.

Your surgeon is also very well equipped to address any concerns you may have about amputating. And he or she can explain to you the healing process. But unless you get a surgeon who has actually had a pet whose leg was amputated, they don’t know what really happens once you take your hound out the doors of the hospital.

I searched the internet and could find only one blog posting from a woman whose greyhound underwent amputation that actually addressed what to expect after the amputation. She went through what it was like and what to expect. Though she doesn’t go into as much detail as I might like, I have been clinging to this article as if it were a lifeline. You see, there are so many things they don’t tell you about amputation before you decide to do it, or after it’s done and you’re driving your beloved companion home. Getting a sling to assist with mobility at first and being careful of infection is really just the beginning.

First there are the medications. They can have strange side effects that aren’t obviously side effects. My previously normal hound became strangely zoned out. She suddenly began panting all the time. A formerly dry mouthed hound is now a copious drooler.

My “eat anything” hound won’t eat things that she would have turned herself inside out for before. She refused to eat breakfast at breakfast time, but is happy to eat it at lunchtime. She previously had no problem eating her supplements with her meal but now absolutely refuses to touch them. I must resort to wrapping them in cheese to get them in her. Some nights dinner is ok, some nights dinner isn’t interesting. Sometimes it’s good served at 6p and sometimes it won’t be touched a minute before 7:30p.

She will look for the missing leg. At times when she would typically use it or when she is walking she may stop and suddenly look down to where the leg would normally be. Sometimes she looks a number of times as if she doesn’t believe what her eyes are telling her. No, it must be there. It always used to be there.

Some days she will sit and just stare at me. For hours. I have to wonder what is going through her head at those times. Is she thinking loving thoughts or cursing the very second I saw her at the rescue kennel?

She will frequently move wrong or sleep on the incision side, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all will let out a horrible shriek of pain. And just as frequently she will just whimper to herself in pain. Both of these are heartbreaking and make you question your decision over and over again.

Then there is the depression. It is the only way I can describe it. After a particularly pain filled day for her, she went into a funk that had all the appearances of depression and there she has stayed for a number of days. She has stopped trying to be mobile except when absolutely necessary. She sleeps most of the time. She doesn’t engage with me or her brother Blue. She eats when coaxed. Only recently has she started to come out of it.

My girl, who used to live for her squeaky toys hasn’t even acknowledged one since coming home. Won’t touch one, won’t look at one. She also lived for belly rubs and has asked for these only twice since coming home. Essentially the hound that came home from the hospital is completely different from the steel core magnolia that I dropped off last Wednesday.

They don’t tell you to expect an alien coming home in place of your heart dog when you make the decision to do this surgery. They’re just worried that you’ll be shocked by the sight of the incision and the fact that she now has three legs. And other than the one blog article, there is no guidance on the internet either. No roadmap for the stuff they don’t tell you. I do, of course, know that my sweet girl will return to me at some point when we get through the healing process (at least I hope so!). But I frankly have no idea when, or how. I don’t know how long this should take. I know I’m not the first person to go through this but no one else seems to have written about it before.

Thus we continue to muddle through the healing period. Bowdoin’s newest tri-pawd is sleeping and releasing noxious gasses (did I mention that’s another great side effect-completely screwed up bowel flora). In another week we’ll get the staples out of Franken-dog. In the meantime I’ll be looking up the prices for doggy Prozac.


  1. Hang in there. Girly girl will be home soon. and thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. This post is really important to anyone who is facing that decision. It's so much more than looking at the scar, the missing leg and the staples. Watching the emotional change in your dog is very painful too. Fingers crossed for you and Girly girl.

  3. Been there done this a couple of times now. Once with hemangiosarcoma and then osteoscaroma. (and then have helped others through it as well.)
    Greyhounds seem to adapt pretty well, and fairly quickly to the loss of a limb. I truly hope Girly is doing well and you all will keep us posted as to how it is going. Prayers and best wishes to Girly to heal well and be a survivor!

  4. That is interesting about the dog looking for the missing leg. Makes sense... I wonder what they think when they go to rub an ear or an itchy nose and its not there.


Bark Back and Let Us Know Whats on Your Mind!