|top, Chachi's leg prior to surgery; above, Dr. Wilmot listens to Chachi's heart after surgery; below, Chachi a fews weeks into recovery|
Chachi, a small black Chihuahua dog, was surrendered to the MSPCA just before Christmas. Her owners explained that she had recently fallen off the bed, and was limping. They couldn’t afford to take her to a veterinarian for treatment, so they brought her to us so that she could receive the care she needed.
Dr. Wilmot examined Chachi and observed that her front right leg was broken – but she felt as though the injury was quite old. Chachi wasn’t able to move the leg, as the nerves had been damaged. Because the break was old and complete (all the way through the bone), the staff was unable to set and splint the break as they would do with a fresh fracture. The only option was to remove Chachi’s leg. This was necessary because without the amputation, she would drag her leg on the ground, risking a wound and an infection. In addition, the leg was probably very painful to her.
Though the break was below the elbow, leg amputations occur just below the shoulder, so that the dog can balance better without any added weight of a partial fourth limb. After anesthetizing Chachi and giving her pain medication, Dr. Wilmot began the surgery, which involved separating the muscles from the bones to be removed, and suturing all the blood vessels and tissues. Once surgery was complete, Chachi was wrapped in a heating blanket (used because many animals come out of general anesthesia feeling cold) and carefully observed. Within a few hours, she was eating, and by the end of the evening she was able to walk outside on leash to relieve herself. The vet team prescribed Chachi a Fentanyl patch, which is applied to the skin and delivers a constant regulated dose of pain medication. To prevent infection, she was also given antibiotics. Chachi is currently in foster care recovering from her surgery and learning to move around comfortably on three legs.
Any time you suspect that your dog has an illness or injury – if she is limping, has a loss of appetite or energy, or shows other signs that she is not well – it’s important to take her to the veterinarian sooner rather than later. Injuries will not go away if you ignore them, and often the treatment is both more expensive and more involved the longer you wait. And your animal will be at least uncomfortable, probably quite painful, if you don’t seek treatment. There’s no guarantee that Chachi’s leg could have been saved if her owners had sought medical attention when her leg was first injured, but there was no chance of saving it by the time they brought her to us – possibly weeks after the injury.