The Reason Why You Don’t See Many Dogs with a Partial Limb Amputation

We’ve all seen dogs missing a limb, sometimes even 2 limbs. But have you ever stopped and thought ‘how come all these dogs get their leg amputated at the hip or shoulder’? It’s not It’s not like all humans who need an amputation get their entire arm or leg taken off regardless of the position or severity of the injury, so why does this happen to dogs?

The reason is quite simply that it’s easier to look after a dog who’s missing an entire limb, rather than one who has a partial limb.

If a dog still has most of a limb, they’ll still try to use it. The perfect example is our little Sunday the rottweiler. You can see how she’s trying to use that left hind limb, and as she does so her spine and pelvis twist, she goes off balance and the times she does reach the floor with that leg she hasn’t got much protection on it.

Compare that with a more common 3 legged dog where the entire limb is missing, they haven’t got a 4th leg to even try to use, so 3 legs it is! Dogs adapt to this new gait very quickly, so well in fact that you’d swear they never even knew they used to have more legs!


So, you can see why in Sunday’s situation that even though it was only her paw damaged, that her vet recommended a full hind limb amputation.

However, the great thing about life is that just because something has always been done a certain way, that it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better way to do it as new ideas come about and technology improves.

Using 3D printing we can create a prosthesis which will attach to Sunday’s leg and support her almost like a real one. To make this happen, you still need have at least 50% of a limb still attached – which means that the vast majority of amputations will not be suitable. As a rule of thumb, the more joints and muscle that are still present, the better the results will be. In Sunday’s case, as she’s only missing from the tarsals down she’s the perfect candidate to be fitted with a prosthesis.

There are some things to consider before choosing this option though:

  1. Age of the dog. Puppies like Sunday grow, and grow, and grow. Depending on how much leeway there is for adjustment in the prosthesis, you could be up for brand new ones every 1-2 months.
  2. Cost. A specialist piece of equipment like this doesn’t come cheap.
  3. Remaining limb. (as previously discussed) The more limb left the better. More strength, more stability, more movement and better proprioception (spatial awareness).
  4. Design. One design won’t work for every dog. It may need need several refinements.

We’re just finalising the design stage for Sunday so be sure to check out our next blog where we reveal some of the prototypes and the pros & cons of each one.

And lastly, if you are considering a prosthesis for your pet then check out the great guys at 3D Orthosis Australia who are working closely with us to develop Sunday’s new leg!