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Hind Limb amputations

What is a Hind Limb Amputation?

A hind limb of a dog or cat can be removed for a number of reasons; but the most common are neoplastic conditions, and fractures and/or other traumas that are not readily manageable otherwise. Irreversible nerve damage to the limb and congenital malformations may also be managed with an amputation.

Situational Awareness

In small animal general practice it is not uncommon to amputate hind limb because of a fracture. The truth is that most fractures are readily reparable but often require specialized training and instrumentation in order to do so. This type of advanced surgical treatment may not be available to all clients for a variety of reasons. Therefore, in this type of scenario, the amputation can be a life saving procedure.
A hind limb can be amputated at one of 3 levels. (1) The mid femoral is the most common and easiest of the 3 hind limb amputation procedures. A patient with a tibial fracture that can not be surgically repaired, should still undergo a mid- femoral amputation; as this is more esthetically pleasing and is associated with much fewer stump complications. (2) The disarticulation amputation involves removing the hind limb at the level of the coxofemoral joint. This surgery is exponentially more difficult than the mid femoral amputation. (3) The hemi or semi pelvectomy is the most difficult of the three surgeries.

Get ready to Perform a Hind Limb amputation

All the information you need. Fully narrated surgical videos. In depth guide and more.
Pre-Surgical Considerations
  • Pick the appropriate level of amputation:

    • A mid femoral amputation is appropriate for most hind limb conditions:

    -Fractures of the proximal third femur and distal.

    -Neoplasms that are at/or distal to the stifle (tumour dependent).


    • A disarticulation amputation is appropriate for:

    -Fractures of the femoral neck or coxofemoral joint

    -Neoplasms located in the mid to distal femur or the stifle (tumour dependent).


    • A hemi/semi pelvectomy is appropriate for:

    -Neoplasms in the proximal femur including the coxofemoral joint (tumour dependent).

    -If the patient is using the limb well (perhaps the amputation is for an aggressive subcutaneous soft tissue sarcoma), consider placing them in an Ehmer sling for 3-4 days prior to the surgery so that they can learn to ambulate on 3 limbs prior to the surgery.

What the client needs to know:
  • •Dogs and cats can get around quite well with a hind limb amputation; even the large breeds.

    • They may want to make changes to their home to accommodate their pet, especially in the early days as the pet is adjusting:

    -Have non-slippery surfaces for the pet to ambulate on.

    -Lower the bed/couch/favorite chair by removing the legs (on the furniture, of course).

    -Have a harness to assist the pet in the first days (especially the bigger dogs) when handling stairs.

    -Consider unplugging the doorbell if the dog reacts excitedly when it rings (at least for the early days).

Step by Step Mid femoral Amputation:

Make a clam shaped incision on the medial and lateral sides of the distal thigh (if possible depending on reason/level of problem).
Isolate the Biceps femoris muscle and divide in the distal third of the limb (if possible, as above).
Isolate and divide the quadriceps muscles in the distal third of the limb. Often easiest to isolate the Vastus lateralis and Rectus femoris together and then the Vastus medialis and intermedius together.
The Semitendinosus and then the Semimembranosus are isolated and divided.
The adductor is elevated off the mid to proximal third of the femur and then isolated and transected. Once this is done, the femur is cut at the desired location (mid to proximal third).
The femoral artery and vein are located just medial to the femur, they are isolated, ligated (double or triple depending on size of patient) and divided.
The medially located Gracilis muscle is now isolated and transected. Note that some of the smaller muscles (Sartorius, Pectineus) were not shown here; but suffice it to say that all muscles must be isolated and transected.
Close by apposing opposing muscles using large mattress sutures ensuring that the bone end is well covered. Follow with the subcutaneous and skin layers. A drain is rarely needed.

Get ready to Perform a Cystotomy:

Preferred instrumentation:

Post-op expectations:
What you get when you register:

Q & A

How well can a dog or cat get around with a hind limb amputation?

Cats and dogs can do extremely well with a hind limb amputation. They will continue to be active and go on walks with their owners.

Can I still exercise my dog after a hind limb amputation?

Yes of course and the owners should. They may have to mitigate the level of activity to accommodate their pet, especially in the beginning but at the pet becomes better adjusted and has developed appropriate musculature in the supporting limbs then they can explore what the new limits may be (or not!).