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Phantom Limb Pain in Tripawd Dogs

A few of my tripawd friends’ parents have written to me, asking me if I’ve ever acted like my missing leg was still there.

Calpurnia Working Sled Dog with Harness After Leg Amputation

For an updated version of this topic, please see:
Best Pain Relief Tips for Tripawd Dogs and Cats

They call this “Phantom Limb Pain” in humans. For dogs, this means that a dog may start licking their missing leg area like crazy, or maybe have lots of muscle twitching.

Calpurnia, my new tripod friend, has a great human named TC, who has written a wonderful paper about Phantom Limb Pain. TC writes about the way she has treated Calpurnia’s pain, and also sent in news about a new harness that was made just for this beautiful snow bunny (uh, I mean dog).

Dowload PDF: Phantom Limb Pain in Dogs Post Amputation

39 Responses to “Phantom Limb Pain in Tripawd Dogs”

  1. Hi. I just adopted a 1.5 year old German Shepherd mix that had a fractured scapula. Intra-op, the nerves were too damaged so they amputated the limb. She did great for the first three days but after that, she is intermittently yelping and whining. It has now been two weeks since her surgery but the episodes have not resolved. She has been on Gabapentin for about a week now. It seems to help but she is still in pain. I am going to try and start exercising her now that her incision has healed, I would also like to try the wrap. Does anyone have any experience with trying Acupuncture for this situation?

  2. Hi
    I have a 4 year old pappilon dog that I adopted 3 years ago (shortly after amputation of one of her front legs) for the past 18 months she has been on gabapentin for what I think is phantom limb pain, but is it normal to go on so long term? She starts to pant/shake and frantically lick the amputation site and can sometimes yelp and scream (can last a few minutes and up to an hour on and off). The vet had checked the site and there’s nothing wrong there and agreed its phantom limb. The gabapentin had certainly made a vast improvement in this, but it seems to be getting more regular again. Any advice please?
    Lynzi

    • Thanks for asking. You will likely get much more feedback by posting in the forums where many more members will see your question.

      We have heard of dogs being on Gabapentin for more than a year, but we are not veterinarians. Please consult your vet with medical concerns.

      • I will be speaking with the vet, just wondered if anyone had any other advice/similar issues.
        It’s just awful when it happens and there’s little/nothing I can do to help. Although, because she’s tiny, picking her up seems to help.
        Thanks

  3. My coon hound Bogart is 7 years old and he started chewing on his tail several months ago. He had been to the vet and they found no problems with his skin or any parasitic issues. He was put in an elizabethan collar but still managed to chew the last third of his tail to the bone.He had his tail amputated and now has a tail like a Boxer. His tail healed and he has been in the cone for about 2 months now. I have been unsuccessful at letting him be out of the cone as he will go right back to chewing his tail. He has reopened his wound on 2 occasions. He is going crazy with spinning, barking and yelping at his tail. I have restarted him on pain medications and they helped a little initially but are not working now. I do not know if your group has any experience with tail issues! I am going to call my vet and see if I can get Bogart started on Gapapentin or a similar medication.

    • You may want to search the forums Kathryn, we have had members discuss tail amputations. It sounds, however, like Bogart’s issues are more behavioral than physical. Please consider consulting with a certified animal behaviorist.

      • carolyncerutti March 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        My dog had a rear leg amputated but I had a similar problem. She wanted to chew at it every chance she got. I gave her Benadryl. 1 capsule per 50 lbs. If he is itching, this will help.

  4. Hi Everyone!
    So I believe I just decided that my boy Nesta is having phantom leg pain, poor fella. When he is lying down, all a sudden he will jump up and out of his bed or wherever he happens to be and run away only to find another place to lay right back down. He seems pretty agitated when he jumps up, like something scared him or was bothering him. This is something he started doing about a month ago, which was about one month after he had his leg amputated. My boyfriend and I decided phantom leg pain is what he is experiencing. I’m so glad I checked Tripawds, because now I see this is common. Thanks for posting the tips and the article on phantom pain. I can’t imagine how this must feel to him, and I’m glad I’m aware of it now so I can start helping him the best way I know how.
    Tripawds is so awesome, whenever I Google search a dog-related question, and Tripawds pops up, I feel a sense of calm and relief wash over me – You guys remind me that everything is going to be okay!

  5. carolyncerutti August 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    My 2 yr. old dog had to have a rear leg amuutated 1 year ago after she was hit by a car. Now, for some strange reason, she is terrified of thunderstorms. We had a mild fall & winter & a very dry spring. Her leg, phantom pains? is all I can come up with. Any ideas?

    • Carolyn, we’re not vets but usually phantom limb pain presents itself shortly after surgery. Have you talked to a behaviorist about this? I would look into thunderstorm phobia in dogs (it’s pretty common) and our behaviorist/trainer friends at MySmartPuppy.com may also be able to help. Good luck!

      • carolyncerutti August 6, 2012 at 8:45 am

        I’ll look into thunderstorm phobia but I’ve had dogs who were scared of thunderstorms before. This dog is tough. She let out a little yelp when she was hit & not a sound after that. No yelping, moaning, etc. She may have had phantom pains all along but I couldn’t tell. Thanks.

  6. I’m so glad I found this site! I recently adopted a tripawd Chihuahua named Lt. Dan from my vet. He was brought in as a stray with an untreated broken leg and the doctors were unable to save it. Poor little guy is only 8-10 months old. He’s had several “screaming” episodes, usually when he gets up and the worst one was yesterday. Fortunately, my vet has prescribed gabapentin for him so hopefully he won’t have any more pain.

  7. Hi everyone,
    I’m posting here because I’m extremely frustrated right now. For the past 24 hours-ish, Lucky’s been having the same “screaming” episodes that people are describing on tripawds forums. I’ve been trying to get his doctors to prescribe him gabapentin, but none of the specialists are in on weekends and the ER docs who are at the hospitals refuse to prescribe it for him because they don’t know about phantom limb pain in dogs. As you all know, watching Lucky have these episodes is excruciating, and I am really hoping to be able to find someone to prescribe him gabapentin today. We are in San Diego. Does anybody have any recommendations for good places in San Diego that have experience with this and will prescribe gabapentin?
    Thank you so much!

  8. My 10 year old greyhound/lurcher had his front leg amputated 4 weeks ago for osteosarcoma and had his first dose of chemotherapy (carboplatin) 2 weeks ago and things were going well (although his appetite has decreased, he is now excercising well ) but about 4 days ago he yellped loudly as if in pain and shot out of the room, this has happened regularly since ( about between 2-4 times a day and for no apparent reason) we took him to a vet who checked him out and could find no obvious cause – we are now wondering wether this could be phantom pain even thogh it has started nearly 4 weeks post surgery and would love some advise eg gabapentin ? etc etc
    thank you

    • Exactly how much exercise is he getting? Four weeks is still very early for him to be doing too much. It does sound like it could be phantom pain which can present itself for up to a couple months, it’s rare but we’ve heard of it happening. Gabapentin has proven to be very effective, as are the other tips in the download available in this post.

      Thanks for asking and est wishes. You’ll get much more advice from many others in the discussion forums!

  9. my dog had amputation of front limb just last wenesday,and after the doctor took off her bandage yesterday she’s been crying when her muscle on amputated limb is twitching,very often(every 15 min) pleace tell me what i can do for her…

    • Anna, we’re so sorry. I know that it’s hard to cope with, but things will get better. There are lots of great suggestions for helping dogs to feel better when they’re experiencing phantom leg pain after amputation. Come over to the Discussion Forums and search for “phantom pain,” you will find tons of suggestions there (asking your doc to prescribe Gabapentin is a good start). Good luck, hope to see you there.

  10. Dozer had phantom limb pain to the extent that he had to take tramadol for a time. It was then replaced by Proxicam, an analgesic which has anti-cancer properties. He’s to stay on the Proxicam (for bone cancer) so we may not know when the phantom limb pain subsides. Bone cancer dog owners may want to ask their vets about Proxicam.

  11. Calpurnia has celebrated her two year ampuversary! Check out her latest guest blog post from 11/04/09, “Three Paws, Two Years, No Problem!”

  12. Vanessa, you are a saint for saving that puppy. Thank you so much for being such a great human. We’d love to hear more about him; drop us a line in the forums and share his story when you can. Tripawds rule!

  13. I rescued a puppy that was only a couple of weeks old off the side of the road.
    his back leg was so badly broken and infected that we had to amputate it.
    I am proud to report that he is doing fabulous months later.

  14. Julie, have you talked to the vet about it?

  15. I nursed a little dog that had just had her right leg amputated.The first week was pretty bad but she has healed so well. It has been 1 month and she often will cry out in pain. I find that if I hold her chest wall when she cries it seems to help her. i will often try to take her mind off of it by talking her through it. I hope this pain will subside for her as it is so difficult to listen to her yelping in pain

    • Julie,

      Our dog had his right front leg amputated on Monday, June 21 2010 and is having phantom pain. It is the hardest thing to watch and hear. I will try your suggestions. Please share more. We both need lots of support.

      Thanks, Kim

      • After reading more about Phantom pain, I learned that distraction, pressure, and heat can be very helpful. How long on average can this last after the surgery?

      • Kim, it really depends on the dog, but most aren’t affected by it after a few weeks. It hasn’t been very long for your pup (although I know it seems like a million years). Hang in there, it’ll pass. Good luck.

      • Jerry,

        Thank you for your quick reply. My vet forwarded your web page to me. I appreciate all the information. I will work on updating my blog after I figure out how to. Plus I would like to help donate so when things calm down you can count on a donation from me. Thank you for your hard work and amazing information.

        Kim

      • Every dog is different, some never experience phantom pain at all. Others, off and on, but we’ve never heard of it lasting more than a few weeks. Ask in the forums for much more feedback from others and be sure to check out Jerry’s review for Bella’s hot/cold pain pack for dogs.

        PS: If you need help getting started with your blog, review the tutorial videos on the help page, or search/ask in the Tech Support forum.

  16. That’s great TC. If you can make a movie of Cali in action, post it to the Tripawds YouTube Group! Or send it to us and we will.

  17. The new harness is working great and Cali is getting the hang of things to the point where we (TC and Cali) are going to enter a Canicross race next weekend. Canicross is human running, canine pulling in harness. Definately the weak link is the human in this case. But we are excited to show off what a tripod can do to all the folks who will be at the race – running and spectating!!

    • Hi, I would love more info on the harness (or any info, tips and advice) that you had made for Cali. i have a 6 month old siberian husky that just went through a right front amputation due to trauma (dog bite). As we have 9 other siberians, i know he cant wear the regular harness.

      • Hi Eros, you can PM Calpurnia’s Mom TC via the Forums, she’s so helpful & generous with info, she can tell you more about that particular harness. Meanwhile are you sure he can’t wear the Webmaster? We’ve only met one or two small dogs who can’t because they have odd body types, but I’m pretty sure that your dog will be able to. Check out:

        http://gear.tripawds.com/shop/#harness

        So sorry about the amputation. We are here to help however we can so hop on over to the Forums, we’re waiting. Good luck to you both.

  18. I have phantom sensation quite alot, and sometimes pain too. When I get the “bug” as Sasha calls it, she distracts me by running ahead of me, and then I forget it. When I do get cramps, we use a puppy heat pad, but please don’t tell anyone I use puppy accessories. Massage helps alot too. Dreaming about Jerry helps too…

  19. Please keep us posted on how Calpurnia is doing with eliminating the phantom pain. Very interesting article….. if I go through this after my surgery, my mom shouldn’t freak out. (She loves me soooo much that sometimes I worry about how much she can worry!) From one dog to another ….your mom rocks with the help she’s given my mom and for writing this article!! Keep it Cool, Cali girl!! ~ Eisen

  20. Our friend Tacoma’s Dad, Glenn, recently mentioned this about post-op wound management:

    ———————
    “No one wrote any books for providing care for our 3 legged friends during their recovery from surgery. If anyone has experience, this is the place to post them.

    Here’s a hint for post op management:

    Take a old Baseball 3/4 length sleeve shirt and cut off one sleeve. then cut it up the side, all the way to the neck.

    Take your tripawd’s remaining leg and put it thru the remaining sleeve, then wrap the rest of the shirt around your buddy’s body. Secure with baby diaper safety pins.

    This keeps your friend from messing with his/her stitches or wound.

    Tacoma had some pretty bad bedsores and the sleeve kept him from developing a major hotspot on his other front leg.

    This worked great on a front leg amputation, don’t know how it would work on a back leg.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Three Legged Dog Amputation Questions and Concerns Part 1 | tripawds.com - March 13, 2009

    […] Most times, what humans think is depression in their dog is actually just the dog’s reaction to pain meds. Heavy duty painkillers like Fentanyl patches and Tramadol can induce whining, crying and anti-social behavior. Remember, your dog isn’t used to these drugs, and they’re probably making her see pink elephants. Most often, withdrawal from pain meds is the cause of the change in behavior. Or, they could be coping with Phantom Pain. […]

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