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How to Choose a Veterinarian for Amputation Surgery

For many of us, the decision to amputate is our first introduction to the world of vet specialists and high tech medicine. Oftentimes, the learning curve is steep and stressful, but knowing what to look for in a qualified practice will help put your mind at ease just a bit.

Finding a Quality Veterinarian for Your Dog’s Amputation

Even if you already have a veterinarian you trust, there are important things to look for in the practice that can mean the difference between life and death. We suggest asking your vet:

How often do you perform amputations?

If the vet you are considering for surgery isn’t certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, it’s important to find out how often the vet performs amputation surgeries. Many Tripawds have had great experiences with family vets doing the amputation, and saved a lot of money as a result. However, a vet who isn’t board certified but performs amputations on a regular basis should have the equipment and staff that can ensure that all risk is kept to a minimum. But, how do you know that risk is minimized?

The video interview below, with Kelly Cronin, Head Technician for the Santa Fe Animal Emergency Clinic, a part of the Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center of Santa Fe (VESC), will tell you what to look for. We also recommend picking up a copy of: “Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health” by Louise Murray, DVM.  This book should be on every pet pawrent’s bookshelf. It will teach you how to find the highest level of care by asking questions such as:

How is Overnight Care Handled?

Did you know that not all vets provide overnight care? When dogs need overnight hospitalization, having trained nighttime staff can mean the difference between a smooth recovery and serious complications that go undetected for hours. Many Tripawd pawrents have called the vet’s office the morning after a successful surgery, only to find out that their beloved dog died sometime during the night.

Even the smallest practice should partner with a 24-hour emergency clinic to provide after-hours care. Avoid facilities that do not have after-hours monitoring.

What are Your Pain Management Protocols for Amputation Surgery?

Tripawds’ resident vet, Dr. Pam Wiltzius of Puyallup, Washington, recommends asking about pain control. “It used to be that pain was dealt with post-op, but a lot of pain can be prevented now by administering the drug Gabapentin pre-op, using an MLK (morphine) drip during and after surgery, and performing nerve blocks intra-op.”

She adds that some dogs only get Rimadyl when they go home after surgery, which isn’t the gold standard. There is a huge difference in pain protocols among vets. Be sure you know where your vet stands on pain management.

What kind of Anesthesia Techniques Are Used?

Dr. Murray, author of Vet Confidential, recommends choosing a vet practice based on the following lifesaving equipment (you would be surprised how many practices don’t have these essentials):

  • Blood pressure monitor (blood pressure often falls dangerously low while patients are under anesthesia)
  • PVC centrifuge to monitor red blood cell levels
  • Pulse oximeter to measure a patient’s oxygen level

And she also advises that anesthesia procedures should always consist of:

  • An IV catheter, which can deliver lifesaving drugs during surgery
  • Intubation, which can prevent saliva, blood or vomit from entering the trachea and lungs, and deliver lifesaving oxygen and/or assist with breathing during surgery.
  • A surgical team consisting of at least one vet/surgeon and at least one technician. It’s too difficult to perform surgery while monitoring the patient’s vital signs. Avoid any practice who doesn’t have at least one qualified technician whose single job is to monitor the patient.

Head technician Kelly Cronin agrees. In the following video shares her tips for finding a qualified veterinary practice for your dog’s amputation, as well as demonstrates the type of equipment that should be used during surgery.


Many thanks to the good people at the Santa Fe Animal Emergency Clinic, the Veterinary Cancer Care, and Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center of Santa Fe for sharing this information with us. Catch our other interviews with this pawesome group of veterinary professionals:


Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers of Santa Fe is a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that provides emergency care for injured and sick dogs and cats as well as specialty medical and surgical treatment by skilled doctors on a referral basis. “

Please be aware that we are not veterinarians. The information presented here is not meant to be construed as medical advice or guidance, nor should it be substituted for professional veterinary assistance. Always discuss any remedies and treatments you wish to pursue with your veterinarian.


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