Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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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 Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center (VESC), will tell you what to look for, and we also recommend picking up a copy of the book: “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 have at least one technician stopping by at night to check on patients, or partner with a 24-hour emergency clinic to provide care. Avoid facilities that do not have after-hours monitoring.
What kind of Anesthesia Techniques Are Used?
Dr. Murray 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.
Kelly Cronin, Head Technician for the Santa Fe Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center (VESC), agrees. In this final video interview installment with VESC, Kelly 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 Veterinary Cancer Care and Veterinary Emergency Specialty Center for sharing this information with us. Catch our other VCC and VESC interviews:
- VCC / VESC Interview #3: Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option
- VCC / VESC Interview #2: Tripawd Max Does Swimmingly Well
- VCC / VESC Interview #1: Dr. Hady Demystifies MRIs and CT Scans
“Veterinary Cancer Care P.C. is committed to providing compassionate, high quality treatment to all pets with cancer. Using state of the art therapies, nutrition and kind care, we treat the whole patient, not just the cancer. To alleviate the hardships of cancer, our staff provides a positive family atmosphere, filled with love and hope. We hold a great respect for the human-animal bond, and will always honor your relationship with your pet above all.”
“Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers of Santa Fe are state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals that provide 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.
22 August 2008
I might add to ask about pain control. It used to be that pain was dealt with post-op but a lot of pain can be prevented now by using gabapentin pre-op, using an MLK (morphine) drip during and after surgery and performing nerve blocks intra-op. Some dogs just get Rimadyl to go home so there is a huge difference in pain protocols.
Thank you so much Pam! I totally missed that aspect. Really appreciate your professional input!
Dr. Nancy Kay, author of "Speaking for Spot," recently posted this
helpful article about why having 24-hour care for your recovering
patient is critical.
Reasonable Expectations Part III: Access to Round-the-Clock Care
"Please know that it is perfectly reasonable for you to expect that your hospitalized family member receive round-the-clock care. There are a few different ways this can happen. While a 24-hour hospital staffed with a veterinarian is ideal, this simply does not exist in all communities (but if it does exist in your neck of the woods, by all means take advantage!). Here are some other viable options:
-A veterinarian comes into the clinic multiple times during the night and on weekends to check on the hospitalized patients (some vets prefer to take their patients home with them to help make monitoring and supervision more convenient).
-A skilled veterinary nurse (technician) comes into the clinic multiple times during the night and on weekends to check on the hospitalized patients and has access to contacting the vet should the need arise.
-Your dog or cat comes home with you, but only after you receive thorough monitoring instructions along with a way to reach your vet should questions or concerns arise. As scary as this might sound, this remains a better option than leaving your best little buddy left completely unsupervised overnight. Just imagine how you would feel lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to intravenous fluids, and no one entering your room to check on you for twelve long hours!"