Amputation. It’s the last thing we ever expect our veterinarian to recommend for our dog or cat. When they do, fear, guilt and endless questions fill our heads: How will he get around? Will she be happy? Am I being selfish for considering it? Agreeing to the procedure and caring for a three-legged animal can seem overwhelming, but if you know what to expect when your pet loses a leg to cancer, you’ll discover that the recommendation isn’t as terrible as it seems.

Amputation is Harder on Us Than it is on Them

As you struggle with this decision, know that amputation isn’t only about removing a leg; it’s often the best way to eliminate excruciating pain associated with limb cancers. If your pet is battling an aggressive one like osteosarcoma, amputation may seem like a drastic measure to buy more time together. But if you view it through the eyes of your pet, you’ll discover that animals aren’t burdened by the emotional baggage that humans carry about being “different.” They don’t feel regret or shame about a lost limb, all they want is a good quality of life for however long they have with you. And since they don’t obsess about time as we humans do, they only know how to live in the moment, enjoying each day with as much enthusiasm as the last whether it’s on four legs or three.

 Recovery Can Be a (Temporary) Rollercoaster

Three-legged pets usually exceed their owner’s expectations, but that’s often hard to believe the day after surgery. Upon discharge, you’ll see that your dog or cat may be a bit wobbly, has a large incision and walks with a new, odd gait that might make you sad or even regret your choice to amputate. But rest assured, those feelings are common. If you reach out to members of our Tripawds amputee pet support community, you’ll learn that most pet parents felt the exact same way. But in about ten to fourteen days, the majority of them say their pets sparkle had returned.

The “New Normal” Strengthens Your Bond

Surprisingly, going through amputation recovery with your pet can strengthen your bond. Watching your dog or cat heal and conquer temporary balance and stamina challenges can be emotional, but also inspirational as they thrive in the face of adversity. With help from the experts at CSU’s Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation team, you’ll grow together into a “new normal” as you discover fun activities that build strength, prevent future injuries and challenge your pet’s brain.

Amputation may or may not prevent a cancer recurrence, or restore youth to your aging pet. Like life itself, there are no guarantees if you agree to the surgery. But with the skilled surgeons at the Flint Animal Cancer Center on your pet’s team, and your commitment to creating a healthy, safe environment for your new three-legged hero, your best friend has every chance at a full, happy life again.

For emotional support and helpful resources during the amputation journey, visit, the world’s largest support community for amputee pets and their people. CSU’s Argus Institute is also an excellent resource for counseling and support.