Dog Amputation – Siberian Husky Shania

Siberian Husky Shania – I love her more than words can say.

One of the first things that people notice about Shania is that she is a three legged dog.

Shania was born with a condition called radial head luxation. The bones on her left front leg did not connect properly, and as a result, she would experience pain when putting weight on it.

She was first diagnosed at around 9 weeks old. We were devastated.

The surgeon told us that the leg would only get worse as she grew, and ultimately, we would have to amputate.

He presented us with three choices

  1. Try to straighten the leg. This would be very expensive and may include multiple surgeries over a period of one year.
  2. Amputate the leg. He suggested that we amputate earlier rather than later. The leg was not weight bearing and it would become more of a painful hindrance to Shania.
  3. Return Shania and get another puppy.

I seriously considered returning Shania.

Dog amputation is a big decision that I have never had to make before.

I didn’t know what taking care of a three legged dog entailed,

  • I didn’t know if I would like a three legged dog,
  • I didn’t know if a three legged dog could have a good life, and on and on it went.

Most people advised me to just return Shania and get a ‘whole dog‘.

Even though I had only known Shania for a very short time, she had already captured my heart. That is the way Shania is. She is the sweetest, most beautiful girl I have ever met.

The next week we went into surgery to try and straighten her leg.

Radial head luxation is a fairly uncommon condition in dogs, and most of the time it goes untreated.

Still, the surgeon was pretty optimistic and he was going to drill small holes into the bone, and insert a metal rod into it. Then we would slowly realign the bones a few millimeters at a time.

Once we do this, the soft-tissue will hopefully heal around the joint and hold it in place. The surgeon told us that Shania will always walk with a slight limp but if the procedure was successful, the leg will be weight bearing.


This surgery will enhance the rest of her life, so I felt that it was worth it to try.

The surgeon gave it an 80% probability of success and in the worst case, we would need to amputate – which is what we would have to do anyway without the procedure.

Things looked very promising after the first surgery.

On the first week, we were able to slowly realign the bones and everything looked good. 10 days after the surgery, we took off the leg device that was holding together the bones. Now we would see whether the bones could stay in place on their own …

The bones slipped again, and went back to their disconnected position.

We were not going to give up yet. The surgeon wanted to open up the leg and set the bones back into position manually.

On the morning of the surgery we were all waiting anxiously by the phone.

The surgeon called suddenly – earlier than anticipated.

He told us that there was too much cartilage damage around the joint, and the probability of Shania being able to use the leg was extremely low. Even if we were able to miraculously straighten the bones, there would always be a lot of joint pain.

The surgeon suggested amputation. We agreed, and that was that.

When we brought Shania home after the amputation, she had a big bandage around her body. She was groggy from the surgery and was out of it for the rest of the day.

The next day, Shania was back to her bouncy, happy self.

She wanted to go everywhere and she wanted to play with our other dog!

However, we had to keep activity low until the stitches came out in 2 weeks time. This was probably the most difficult time because both dogs were raring to go, and we had to be the kill-joys saying No, No, No.

Most of the time Shania stayed inside an enclosure that we set up in the living room. We took turns sleeping with her during the night.

We also bought Shania a sweater because it was raining a lot at the time and we wanted to protect her stitches from getting wet or dirty.


After two weeks, the stitches came out, and Shania was ready to go go go!

The hospital staff had also fallen in love with her so they took lots of pictures and even wrote an article about her in their newsletter. They were inspired by Shania because she was very upbeat the entire time, even when she had to go through the leg straightening and subsequent amputation process.

Despite all her difficulties, Shania was always happy and willing to give everyone many licks.

When she stayed over at the hospital, the staff gave her this fun toy that would play James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good‘ song, whenever she pushed down on it. They told us that she would go around to visit each of the hospital staff and play the song for them.


Now Shania is over 2 years old and she is still happy, bouncy, and willing to give everyone lots of licks!

Siberian Husky Shania – I love her more than words can say.

She has a beautiful body and an even more beautiful soul. I would not trade her for any other dog.

Shania is more ‘whole’ than most people and most dogs.

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    I have a 13 week old Norwegian Elkhound, Beauregard, that is in a similar situation to Shania’s. He has a congenital defect that has caused his wrist bone to simply not grow on one front leg. The specialist has never seen a case like his, and has consulted with several other specialists on what would be best for him. He originally thought Beau could wait until he was fully grown, and then they would fuse his wrist and elbow. However, Beau’s wrist has gotten worse much faster than anticipated. The specialist has therefore given me 3 options.
    Option 1: do nothing until he is full grown while trying to minimize injury and hopefully the original fusion plan will work. Option 2: we attempt a low probability of success surgery to shorten his radius and align all of his bones. Or, option 3: amputation.
    I am truly having a difficult time making a decision! I know that he will have a full life as a tripod, but it is still a hard decision. I told you Beau’s story, because I wonder about Shania’s experience with her early surgeries. One of the fears I have is that I will put him through option 2, the low probability surgery, only to have to put him through yet another major surgery. My other great fear is that he will be in chronic pain from the surgery if it is “successful.” The specialist has, of course, left the decision up to me, but seems to be quite unsure about his future prospects for pain. I would like to know your opinion on the matter since you have had to make a similar decision for your baby.
    Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I had a very tough time deciding with Shania as well. After much thinking, I decided to try and save Shania’s leg. My reasons –

      1. The specialist told us that Shania would get along fine on 3 legs. However, she would also place more stress on her legs and as a result, would likely get arthritis earlier on.

      2. Although she would do fine on 3 legs, I also knew that losing a leg would make certain things more difficult. Shania just turned 6 and she is full of goodness and vim, however, she can’t dig holes as fast or as big as she wants. She loses her balance more often, and I do not let her get up on furniture. I am also a lot more careful with her during play, so she can’t play as hard or as rough as my other dogs.

      In Shania’s case, the specialist gave the bone straightening procedure an 80% chance of success. Unfortunately, the procedure did not work, and we ultimately had to amputate.

      I love Shania very much and still wish that we could have saved her leg. It would have put off the onset of arthritis, and given her a lot more freedom today to engage in all the things that she loves, with her full Husky energy. If there were something more that I could try then or today to give her those things, I would try it.

      However, from a surgical perspective, Shania’s condition was somewhat different. Her thigh bone did not connect properly with her lower leg bone. The hope was that we could slowly realign the bones, and then the soft tissue would heal around the realigned bones and hold them in place. There was a high chance that the bone straightening procedure would succeed, in which case, the leg would be weight bearing. The specialist said that if the straightening was successful, she may have a very slight limp, but there would be no chronic pain. As she grew though, we may have needed to do additional surgeries to get things back into alignment.

      Also, in Shania’s case, it was either the bone alignment procedure or amputation. If we did not try the surgery, we would have to amputate anyway, so it seemed worth it to try the surgery and have a chance at saving the leg.

      Does Beau’s specialist have any suggestions in terms of how to help minimize wrist injury? Could they perhaps put something similar to a cast over it so that there is less wear and tear? Will the fusion plan not work if there is too much wear and tear? Is it wear and tear on the soft tissue that is the problem? If they do Option 2 and it does not work, is Option 1 still possible, or is it one or the other?

      Sometimes, getting a second opinion can also be helpful.

      Big hugs to Beau. If you have the time, please let me know how it goes.

    • Heather says

      Thank you for sharing your decision making process, it really helped me think through it all.

      I decided to attempt to save the leg as well. Beau had surgery about a week ago and seems to be doing well. Too well sometimes actually- he is a handful! He will have to basically be crated for about 8 weeks, and may require a second surgery- hopefully not- but we shall see.

      Thanks again,
      Heather & Beau

    • shibashake says

      Thank you for letting me know about Beau. I am so glad that the surgery went well, and Beau is doing well. Shania sends her love and kisses, and a Happy New Year to you all. :D

  2. Sarah says

    This story has made feel much better about having to get my dog Apollo’s leg amputated. He was hit by a car this past weekend, which shattered his right rear leg, and I was concerned that I’d have to put him down. However the vets at Washington State University got him on the mend. What the surgeon, who was working on his case, told me was that he was going to have an extremely long and difficult healing process if I didn’t amputate his leg and even if he went though this whole ordeal there was no gaurntee that he’d be able to keep the leg. So I think in order to make his pain not last as long and having the possibility of having to have his leg amputated in the future I thought it best to just make his healing time faster and less painful. So thank you for making me even more confident in my decision.

  3. Tina says

    Hi, I just want to say … you did such a wonderful thing for Shania. She is a very very lucky dog. I am still heart broken over the lost of my Shiba Inu puppy. I got him last week and I already became attached to him but then I found out that he has a genetic defect. He needs surgery which costs around $3000. I was devastated. He’s only 2 months old and he is such a good boy. I thought about financing the medical bill but I’m just a 19 year old student. I can’t handle that kind of medical bill … so I had no choice but to return him to the guy I bought him from. I’m really heart broken because I don’t know how his future will be. I don’t know if he’ll be able to be as luck as Shania. The vet told me that the surgery will completely heal his leg and he’ll live as a normal dog … but I’m not capable of giving him that kind of normal dog life. After reading your article … I felt like there is hope. I feel really happy for Shania because she has a great loving family and a happy doggy life. I hope the same for my baby Shiba boy.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Tina,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. It sounds like a very difficult situation, but I am glad that the puppy’s leg can be fully fixed with surgery. I still wish we could have saved Shania’s leg.

      Hopefully, his breeder can proceed with the surgery, or get some help with it. I think breed rescue places will often help out, if they can, so I would also try contacting the local Shiba rescue and perhaps SPCA/Humane Society.

      The SPCA at my old place had a vet clinic, and they were really great about helping people defray some of the medical costs. Many vets are also willing to let their clients pay for a surgery through a series of monthly payments.

  4. says

    Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences with your Shania. We just rescued a puppy with a severely broken leg from a family that was unable to afford her care and we were given two options: bone straightening and lengthening surgery or amputation. After considering the severity of her breaks and comparing the complexity & number of surgeries/external fixator use/recovery time against the choice of amputation, we have decided to proceed with the amputation as that seems to be the best option for our sweet Murphy. Because of your site, we are now preparing to start our lives with our 3-legged husky puppy (her surgery is tomorrow) and we are confident that we are making the best decision for our pup. Thank you so very much for the great advice and reassurance that 3 legged dogs can be just as happy (if not more) than “normal” 4 legged dogs!

    • shibashake says

      I just checked Murphy’s blog and am so glad to hear that everything went well. Murphy looks absolutely adorable!

      Shania was groggy the first day we got her home, but after that, it was a challenge to get her to stay calm. Frozen Kongs really saved the day for us. :D

      Big hugs to Murphy! Would love to see her in her Halloween shirt.

  5. Rose says

    I loved reading about Shania. We have a wonderful girl named Hannah. She’s the most wonderful animal that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being “owned” by. I didn’t really know much about the breed when we got her. But she has turned out to be a great addition to our family. I can’t imagine not having her around. Again, I loved reading about Shania.

    • shibashake says

      Thanks Rose.

      She’s the most wonderful animal that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being “owned” by.

      LOL! Yeah I know what you mean.

      Big hugs to Hannah!

  6. Missy says

    Our 16 month old husky dug out of his pen early this morning. We searched for him all day with no results.This afternoon I seen him in a yard across the highway, we were ecstatic..We got his leash& went to get him, noticed his rear leg was what appeared to be broken. We went to vet and he recommended amputation. Our heart is torn, but reading your story gives me some hope. I just feel bad for doing it to him, but if left untreated the bone could sever an artery & he could bleed to death. We are assuming he was hit by a car from what the vet believes. Any advice would be appreciated.Your dog is beautiful.Thanks

    • shibashake says

      Hello Missy,

      Shania actually handled the amputation very well and recovered very quickly. Your Husky is young and will likely bounce back very fast as well. The most difficult part was keeping Shania quiet during the two weeks before her stitches came out. She got a lot of frozen Kongs during this time. :D

      With Shania, I started with shorter but more frequent walks. I also made sure we had many rest stops and plenty of water. Then I slowly lengthened our walk as she started to get stronger. I also make sure to keep her slim so that there is less stress on her leg joints.

      Here are two more articles on some of my experiences with caring for Shania-
      http://shibashake.com/dog/three-legged-dog-care-tripod-dog-care
      http://shibashake.com/dog/living-with-a-3-legged-dog

      Let us know how things go with the surgery. Big hugs to your Husky boy. Shania and Lara both send him their positive Husky energy and many wet licks.

  7. Bunny S says

    I was so touched with Shania’s story. You must be a very special person to have decided to do everything possible to give Shania a healthy and happy life. It took great courage and love to make this committment. You both share a bond that will grow stronger as time goes on. How very lucky Shania is to have you in her life!
    Bunny S

    • shibashake says

      Thank you Bunny S. Truthfully, I am the lucky one because Shania is such a special dog. She has an awesome temperament and has made friends with almost everyone in the neighborhood. People give her cookies, tummy rubs, and always stop to say hello. She really has a way with people, and I am very happy to be part of her life. :D

  8. says

    for the past four hours or so that I’ve been browsing through your site, only now that I noticed that ur Sibe Shania was 3-legged. My,My,My. A very courageous and beautiful soul indeed. Great job you guys!

    • shibashake says

      Thanks Rey. Shania is very awesome. Whenever I look at her, I feel happier and have to smile.

      Let us know how it goes with your new Sibe.

  9. Nicole says

    Could you tell me the name of the surgeon for your Siberian Husky? I have a bulldog pup with the same condition. Did you surgeon say that a prosthetic might be an option?

    • shibashake says

      Hi Nicole,
      The surgeon is Dr. Walls from the Veterinary Surgical Associates.
      http://www.vsasurgery.com/personnel/surgeons.asp.htm

      At the time, we were trying to save Shania’s leg by slowly realigning her bones. Even though it was still an experimental procedure, the surgeon was optimistic and gave it an 80% chance of success. My own research into similar procedures also showed promise. In the end, it did not work out. We ended up being in the 20% group. :(

      They have probably made more advances now, so I would definitely consult your vet about it.

      Given Shania’s age and activity level, we decided not to go with prosthetics.

      There is some good discussion on prosthetics in the Tripawds site –
      http://tripawds.com/2008/06/28/prosthetics-should-tripawds-just-be-tripawds-or-bionic-dogs/

  10. Sophie says

    Shania’s such an amazing dog to get on with life so happily. Lots of owners would have just returned her, she’s lucky she’s got such a caring owner like you. xx

  11. Anne says

    Shania is gorgeous. I know you feel blessed to be living with her. We have three Sibes and wouldn’t want to live without each one. Needed to see Shania’s story; one of our Sibes has cancer and the oncologist has given us 3 options, one of which is amputation. Looks like she does beautifully! I am encouraged for our Thor.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Anne,
      Glad the story was helpful. Amputation is always a very difficult decision but I think our dogs deal with it much better than we do. Many people that I meet feel sorry for Shania when they first see her, but after they meet her, they usually say “Such a happy dog and she gets along really well!” or “She doesn’t even notice that she has a missing leg”.

      Truthfully, Shania knows she has a missing leg. As a result she is a lot more cautious when meeting other dogs. When playing, I have also noticed that other dogs can overwhelm her during play. I always supervise play sessions with her and make sure that everybody is playing nice.

      Hugs to Thor. Let us know what you decide and share some pictures of your Sibes with us when you can.

      The tripawds Forum is also a great place to go to get information and support.

  12. Leighton says

    This is a beautiful story and Shania must be so blessed to have such a loving and wonderful owner like you. So many people would have not wanted to pay for all of the medical expenses and would have given her back, but you knew in your heart that the best thing to do was to keep her and give her the life she deserved.

    • shibashake says

      Thanks Leighton.
      It was not easy at the time, but now I get lots of licks and chin nibbles. :) Plus I am healthier, save a lot on doctor’s bills, and have a much happier life because I get to share it with Shania.

  13. shibashake says

    Thank you Barbara.

    Shania is a very special girl. I am very glad I get to join her on her happy, bouncy, life journey. She makes my life happy, and bouncy as well – so I am very lucky.

  14. Barbara says

    Shania is very blessed to have a wonderful owner like yourself, you are an outstanding person and hand picked for Shania’s care, I am certain. Most people would have thrown her away but your heart being bigger than both your bodies, chose this heart wrenching ordeal to undergo with her.
    God bless you for being the person that you are.

  15. shibashake says

    Thanks for your wonderful words Cynthia.

    We are both lucky, I think, to have found each other. I am the much luckier one though :D

  16. says

    It must have been a hartbreaking decision to make but she’s so lucky to have been given a second chance because she seems to enjoy it very much <3

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