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Q: My dog broke his leg jumping out of the back of my pick-up truck and my veterinarian recommends either fixing the fracture or amputation. I cannot afford to have the fracture fixed but I cannot imagine amputating the leg. What do I do?

A: It can be very upsetting to have your dog undergo such a trauma and makes the decision process more difficult. Unfortunately, these types of injuries are time sensitive and need to be addressed quickly in order to get the best outcome.

The first, and most important, aspect of treatment is to stabilize the dog, address the pain, and identify any other injuries that might have occurred in the accident. Once the dog is stable then the bony injuries can be addressed.

The type of fracture and the location are important pieces of information to be able to assess treatment options. For most fractures in dogs and cats, splints and casts do not work well as they do not offer enough stabilization to allow for proper healing. It is impossible to keep an animal quiet for the 6-8 weeks that it takes for the bone to heal. Splints and casts also have a nasty habit of causing bandage sores, can slip and move, and get wet or dirty.

For most fractures, internal stabilization such as bone plating is required. Internal stabilization of fractures requires an additional level of skill on the part of the surgeon as well as specialized equipment and these factors can increase the cost of this types of surgeries.

If your goal is to save the leg, then this is the best option; however, this surgery needs to be done within a few days of the injury to get the best outcome.

Alternatively, dogs and cats can have a very long happy life with only 3 legs even though it might be hard to imagine your dog missing a leg. Sometimes the fracture might be too complicated to fix or the expense of trying to fix it might be too high so amputation becomes the only option.

As much as we would like to save every leg, sometimes we must amputate to save the life of the animal. Once an animal learns how to balance on three legs they can go on to have a normal life with some adjustments, and an amputation does not necessarily need to be done immediately.

Although this is a hard decision for you to make, it is important to understand that a decision must be made in the best interest of your pet. Doing nothing to fix the fracture is not an option as that will only bring pain and suffering to your pet.

Q: My dog is a newly diagnosed diabetic and it seems that he went blind overnight. How did this happen?

A: Diabetes is a disease in which there is elevated glucose levels in the blood.

Glucose levels are not only elevated in the blood but are also elevated in other parts of the body such as the fluid in and around the eye. The consequences of having too much glucose in the fluid in and around the eye include chronic inflammation of the eye, chronic infections, and cataracts.

The lens is very sensitive to changes in the fluid in the eye. If there is too much glucose in the lens, because of the increased glucose around the lens, then it will start to fill with more fluid. Increased fluid uptake causes the lens to expand and turn white which can happen overnight.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop the formation of diabetic cataracts and occurs in about 50 percent of diabetic dogs. Once it occurs you need to take your dog to your veterinarian immediately so that they can evaluate the eye and offer you options for treatment.

The only way to fix the cataract so that your dog can see again is to take it to a veterinary ophthalmologist for cataract surgery.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at


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