Exceptionally rare medical condition diagnosed in Wisconsin shelter puppy

Puppy with “5 legs” and 9 toes and available for adoption at Wisconsin Humane Society


Founded in 1879, the Wisconsin Humane Society has been saving the lives of animals in need for more than 140 years. WHS is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and operates animal shelters in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Door, and Brown Counties, as well as a spay/neuter clinic in West Allis.

Milwaukee, WI – Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) veterinary staff couldn’t believe what they were seeing when examining Bella, a 6-month-old puppy recently surrendered to the WHS Kenosha Campus.

The puppy’s right hind leg was abnormally wide, with multiple extra toes on her paw. A normal canine rear leg would have one femur, one tibia, one fibula and 4-5 toes. X-rays of the affected leg revealed that Bella appears to have an extra femur, two tibias, two fibulas, and nine toes on her rear paw instead of four.

The condition is called dimelia, an extremely rare congenital anomaly characterized by duplication of bones. In Bella’s case, the structures of the right hindlimb are duplicated and fused. It is the first documented case of dimelia the shelter has seen in their 145 years of operation. “I’ve never seen anything like this in a dog,” said Nancy Weiss, DVM, WHS medical director. “Her radiographs are quite extraordinary.”

The WHS veterinary team consulted with an outside surgical specialist due to the rarity of the condition. Surgical intervention, including amputation, was considered. Due to her using the limb comfortably at this time and the potential additional risks of surgery, the recommendation is to allow Bella to keep the limb as-is and continue to monitor her comfort. Bella does bear weight on the leg, but she displays an abnormal gait when walking or running. “The extra bones and condition do somewhat affect her mobility,” said Angela Speed, vice president of marketing and communications, “although she loves to go for walks and run around in our play yard.”

Bella is expected to be available for adoption on Friday, April 26 at the WHS Kenosha Campus and shelter staff are optimistic she’ll get adopted soon.“We have a sea of dogs and puppies looking for homes right now, but Bella is extra special,” said Speed. “Who wouldn’t adopt this loving unicorn of a pup? Our community is awesome, and we know there is a great person out there to support Bella in her journey.”

Adoptions at WHS are first-come, first-served, as long as it’s a good fit. Potential adopters can fill out an adopter profile in advance, although it is not an application-based process; the information is kept on file to expedite adoptions on-site. Anyone interested in adopting should visit www.wihumane.org/adopt to view all available animals and learn more about the adoption process.

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About the Wisconsin Humane Society

The Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) was founded in 1879 and is the oldest and largest shelter in Wisconsin, annually serving more than 40,000 animals and the people who love them. WHS is an independent nonprofit and receives no general government funding and is not part of any national umbrella group. WHS operates shelters in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Brown, and Door Counties, as well as a spay/neuter clinic in West Allis. The organization offers adoption services, youth programs, veterinary services, retail stores, wildlife rehabilitation, community outreach, training classes and more. WHS is ranked 4 stars by Charity Navigator, the premier independent charity watchdog group. To learn more, visit www.wihumane.org.