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The Top Five Questions About Amputation And Coping with Bone Cancer

PART 1: The Top Five Questions…
PART 2: Five More Questions…

Three legged Genie Dog Runs in SnowEvery day, sadly, another four legged friend gets told that a leg must go.

Ok,” we dogs say, “so when can we play again?

Humans, on the other hand, have a harder time with this news.

There are tons of questions our pawrents have before and after surgery, and many people are doubtful about the benefits of amputation. To help you through this hard decision, we’ve come up with a list of the Top 10 questions that pawrents have asked us here at Tripawds. Here are questions 1 through 5. Questions 6 through 10 will follow soon.

Question #1: “How do we know that amputation is the right decision?”

First of all, there are no “right” decisions. Only you know your dog better than anyone else. Ask yourself, “is my dog strong/healthy/spirited enough to endure an operation like this?

Three legged Codie Rae runs in OaklandIf your dog is fighting cancer, most times amputation will not make it go away. Most bone cancers do metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) eventually. But whether a dog is fighting cancer or  undergoing amputation because of an accident, the greatest thing about it, is the immediate gift it gives both canines and their humans; a pain-free life, and more time together.

The biggest risk is being on the operating table, and like any surgery, you must prepare yourself for the chance that something can go wrong. But once a dog recovers, they typically go about living just as they did before.

The biggest benefit that amputation offers is that it will immediately alleviate the unbelievably horrible pain your dog is experiencing from bone cancer, or a shattered limb. And remember, you’re not getting rid of a leg; you’re getting rid of the pain! Whether amputation allows your dog a extra month, year, or longer to lead an extraordinary life, that extra time is all about quality, not quantity. After amputation, every day together is icing on the cake.

Witnessing your dog’s resiliency, and their extraordinary ability to get on with life and continue having fun, is one of the greatest lessons that humans learn after going through amputation with their beloved friend.

Question #2: “My vet says my dog isn’t a candidate for amputation. Now what?”

Three legged rescue dog SammyEveryone’s circumstances are different, and not every dog is a great candidate for amputation. Cancer severity, weight and age can sometimes be an issue (although most times, even senior dogs get through it without a hitch).

Sometimes, vets who aren’t as familiar with the extraordinary lives of Tripawds may quickly dismiss your dog as a candidate because of his age, or size. If your vet does this, please get a second opinion.

Better yet, find a specialist, or go to a teaching hospital near you. Yes, osteosarcoma is an aggressive nasty disease. And if it has already metastasized in the lungs then palliative care may be the right course of treatment, instead of amputation. But if not, you can buy precious time with your pup by proceeding with the amputation.

Find a vet who is knowledgeable and compassionate enough to understand; it’s all about quality of life, not quantity.

Visit the Resources Page for many more helpful links!

Question #3: “What can we expect the first few days after surgery?”

Immediately after the surgery, the horrible pain your dog was in will be gone. Any post-surgery pain will pale in comparison to that of bone cancer. But, there will be post-surgery challenges. Remember, amputation is a major surgery, and as easy as dogs can sometimes make it look, the road to recovery can be long and challenging. Some things you can expect when you pick up your dog from the hospital include:

  • Your dog may or may not have a bandage, it all depends on the vet. Please get yourself and family members pschologically prepared that the wound will not be pretty. Check out our post-surgery photos to prepare yourself. When you see your dog, focus on his eyes, not his surgery site, and do your best to hold back any tears.
  • You’ll notice that your dog’s walk has changed. It’s weird to see him hopping toward you, but ignore that, and try to rejoice in the fact that your dog is out of pain, incredibly resilient, and coping far better with this new lifestyle than any human ever will.
  • The first couple of days after coming home, your dog will need her rest. She might be very groggy, weak, and sleepy. That’s normal. Let her rest and sleep well. Just be sure to make water available to keep her hydrated. Chicken broth or Gatorade in their water will help stimulate drinking.
  • Some dogs might want to be left alone, in a quiet spot. Some might have poor appetite, nausea, constipation, affected by pain medications and antibiotics. This may be accompanied by whining or crying. Usually it lasts just a couple of days, but only a vet can tell you if there might be unusual pain involved. Some true signs of discomfort, include a change in diet or refusal to eat, incontinence, or an inability to stand.
  • She will need to learn how to get into position to go potty. Don’t worry, it’ll happen naturally after a day or two. When they gotta go, they just go!
  • Your dog will have a brand new, cool walk, more like a hop! And you’ll be so surprised at how fast she moves. All that stuff you taught us about heeling at your side? Forget it! Remember, it’s always easier for us to hop along quickly, than walk slowly.

After a few weeks, once we recover, we can get down to the serious business of playing and keeping our families happy.

find fast answers in tripawds ebooksQuestion #4: “What can I do to make my dog’s recovery easier?”

Three legged Jerry Dog plays in the snowThe biggest thing you can do is get yourself mentally prepared, and be a strong pack leader. Accept that there will likely be challenges over the next few days that may make you sad, or even regret that you went through with the surgery. That’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up, remember to be strong, and know that the recovery time is just temporary.

Don’t get discouraged if you think progress is slow, and don’t compare your dog’s recovery with others’. Remember that recovery times are all different for each dog, and progress is gradual, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Always remember to embrace the little steps along the way.

Some practical advice we can offer includes:

  • Have his favorite foods handy, things you know your dog can’t resist. Be prepared to do some home cooking. Tempting foods will help him get his appetite back.
  • Put down runners and rugs on all bare, slippery surfaces in your house. A spill right after surgery can be a real confidence killer to a new Tripawd. However, once your dog learns how to to adapt, any minor stumbles or spills while playing won’t be such a big deal to him (you, however, will need to stay calm).
  • Cozy pillows in her sleeping area are great, but make sure she has a firm and supportive mattress.
  • As she gets used to getting up to walk around or go potty, try wrapping a bath towel under her belly to hoist her rear end and give her a little support. Or, you can cut up canvas grocery bag, and it wrap around your dog’s chest as a sling. Many dogs will only need this kind of assistance for the first few days.
  • Later, after the stitches heal, a Ruffwear Harness is extremely helpful by allowing you to assist your dog in getting around (in and out of cars, learning to use stairs on three legs, and helping her up when she lays in an awkward spot on the floor). The harness is always the most helpful when you least expect to need it, so always keep it on your dog except at night.
  • For the first week or so, keep your Tripawd confined to a small area in your home, and never let her tackle stairs or going outside by herself during the first few days.
  • If you have other dogs, you might want to supervise them closely when they play together, to keep your Tripawd from overdoing it or injuring the incision area.
  • Don’t let your Tripawd jump up or down off the bed or couch until they are completely healed. Your Tripawd will forget that they are adapting to a new body, and can hurt themselves. It’s up to you to help them through this phase.

Remember, think positive, and be strong as a pack leader. Always, offer her lots of encouragements. She will pick up on your emotion. ”

Question #5: “It’s been 7 days after surgery, and my dog isn’t behaving like he used to. I think he’s depressed. Is this normal?”

Three legged Dachshund FrankieMost times, what humans think is depression in their dog is actually just the dog’s reaction to pain meds. Heavy duty painkillers like Fentanyl patches and Tramadol can induce whining, crying and anti-social behavior. Remember, your dog isn’t used to these drugs, and they’re probably making her see pink elephants. Most often, withdrawal from pain meds is the cause of the change in behavior. Or, they could be coping with Phantom Pain.

We think the biggest reason that pawrents think their dogs are depressed is because deep down, they aren’t sure about their dogs’ ability to cope, and they are projecting those feelings onto their dogs. After all, humans know that they would have a difficult time coping with amputation if they had to go through it.  Please keep in mind that dogs are SO much smarter and resilient than humans! Dogs live in the moment, and they have no regrets about losing a leg. When your dog is done healing, he will go on with life, happy and playful, because that’s all that matters.

We hope we’ve addressed some of your concerns here, but if you’re still worried about your dog, please discuss your concerns with your vet.

If you can think of any others, please add to the discussion we’ve started in the Forums. The next five questions will follow shortly . . .

PART 1: The Top Five Questions…
PART 2: Five More Questions…
Read All FAQs

84 Responses to “The Top Five Questions About Amputation And Coping with Bone Cancer”

  1. Two nights ago my dog came homework a broken femur. We took him in this morning for the surgery to mend the bone, but it was broken so bad that they couldn’t fix it. He is a very energetic dog that likes to swim and jump high and we don’t know if it is the right decision to amputate. I don’t want to euthanize him, he’s my baby! But I don’t want him to be sad all his life because he can’t do everything he could do with 4 legs.

    • Misti, sorry about your pup! Rest assured most dogs cope very well, better than humans. Should you amputate, you’ll need to monitor his activity so he doesn’t further injure himself but it’s really a small price to pay for having our best friend alive, healthy and well. Please call our hotline (844-TRIPAWD) and join our discussion forums, we’re here for you.

  2. Please can someone suggest who can be reached to offer some support to me. I had to make a very quick decision about amputation of my dogs leg and although she is doing so well already, I am in pieces over my beloved pooch having lost her leg. I love her so much and I know I need to be strong to aid her recovery but I am finding this all difficult & can’t find support pages for owners. Please help. Thank you.

    • Sorry to hear about your pup Dawn! Please consider searching or posting in the forums or drop by the live chat for plenty of care and recovery tips, feedback and support from members. Bookmark Jerry’s Required Reading List for lots of helpful links or consider downloading the Tripawds e-books for immediate answers to the most common concerns!

    • Dawn,

      I have been through the same thing…. it is really hard.. we have second guessed several times if we did the right thing. Over time you will see the personality of your pet come back and there will be a new normal. I am not sure what kind of dog you have but it seems to me like smaller dogs recover more fully than larger dogs. We have a Rottweiler that had bone cancer in his leg so we had his rear leg amputated about 5 months ago. He still struggles going up steps, but does very well when going down them. He lays around a lot more, but still really enjoys being with us. let me know if you have specific questions i can help you with. I would be happy to tell you what I know.

      Thanks

      Kathy

      • Kathy thank you for sharing your story with us, it’s most appreciated. We are glad to hear your pup is enjoying a good quality of life with your pack.

      • Thanks Kathy.
        It’s such an awful feeling. How long did it take you to come to positive terms with your Rotti’s amputation?
        Currently I feel as though I’ve been really unfair for choosing this option, even though sandy is thriving (Rotti X Lab) I just feel so bad that I’ve allowed them to remove her leg. She is laying around a lot more but that’s early days since surgery.
        What pain relief was yours on & for how long? I’m not sure if she should me be on more as occasionally has yelped when hopping about.

        Look forwards to your responce.

        Also Jerry-how can I change my avatar? The links won’t allow me to.

        Thanks

        Dawn & Sandy

      • Dawn, your avatar can be changed in your Forums “User profile.” Let me know if that makes sense.

      • Hi – I went into my profile and edit avatar but it doesn’t show an option to upload Unless I’m
        Missing something. When I select avatar option it says that I attempted to access tripawds blogs dashboard but I do not have privileges on it…is this right or have I gone wrong somewhere?
        Thanks

      • I found a different tab is missed…sorted :)

  3. My 2 year old Shih Tzu named Sammy got hit by a car yesterday. We took him straight to the vet for x-rays and they have confirmed that his back leg is broken at the joint and that it would be unlikely be able to repair it back to normal. They say his back leg will never be the same but they are unsure if they should amputate his leg just yet. They told us if he is able to pick up his leg then he might can still somewhat use it. I am very worried that we might have to amputate his leg. He is a very petted little dog and can’t handle stress. I’m worried he will be very traumatized and never be the same. He seems so depressed. He is not in any pain but seems so sad. How can I get him to be happy again?

    • Hi Whitney. We are so sorry to hear about Sammy, what a terrible ordeal! We know how upsetting this is but try your best to be strong and pawsitive, and Sammy will follow your lead. Remember, he was hit by a car and that is very traumatic. He is probably just still in shock mentally, doesn’t know why he’s having trouble getting around, and also feeling the effects of the pain medication. It adds up but he WILL get better.

      As for whether or not to amputate, that is something that only you and your vet can decide. A rehab vet would likely recommend trying rehab therapy first to see if it helps, then consider amputation if it doesn’t. It’s something to consider. We have lots of info about rehab so stick around and visit our Discussion Forums for insight from others who have been in your situation. Lots of hugs coming your way, hang in there.

  4. 2 weeks ago my APBT Harley was hit by a car. He was taken to the local vet & they diagnosed him as having a broken pelvis. His best option would be an FHO. Friday I took him to another vet clinic where they perform FHO’s. We had everything set & ready for operation until his dr noticed he was curling his foot & dragging his hind left leg.
    The dr pinched his feet & leg for movement but nothing.
    She suggested we wait on the FHO in hopes that through medication & steroids he will gain feeling.
    A week later, Harley never regained feeling into his leg. March 31, 2014
    Harley had his leg amputated. It was very hard to cope with because being Native American, it is against tradition to have disabled animals.
    I always strayed away from cultural beliefs so having a tripawd dog wasn’t a big deal. I could never have put Harley to sleep, he is my world. Yesterday I picked him up from the vet & took him home. Just as I expected, my family made it so obvious that they were uncomfortable around him. I know he picked up on their negative energy because he got very sad. I got into a conflict with my sister because she threw out the phrase “he’s gotten so skinny, he’s just suffering!” And I of course replied with “why are you being so negative?!” And she said “you didn’t even ask us if we wanted the surgery! It’s uncomfortable now & I’m not the only one who feels this way!” At That moment, I packed Harley & I a bag and we left my moms house. Yesterday was a tough day, I had hoped that my family would accept him because he is still the same dog, just minus one leg.

    We are now at my exboyfriends house because after all he’s always been there for Harley. Harley’s wound isn’t covered & there’s no drainage. He is on Tramadol, cephalexin and caprophen. I noticed he hasn’t had a bowel movement since we’ve been home. He also doesn’t really have an appetite either but I’m thinking it’s because of the pills. I do encourage food & water though. He can walk out side to go potty which is good. He is restless & lastnight we both didn’t get any sleep. He does appear to be dazed & sleepy die to the medication. I’m so thankful for this site because I don’t think I could’ve handled all this without knowing others have been in our situation. I’m praying for better days & I do have faith in my 7 month old pit that’s why I chose to amputate despite the negativity of others.

    • Welcome, and bless you for taking care of Harley. Please consider posting in the forums where you’ll likely receive much more feedback and support from members.

  5. My buddy Haze got his leg amputated a week ago and I was wondering is discharge normal to come from one area of the site? It’s a clear reddish color, just really worried… It started today I keep soaking it up with tissue. Any advice would be helpful

  6. My ten year old golden retriever was hit by a car yesterday. His back leg is messed up and the vet does not think it will work again. He has arthritis but once he gets up, he is very happy and a fast runner. He loves playing with all the dogs and children in the neighborhood. The vet was hinting at putting him down but my family hates to do that when he is so happy. Even through his pain, he still wags his tail when we come in the room. We brought him home for a few days with a bandage over his wound. He can’t get up and he won’t eat and take his medicine. Luckily, he will still drink water. Do many older dogs make the transition to three legs without too many problems?

    • Hi Ashley, we’re sorry to hear about you pup but glad you found us. What’s his name?

      Please post in the forums for much more advice and support from members. Search there and you will find plenty of success stories about senior dogs doing well on three legs!

    • Ashley,
      Just wondering how your dog made out after his amputation. I just had my dogs front right leg amputated 3 days ago on July 15, 2104. He is also a senior dog and he too won’t stand. When we try to help with a towel under is belly he seems to have no strength. Either that or he is resisting our help. It’s as if he is almost paralysed. Perhaps he is just unsure of himself. Whatever it is, I am at such a loss. What was the outcome with your dog? Anything you can share would be greatly appreciated.

      • Jerry survived two years, and enjoyed a great quality of life after recovery from his amputation. Read his story for more information. Review his reading list for lots of helpful links, and please consider searching and posting in the forums where you will find much more advice and support from members.

        Or, download the Tripawds e-books for immediate answers to the most common recovery and care concerns.

  7. My dog, Jack, is a 7 year old bull mastiff Yesterday his left rear leg was amputated due to an osteosarcoma tumoir in his tibia. We brought hiim home today and he was abke to walk in the house pretty much by himself. My husband and I have tried twice to get him to go outside to pee. It is all can do to get him to stand upand go outside.when we get him outside, he just plopps down on the patio and will not get up to get to the grass to pee. Both times we ended up bringing back inside. We have tried using a towel to assist him and we are really trying to encourage to get up on his own in standing and walking, any other ideas to help get him to stand and walk outside.

    • Crystal,

      How did you dog do going forward? We have an 8 year old Rottweiler that had his rear right leg amputated Tuesday and today is Thursday. We can get him to stand and go outside to pee but he has not pooped and he only gets up the three times we really push him to get up and go out. He seems like he is weak. We too have tried the towel but he seems to freeze up when we use it. Does better without. He does have a good appetite, but otherwise is fairly lethargic. Any information on how things went for you would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks

      Kathy

      • Kathy, in case Crystal has not subscribed to receive comment replies, you may want to post in the forums where you will receive much more feedback from members. Or, search the blogs and consider downloading the Tripawds e-books for plenty of recovery and care tips.

        It is still very early in your pup’s recovery! All he really needs right now is confinement and lots of rest.

  8. I have a boxer that is 5 years old, Saturday 9/22/2012 she was diagnosed with a grade 2 mast cell tumor on her hind right leg and the vet wants to amputate. She is a very timid dog and they are giving her around 70 months if the cancer doesnt spead. They could not get all of the tumor because of the location on her leg, it was not the knee but the joint below that. She is recovering well from her surgery to remove the tumor and is getting around fine on her leg, I feel like if we procede with the surgery, her personality will change she is so timid and a little skidish, she has always been this way depite socialization efforts. Should we amputate of let her have time with all her legs? How do you make this decision?

    • Hi Summer, I’m so sorry to hear about your pup. Yes, it’s definitely hard to make this decision! You have to weigh her personality and health factors into the decision, but keep in mind that her timid nature probably isn’t something that involves human emotions like shame or embarassment — those are human behaviors surrounding amputation, and something that only people deal with when they look different. Dogs don’t care if they look different they only want to feel good. While amputation isn’t right for every dog, if your vet thinks she is a good candidate then it’s definitely an option. Sometimes the biggest factor is, can you be strong for her and project confidence when she needs it most, during the recovery? If you can do this, she should be fine on three legs. For more ideas and support, please visit our Discussion Forums where you can meet other pawrents who had to make this ruff choice. Good luck, please keep us posted!

  9. Tiffany Compton July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Our 10 year old lab, Capone, had his left front leg amputated today. Surgeon called about an hour ago and said he handled his surgery and is currently waking up. Excited to go and visit with him tomorrow. I know after time he will be the same “happy lab” he was before surgery but without pain which is FANTASTIC! He will start chemotherapy in a couple of weeks after he has healed to help treat the osteosarcoma. We just want to give him the most pleasant life possible for the time he has left. He has been such a great friend and companion and deserves nothing but the best.

  10. My wee girl Kessa (small sibe) is having her left front leg amputated as I write. I separated and now live in a duplex upper with stairs. It ( the stairs),was very nearly the defining factor in terms of a surgery decision. Your site helped me make the right call!
    Thank you so much!!!

  11. Our boy Chip has just had a spindle cell tumor removed from his left front leg. We are in the process of trying to find the right treatment for him. We have asked about amputation, but our vet feels that our dogs size prohibits that as an option. (114# Newfoundland) We are also looking at radiation and Metronomic therapy. Has anyone had their fur person have this type of tumor and what has been your course of treatment and success/failure? Seeing some of the large breed dogs on this page has given me hope that amputation is more of an option that we may have thought if the other treatments are not.

    • Hi Chips peeps, sorry about the delay in replying.

      What we like to say if someone’s vet says their dog isn’t a candidate, is to get a second opinion. We’ve had numerous dogs here who are larger than Chip do just fine on three legs. While it is more of a challenge for them, most do get along fine. A few did have challenges they couldn’t overcome but that was due to the cancer, not to being a Tripawd. Even those dogs have pawrents that say they didn’t regret going through amputation.

      Oslo, another Newfie, is one pup who I’m thinking of. YOu can follow along with his progress in the Forums here. Feel free to PM his pawrents, I’m sure they would be happy to tell you how he coped with being a Tripawd.

  12. O.K. I am lost. My lab/boxer mix somehow got a carpal hyperextention of her right from leg and I don’t know what to do. She was the fastest running dog I have ever seen and really enjoyed just going out there and running. Now…she hops around. The swelling is going down. Yes, I took her to the vet. My options…sugery, amputation or, and I don’t know if this will work, a splint on-and-off for the rest of her life. She’s approx. 6 years old and is really smart and fun loving. I have four dogs so they love to play. Does anybody have any wisdom for this poor mom who can’t figure out what to do?

    • First, we’re very sorry to hear about your pup. Does she have a name?

      Far too many times we have heard from people putting their dogs through multiple, painful, expensive surgeries trying to “save the leg” only to wind up amputating anyway. You’re in luck, without cancer being a factor you have the option of rehab, and if necessary a few weeks of recovery after amputation before your girl may be running like the wind again. Check the videos page for some amazing three legged dogs, then post in the forums for plenty of advice and support.

      Contact a certified veterinary rehab specialist and don’t miss our video interviews with California Animal Rehab. Most importantly, understand that you are not alone in the decisions you face and this is by no means the end. She was born with three legs and a spare.

      You’ll find lots of more recovery and care tips in Jerry’s Required Reading List, and for immediate answers to the most common dog amputation questions download the new Tripawds e-book Three Legs and A Spare.

      Best wishes.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Top Five Questions People Ask About Dog Amputation and Living with Cancer | tripawds.com - March 13, 2009

    […] As promised, here are five more questions we often get asked from nervous Tripawd pawrents-to-be. Click here to see the first five. […]

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    […] for us. We are so grateful. All of you guys have really helped us through this! Your posting about The Top Five Questions About Amputation And Coping with Bone Cancer is going to help a lot of folks with this tough […]

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