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Opinion requested on VERY healthy, VERY active 16-year-old Alaskan husky
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18 June 2015 - 7:28 pm
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I'll cut right to the chase. This is Booger. She is 16, but still covers some 40 miles a week with me, hiking, skiing, etc. I also have her sister, who is in equally amazing shape for an old lady, and an 8-year-old who is headed in the same direction!

booger

Booger's had a cancerous tumor on her wrist, and it's back for the 3rd time after 2 surgeries. Our vet said that he could not get clean margins, and it was fibrous and bad, and while it was unlikely to metastasize, it would always grow back, and worse each time. (It's a 'hemangiopericytoma' if anyone is curious.) Sure enough, it's back again, and I'm a bit at a loss. The options he lined up for us are:

1) Do nothing. In time, it would grow so big (though without pain) that it would cut off the blood supply to her paw, and she'd be so uncomfy we'd have to put her to sleep at some point. He estimated about a year.

2) Radiation therapy has a high success rate for this type of tumor, but it's 3.5 weeks long and we don't have it in Alaska where we live. So I'd have to send her to Washington state for 3.5 weeks. She is friendly, sociable, and travels well, but she has a poor appetite, which I'm not sure would go over well in someone else's care.

3) Amputation. My vet said that ordinarily he would never recommend this on a 16-year-old dog, but she is in such great shape (and bouncy like a baby goat!), that she might recover fine.

Other factors to take into account are:

(1) She is very bonded to us, and we to her. A month's separation would be very difficult.

(2) We do not want to take money into account in this decision. It would be about $5000, which is a lot, but affordable for us.

I guess what it boils down to is, we don't know what a month without Booger will buy us in time and quality of life. A year from now, which is her projected life span WITH the tumor, Booger will be 17, which is already a good run for a dog. Hell, 16 is already a good run! But if she's still otherwise in great shape at 17 and I'd know that otherwise she'd have had yet another year without the tumor, I'd kick myself for not having taken this chance now... So we're totally on the fence about the radiation!

I've come to you for advice regarding the amputation. She could be with us during her recovery, but would she be horrified to wake up with her arm gone? How would this go?

If anyone here would be so kind as to offer an opinion, I'd really appreciate it! And I apologize for just popping on here like this with no proper intro. It's probably terrible netiquette, but we have to make a decision within a few days, to align travel and bookings and such. Thank you all!

Arvay

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18 June 2015 - 10:52 pm
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Welcome, I don't think there is much "netiquette" here. Everyone here is open to share their experiences, opinions and ideas.

Sorry to hear about the tumour that keeps returning. Whereas the amputation is most "risky", because it's major surgery, there are many older dogs that manage well on 3 legs. My cat had her front leg amputated last year and I don't think it has even phased her. When they wake up from the surgery they are too drugged to even realize their leg is missing and when they see you they are very happy to be going home. Cats and dogs don't dwell on the past. They just get on with life and do what they enjoy.

I'm not experienced with radiation but I understand radiation sometimes is only used to shrink the tumour or to delay the reoccurrence of the tumour. Is the radiation expected to cure the cancer so that there is no regrowth?

If you are still considering radiation have you considered going to Vancouver BC? The Canadian $ is pretty low these days.

I'm sure many others will chime in. Please know that no matter what decision you make it will be the right one for you and your pet.

Kerren and Tripawd Mona

Los Angeles, CA
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19 June 2015 - 10:45 am
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I don't really have any advice as this is a very personal decision but OMG ... 16! That's amazing... .I am in awe of that for a husky. She's beautiful.

Who would the month be harder on? You or her? I do get that as a possible challenge ... my girl was in the hospital for 2 days but I could visit so that was better. But the first week or so they are pretty druggy so she might not notice where she is. 

They don't really wake up and think ... where is my leg? Dogs don't process things like that. They instantly (*usually) figure out how to walk on three legs like they've done it their whole life. Shelby walked herself out of the hospital the first night to go to the potty. It is much harder on a human to process that ... 

But I am sure others will chime in. Keep us posted! We are all here for you!!!

Alison with Spirit Shelby in her heart 

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

The Rainbow Bridge

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19 June 2015 - 11:00 am
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Arvay, welcome! You don't need a 'formal' introduction here, your first post was just perfect.

It's such a weird coincidence that you joined. I'm about to publish a blog post about a long-time Tripawds friend who lost her cabin in Willow. Are you anywhere nearby? I hope you and your pack are safe and far from the fires. Stay tuned to the Tripawds News blog today, it'll run soon.

Anyhow, this friend is exactly who I would point you to. Her dog, Calpurnia, was an awesome husky mushing dog who was 12 when she lost her leg and she lived to a ripe old age of around 16. If anyone knows about older husky sled dogs, Calpurnia's Mom TC does so I encourage you to contact her. I'll also let her know you joined.

Huskies are a pretty tough breed. It sounds like you have the confidence that she has enough spunk and sparkle left to bounce back from amputation or radiation therapy recovery. How confident are you with your vet? It's fab that s/he believes your dog is a good candidate. As long as your vet has the right equipment, anesthesia, etc., she should do OK. It's really a gut-instinct decision that only you can make, since you know her best. But knowing what I've seen with Huskies here, they do really well as Tripawds at any age.

Here are some links that can help.

The Size and Age Matters Forum is full of stories about senior dogs on 3.

How to Choose a Vet for Amputation Surgery

I hope this helps. Let us know what you decide OK?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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19 June 2015 - 11:15 am
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Welcome to Tripawds!  as others have said, don't worry about Booger feeling depressed because her leg is gone.  If she has done surgery on that leg already, and if perhaps she is feeling some discomfort, she may probably be using the other side more already.  They quickly figure out how to deal with it, especially if it's a girl and especially a front-amp, since she won't have difficulties with potty issues.  

In senior dogs, my main worry would be the anesthesia for the surgery, because it is major surgery.  Your vet will be the one to give the call on this.  She should stay 1 or 2 days at the hospital before coming home.

Don't have any experience with radiation either.  

Of all the options, I would rule out #1 because it sounds like it would reduce Booger's quality of life. 

Daniela & Johnnie

Our awesome Golden Boy was diagnosed for OSA in April 2014 in the proximal humerus, front-leg amp on 05/20/2014. Finished chemo (Carbo6) on 07/10/2014. May 2015: altered liver enzymes. July 2015 chest X-ray clear, liver enzymes greatly improved.   Ongoing treatment: acupuncture + K-9 Immunity Plus ( 3chews)and home-cooked no-grain diet.   Stopped Apocaps because of liver issues. 

Virginia
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19 June 2015 - 11:28 am
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WOW! What an amazing "puppy" Booger is!!! This kind of longevity is what we all hope for...seeing our dogs and cats going into their senior years living life to the fullest

This is such a personal choice, a tough one and one that is not clear cut. Time frames, statistics, etc., all best guesses.

No one knows your dog better than you. It sounds like separation for this length of time would be very hard on her. It may even cause unexpected setbacks due to the stress of that separation at her age and with her bond to you. In doggy hears, one month away from his family and being in a hospital environment is a long time.

AND, one year in doggy years is a loooong time....seven years in human lives!!

I know those of us on those site understand that dogs do very well on three legs, that's for sure. Every dog's case is different though. The age factor certainly must be considered kn this case. Amputation is MAJOR surgery and is not without risks.

I know the fact that it would take a year to grow into a real problem is just a guess, but an educated guess. And I don't mean to sound negative, but "probably" Booger would develop "normal old age" health issues that would be more of a challenge than the leg as she goes into her seventeen year!!! Not doing something IS also a treatment !

Have a "conversation" with Booger. From what you've said Booger would probably NOT want to be away from you in a strange hospital being poked and prodded for a month....even IF it meant extended time. She may, or may not, also let you know she just wants to continue enjoying his life as it is with you now! She sounds like the kind of dog who would take "quality over quantity" anyday!

Also, you could check into holistic alternatives...adding supplements and good nutrition, etc.

Whatever decision you make, it will be out of love and with Booger's best interest at heart. That's always a right decision!!

Sending you love, clarity and serenity as you listen to Booger and her wishes

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

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19 June 2015 - 1:41 pm
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Thank you for the responses so far! We are not near Willow, but Willow is a hotbed of mushing, and there are many, many dogs there and both they and their humans appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I know quite a few of them were evacuated safely, but also that many homes were lost.

Jerry, thank you for the "introduction" to Calpurnia. I followed the links to a video of her running happily along. That's what I hope for for Booger! Would you please tell me how to get in touch with TC? Is there a message feature to this board?

I had another thought as I was driving home last night and wondered... would a prosthetic help ease her transition to tripawd life? I mean, heck, if we are willing to throw ten grand into radiation (including travel costs), I'm sure we could get a super high end, custom fit prosthetic for that amount of money! I've seen some for human runners that are a simple leaf spring, instead of a complicated articulated contraption. I think Booger would like something like that.

http://spectrum.....n-to-run/0

I think we're leaning against sending Booger to Washington. Maybe it's selfishness on my part, because a month without Booger would be like a month without sunshine. And at her age, anything could happen at any time, so a month is very precious. A month taken away that she could have spent hiking with us and eating salmon on the couch. A friend of mine just last weekend suddenly lost an apparently healthy young dog when an undetected tumor on her spleen burst, and even though she was in the vet's office in twenty minutes, she could not recover from the blood loss.

So... any opinions/recommendations on prosthetics? And am I correct in assuming that we can now take our time with this surgery? i.e., wait until the tumor is bothering her, before we do it?

Thank you again! You all seem so kind!

Arvay

P.S. My vet did agree to give one last crack at removing what he can, so Booger is going to have one more surgery next Thursday. He is not concerned about anesthesia with her; she and her sister have both had recent blood work done since they are one hormone replacement therapy. He said they are rock stars! He never hesitates to knock them out even for benign tumor removal. The last time we had this wrist thing taken out was last February. She recovered well; she even learned how to get on the couch with her cone:

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The Rainbow Bridge

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20 June 2015 - 10:33 am
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Ohhh love the pic of the pooches!

You sound so much more optimistic, that's wonderful to read. OK, in answer to your questions:

Would you please tell me how to get in touch with TC? Is there a message feature to this board?

Absolutely. Glad you're not near Willow. We just wrote about TC's home that burned here. If you go to that Forum, look at her response and you can Private Message her via that post. Here's what I mean. The arrow on the right is the PM button. You can also PM her through her profile (left arrow). Thanks for the reminder, I will also let her know you want to get in touch in case she misses your message.

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would a prosthetic help ease her transition to tripawd life?

Possibly. It depends on the location of the tumor. A prosthetic has to be considered before the operation and done in conjunction with an ortho surgeon and the manufacturer to assure she gets a good fit. Our interviews with OrthoPets explain all about prosthetics for amputee animals.

I'm really sorry to hear about your friend's dog, that's just awful, please give her our condolences. Losing an animal so suddenly is just unimaginable.

It sure sounds like you're on the right track; it's all about quality of life. Keep up the pawsitivity. We'll be thinking about Booger on surgery day so keep us posted. And be safe up there, looks like one scary fire season in your part of the country.

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22 June 2015 - 3:16 pm
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Thank you for your kind thoughts. I'll keep you posted on how surgery goes, and if my vet has a new opinion after doing it!

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25 June 2015 - 1:39 pm
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Hello everyone who is still reading this. Booger's surgery was today, and my vet just called and reported that the surgery went well, the tumor is not growing more, he removed 90% of it, and he felt comfortable to do this over and over until she dies of something else. He also said that while the tumor was sending out fibers into her muscle tissue, they were directed toward her paw, and not toward her elbow, so she's definitely a candidate for amputation later if we decide to go that route.

I'm so happy and relieved!

Thank you all so much for your support and kindness. I really appreciate it.

Arvay

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25 June 2015 - 4:53 pm
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Thanks for the update! Glad to hear Booger is doing well. smiley

"Dogs are born with three legs and a spare."
— Jerry G. Dawg (10/98-10/08)
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Virginia
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25 June 2015 - 11:40 pm
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YAAAAAAAAAY FOR BOOGER!!

Sounds like the surgery went even better than expected. That's quite an amazing pup you have!

Now get on with living life to the fullest with Booger ! No worrying about the tomorrows, just love and spoil today! You've got some great bonus time just waiting to be shared betweennyou and Booger. Savor every second and take lots of pictures! We love pictures around here!

Thanks for the update! Considering the circumstances, it really is good news!

A scoop of ice cream for Booger tonight! Is Booger home by now? Steak too!

Love and hugs!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

The Rainbow Bridge

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26 June 2015 - 8:45 am
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That's really terrific! I love hearing the happiness in your voice. Here's to a relaxing weekend of recuperation together!

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27 June 2015 - 6:07 pm
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Thanks, guys! Booger says thank you for all of your good wishes. It was only one clean incision, which should heal up nicely!

Virginia
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27 June 2015 - 9:25 pm
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A very, very handsome fella' indeed! Very pretty...in a manly sort of way!!

He does not show his "age" one bit in that picture! Looks young and virbrant and HEALTHY!! I was owned by a Husky for thirteen years one time and I thought that was rather "old"! Booger proves age is just a number!

Please continue to stay connected and share more of this delightful boy's journey AND pictures!! Yoive made a decision out of love...out of giving Booger quality...a decision understanding who Booger is and what works best for him.....a right decision I deed!

Hugs to all!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

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