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To amputate or not? | Presentation and Diagnosis


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To amputate or not?
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Forum Posts: 2
Member Since:
15 August 2017
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15 August 2017 - 1:09 am
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We are finding this a difficult choice.

We have a 5 year old rescued German Shepherd that has in the past (before we had her) had a bad injury to her right foreleg, which broke one of her bones below the elbow badly, and injured her foot.  It has healed on its own so her leg is a little bent, one toe is missing, another has fused and the other toes are thin and kind of stretched and gangly.

When she is standing she nearly always holds this leg up.  However she uses it when she runs.  She also uses it like an arm - to initiate play, to poke and hold things.  Our vet has looked at videos of her running and says she runs like a 3 legged dog and though she does use it she is not putting much weight on it and it must hurt her.  She is the type of dog that does not show pain at all and we cannot tell when she hurts.

Bone cancer is mostly ruled out although there is a slight shadow in one bone that may or may not be the start of it (waiting on secondary opinion).  

We were referred to find out options for her - we were hoping her wrist could be fused and she could use the leg fully.  However this is not an option - the paw is too damaged for this.  The vet has recommended full leg amputation.

We want to do what is best for her.  We understand she would cope with 3 legs (she is already a mostly 3 legged dog and would hardly even need to learn to walk again as she mostly uses 3 legs when walking).  However she uses her bad leg like an arm - when she comes up to us to talk to us she'll put her bad paw on our knee to lift up to us.  She uses it to hold things to eat.  She prods our other dog to play.   If it were me, and I had a bad arm that I couldn't use very much, and sometimes it hurt, but I could use it for a few things, would I want to keep it?  Yes, I would.   But we don't know how much pain she is in.  

The slight possibility that there may be a bone cancer lurking makes us lean towards the amputation, and we do trust the vets opinion, but are we doing the right thing in cutting off her "arm" ?  Is there anything like foot prosthetics done in the UK? 

The Rainbow Bridge

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15 August 2017 - 10:08 am
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Hi and welcome! Your next posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

What is your pup's name? She sounds like a great dog, and yes those Shepherds are indeed good at hiding their pain. Our own Wyatt Ray is the same way (he is a rear leg Tripawd).

I'm so glad you posted, because you're right, this is a tough situation. When the diagnosis is uncertain it makes things so much harder. Has an oncologist looked at her x-rays yet? If not I recommend having a cancer specialist review her case. Two opinions are always so much better than one in a situation like hers.

If it's not cancer, she sounds like a GREAT candidate for an artificial limb! What you are describing is exactly what Martin Kauffman, founder of OrthoPets pet prosthetics , talks about in these video interviews we conducted with him. He calls it "the chicken wing" and it's an ideal situation for a prosthesis as long as the pet parent is willing and able to commit to the financial and training costs associated with getting one for a pet.


And yes, OrthoPets has a UK division and works with vets there, so I would definitely get in touch with them. They are one of the best you can get and the most experienced.

Even if it is cancer, a prosthetic can still be valuable. It really depends on whether or not the whole limb has to be removed. An oncologist can tell you about that.

For now I wouldn't rush to a full leg amputation just yet, until you have more answers. If we had any say in how our own Wyatt's amputation was done, we would have agreed to a partial limb amputation in order to try a prosthesis on him. It would have made a difference in his quality of life, especially as he ages. That's just our take though, everyone is different and one must remember that a prosthetic isn't a "wear and go" device at first. But most animals learn do adapt really well if their human is committed.

Keep us posted on how things go OK? We're very interested in following along.

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Forum Posts: 2
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16 August 2017 - 11:36 am
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Her name is Yoko, and yes, we are not rushing into this.  She has been stable in this condition for a long time, we think, and she is used to it.  The uncertainty is the pain, but even after she has run hard on it, she may hop for a few steps, and then walk on it.

Our referred vet is now on holiday for 10 days and the results from the second opinion will be in then, but I am not sure if this is an oncology opinion or not.  They were unable to get a biopsy during the ct scan - her bones were too hard and this was non-invasive tests.

So 10 days now to sit and worry about it all.

Here and Now

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16 August 2017 - 12:30 pm
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ragali said
The uncertainty is the pain...

Dogs are incredibly resilient, and quite good at hiding their pain. Consider reviewing the various pain management posts in the Tripawds News blog for tips on deciphering uncommon pain's just one to help you get started:

Pain Signs in Cats and Dogs: Learn the Symptoms

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