Each week, nervous Dog Moms and Dog Dads contact me, wondering how we dogs do after amputation. They want to know what the post-op procedures are like, and how dogs handle chemotherapy. And while all dogs respond a little differently to all of this, most of us bounce back right away!
Kiva is one of my new tripawd friends, and she is recovering nicely after losing her front right leg. What a great Christmas present; the gift of a pain-free life, and another chance at being a healthy, happy dog!
Her Mom Jolene has graciously allowed us to share her account of the first few days after Kiva’s surgery. We hope this gives you a small picture of what it’s like to bring a dog home after surgery, and what to expect if you’re participating in chemotherapy.
Kiva’s Mom says that if you want to chat about her experience with amputation and chemo, please post your questions here and she will do her best to answer them.
December 11: Post-Surgery Trials
Kiva had a bit of a hard time following her surgery. The amputation itself went just fine. She got up for the first time all on her own and she dragged the vet student down the hallway when they went to go outside for the first time.
Second Guessing the Decision
When I got her home she pretty much cried for two days and nights straight. It broke my heart to think she was in so much pain. I had a bit of a freak out moment wondering what I did to her. I had to keep telling myself it was the best thing for her and that she was no longer in pain.
A Visit to the ER
The morning after we got her home it snowed and we had freezing rain. Kiva had a hard enough time learning to go to the bathroom on three legs. Now she had to try and go in 6 inches of snow and ice. It did not work so well. She went about 30 hours without going to the bathroom…at all!
I finally called the emergency vet service on Sunday morning and they asked me to bring her in for an overnight stay. So I just got her home on Friday and I had to take her back on Sunday. They gave her a catheter to drain the bladder and culture the urine. She was severely dehydrated but everything else was normal.
Basically, there was no physical reason why she shouldn’t go to the bathroom. So they sent us home with a pep talk and enough IV bags for a week. I give her 2 – 1000mL bags a day with the needle and IV drip to keep her hydrated. Now, she is going to the bathroom on a regular basis (even though we have had at least another 6 inches of snow) and she seems much more comfortable.
Hopping on Ice
She only needs help walking when we are outside in the snow and when she first gets up in the morning. She has cuts on two of her remaining feet from hopping on the ice, one she got when she was at the vet office and one she got at home. So for awhile she is limping AND trying to adjust to having three legs! Poor baby!!
Getting Comfortable on Three Legs
I finally feel like she is adjusting to the amputation. She seems happier and more comfortable and I continue to do research to keep my mind in the positive. For at least a few days I had all kinds of second guesses. When she was crying all night long or when she struggled to go to the bathroom or when she was hopping around in the snow or when I got frustrated and was less than patient with her or about a hundred times a day when I looked at her and felt bad.
However, I know I did the right thing. When I think of the alternative there is no question that I could have done anything else. It has just been me and her for the last five years and I want her to be around for as long as possible!
December 16: Chemotherapy and Clinical Trials
Round One; Carboplatin
Kiva received her first round of chemotherapy, Carboplatin, on Thursday. It is now Sunday and she doesn’t seem to be affected much. She seems a little more tired then usual but that’s it. If she does have adverse affects from the chemo I think they would really start today.
Round Two: Pamidronate
Next week she gets her first round of the clinical trial drug, Pamidronate. This is a drug that would be used in humans to treat osteoporosis. It travels through the blood stream and looks for areas of bone weakness and attaches to it to help it stay strong. It is also done with an IV but takes 2 hours to administer instead of the 10 minutes it takes to give the Carboplatin.
Her schedule will be:
Chemotherapy every 3 weeks for four rounds.
The first four rounds of the Pamidronate will be administered one week after each round of Carboplatin.
The next four rounds of Pamidronate will be administered every 2 months.
Blood work is done with every visit and she receives 7 Thoracic Radiographs throughout the process to determine if the cancer is spreading.
Wow, putting in writing really makes it seem real. It seems to be a lot of poking and prodding and needles and time away from me.
Be Aware: Clinical Trials and Autopsy Waivers
Another thing that really surprised me and should be thought about if participating in a clinical trial is the fact that they have the right to autopsy her body when she dies. I was completely taken aback when I was asked to sign the consent form saying I would make every opportunity to get her body there for autopsy. When I think about it now, it makes sense that this would be a part of the deal. How else are they going to get really good information if the drug is working. But, it never crossed my mind and it really got to me.
I think it’s important for people to know this ahead of time so they don’t have to hear about it for the first time while signing the consent papers. I don’t know why this is getting to me so much. I don’t know what other plans I had for her after she passes. I’m certainly not going to dig a hole for a 145lb dog in my backyard. I don’t know I think I have to think about this some more.
Participation in Osteosarcoma Research Projects
I have also chosen to send a sample of her blood to another research project involving dogs and osteosarcoma. The University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are looking for potential genetic risk factors for bone cancer in dogs.
The research group is also starting studies for other illnesses in dogs. It is called the Dog Genome Project. I emailed one of the doctors and she send me a blood collection kit that I gave to my vet and they mailed it out. Along with the blood and the consent form, owners also have to send the diagnosis from the lab and have at least a three generation pedigree and be registered with the AKC. I’m assuming this is how they are going to find those genetic links.
Amputation and Chemo Costs
Money was another thing that has really surprised me. It is costing much more then what I found when I researched. I am sure that is because of her size, but wow! It’s a good thing I have been working full time for 7 years and have no husband or kids. I have just enough money saved up to take care of things.