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Five More Questions About Amputation and Coping with Bone Cancer

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

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

Question #6: “My dog just had surgery a few days ago, and the incision area is all puffy and swollen. Is it normal?”

Dog amputation seroma photoIf your dog is about to undergo amputation surgery, it’s important that you know about seromas. They can occur anytime after a surgery like amputation, spaying, etc., but they are relatively harmless.

But what exactly is a seroma? According to Michigan Veterinary Specialists,

“Seromas may occur at the surgical site. A seroma is an accumulation of fluid in the tissues. The body will usually absorb the fluid, but the fluid is sometimes drained if needed.”

Think about it; a body is full of fluids that circulate around, right? Well, if a limb suddenly goes away, where’s all that fluid going to go? The body can reabsorb most of it, but sometimes fluid can build up at the place of least resistance, the surgery site.

Check your dog’s surgery site daily, and look for a puffy, watery build up in the area. Keep some hydrogen peroxide wipes handy in case you see fluid leaking. If you suspect a seroma, call your vet to discuss it, and find out if you’ll need to go in and have it drained (an easy, in-office procedure).

A hot/cold pack, like Bella’s Pain Relief Pack, will help reduce swelling.

To see more seroma photos, click here.

Question #7: “My Tripawd Dog Has Bone Cancer. Should we do chemotherapy?”

Dog cancer Lung metastasis x ray photoFirst, get high quality chest x-rays and discuss the chemo options with an oncologist or specialist. If the lungs are clear, chemo maybe a good decision, if it is affordable for you (it can cost $500 to $1000 per treatment for bigger dogs).

Everyone is different, and chemo may be right for some dogs and not others. Young dogs and those with an elevated Alkphos (this is a bloodtest measuring a bone enzyme) tend to fare poorly. And for dogs with bone cancer, chemotherapy rarely cures it, but can slow down the rate of metastasis to the lungs or to other bones. There is no point to giving traditional chemo drugs like carboplatin if the cancer is already elsewhere, but the metronomic protocol may keep the mets smaller. This does not mean you shouldn’t try chemo with these dogs, but it might help you make your decision.

But if doing chemo isn’t going to work for your situation, don’t be hard on yourself, because there is always a chance that you can still have a great quality of life without it, through supplements, diet., etc. Either way, with or without chemotherapy, nothing is guaranteed, but as long as pawrents can give their fur kid a fighting chance as best they can, that’s all that matters.

Question #8: “My dog sometimes cries out and licks the area where his leg used to be. like it’s sore. I think he’s depressed that his leg is gone. Why is he acting like this?”

Three legged sled dog musher calpurniaYour dog may be experiencing “phantom pains,” a common condition in human amputees, and dogs are suspected to also experience it. Phantom pains are pain and sensations in the missing limb. Our friend Calpurnia says:

There are many theories as to why this occurs, but the bottom line is the pain is real. The most current theory . . . is that the brain has an idea of what the body looks like, a “map” that it refers to. After amputation, the map in the brain is still a whole body, as it takes time for the brain to re-map to the new body configuration. Because the brain is expecting input frm the missing limb and not getting any, it sends a sort of panic signal that is interpreted as pain. One way that we might be able to help the brain re-map itself is to increase circulation and provide gentle stimulus . . . “

Calpurnia goes on to list ways that you can do this, in a blog post about phantom pain, here.find fast answers in tripawds ebooks

Question #9: “When will my dog be able to get back to hiking and swimming again?”

Three legged golden retriever swimmingEvery story is different, and while most of us make a quick recovery, please don’t expect miracles.

All in all, Tripawds can do just about anything that four legged fur babies can do, but in more limited time spans. For example, after recovering, a Tripawd’s walk will typically become shorter. Also, things like frisbee and jumping onto the bed should be exercised with caution.

The best thing we recommend for three legged dogs, is shorter walks, more often. After the recovery period, try taking your tripawd for three to four 15 min. walks a day, instead of trying to walk for an hour like you used to.

It’s easier for Tripawds to hop along at a quick pace than it is for us to walk, so we tire easily. But don’t make it a race, ’cause we will try to win. We dogs don’t like to show our weakness. We will overdo it. It’s up to you to monitor your Tripawd’s fitness and endurance. If we overdo it one day, it might take us three days to recover from it.

A canine buoyancy vest will provide tremendous support to Tripawd dogs in the water, and a Ruffwear harness will be valuable during hikes.

Take plenty of water with you, and allow for some breaks. If your Tripawd stops often, pants, and needs to rest, sit down with her for a few minutes and get her to drink some water. A walk that used to take 10 minutes might now take 20.

Giant breed mastiff TitanAfter my surgery, try to avoid running and playing at all for about three weeks. Then slowly start with just brief walks – a hundred yards or so. Work your way up to longer walks. It may be a while before your dog is comfortable taking a half mile walk for at least a few months.

Your dog’s opposing leg will get beefed up to compensate for the extra weight, but you may not notice it for a few months.

There is no “standard” range, time, or distance to expect. Please just take it easy and take your time. Your dog may just prove us all wrong and be running long distance before you know it. Every story is different. Whatever you do, don’t go too far, too soon, with your dog.

Visit the Resources Page for many more helpful links!

Question #10: “How will other dogs react to my Tripawd?”

My Mom was worried about that when I came home after surgery, but in the end she had nothing to worry about.

Three legged german shepherd dog partyImmediately after surgery, some dogs will sniff and check out the new Tripawd, but that’s probably because your dog is still carrying the scent of surgery and medicine. Plus, the medication that’s passing through her system will also emit an odor that only dogs seem to be aware of. As the days go by, that will pass.

We think that most dogs don’t even notice when another canine is missing a limb. However on a few occasions, we ‘ve observed that sometimes dogs that would have roughhoused together won’t anymore. That could be a sign that the four legger senses that the Tripawd is different, maybe weaker, and he doesn’t want to hurt her. Or, it could just be that the dogs don’t want to play together.

The important thing is not to read too much on it. We think the only reason that four legged dogs may be unfriendly toward Tripawds, is because of the mindset of the Tripawd pawrent. If the human is projecting fearful or nervous energy toward the other pack, the stronger dogs will pick up on it and act accordingly. Don’t show your nervousness, and don’t be afraid about how other dogs will react. Be the strong pack leader, and we’ll bet that any dogs you encounter will give you and your Tripawd the respect you deserve.

Humans though, they’re another story . . .

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

46 thoughts on “Five More Questions About Amputation and Coping with Bone Cancer”

  1. Thank you so much for posting part 1 and part 2. I’m currently sitting in my living room while our greyhound is in her crate next to me – I collected her 12 hours ago following a front limb amputation for osteosarcoma. It has been the most harrowing thing I think I’ve ever done, given how dopey she was, yet how much she wants to stand up and move aboit. However, we just got back inside after a successful 4am hobble outside (with a sling to assist) to toilet. I think I can see the light. Nice to know I’m not alone in this!

    • Welcome to the club nopawdy ever wants to join, and best wishes for a speedy recovery! Start here for help finding the many Tripawds resources. As a Greyhound lover, you should especially enjoy the Be More Dog podcast from our keynote at the 2012 Greyhounds Rock canine cancer conference.

  2. Well. Thank you VERY much for all of this, as I picked up one of my dogs (I have four) from the vet today. She is a 7 yr old GSD and she too had amputation yesterday morning. They removed all of her left hind leg due the horrid, all too common cancer we suffer in our world. I feel much calmer inside after reading all of these posts and will head to your forums next. Thank you again, so very much for all of this sharing! Happy New Year to everyone. =)

  3. Today we picked up our beautiful 9 year old Golden Newfie, Tiffany, after having her front right leg amputated on Thursday due to Osteosarcoma. Since being diagnosed on Aug 8 we have been overwhelmed with emotion an have looked at your site daily for information and to find the courage to get through this. Thank you.
    Penny, John, Adam, Emma & Tiffany

    • Penny
      Sending prayers to Tiffany & your family as you get through this difficult time but you will get through believe me with the Tripawd community & the love you have for each other
      I lost my Angel Jackson in April 12, 2016 after 7 months post amputation & cancer treatment. He was my ‘fur baby’ & I’m forever grateful for him in my life. Be strong, cry when you need to, keep reaching out to the Tripawd community for support (they are an incredible inspiration & will help you in the toughest times) never give up & enjoy all the
      beautiful blessings you have with Tiffany everyday of her life. Just “BE”
      Andrea & Angel Jackson

      • Beautiful advice, Andrea. Thank you so much for taking time to offer support and share Jackson’s story. You are no doubt making him so proud. (((hugs)))

    • I have a golden was just diagnosed with bone cancer in his front right leg and we don’t know whether to do the amputation or not. He’s on pain meds but still wines one just laying down and it’s so heartbreaking to see him in pain but he has a great appetite still and loves tummy tickles I just don’t know what to do… How long did your dog live after amputation and are you glad you did it?

      • Hi Whitney. We are sorry about your dog. Please call your vet to get him on better pain management while you try to decide. Bone cancer is terribly painful and the whining is a pain signal. He is also at risk of fracturing his leg if you wait too long, so please work with your vet asap to come up with the best path forward. And join our Discussion Forums so we can support you through the process OK? Hope to see you there.

      • Hi Whitney. Our 3 year old golden just had his back leg amputated on Friday. It was a devastating decision and hard to see to be honest. I am a nurse and will tell you to take some time off work to help with recovery as medicine schedules, pottying and cleaning linens can be steady work. As for the chemo and costs, we had to say out loud that this is all a huge gamble. We are hopeful and are fortunate (to an extent) to have the means to take care of him. We love him and we know that he deserves a chance to fight. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. The one comfort I got from all this was to restore his quality of life by getting rid of the pain.

  4. My dog had her hind leg amputated a month ago. The incision site is hard and about the size of a tennis ball. It does not hurt her when I touch it. Is this normal?

    • Such a large firm growth is not very common. Please consult your vet with any serious concerns, or consider posting in the forums where you will get much more feedback and support from members.

  5. Incredible resource you’ve provided here.
    Having picked up my dog just yesterday from her surgery, it’s all spot on and I have a lot more confidence through recovery than I would have without you putting this out here.
    Huge thanks for what you’ve done with this site. From the bottom of my heart.

  6. I just adopted a tripod from the local animal control shelter. He’s a 3yr old German Shepard front leg amputee. He had been hit by a car. He is very active and sweet. His surgery was on Dec 30th.
    On Saturday, he fell and landed on the incision which caused it to bleed alot. Got him bandaged and back to the vet at the shelter. They kept him overnight to make sure everything was ok. They called me Sunday and said he’s fine and ready to go home with meds for inflammation. At 1am, he starts crying in the living room. I go out and he is bleeding again. It’s not the pale color like typical drainage. It’s regular blood. I held a towel on it and kept him lying down. I have tied a long strip of cloth around it to hold it in place and keep the pressure.
    I tried getting him into his crate, but he is terrified of confined spaces. He fights getting into a vehicle too. I even got a dog ramp for him to walk (or hop) up.
    Any suggestions? His repeated bleeding is scary and dangerous.

    • Sharon, thanks for giving this sweetie such a loving home. We hope by now you’ve gone back to your vet, that is not normal, but probably just something minor that can be treated quickly. Please take him into your vet asap if you haven’t already and keep us posted in the Tripawd Discussion Forums OK?

      Meanwhile about the ramp…most dogs will not use ramps, due to a normal reaction to depth perception challenges. We recommend using the Ruffwear Webmaster Harness to hoist him in and out of your vehicle, it never fails.

      For some German Shepherd inspawration, check out our Wyatt Ray Dawg. He lost his leg at a young age and is now 7 and doing great. He also has lots of GSD friends because he’s part of the Oaktown Pack. Don’t be shy, join us in the Forums, we’re here to help.

  7. Ihave a 2 yr old boxer female that was wrestling with her fellow boxer that is bigger than she is. They were pulling on each others back leg and now the female can’t walk on her back leg. They say at the vet that there is nerve damage and that they could do an expensive operation but it don’t guarantee that she can walk or they could do an amputation. I don’t know what to do, she tries to put it down but she walks on the knuckle she can’t seem to put it down and she is painful all the time. I have to medicate her just so she will sleep at night otherwise she will whine all night. Would amputation be the right decision? She is my baby and I don’t want anything to happen to her as I am an older woman and my dogs are my children, I have 5 dogs and 2 cats. I have 2 boxers 2 chi’s and a cocker spaniel so I just don’t know what to do if the other dogs will accept her if I do this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, I have been trying to decide since this happened on sept 21st HELP ME MAKE A DECISION!!!!!

    • Thanks for asking Vera. We’ve heard from far too many people who put their dogs through multiple, painful expensive surgeries only to proceed with amputation anyway. Please post in the discussion forums for much more feedback from others.

  8. I’m picking my baby up from the vet on Friday or Saturday depending on the vet. I’m sooooo nervous to bring her home. Not sure how her brother might react. It’s been a full week away from each other now. I found the information very useful – Thank you. Hope I’ll be able to swallow the tears when they come

    • Hi Nats, thanks for writing, we’re glad you found help here. We’re all here for you when you bring her home and afterward. Hang in there, things DO get better. Many hugs coming your way. Keep us posted.

      • Vet phoned yesterday and said Vinkel is doing so well that I can come fetch her. I held back tears when I saw her standing there with only 3 legs. But as we walked out she actually “ran” to the car. It was adorable.

        Got home and I overreacted and if her brother could have, he wouldd have jumped through my car window to get to his sister. I think I was way toooooo protective the moment I let her out of the car. Only when friends visited did I leave the two alone.

        The sweetest thing was the two of them just licking each other’s faces and they just wanted to be close to each other. Her brother was a typical brother, he looked me in the eyes a few times and then bumped into her as if on purpose.

        This morning I walked out and Vinkel just wants to play. She is walking without any difficulty and trying to jump up on me like Koljander but it will still take a while for her to get that right.

        Glad she’s home and playful… I thought that I would regret amputation but after seeing the two of them play and surviving the first night without any issues I know that it was a good choice. They’re only 6 months old so in a few weeks I’ll be the slow one.

    • Thanks for the update Nats. Please consider starting a blog or posting in the discussion forums where many more people will read and reply to Vinkel’s story.

  9. Well… here im again… my Diamond have her doctor appt to take off stitches fron amputation 🙁 she cant walk, she trie really hard to stand but have not strong rear legs… my older daughter who oficial own Diamond think she is in pain… we going to bring tomorrow morning to a Vet in Fort Hood army Veterinary to take more xrays in her spine….rear legs.. and her tale she cant move her tale sence her surgery… im like Diamond mom, sence i take of her at my home for long 6 years, after my son in law come back from over seas… Diamond is my baby… i love her so much… they do what ever to get her better… but they dont want her in pain… I dont want too, but i dont want loss my optimisse that she going to be better. She stay in my house again after surgery, i can take care her better… last night she was with Anxiety crawl in my room, i was in bet but watching at her… i was in tears … is so hard see her like that… but worse is just to think that the amputation dosent work for her… and my daughter decide to put her to sleep…. i dont want that 🙁

  10. We are getting ready to amputate our Rottie’s front right leg. he is only 5 and has osteosarcoma. We are optimitic about his future and I’m so thankful to have read the many comments and stories on your site. We’ll keep you posted on Duke’s progress!

    • My rott is 8 and so full of life. She just turned 8 and was diagnosed with same in front leg.she had amputation one week ago. Sheis doing awesome! She will follow up with chemo after recovery. I lost my very first rott at 6. It was in her brain…prayers to you amd yours!

  11. New to this forum. Have a 9.5 year old female German Shepherd diagnosed with Osteo Sarcoma in rear leg. Of course I am considering amputation but honestly feel terrified reading some of the stories of how difficult it is for the owners. The vets speak as though its like removing a toenail and I don’t think prepare you for the first few weeks. Wondering how long it really takes?
    My girls was only diagnosed 2 weeks ago and is on pain meds and limping but still cheerful, reasonably active and eating like always. I understand the science and medicine behind the reason for amputation but still cannot get on a path that I feel totally confident about. How to find the strength to do this? This dog is my 24 hour a day companion and a very sweet beautiful animal.

    • How? Be more dog. If you want what’s best for your sweet girl, try to set your human emotions aside. Dogs do not have shame or regret. They only wish to be free of pain. Please post in the discussion forums for lots of support and advice from others.

    • My 7 year old Golden Retriever is a week out of amputation surgery and doing fantastic. I like you was hesitant and a mess about making the decision. I was told on a Monday but scheduled his amp for that Thursday. I am so glad I made the decision to do it. He is hopping around already! He is the same happy, loving dog that he was before only painfree and one leg short. 🙂 Honestly he could care less. He is just so happy to be with his family. I like you took my baby with me absolutely everywhere and of my 2 kids is my better one. (i dont tell my 4 year old that) I am actually doing his recovery by myself at home with only my daughter. Kind of daunting but I know I can do it. I read a great comment on this site. It said “your dogs future is a big unknown, but when you act out of love for your dog, your decisions, whatever they are, are always the right ones.” This brief sentence helped me tremendously.

      Kelly and Jakey

    • My boy Blue (8 yr old German Shepherd) is also my only child. He just had his right rear leg amputated due to a tumor which was eating right through the bone. At first we did not know it was a tumor and just went from vet to vet – but it never went away. only got worse, and eventually we had to decide to do the amputation. Its only been 2 days since the surgery and yes I am depressed and horrified at the sight. I cry for what my innocent little boy has been through and some of the challenges ahead. but all in all, I am relieved its over and hoping he bounces back and is the happy active demanding boy I know so well. it is too soon to tell yet, but although he is still very sleepy (meds?) and unsteady especially with stairs, I have high hopes that each day from here on will get easier and better. I can update you again if you want me to. I do think it is harder on the owner than the dog. my dog seems very tired and lethargic but he seems calm. a lot calmer than I am inside.

      • Lori we are so sorry to hear about Blue. Please come and share his story in the Tripawds Discussion Forums where you will find far more support than in this blog post, we’re all here to help you during this tough time. Keep in mind that GSDs are indestructible, tough dogs. In a week I promise you will wonder why you were so worried! Hop on over to the Forums, we’re waiting to hear all about you.

  12. I thinking of have my dog rear leg amputation done she was hit by a car. 6 months ago she really doesn’t use the leg and started to drag it and getting it to bleed. so it is wrapped now. She is a jack russel I’am i doing the right thing she is 13 years old doin great other wise. The only other step is to have her put to sleep.

    She is very loved is it fair to her?

    • Much more than fair, it is the best thing you can do. If she is otherwise healthy, and already not using the bum leg, she should recover well from amputation and soon be pain free. Keeping the limb can not only cause infection from the persistent abrasion from dragging it, but may also result in spinal issues from continued twisting of the body while trying to use the leg. But we are not vets, follow your veterinarian’s advice and consider starting a topic in the discussion forums for more help and support. Thanks for asking, and best wishes!

  13. Our 12 yr old chocolate Lab had his right rear leg amputated on Saturday due to bone cancer. We brought him home yesterday and my heart is breaking. He doesn’t seem to know what has happened to him. We are trying to keep him quiet and calm but he insists on trying to follow us from room to room. Last night my husband slept on the floor with him and Beethoven moaned all night long. Just writing to someone who knows what we are going through helps. Any suggestions you have would be very welcomed.
    Thank you

    • Thanks for the comment Maryann, and bless you for taking such good care of your pup. You will really find much more help, advice, and tips in the tripawd discussion forums than we alone can provide here in the blog. It is still very early in your dog’s recovery process. What he needs most right now is time to recuperate and for you to be a strong pack leader. In the forums, you will find lots of talk about side effects from pain medication, which is likely the behavior your boy is exhibiting. But if he wants to follow you, and he can already, that’s a good sign! Just don’t let him overdo it, yet. A baby gate might help. Consider starting your own topic in the forums, and you’lll get lots more advice and support.

  14. Thank you for your helpful information. Our 9 year old retriever has chondosarcoma in her hind leg and it was just amputated. She’s struggling now with an infection. We’re hopeful though. We also have a young, very active retriever. Any advice on how to avoid the young dog from injuring our older once though his pouncing and jumping?

    • Thanks for the comment Anne, and bless you for taking such good care of your girl. You’ll find much more advice in the tripawd discussion forums than we alone can provide here. I might just keep them separated or supervised until your old girl heals and regains her strength. She’ll be showing that pup who’s boss in no time!

  15. Thank you so much for this information, I am such a mess! My doggie of almost 7 years just was diagnosed with bone cancer. Her front leg was just removed and it is killing me! God Bless You!

    • Thanks for the commenting and joining the discussion forums Brina! We’re glad you found us. We were a wreck when going through this with Jerry and found little help online. So we’re happy to know the work is paying off. Just take things one day at a time and if you must stress, don’t show doggie! Be a strong pack leader and turn to our forum members for help …

  16. This is an excellent list, very concise and to the point. It should be put on your main page so that people can read it right away! Really well done!

    Sandra Thomas & “Angel” Luna

  17. Jim & Rene, you did a super job of answering these questions that I’m sure many new tripawd pawrents may have. This is another reason why I send people to this site who have new tripawd’s in their home and several have thanked me for doing so. Your friends, Blazer, Kitty Kimber & Vicki


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