Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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Hi, this forum was very helpful in the days leading up to the decision to amputate my poor Stanley’s leg six weeks ago, so thank you- just reading all the advice and shared stories was so helpful.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel right now like like the amputation bought us much time and I’m hoping to get some advice, or maybe find someone who has been through the specific thing I’m going through, because I can’t find any examples similar to Stanley’s situation, and I can’t tell if my vet is doing the right things or not. i’ve now spent close to 20 grand on vet bills over the past two years and I just can’t afford the 3000$ the oncologist staging would cost to get another opinion.
Stanley’s paw troubles started in December 2020, when I noticed a funny limp. The vet told me he had torn a nail out and it had become infected. Fine, we took him in for cleanup and bandaged it up for a little while and so on, and got the all clear and moved on. I did notice that the toe seemed to have lost its hair, but the vet didn’t seem concerned after a routine checkup a little while later, so I didn’t think much of it until August of 2021 when we noticed that the “bald” toe was getting bigger and starting to crack and bleed and scab. uhoh. we tool him back to the vet, and the lump was removed and biopsied, along with a second smaller lump from the same arm. It came back as mast cell tumours. the one on his foot was incompletely excised and likely to recurr. we let him heal up, but by end of september we ended up amputating the digit. By christmas we were noticing something was growing back in the area, and that he had a few new small tumours on his body, and we started to look for a second opinion, got on a waiting list for an oncologist, but by the time we got in to see them his whole paw was a battered mess from the tumour and he was in so much pain. We had the oncology consult which started out helpful, but we don’t have pet insurance and were already suffering financially pretty severely from a combination of Stanley’s situation, the pandemic, and my having suffered a nasty injury and had to be off work for three months. they essentially quoted us a minimum of 10 grand for staging, and amputation, and that didn’t even cover other care. My regular vet, who did not refer us to the oncologist at any point, told me that he could get all the same testing done for me and he could arrange for a specialist to take care of the surgeries for us for half that, and being kind of desperate, I went that route, but honestly don’t think he did actually do all the same tests. there’s never been an ultrasound, and he claims there’s no sign of there being any spread to the organs or in the blood but I’m not sure how he knows. He also removed a large tumour from Stanley’s rump the week before the amputation while taking blood samples and biopsies, and two weeks ago he removed four small tumours from his head and neck since stanley had to be sedated for an enema. However Stanley now has a dozen tumours all over his back and hind quarters, and one very nasty one right next to his bum, which i suspect is contributing to the trouble pooping. His appetite is fine, but he’s definitely loosing weight and vomiting more than I’d like.
We tried Benadryl, but can’t afford chemo, and I don’t think steroids are an option for stanley because he has a heart condition. We’ve spent close to 20 grand, with the help of my family, but just can’t afford much more, and I’m at a bit of a loss.
My poor guy has now had 6 surgeries, and I still don’t really understand what kind of cancer he actually has or where its originating from, or really what to do but wait for another tumour to become so painful that none of us can bear it anymore. has anyone been through anything like this? I should mention that the tumour on his foot came back as a lymphosarcoma prior to the amputation, but that wasn’t explained to me very well either. some of the tumours are mast cell tumours, but some are lymphosarcoma?
Hi and welcome. I’m so glad you chimed in to share Stanley’s situation with us. Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away.
My heart goes out to you, this is a really tough situation. First, don’t beat yourself up, you are doing the best you can do with the information you have been given. Cancer is such a learning curve for us pet parents. It’s overwhelming and confusing even if money isn’t an issue (that rarely happens). And when you don’t know what you’re dealing with, it’s even harder.
The good thing is that Stanley is so loved! He has an entire family rooting for him and that is such a gift at a time like this. We are here to support you too. I’ll try to help with some feedback:
1. Did your vet provide any kind of plan to help Stanley feel better right now? Did the vet discuss steroids as palliative care? Stanley’s probably feeling pretty lousy so the first thing to do is to help control whatever pain he is in from the cancer. Is he on any pain medication? If so, what kind and how often? If not, he needs to be. Ask your vet what are the options to help keep him comfortable (aka “palliative care”).
2. With all of the biopsies that have been done, what is the diagnosis your vet is giving you? Mast cell cancer? Lymphosarcoma? What are the stages its in? That will determine the course of treatment. It sounds like he mainly has Mast Cell Cancer? If so, what is the vet’s plan for controlling it?
If your vet doesn’t have a plan, I would ask “Why not?” Stanley needs help to feel better and control the cancer as soon as possible. Even if chemotherapy isn’t an option, there may be other therapies that don’t cost as much and can help boost his quality of life. First get the facts from your vet, and ask for a plan to treat with something you can afford. If they cannot present that do you, or are unwilling to do so, another opinion is needed. Even just a consultation/review of his situation can be helpful and you may be able to do some things that aren’t as costly as full chemotherapy treatments.
I wish I had more ideas for you, but hope you find this helpful. Others may chime in soon so stay strong OK?
22 February 2013
I’m surprised your head hasn’t already exploded after all the confusion and mess you and Stanley have been through!! Crazy stuff!!
After you’ve had a chance to process some of Jerry’s questions and thoughts, we’ll see if that helps us firthernto guide you. We do have some very knowledgeable kitty members, as well as knowledgeable doggy members who have dealt with mast cell.
And abs ten million percent, you are doing MORE than most are able to do more willing to do!! Stanle is clearly loved and adored and he knows it!
Jist a aide note regarding the steroid (Prednisone). Depending on the extent of his heart condition and depending on the amount of dose needed, , it may be an option. Obviously that is to be discussed with your Vet.
Write down all ,the questions Jerry has outlined and set up an appointment with your Vet (or another Bet). Take your phone or tavlet and record the answers. If you’re like me, I think I have it all straight….I til I get home and cant accurately remember a thing he said!
Were here for you jn any way ppss, okay? Getting some goodmpain management and clarity on the situation most the first step.
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
PS….If an answer isn’t makin sense, ask the Vet to revise his answer in a way that is clear to you!!! And yes, ask how he arrived at his conclusion about how further spreading, good blood, etc. I do like that he was able to get the costs down for you, assuming everything was done properly.
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!
1 October 2017
Hi and welcome!
I am so sorry that you are in this place right now, but I am glad you found us. Although we may not be able to solve your problems, this is a community full of knowledge and support. We all come here for different reasons, but they are all to support a beloved furbaby on some level, and also to support each other on our journeys with them.
I hate that you have spent so much money and still have so many questions. I do agree with you on the idea that others may have run different tests, like an ultrasound, and unfortunately I agree that a vet in more of a specialized field may have more conclusive answers.
I agree that another opinion from a specialist might very well help you to at least understand what is going on, and if nothing else provide proper palliative care to help Stanley have the best comfort and care available to him. I hate to say that it will cost more money, but you are here and I think you already know that. On the brighter side, a specialist may be able to look at his records and gather a better plan of treatment than what you have now, which seems like not a lot. Jerry and Sally hit it spot on, make a true list of questions, think of all the things that you want to know and write them down. Ask the what, why, and what you think best options are. If you are not getting the information that you need, please start researching better places that you can get those answers. I have been in a situation similar where the doctor was out of her league. The results were not good.
I wish you the best of luck in trying to find out what is wrong with Stanley. We are here to help you in any way we can, even if it is just to listen and let you vent.
Jackie, David, Bo, Andy, Oscar, Phoebe, and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry
Hi, thanks for the support, all.
i appreciated the tip about prednisone, I asked about this and we have some to start tomorrow. Stanley got a dexamethasone shot today. My vet isn’t the best at communication honestly, but we just had a visit, and confirmed that the last four tumours removed were mast cell tumours. He has not given me a stage, and I can’t get a straight answer out of him or any of his assistants about stage or how long we have. We have to return to the old vet next week for a final check up and stitches removed from his head, but I am considering transferring somewhere else- money is the issue with that though. I’m frustrated with the lack of answers from my vet but he only charges me for medications and X-rays at this point, because he knows how much this has broken me financially.
My understanding is that he tried to treat with surgery alone because of the heart condition, but the cancer is malignant and advanced enough that the possible short term benefits of steroids might outweigh the risks to his heart now. X-rays don’t seem to show cancer spread anywhere else at least.
Stanley is losing weight rapidly. down 300 grams this week. I just bought some kitten food to try and get more calories into him because I saw that was something many of you were doing in other posts. He’s not currently on any kind of pain medication except CBD oil with his food because our last bout of gabapentin left him a drooling shell of a cat and not eating, and he was fighting the medications so hard he ripped his stitches open twice. I’m not looking forward to having to give prednisone, but at least he’s healed up more. He doesn’t seem to be in excessive pain.
I was hoping to find posts from other people who have been through something similar with multiple cutaneous mast cells after amputation like Stanley has. I did use the search function and scroll back a ways but there’s much, I’d love if anyone who’s been through this could just chime in? I’ll read old posts and threads from you, it would just be helpful to know who to look for?
I’m glad that Stanley will be getting some kind of therapy that can hopefully manage his condition.
I don’t know your vet, and he sounds like a very compassionate person. But if you are not happy with the answers you are getting despite your attempts to communicate, and Stanley is not improving, I agree that finding a new practice would be ideal. If we can help you find one, let us know. PM me your location. I can try to look around.
As for pain control, you have medication options that don’t cost a lot. It sounds like your vet didn’t present any to you? Gabapentin can be adjusted and fine tuned so he can tolerate it. There’s even a transdermal version you can rub into his ear. Don’t give up on the pain control. Most CBD products for pets do not do what they are supposed to.
Find out if Stanley is in pain:
It’s a great idea to try to put some weight on him! Good move!
Mast cell cancer does often crop up like this and controlling it can be difficult without the usual methods. Every situation is different and it can drive you nuts to compare Stanley’s situation to another case. If I think of any I’ll let you know. I wish I had more answers for you right now, I’m sorry that I do not. Hoping others can chime in.
18 October 2009
I don’t have experience with MCTs in cats but unfortunately I have lots of experience in dogs.
My Pug Maggie had a MCT in her knee that could not be removed with sufficient margins so her rear leg was amputated. Unfortunately testing after surgery indicated the cancer had already spread so her prognosis was downgraded to poor and she was given 6 to 9 months. Fast forward a bit to say that Mag far outlived her prognosis, making almost 4 more years and she did not pass from mast cell cancer. There is a link to her story in my signature below if you are interested.
Mag also had recurring cutaneous tumors after her amp, but none near the amp site. We removed that last couple with a punch which only required a stitch or two and only a local anesthetic. Mag was on benadryl and some thing like pepcid whenever the tumors were messed with- even with every fine needle aspirate (FNA).
Maggie’s little sis Tani also had numerous cutaneous MCTs. Her first three were discovered a week before Maggie’s last chemo treatment. The three tumors were removed with a huge incision (on her belly) to get good margins. She went a few years before they popped up again, this time on her back and flanks. By this time Tani was battling numerous health issues so no more big surgeries. We took a couple off with the punch method but new ones popped up before the pathology report came back so I decided to not do anything about new tumors unless they got to the point of rupture. Most of her tumors graded as 1’s, a few were 2’s. She did not show any signs of internal issues from mast cell, I have no idea if there was any spread. Again, she had other more pressing health issues. I think she ended up with 14 MCT’s in total over her life that we identified with a FNA, there may have been more. Tani lived to be almost 15 and did not pass from MCT.
I remember our oncologist telling me that mast cell was one of the most frustrating cancers to treat because it was so unpredictable. That was certainly my experience.
I don’t have any experience with Palladia as it was not available when Maggie was fighting her cancer, it was offered to me to treat Tani but I declined because of the potential side effects.
There is a new, very promising treatment for MCTs in dogs called Stelfonta which is injected right into the tumor. I don’t know if it is approved yet for cats.
Mast cell cancer can be very hard on the stomach which is why the Pugs were always on some medications to counteract that.
My experience with cutaneous tumors is that they themselves did not cause pain. We used pain meds when they were removed with big incisions, but not for very long. I was lucky with with all the tumors the two girls had we never had to deal with a rupture- which can be very painful.
It’s usually important to get the grade of the tumor as well as the mitotic index, MI, which is sometimes a better indicator than the grade to see how aggressive the cancer is. It sounds like you didn’t get this information from your vet but with the multiple tumors you are seeing it might not matter.
I’m not sure any of that is of any value to you. I’m sorry Stanley has to deal with all this, I hope you find some combination of meds that can keep him comfortable.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
7 May 2021
Hi…I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. Unfortunately, I went through something similar recently. In May 2021, my cat, Chloe, developed a lump on the joint of her hind leg, and it turned out to be cancer. We immediately had her rear leg amputated, and they said the margins were clear. She came through the surgery like a champ and had no issues with her quick recovery. We thought we were going to have her for many years to come because we had rid her of this horrible disease. In early 2022, we noticed a lump under her front arm. I took her to the vet and he said it was most likely the cancer returning. I was stunned. Within weeks, she dropped weight and more lumps began to appear. We made the difficult decision not to put her through any more tests or treatments because we realized it would be selfish of us. Needless to say, we were devastated knowing the end was coming. In early April, one of the lumps on her side opened up, so we put gauze on it and wrapped an ace bandage around her to keep it clean. She was declining and she gave us “the look”, so we knew it was time. The vet came to our home on April 11th, and I held her as she went to sleep for the final time. She is finally free and running with 4 legs. It is still heart breaking for us, but it was the right thing to do. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is ask yourself if what is being suggested is really the right thing for Stanley. Look into Stanley’s eyes, and you will find the answer even if it isn’t one you want to hear. My heart goes out to you during this difficult time.
25 April 2007
Hi…I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. Unfortunately, I went through something similar recently. In May 2021, my cat, Chloe, developed a lump on the joint of her hind leg, and it turned out to be cancer.
Thank you so much for offering support even when your heart is broken. That is incredibly generous. I’m so sorry for your loss of Chloe. I see you’ve updated, going over there now: