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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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Surgery to Fix Femur or Amputation
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Forum Posts: 6
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10 July 2020 - 3:19 pm
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We have an almost 9 month old Goldendoodle. We just found out he has a curved femur and needs surgery. It is a complex surgery they say. We have had somewhat conflicting advice. So I am here trying to get more input to make the best decision for our dog. Our dog is not showing signs of pain. He doesn’t whine or yelp at all. He runs normally. Every once in a while he limps which led us to asking our vet to look at his leg. The x-rays showed the issue. One surgeon says there could be multiple surgeries to fix the issue. The other says probably just one, but can’t guarantee. The other option is amputation, or leave it alone until it gets worse. But they say he will heal faster being a puppy is something is done now. Please give any advice on either. Surgery will be a minimum of 8 months being confined for him to heal properly, they say. Would you do the surgery? Would you amputate. I want the best quality of life for our dog. Does either affect or can affect his life expectancy?

The Rainbow Bridge



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10 July 2020 - 5:19 pm
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Hi Deb and family, welcome. I’m sorry to hear about your pup’s condition. It’s really smart of you guys to act so quickly though. Dogs are masters at hiding pain and that occasional limp is definitely a pain signal when he’s tired at at his weakest. Sounds like things will only get worse if something isn’t done.

Your situation reminds me of Ziggy, a member in Australia who had an angular limb malformation that needed correcting on one of his remaining limbs (he was already a Tripawd when the surgery happened). If this is indeed the same type of surgery, then here are my thoughts about it:

Do you have pet insurance that will cover it? This kind of surgery is expensive as you already know. And the associated costs will add up over time. If your dog is insured for the procedure, you’ve already won one major victory. 

I would not have anyone do this type of surgery other than a board-certified veterinary surgeon with plenty of experience in angular limb corrections. Yes, this is a complex surgery and not every vet has the kind of experience I would want for my dog, if my dog was in the same situation. As you can see, Ziggy had his done with the team at the University of Queensland. And Belle had a similar surgery, also done at the Queens Vet Teaching Hospital in the UK. I would be happy to connect you with their people if you’d like to talk to them.

If you live near a vet teaching hospital, I would go there for another opinion. These orthopedic experts are practicing the newest techniques and procedures, and you can rest assured that they will give your pup the best of care. If you are able to cover the cost, a consult with Colorado State University’s Orthopedic Medicine and Mobility Teamwould be well worth your money. They are world-famous, and our experience with them for Wyatt Ray ‘s ortho needs has been amazing. 

Should you decide to do the correction, there will be plenty of rehabilitation therapy involved, for a long period of time. I’m not sure how long, but I’m guessing no less than six months of regular check-ins. So you need to consider that too: do you have the time, money and physical capabilities to help your pup get through the rehab? Following through with the team’s orders is as critical as the surgery itself for success. When it is a success it’s awesome, you’ve just given your dog a shot at living a full life on four legs.

Surgery isn’t right for everyone. So, if you decide to amputate, you’ve gotten rid of one problem for now, but the downside is that amputation creates a set of other challenges that will affect the rest of his life. Here are the downsides…

Yes, Tripawds do have great quality of life, but there are other things that happen as a consequence of living on three, instead of four legs For example, Tripawds are more prone to arthritis over time. You’ll need to monitor activity to make sure your dog doesn’t overdo things and stamina and strength is something you will also need to focus on building up and maintaining in order to minimize the effects of osteoarthritis on a senior Tripawd dog. Tripawds are also prone to cruciate tear injuries. As a result, the costs of care, if you are good about pursuing regular rehab therapy as he ages, will add up. 

If you decide to amputate, see if a prosthetic limb is a possibility for your dog. The surgery will need to be done with that in mind. If you have the time and money to invest in a prosthesis, it can make all the difference in your dog’s mobility, and lessen the downsides that come along with living life on three.

I hope this doesn’t make things even more confusing for you. Let us know OK? I know you’ve got a lot to think about! And by the way what is your pup’s name?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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10 July 2020 - 9:21 pm
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His name is Cosmo. Thank you for the information. We do have a vet school, Texas A&M, that just looked at his x-rays. They are backed up due to Covid, but are getting us in for a consult at the end of August-first of September, when they can fit us in. We do not have pet insurance. I have had dogs all my life and have never carried it nor have I ever had a dog with any serious condition. So I didn’t get it when I got this puppy. I wish I would have now!!! I think the hardest thing with doing the surgery is the downtime, trying to keep him confined for 2+ months. He is very active. Keeping him contained after his neutering has been difficult for us and him. That was only 2 weeks, so 2 months seem difficult, especially for him. The other is having to have multiple surgeries if the first one doesn’t work. Do you know of any statistics on life expectancy after surgery vs. amputation. I want the best quality of life for him. Sorry if I am repeating myself from first post. Thank you again for the advice. 

Virginia




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10 July 2020 - 10:50 pm
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Jerry covered a lot of of information  and gave you great insight.  Based on the concerns you just now expressed in the post above I’ll say thos about amputation. 

It is ONE surgery and has about a ,two week recovery period.  During that time you want to keep him on short leashed potty breaks and then back in for rest.  As he continues  to recover in that two week period he can roam around the house, sit out in the yard under a shade tree and wait for a squirrel to come bay.  No chasing though.

And yes, as Jerry said, tripawds can be prone to arthritis. Joint supplements  can help, as well as avoiding  a ,or of jumping up and down on things.  And cruciate  issues can pop up.  That said, I have a four legger who is six and she has some start of ,arthritis,  as well as a full blown cruciate.    Point being, those things can also happen with four leggers and may not ever happen with three leggers!  We use the phrase “crapshoot” a lot around here!  

Stay connected and know that we are here with you!

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie 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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11 July 2020 - 4:13 pm
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Hi Deb & Cosmo, some thoughts for you:

We do have a vet school, Texas A&M, that just looked at his x-rays. 

Gig ’em! We love the Aggies, and in fact they have a terrific rehab team we interviewed before. If you decide to go there, Cosmo will be in great hands. Also, there is a world-renowned boarded vet surgeon, Dr. Brian Beale, in Victoria if you want to consider having him look at Cosmo’s situation. He may be able to get in sooner, and is now at his own specialty practice, BVSE. I would trust him for a surgery like this.

Do you know of any statistics on life expectancy after surgery vs. amputation.

No, unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any. It’s yet another reason why we hope that a big donor can come along and fund a Tripawds Lifetime Study some day, so that we can have stats like this. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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11 July 2020 - 5:02 pm
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Thank you both for your insight!! I’ll keep you informed.

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17 August 2020 - 5:07 pm
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So we did go to Texas A&M last week to have Cosmo looked at. They did x-rays and CT scan. They want to do surgery to fix his leg which is what I thought they would want to do since they are a school. They said it was a very complex case. His femur is not only curved but twisted. They would have to do a lot to give him a straight leg and then they said it would never be the same. It is also shorter than the other leg due to the curve which they said they would try to lengthen it but again it would never be like the other leg. Cosmo is my son’s dog and we have both decided that amputation would be a better alternative based on the fact that A&M said he would have to be confined 24/7 to his kennel for 8-10 weeks only being let out to go potty. I asked them how that was supposed to work and they said they would give us sedatives to give him. My son and I just can’t fathom keeping him sedated and caged for 8-10 weeks. They made us feel like amputation was a bad choice and they also said the cost would be about the same. I guess I just want reassurance that we are choosing the right thing. Also can you give me some sort of cost range that you have seen for amputation, and would you choose an orthopedic vet or just a surgeon to do the surgery? We are still considering doing it at A&M but feel that they think we are awful for not choosing to fix his leg :(.  Any advice would be appreciated. We are struggling and so sad.

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17 August 2020 - 5:38 pm
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Hi!  I’m really sorry that you were not supported in your decision to amputate Cosmo’s leg.  It seems that you had a solid rationale for choosing that route, so I hope you work with more supportive vets in the future, even if you continue to go to Texas A&M.  Here is a forum about costs for amputation – https://tripawd…..you-pay-1/.  My goldendoodle, Griffin, and I are sending positive vibes to you and Cosmo from NYC! ~ Stacy (Griffin’s Journey)

The Rainbow Bridge



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17 August 2020 - 5:59 pm
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Aww I’m sorry you got a bad feeling from them!

I think what it comes down to is that surgeons want to fix things, they love huge challenges like this and to some, amputation is only a last resort. It sounds like they were giving you the reality check someone needs before embarking on this procedure, and for some people it’s a no-brainer, they would do it. Some would not. There are no right or wrong choices as long as your decision is made with Cosmo’s quality of life in mind.

No, you are not bad people for wanting to get rid of the leg, not at all. But it could pay off to get a second opinion from Dr. Beale. He is a surgeon, and he may have the same opinion, but it would be good to know where another skilled surgeon stands on Cosmo’s case.

Did they mention the possibility of prosthetics for him?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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17 August 2020 - 9:47 pm
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Thank you both for your reply. A&M I know have very skilled vets and are top-notch, but like you said, they are surgeons and a vet school so doing the surgery would be the natural choice. My vet talked with his ortho friend who said he could do the surgery before we went to A&M so I know he would want to do the surgery as well. Like I said, our concern is to keep Cosmo confined for 8-10 weeks and possibly have to sedate him, which makes me sad to think about looking at a dog for that long confined. Then possibly having to do multiple surgeries. They said his leg would never be like his other one which makes me think he will always have a problem with that leg, so for us amputation seems like the better option, while no option is good. They said that a prosthetic was not an option because you have to have most of the leg to do that and since it is his femur he wouldn’t. 

I did contact Dr. Beale’s office. They said they would have to have a referral from our vet and then also have to do an exam before they would decide what to do. His office is roughly 2 hours away from me, so I was hoping if when I told his office that we had his x-rays and CT scan that they would look at that and be able to give me a second opinion. Thank you both again for listening to my concerns. This is very hard.

The Rainbow Bridge



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18 August 2020 - 9:26 am
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Oh OK, thanks for clarifying everything. You’re right, all of the options are difficult choices. Amputation fixes the problem now but sets a dog up for mobility challenges later in life. Surgery may fix everything, but it’s at a bigger quality of life cost than you want Cosmo to pay. I feel your pain! 

For now I would try with Dr. Beal’s office and see if they’re willing to chat with you. Fingers crossed!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

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18 August 2020 - 10:09 am
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Thank you, Jerry!! I’ll keep in touch.

Virginia




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18 August 2020 - 10:22 am
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Just to add FWIW, many times we see Herculean  efforts to safe the leg with surgery, confinement, meds, etc.    Sometimes, certainly  not always, amputation ends up being the end result anyway.  Some, not always, infections can set in, more surgeries  may meed to happen for one reason or another, requiring  extended confinement,  etc.  Amputation  is one surgery,  roughly two weeks recovery.  

Only mentioning this as a “balance” in your thought process.  Obviously  no one wants to do an amputation  if avoidable, yet sometimes it can be a solution to be weighed for reasons I  posted above.  Just throwing that out there.

A u decision  is tue right decision  made oit of love.  Obviously  your pup is very loved🤣

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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