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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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11 Year Old, Large Shepherd Mix, Struggling on remaining back leg - no obvious injury
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21 February 2021
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21 February 2021 - 2:14 pm
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Hello All,

After a year of trying to manage our large, older shepherd, Ollie's Mast Cell Tumor dx we decided to amputate his left rear leg.  We consulted with the the Tripawd organization and really appreciated their support.  At Ollie's 2 week post-surgery check-up he seemed to be doing well, and then he started to deteriorate.  Now, more than a month out he is collapsing after every few steps and struggling to walk around inside and outside.  We took him back to the Vet last week and were told there was no ACL tear (the concern) or obvious signs to injury.  We had him on painkillers for a few days, but it didn't seem to improve his mobility at all.  Although, now his mobility seems to be worse, so we are going to start the painkillers again and track if he improves at all.  The Vet says to bring him back in so they can check for spinal cord lesions.  I don't know how they do this procedure.  Has anyone else had a seemingly good recovery that then went south? He seems to be sinking with every step now and whereas before he could use the doggie door, get around well on the carpet and seemed to be on the up and up (2 weeks post surgery), now event the carpet doesn't allow him to move freely, he collapses regularly and won't try the dog door.  We are so disheartened and it is of course incredibly painful to witness.  Any advice or or ideas about what might be the cause would be appreciated.  We are feeling less hopeful about his ability to recover and really concerned that he can't get around.

The Rainbow Bridge



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21 February 2021 - 3:22 pm
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Hi again, I'm so glad you posted and I'm sorry to hear he's having mobility issues. Poor guy! You did good by consulting your vet, it sounds like they want to do an MRI. I believe this is the only diagnostic to look for spinal metastasis so if you're able to do that test it would be good to check. We will keep our paws crossed that spinal mets are not present. They are pretty rare and chances are it's general weakness.

What you are describing is pretty common and usually very treatable. We see it all the time, when a dog appears to be back 100% and then they carry on with the types of activity they used to do. We as parents get excited and don't watch them as closely anymore, and then the activity catches up, and a muscle pull or joint stress / arthritis flares up. I did it, everyone learns as they go. What was his activity level like before he slowed down?

pain management takes multiple approaches to help a dog feel better. Pain meds are good (what is he on--how much and how often?), but other modalities like massage, acupuncture, and passive range of motion exercises/stretches are also how pain gets under control. That's why we always recommend that a Tripawd (especially a senior one) gets evaluated by a canine rehab therapist. These experts are often very quick to pinpoint an issue when a vet is at a loss about what's causing the symptoms. Also remember the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so check the link for info and then start looking around for a clinic. If you can't locate one, I'm happy to help you.

For now, keep his activity dialed way, way down. R&R, gentle massage (try palpating him gently to see if / how he reacts with pain signals ), and stay pawsitive. Max is an older pup but he's got everything on his side for a good recovery whatever this is. Keep us posted OK? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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21 February 2021 - 6:28 pm
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Thanks for your response.  I think what is difficult is that we didn't increase his activity at all, he has only gone out in the yard to go to the bathroom and has otherwise been confined inside, he has struggled on some sections of hardwood, but we have sticky mats and carpets down almost everywhere he goes.  He was very mobile prior to the Mast Cell Tumor and only declined as the tumors worsened.  We are rural, in Durango, CO, and I did a search for rehab therapists in our area and didn't find any.  I have palpated his whole body and don't get any obvious pain response anywhere, he does enjoy the massage - that is clear and I try to do it as often as possible.  He is scared of water, so I don't think we are good candidates for water therapy.  He is on Rimadyl, 2 doses daily (have to check exact amount), although we stopped because we didn't see any improvement, and then he seemed to get worse, so today we are starting back up again and tracking it closely.

I see that others have experienced a similar story.  I am just worried because we don't have access to the same rehabilitation care here, we didn't allow him any more freedom than he has right now and we don't see a way to really restrict him further...And if it was a soft tissue injury why would it be getting worse?  I am going to to the hot towel massage and stay with the pain-killers for a week and see what happens.

Virginia




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21 February 2021 - 6:50 pm
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I really can't  add anymore to Jerry's input.  

You clearly are covering all your bases in tryi g to figure out what's going on.

A couple of things stood out.  If I read this right, your pup got a ,little worse when the Rimadyl was cut back and when the pain meds were cut back.   Muscle tweaks. should and back sprains, etc take awhile to heal, especially  older pups.  Jist something as seemingly  harmless as a ,little struggle on the hardwoods can play havoc with a mew tripawd.  And one month out is not a long ti e in recovering  from a major surgery while readjusting  to mobility on three.

Jerry may be able to find a Rehab Specialist  from her co tracts.  She can create magic sometimes on things like that.

How is your pup doing attitude wise? Engaged? Tail wags?  Eating, drinking, pottying oksy?

Hang in there!  This can be figured out, okay?  

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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21 February 2021 - 8:49 pm
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More tomorrow but for now call your vet and ask for additional medication: gabapentin, and a muscle relaxer like Methocarbomol are often prescribed for these situations, along with Rimadyl.

Our Jerry went to acupuncture in Durango, let me see if I can find her for you tomorrow.

Again, this isn’t unusual and there are many things that can be done to help, even in more rural areas. Also, many great vets are doing telemedicine now so that’s a bonus of these crazy times. More tomorrow!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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The Rainbow Bridge



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22 February 2021 - 12:27 pm
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Found a great AAHA-accredited clinic for you!  Not only is Riverview Animal Hospital an AAHA clinic, but one of their vets, Dr. Randy Hays, is a certified vet acupuncturist! Give them a call STAT and let us know what they say. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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23 February 2021 - 9:50 am
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Thanks for the input.  Ollie's general mood is good.  He is clearly disheartened (my interpretation) when he can't get all the way to the back of the yard where he wants to go to the bathroom and is falling a lot.  But, inside if he can get to where I am he is in a good mood, tail wags, falls asleep near me as usually.  He enjoys massage for longer than usual - he has never been a snuggle dog, always very independent, very wolfy.  He was very spunky when I tried to groom him and I had to stop because he was moving around so much that I didn't want him to hurt himself more.  He does get up, turn around, and lay down so much more than normal, it seems he is readjusting a lot.

We saw a holistic vet in Durango when Ollie was first prescribed with Mast Cell Tumor, but besides some herbs it wasn't a very fruitful visit.  A rehab specialist recommendation would be great.  We are mostly just keeping him contained, we built him a ramp (we just have 2 steps), but he doesn't like it and when we section off that part of the house he RUNS to get into it as soon as the door opens ,causing him to collapse and struggle - so his attitude is 'let me at this' sometimes.  But, he also sleeps most of the day and can seem depressed.  Eating, drinking, and pooping as per normal.

The Rainbow Bridge



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23 February 2021 - 11:34 am
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Really sounds like Ollie can benefit from rehab therapy. Did you see my previous post about Riverview? Was that the clinic you didn't click with? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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