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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My name is Vincent and my wife and I own a 3 year English Lab by the name of Rennie. He was recently diagnosed with a low level form of Osteoporosis in his left rear leg, near the hip socket but not in the socket itself (an area where cancer normally doesn’t occur from what we have been told, particularly in a young dog such as this). Our dilemma is this: We are currently debating our options on what to do and need advice on the kind of quality of life he will have if we choose to do an amputation along with chemotherapy sessions. Our understanding is that even if the leg is amputated and we immediately incorporate chemotherapy as part of the ongoing recovery process, the likelihood of the disease coming back and manifesting itself either in his lungs or spine are extremely high, somewhere around 85-90% within a year or so according to most studies. Obviously, I do not want him to suffer nor have to go through this again but I honestly do not know what to do at this point. Do we give him the procedure only to have to lay fight the infection once again in 12 months? I realize there is a slight chance the cancer may go into remission but its seems like a long shot to be honest. I am in need of some honest advice. And if we did choose to get the procedure done what can I expect in the first 30-60-90 days? Has anyone experienced the same situation where their dog was able to survive past a year or more? Thank you.
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Osteoporsis or Osteosarcoma?
Micrometastses are likely present in most dogs with the latter at the time of diagnosis. But if lung x-rays are clear, and Rennie is otherwise fit and trim, he should adapt quickly and do well on three legs. Every dog is different, but recovery time after amputation is usually only a few weeks at most. Without amputation, on the other hand, pain will continue to get worse as the bone deteriorates, and it will eventually break.
Our Jerry lived two years after his amputation due to osteosarcoma. We just recently lost a long time member of this community, Eisen, who lived five years. Others have enjoyed an extra year with their cancer pups. But the most important thing is to focus on quality of life, not quantity.
Best wishes in making the decision that is best for Rennie. Please keep us posted.
Sorry, I meant Osteosarcoma. Thank you for replying back so quickly. That makes me feel better. Since he was just diagnosed, yesterday, April 28, 2012, we still have a few days to decide on what to do next. I am going to get a 2nd x-ray opinion just to confirm the original x-rays taken and decide from there. This has been a nightmare for both my wife and I and we but we are truly committed to doing whatever is necessary for Ren’s best interests. Thank you again.
28 November 2011
Hi and welcome. I am very sorry to hear of Rennie’s diagnosis. Many of us on this site are here because of cancer amputations and we understand the horror of this diagnosis. It takes your breath away and sends you into a tailspin of ‘what ifs’.
Every dog is different, but most of them (especially the younger ones) do very well with the amputation. I can tell you that our 11.5 year old has done fabulous and will celebrate his five month ampuversary next week. He took a bit longer to recover because of his age and a tweaked back during the recovery, so we didn’t start seeing him really excel until about a month after amp. That said, we are thrilled with the extra time we have had with him and we would do it again without hesitation.
We also struggled with some unusual circumstances that made us further question whether it would be worth putting Zeus through the amputation and recovery just to buy a few months (if you care to, you can read about it in his blog – the link is in the signature box below and I wrote about it in the very first post). We decided to give him a shot so we did the surgery and haven’t looked back.
You have found a wonderful community with a wealth of knowledge. I wish you the best of luck!
Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11. A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...
14 August 2009
Welcome Vincent and of course, Rennie!
So very sorry you find yourself here with us talking about Osteosarcoma in your furbaby. But you’ve come to the right place.
As Zeuspod and Jerry said, the amputation should be done without hesitation. We are being completely honest when we say that. We are all advocates of quality vs. quantity. And without doing an amputation poor Rennie is going to continue to be in pain. (trust us when we say he is in pain if he has cancer – Google “bone cancer” in humans and you’ll see)
Since you obviously aren’t ready to say goodbye to Rennie, the sooner you do the amputation the better. (like this week!) When dealing with bone cancer, you have to put all of your reservations of losing a leg aside and just do it.
We aren’t vets but we see several new bone cancer cases a week here. So, we feel confident in giving you the advice of how to proceed based on experience. The amputation surgery isn’t an easy one, but it’s only a couple of weeks of recovery but the younger they are, the easier it is on them. The young ones snap back very fast sometimes within days.
No one can tell you the long term prognosis but you will be getting more quality time with Rennie and he’ll be just a happy on 3 legs!
Please keep us updated.
Comet - 1999 to 2011
She departed us unexpectedly January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.
She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.
21 March 2012
Our dog Jack had OSA in his front left leg at the top of the humerus. We weren’t able to amputate due to weakness in our dogs rear legs from an earlier ruptured disc problem. What I can offer by way of advice is that the OSA in his front leg spread rapidly and within a few weeks we weren’t able to overcome his pain (he was on 4 different pain medications at the top dose). We ended up having to put our dog to sleep because of the pain. It was the hardest thing I have ever encountered in my life to date.
We did a biopsy to confirm the type of cancer. I think that might have contributed to his out of control pain and I think the cancer had so ravaged his leg the biopsy just made things worse. If you Vet recommends that route, have a serious talk about pros and cons first.
All this is to say, knowing what I know now and having had to deal with the pain and the inability to stop the pain caused by the cancer, I wish amputation had been an option for us. I swear the “unable to amputate club” is much less desireable than the tripawd club. Likely if we had been able to amputate we would have had Jack with us longer (his OSA had already spread to the lungs by the time we got a diagnosis, so we likely wouldn’t have gotten a year). As it was we got 3 weeks from diagnosis to the end. I would give just about anything to have had a few more months. Yes this cancer is aggressive and you ultimately might lose the battle anyway, but you’ll have more time.
I wish you and Rennie the best.
Hi and Welcome to Tripawds! Sorry about Rennie’s diagnosis, I know first hand how awful it is. You have found the right place to help you through this no matter what decision you make. The important thing is to do what is best for you, Rennie and your family. I felt the same way you did at first and I didn’t know if doing the amputation was worth it if my Dog Valentina was going to die from the cancer anyway and the time she may get after the amputation was unknown. We tried to manage her pain with the meds but that didn’t last long and there was no way I was ready to lose her yet either. And I think if you could have asked Valentina whether to try the amputation so she could be with us longer I am sure she would have said yes. Everything else about her was strong and healthy and normal so it didn’t seem to make any sense to put her to sleep for just a problem in her leg. So we decided on the amputation. I was extra nervous about doing it because Valentina was a Great Dane and she was 150lbs. So I was afraid that she may not be able to hold herself up on 3 legs because she was so big and most of her weight was on her front end and she needed to have her front left leg amputated. But I felt we needed to try. She was about 7 1/2 at the time of her amputation. The recovery part can be very challenging but most Dogs are just about back to normal in 2-3 weeks. They almost seem to forget that they are missing a leg and they can still run and play and even dig sometimes. They may tire a little faster than before but the quality of life is generally great after they are all healed up. We lost Valentina 7 months after her amputation and even though I wished for much much longer I was happy that I had chosen the amputation instead of putting her to sleep when her pain became unmanageable. During those months we became extremely close and we had so many special times together. She was happy and out of pain and I knew I made the right decision for our family. When it was time to let her go it was the hardest thing that I ever had to do but I was also so grateful for those 7 months that I was able to have with her. Praying that you can come to a decision that you are comfortable with and we will all be here to support you with your choice.
25 August 2010
I am pro-amputation too. I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear your young boy is facing this, and your family too. The good side (if a silver lining can be found) is that the amputation takes away the pain, so you will have more time afterwards to decide if chemo is right for him.
We did the whole kit and kaboodle, amp, chemo, metronomic therapy once the chemo was done, and my wonderful boy lived a great 17 and 1/2 months before his cancer came back. During that time we got to be so close, he taught me how to live in the moment, love him every hour. He was 8 when he was diagnosed, within the week of his diagnosis his leg broke from the cancer. It made my choice for me, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
I was so happy to have this place to turn to, so many questions!
His story is also on a blog, you can find it in our signature line.
Best of luck to you,
Elizabeth, Sammy’s mom
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,
leg fractured 8/27/10,
leg amputated 8/30/10
I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us. Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.
Hi Vincent and Family,
Wow, he’s so young, we’re so sorry. You’re smart to seek other opinions and talk to people who’ve been through this devastating situation. We know that it’s scary and pretty unbelievable to think of your dog on three legs, but all you need to do is look through the stories in this community to see that they typically do just fine after recovery. A younger dog like Rennie may bounce back even faster than most. Like any surgery there are risks, and some dogs will have complications or worse yet, not make it through surgery. But those are the exception, not the norm.
The cancer statistics are daunting but keep in mind these are just studies and averages, they don’t take into account Rennie’s health or background. Every dog is different. Some will beat the odds, some will not, but in nearly all cases most dogs will get to enjoy an excellent quality of life during the time they have left. In the end, that’s all that matters, for both dogs and people, right? Making the most of every day and always living life to the fullest, one day at a time is a terrific way to live.
Hope this helps!
7 January 2011
Hi Vincent and Rennie, I completely agree with everything the others have said– 3 is way too young to let go without a fight. Amputate the leg this week and go from there–he’ll feel better almost immediately, and he’ll have a great quality of life, however long that life is. Our dog only made it nine months post amp, but he packed a lot of living into those nine months, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. No regrets on the amputation- I’m sure Scout would agree.
Catherine and Spirit Scout
Scout: January 31, 2002 to November 7, 2011
Scout's diagnosis was "poorly differentiated sarcoma"; amputation 1/11/2011. Scout enjoyed 9 fantastic years on 4 legs and 9 glorious months on 3 legs. If love alone could have saved you…
16 September 2011
Welcome Vincent and Rennie, but sorry that you had to find us. My Charley is a chocolate lab and he was diagnosed with OSA in his left front leg (proximal humerus) when he was not quite 2-1/2 years old, 31 months to be exact. We choose amputation followed by 5 rounds of chemo.
Charley continues to do well and I realize that we are one of the lucky ones. He turned 4 on 3-29-12 (which we never thought we would celebrate) and he celebrated his 18 Month Ampuversary yesterday.
There is a link in my signature of Charley playing in the snow at 12 weeks post amp and he’s running and jumping. Please check out his video, he will amaze you. You can also check out his blog which has lots of pictures of him playing and enjoying life.
There are no wrong decisions with this decision. Your decision is the correct one! Sending lots of positive thoughts and prayers to Rennie!
Hugs and chocolate labby kisses,
Ellen & Charley
29 October 2010
Welcome to you and Rennie. Sorry you had to find us here. Our dog was only 15 mo old when we got the OSA dx. We did amp + chemo + at-home chemo meds and had another amazing 15 mo with our girl. It was a really wonderful time with her. Sure, there were scary, worrisome times, but all in all, we wouldn’t trade it. She was full of fun and mischief and lived life large for those extra 15 months.
I know this is all scary and overwhelming, but try to think quality of life, not quantity. Abby didn’t know she got short-changed on the quantity, but she had an awesome quality of life and we were lucky to have her in our lives. There can still be good times ahead if you decide to go through with the amp.
Hang in there. You’ll make the decision that’s right for you and your pup and we’ll support whatever decision you make.
Jackie, Angel Abby’s mom
Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!
I am honestly a bit beside myself from all of the caring responses advice given by everyone from this wonderful site. I sincerely appreciate everything everyone has said and will certainly take it in to consideration. Obviously, this has been an excruciatingly difficult ordeal for both my family and I to deal with but we are leaning towards the amputation reality but are going to get a 2nd opinion tomorrow before we make that crucial determination. I will certainly keep everyone apprised and once again cannot thank each and every one of you enough!!!!
17 March 2012
I am so sorry that you are going through this. You found the right place to get lots of information from ordinary people and their dogs who have faced similar circumstances.
We have cherished every single day that we’ve had with our K since her diagnosis with osteosarcoma on Christmas Eve. We didn’t go through amputation so I can’t speak to that part. However, I can speak to how a cancer diagnosis makes you appreciate each and every day with your dog in a way that might not have done before. In my opinion, every day is worth it.
I have observed my neighbor’s dog (a Lab-sized mix) who was diagnosed at about the same time as K, and had a hind limb amputation. She is doing beautifully, hiking and romping in our mountainous area. She’s about 10 years old so your Rennie will probably adapt to being a tripawd even faster than my neighbor’s dog.
K, an 8 year old chocolate lab, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the radius and ulna on 12/23/11. She had stereotactic radiation to kill the bone tumors, and 3 rounds of carboplatin. On 3/16/12, lung mets were found. We tried several different kinds of chemotherapy to slow the lung mets but none worked. Finally, mets appeared at other sites, including her spine. She earned her angel wings on July 15, 2012. K changed my life, and I'll never forget her. Our/my journey is chronicled at romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com.
29 January 2010
Rennie is beautiful! What a face! I’m biased because I’m a true Labbie fan, especially the English lines.
I’m so very sorry that this diagnosis has come to such a young pup. It is truly heartbreaking.
Please let us know what you decide but if you go the amputation route I think you’ll be very surprised at how quickly Rennie adjusts to life as a Tripawd. I certainly have no regrets about Tai’s amputation and it brought us 10 months that we otherwise wouldn’t have shared.
Thinking of you,
Laura of Kali and Angel Tai
Tai – 9 yr old lab. Diagnosed Osteosarcoma Dec 18/09. Front right leg amputated Dec 21/09. Started chemo Jan 7/10. Lung mets discovered Sept 16/10. Valiant to the end on Oct 26/10 when cancer reappeared in a leg and we made the decision to set her free. Forever in my heart where not even cancer can take her from me.