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. I'm new to the forums and have really enjoyed and appreciated reading what everyone has had to say!
I am happy to say that, fortunately our Cavalier King Charles spaniel - Rosie - does not have cancer. My sympathy goes out to all of you that have had to make decisions regarding your beloved pets!
However, we are having to decide between amputation of her front right leg or possibly surgery and fusing of her elbow joint.
The elbow joint was damaged when she was around 8 weeks old (we didn't know that when we bought her from breeder!). We knew she had a slight limp - but breeder assured us that it was a poorly healed break to upper bone (femur?), and that she would be perfectly healthy otherwise. We were more than happy to rescue her - not sure what would've happened to a puppy with a limp in a show breeders kennel.
As time has gone on - Rosie is now two - the limp has become more pronounced. Recently had leg xrayed, only to find out that elbow joint is completely broken, smashed and unrepairable. Loose pieces of bone, cartliage and tendon all mixed uptogether is what it looks like in xray. Vet unable to say how she can still be walking around - let alone running (but she does!).
We have a nine year old daughter - and Rosie is the love of her life! Amputation is quite confronting for her and we would really prefer not to do it if we don't have to! Not sure if fusing the joint is the right thing to do either?
Does anyone have anything to contribute to my decision making?
Thank you for your time.
Does anyone have anything to contribute to my decision making?
Plenty! First of all, welcome and thanks for joining. We're sorry to hear about Rosie, but glad you found us.
Every dog is different, but based on the experiences of members reported here in these forums, most do better without the limb than having it fused.
We are by no means advocating amputation if it's unnecessary, but we have heard from too many people who put there dogs through multiple, painful, expensive surgeries only to proceed with amputation anyway. The chances for infection and/or the fuse not taking, are just a couple reasons for considering amputation.
Hopefully you'll hear from Cometdog, who is an honorary tripawd who gets along just fine with a "fused" limb. As for helping your daughter cope with the situation, be sure to show her some ofthe amazing videos of tripawds Loving Life On Three Legs , including many of our own Wyatt running or Jerry playing and swimming.
You may also find some of these books helpful for teach young children about canine amputation and three legged dogs.
As a young, small dog, Rosie should adapt quickly and manage quite well. Best wishes in the decisions you face, please keep us posted.
22 August 2008
It would really depend on how much scar tissue/arthritis is present. Did you consult with a surgeon? When a joint is fused (arthrodesis) the abnormal bone and tissue is removed and a metal plate is implanted or the joint is fixed with pins and wires. A small dog could do really well with such a surgery. If the damage to the joint is severe then amputation would probably be easier on her in the long run.
Did your vet give you an opinion?
14 July 2010
What a tough decision. We have a seven year old daughter and four year old son, both of whom were very attached to our Rottie/Shepherd mix who was diagnosed with cancer. Our daughter had seen the "Miracle Dogs" movie (referenced in admin's link) at her grandmother's house before we had even contemplated amputation for Chance, so when we began discussing it, she was excited we might have our own 'miracle dog.' We watched lots of the videos on this site, and I even showed her the post-amputation photos so she would know what the surgery site would look like when he came home. Unfortunately, I cannot say how well our preparation worked since lung mets were discovered in Chance's pre-op workup and we were unable to go through with his surgery, but my daughter still talks about 'three-legged dogs' and asks to watch the videos on this site! Good luck with your decision.
Chance, our 9.5 year old Rottie/Shepherd mix was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his left front shoulder. In July of 2010, we planned to proceed with the amputation, but lung mets were discovered. Chance reached the Rainbow Bridge October 1, 2010, just a few weeks after his 10th birthday.
We always appreciate Dr. Pam's professional opinion!
Thank you for taking the time to answer.
We have had differing opinions from vets. As you can imagine, we have asked for more than one opinion! Majority believe amputation is the best - but the surgical vet says he thinks she would be a good candidate. Would hate to think that we put her in more pain than she is already in!
As she has been using this damaged joint for nearly 2 years there is a fair amount of scar tissue and arthritis in the joint. She runs on it anyway - guess she doesn't know any different! If the joint is fused, will it be harder for her to get around? How about just sitting down and curling up on her mat? She is a very cuddly girl - don't want to make it too hard for her!
Thanks for your questions Pam. I will get back to vet and ask some more myself! We had pretty much prepared ourselves and our daughter for the amputation and then we were given this option - has caused more worry and concern if we are doing the right thing!
Not sure how pricey these surgeries are in the US - we are in Australia and looking at $2500 or more....Not that we wouldn't pay it if we thought it was the best for her! But, you do have to wonder - if it doesn't go well and end up looking at amputation anyway....
17 February 2010
It sounds like there are pros and cons to either option. When Sadie was first diagnosed with cancer in her scapula, we were pretty sure we could remove her shoulder blade and save her leg. When the surgeon got in there, he realized that he would have to remove too much muscle, which is necessary to anchor the leg. Because of that problem, he amputated instead. Maybe there's a way to have a contingency plan so that if they see certain things once they get in there, they can either proceed with the surgery or amputate. I now have Ranger, who is a tripawd from being hit by a car. We just adopted him in October and he's been a tripawd for almost 2 years. He's 5 1/2yrs and does incredibly well on 3 legs! Good luck with everything. I hope that whatever path you choose has the very best outcome possible!
Sadie is my 9yr old Rott/Shepherd mix. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right scapula 1/28/10. Our brave girl had her amputation 2/13/10 and her last chemotherapy on 6/6/10. Unfortunately, a tumor appeared in her back right leg and on 10/7/2010 Sadie's earthly journey came to an end. On 10/24/2010 we adopted Ranger, a handsome Rott/Lab mix tripawd (got hit by a car) I think Sadie sent him to us.
9 November 2010
I would do whatever you think will cause less pain in the long run. My poor Kess suffered in pain for 2 years before her amputation. Now that she's pain free she's even happier and crazier than ever before. I know for us it was the right choice. I don't know anything about fusing the bone, but I would take into account the level of pain she would experience both now and later in life. My kiddos are young so other than a few funny concerns about getting their arm cut off next time they have to go to a Dr, they adjusted just fine.
14 August 2009
I, too know nothing about fusing. But I just wanted to wish you lots of luck in your decision.
Comet was born without a functioning front leg and I can tell you that she has done fine for 12 years. She's in the 40lb range. Her's is still attached but it doesn't function and it's smaller than a normal leg.
It's an agonizing decision but just remember that she'll be fine on three legs. It will be different for about a week and then you'll not even notice it and neither will she. We all would rather have 4 legs but sometimes our path in life takes us down a different road.
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.
What a great learning experience you can turn this into for children! It's so important for everyone to not focus on what humans often perceive as a "disability" and instead look at the wonderful "ability" our tripawd dogs (as well as people with physical challenges) display.
If you do this, everything else falls naturally into place
My neighbors, six & four year old girls, were outside when I brought Isabelle home after her amputation. They had a lot of questions & were interested in how she was going to walk, etc. Once they saw her walking later that day, they wanted to see her sutures, but really just wanted to pet her as they always had. Several days later, we were leaving & they asked if Isabelle was going to work (they were used to her going to her Therapy visits.) I said we were going to the doctor. The four year old excitedly asked "to get her leg back?" The six year old smacked her arm & said "No, then Isabelle would be sick again, she doesn't need her stupid leg"
For what it's worth, we just met with a rehab vet who informed us that there is a 20& chance of complications in any veterinary implant surgery and that osteosarcoma has been known to develop at the site of plates or screws. Though specific documentation is not (yet) available, it's definitely something to consider, especially in breeds already prone to bone cancers.
Thanks fr the update, please do keep us posted.