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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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13 1/2 year old, rear leg bone lesion with metastasis to lung- what to do?
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Forum Posts: 9
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5 April 2021 - 8:24 am
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Thanks for all the stories of courage and hope. I don’t feel like my anxiety over this decision is out of the ordinary anymore after reading your stories. 

  My 13 1/2 year old aussie mix – Puzzle- has an aggressive bone lesion on her rear leg. There is metastasis in her lungs.  Multiple aspirates are inconclusive.  The presentation is not typical of osteosarcoma so vets thinking it is a secondary metastasis.  Ultrasound was clear.  We found the lesion 5 weeks ago after she started limping.  Heartbreaking-she is my best buddy. 

I have seen a number of board certified vets and received various opinions-one surgeon didn’t recommend amputation because the prognosis is grim with metastasis.  The other surgeon initially did recommend amputation-but when I called him last week to say we were seriously thinking about it- he asked me “if we did the surgery, how disappointed would I be if she died in a month?”  I have been thinking about that question all weekend.  Oncology recommended amputation for more immediate pain relief.   

  Puzzle is using the leg less and less- she is a tripawd right now.  We have her on pain meds.  She is eating, alert and wants to go out for short walks –  sleeps the rest of the day. 

It is such a tough call.  Do I put her through a major surgery when -statistically- she might have a month? Maybe two?  Maybe more/less?

Any help/advice is greatly appreciated. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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5 April 2021 - 10:55 am
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Hi to you and Puzzle, welcome. I’m so sorry for the tough diagnosis and situation, it’s not an easy call, I hope we can help you find comfort in whatever you decide.

So it sounds like you’ve done your homework and gotten multiple opinions. Good job! Clearly you love Puzzle with all your heart, she is a lucky dog to have you for a mom. Now, I guess what it comes down to is exactly what the oncologist asked:

he asked me “if we did the surgery, how disappointed would I be if she died in a month?” 

Unfortunately, it happens. We see these situations go every which way, you just can’t predict. Some dogs can live with metastasis longer than anyone expected, others sadly do not. But if it helps at all, in our Tripawds Quality of Life Survey, each time we’ve done it, the vast majority of people have said even though their Tripawd didn’t live as long as they had hoped, they would absolutely choose amputation again. Even in instances when recovery was ruff, the surgery gave a pain-free quality of life to the dog or cat, and people feel that being able to prepare to say goodbye while the animal is clear-headed and pain-free is the greatest gift that their decision to amputate provided. 

Being OK with living moment to moment and not having regrets in the end is one of the silver linings of this awful disease, if you are able to wrap your head and heart around it. We call this learning to Be More Dog . Ironically, living in the now is how our dogs and cats live, and one of their greatest lessons.

Just know that whatever you decide, there are no right or wrong choices here, because every one you make for Puzzle is made with love. We will support you no matter which path you take. Keep us posted OK?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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5 April 2021 - 1:40 pm
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Thank you for the supportive words.   I appreciate it. I did amputate the leg of my last dog after she was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma.  She recovered well and went 9 months before she died.  Its the metastasis that is hanging me up here and not knowing the primary cancer.  It could attack a second bone, making amputation riskier-I can do a bone scan to better assess her bones- it means 2-3 days in the hospital which I just don’t want to be away from her- and added expense but would provide some reassurance. I feel overwhelmed-keep wishing I had a gut feeling one way or the other.  

Virginia




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5 April 2021 - 2:16 pm
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My heart goes out to you.  It really does.  

It sounds like as far as “age”, she’s  doing quite well as a “seasoned ” gal and has already shown  you she can adapt to being a tripawd.  So that’s  a plus.

What type of pupper is your Puzzle?  Big dog…medium dog…little dog?  I ask that merely  as sort of a guideline to see where she ismjn her ” natural life span”…if that makes sense?  Some little dogs live I to their late teens and beyond….some don’t  of course.  And some bigger dogs “usually” have a shorter life span, yet can still certainly  love as long as a little dog too.

And yes, kudos to you for gett lots of good opinions.   I think what it tells you clearly  and with professionals to back you up, their really is not a clear path and ANY decision  is the “right” decision. You are clearly  trying to do what is best for Puzzle and any decision out of love is what she knows you will do for her.♥️

Oh, and as far as osteo going from one limb to the other, it is rare….it does happen, but it is rare.  So, of course speaking with your Vet, you ,may decide  it’s not necessary  to go thru that process.  Of course.  I am not a Vet and not giving  Vet advice.

You can ask yourself what I call the ” what if”., or the  “least, or zero regret” question.  If you just continue  to keep her comfortable and make each day the best ever, can you not second  guess your  decision and wonder “what if” you had done amputation, and not have any regret avput the decision  out of love you made?

If you proceed with amputation and do get some pain free quaility  time, but “short time” (whatever that may boil down too), are you okay with that decision  and have no regrets, knowing  you did get extended pain free time?  Oh we all hope for a smooth recovery  that is usually over within two weeks or less.  There is alway the chance tecovery may be a nit ruff for those two weeks though…may not.  

Two things stood out.  It also sounds like Puzzle is symptom free of any met side effect right now, is that right?  She’s being herself, right?  And secondly,  she has already pretty much adapted  to being a tripawd, eight?  Her leg pain is obviously getting worse though.  And the one thing  that amputation does is relieve that pain.

AMD here’s where you may get your “gut” answer.  Sit down with Pizzle in a quiet centered space.  Just “be”.  What do you think Puzzle would want??

We are here for you and with you and can feel your love and devotion  to Puzzle all the way thru cyberland.  And she knows how much you love her too!

With love 

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!

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5 April 2021 - 4:28 pm
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Thanks benny55-Puzzle is a 45 lb. aussie mix-a medium sized dog. She has adapted to 3 legs so-yes-that is a plus.   We keep looking for signs of lung issues.  We have noticed her breathing rate seems a little higher – but no noticeable coughing which is good.  Unfortunately-we don’t know if this is osteo- FNA’s inconclusive-  so not sure if it would jump to other bones.    She is eating and wants to do short walks.   I really like your “least or zero regret question”–I will give that some thought tonight.  And I will sit down with her later tonight and see if she will let me know too. Great suggestions. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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5 April 2021 - 6:11 pm
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Ah, so you’ve been down the amputation road. I’m so sorry! But you have that recovery experience now, so that’s one hurdle out of the way if you decide to proceed.

If you have access to and are able to afford the CT scan and it won’t cause undue stress to you or her, then it makes sense to do it. The result will likely provide you the information you need to make a decision you can live with. 

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5 April 2021 - 9:31 pm
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Every day is a gift…. and you are making each day count. Your caring for Puzzle’s wellbeing and the desire to be close to her is tender and sweet. I hold space with the rest in supporting you in whatever this journey holds, even if I have no wisdom to add.

You are definitely not alone.

Warmly,

Victrinia

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6 April 2021 - 7:09 pm
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I’m so sorry. Sending love and strength in your and Puzzle’s direction. I don’t think there’s any right answer, and also no wrong answer, in this situation.

Since your pup has already figured out three-legged walking, and since it’s a rear leg, my understanding is that that’s a much easier amputation with a much faster recovery, so might be worth serious consideration (front legs are a harder recovery). Did the doctor give you any sense of average expected life once it has metastasized to the lungs? The vets do say that amputation provides immediate pain relief. And my understanding is that at some point, the pain may become so bad (or the bone may break) that you will have an emergency decision in front of you, to amputate or put her down. 

I think the uncertainty is one of the hardest parts of going through this. There is no right way to handle this, except to shower your pup with unconditional love and spend as much time with her as possible. Give yourself some grace and try not to be hard on yourself whichever way you decide to go. I personally did not have a “gut” feeling as to the right way to go; I asked my vet what she would do in my situation and went with her advice. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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6 April 2021 - 10:06 pm
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Laurie thank you for your very thoughtful insight and support! Your future posts won’t need approval so post away.

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7 April 2021 - 11:42 am
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Thanks for all the support.  Statistically, with metastasis, the doctors said 2-3 months.  Its been 5 weeks since we found the lesion. I think thats why the surgeon asked if I would be disappointed if the grimmer outcome came to be shortly after amputation.  Yesterday found out she has a bad urinary tract infection-so started her on antibiotics.   I am trying to listen to Puzzle- this is what I am sensing from her-she is tired of dragging the leg around- it no longer works,  tired of being on meds-started spitting them out-so got out the good deli meat to get the meds into her. 

If she could have some days when not on meds-great. She still wants to go on walks, she still loves to eat, she still wants to hang around and watch me (aussie herding), she still loves bellyrubs… 

The Rainbow Bridge



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7 April 2021 - 5:11 pm
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Aww you are so welcome, we are here no matter what you decide. Puzzle is so lucky to have a human so in tune with her heart. 

Do you have a working ranch where the dogs do sheep herding? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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7 April 2021 - 8:16 pm
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Thanks Jerry-Puzzle would love it if I had sheep but instead she keeps her aussie eye on me and my other senior dog .  I wish I could better manage the anxiety of this decision, I have been consumed for weeks. At least today she had a good day–we went for 3 short walks – I am going to get thoracic and leg radiographs tomorrow-to see progression,  which should me to finalize my decision.  Thanks again. 

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7 April 2021 - 8:34 pm
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Being armed with information…. and tuning in to what Puzzle wants is the best thing you can do. I’ve had sleepless nights without half your reason… my heart goes out to you.

Warmly,

Vic

Virginia




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7 April 2021 - 8:38 pm
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Aussie’s are such sturdy and loyal pups.  

Give yourself credit for handling a very tough time , all while staying focused on doing  what’s  best for Puzzle. Nope, no easy answers.  Nothing thst instantly  feels 100% clear cut and “right”..  You’re  making progress though.  You are going thru steps to help you determine  a path to take.  

Continue to ‘listen” to Puzzle.  You two clearly have a deep bond.💖

((((((((((((Hugs)))))))))))

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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8 April 2021 - 9:55 am
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Just returned from the vet and getting additional radiographs.  She has a small fracture in the bone lesion.  The vet wanted me to put her down right there. I was in shock.  There was no way.  I just emailed the surgeon to schedule an amputation.  Going to try and buy her some time. Hoping the recovery is relatively pain free- I am sick with worry. 

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