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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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Find out in Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now by Tripawds founders Rene and Jim. Learn life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Get the book and find fun gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.

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13 Year Old Dog with reoccurring sarcoma/ swelling
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Forum Posts: 7
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15 August 2021 - 2:52 pm
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Our 13 year old border collie/ blue heeler mix developed a nerve sheath tumor (a sarcoma) when she was 7. She has had it removed about 6 times since then, with no major issues and fast recovery. It is low grade malignancy, but they can't get a wide enough margin to cure it with limited tissue on the leg.  This time, while awaiting her vet appointment to evaluate, it swelled up suddenly, and she couldn't walk on it. She also had a fever of almost 105.  I took her in immediately.  They administered antibiotics, and she is on a 10 day dose of capsules. The fever went down by the next morning.  There is still a lot of swelling 3 days into the antibiotics, but she is putting some weight on it. 

She will be 14 in October. She is in pretty good health other than the tumor. I don't know if our vet will be able to remove it this time. We had her down to the University last fall, and their options were debulk it (which we did), amputate, or leave her there 5 days a week for a month for radiation.  We live 2 hours away, and she developed quite the separation anxiety after us being gone for my husband's illness last summer. I feel we need to be prepared with knowing what we may need to do when we go in this week for her scheduled appointment.  

I just don't know about amputation at this point in her life. These few days holding up her leg she was falling all over. I realize she would need time to adjust, but it seems like it would be too much for her at almost 14.  I would like to hear from others with older dogs and what your thoughts are. She is otherwise happy, eating well, etc.  We don't want to put her down at this point. 

Thank you

The Rainbow Bridge



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15 August 2021 - 5:37 pm
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Hello to you and your pup. What's her name? 

Your future posts won't need approval so post away.

These kinds of tumors are such a tough thing when it gets to this point. I totally understand where you are coming from. Our Size and Age Matters forum topic has stories of senior dogs who did well on three legs, but every dog is different of course and amputation isn't always the answer. Whatever you decide we will support you.

What I would want to know is, how does the vet feel about the possibility of your dog being an amputation candidate now? Has anything changed since last year, besides the tumor recurrence? Is her mobility more impaired than before? Her breed type is pretty stout, and if all else is fine, she could certainly do well as a three-legger. See our Tripawds Quality of Life Survey results for feedback from other parents.

What university are you taking her to? I'm nosy. You couldn't be in a better place to get multiple opinions on her situation. I would want to know what oncology and orthopedics think about her being an amputation candidate. See if you can have both specialties give her an evaluation.

I would also want to know if electrochemotherapy or intralesional chemotherapy is an option for her. These are treatments have saved numerous legs from amputation. They are more widely performed in Europe on pets and people alike, and not too many vets here do them, but we've know Tripawds who have done well after receiving them for cancers other than the ones that caused their limb loss. I would mention it to the university vets but my guess is they will probably not be game for it. If after checking out the linked info, you want help finding a practitioner, just let me know.

Also, this post about Questions to Ask Your Oncologist may also be helpful during your visit.

Please keep us posted on how things are going OK? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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15 August 2021 - 7:01 pm
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Hello again,

Her name is Tess. She is a very sweet dog. The vet we saw after hours the other days hasn't seen it previously, so he just said it would have to settle down a bit for them to tell where it is at - what is swelling, and what is actual tumor. She seems to have two areas close together.  Our regular clinic is 20 minutes from us, and she sees her regular vet there on Thursday, if all goes well enough. The University of Minnesota is where she went last fall.  She also had a sarcoma on her hip then, which they feel they cured, but required a flap for closure. I have never heard of electrochemotherapy , but they never mentioned that as an option.  Do you have other ideas? 

Virginia




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15 August 2021 - 7:07 pm
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I see you're  on here now and assuming  you're  reading Jerry's great insight and questions.  One quick thought to add to this....when  your sweet pup would fall, was he on slick floors or on floors that had eugs for traction ??

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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15 August 2021 - 8:47 pm
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UofM is an excellent place to get care. I'm not surprised they didn't mention electrochemotherapy or intralesional since it's off the beaten path for most conventional vets but it can't hurt to ask. I think the plan as it is now sounds reasonable as long as she has good pain management .

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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15 August 2021 - 9:12 pm
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Part of the time, she was on our ceramic tile floor, but she also lost her balance outside when she peed. I know how to mitigate the floors if needed.  We had a dog with bad hip dysplasia.  

Jerry, do you know of anyone who does do the electrochemotherapy

Thanks all for your help!

Virginia




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15 August 2021 - 9:26 pm
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Cant  really give you any feedback on the alternatives  to amputation  Jerry memtioned.  She and others will chime in.

An Orthopedic  Surgeon mand maybe even a Rehabilitation  Specialist  would be very beneficial min assessing her to see if she's a good candidate  for amputation. 

We say so often around her that age is just a number.  Mature dogs can still have a zest for life and lots of pep.    Even older dogs with arthritis are often good candidates for amputation and they amaze us with  their resilience..

Just know that whatever path you take we are here for you.  There are no right or wrong appr when it comes to deal with this piece  of crap disease.   You clearly  will make a decision out of love for Tess and that is always the right decision. Your bond comes shining  through💖

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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16 August 2021 - 8:42 am
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Aww you are a great dog parent! Managing hip dyplaysia is a tough one too.

Here's a local Minnesota electrochemotherapy vet who does electrochemotherapy . I would get in touch with her and if seeing her isn't practical, maybe she can refer you to someone who is.

Animal Referral & Emergency Center of MN, Briana Keller DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), cHPV

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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26 September 2021 - 4:06 pm
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Hello,

It has been over a month since I have originally posted. Tess, our border collie/blue heeler cross, has had a couple of visits at the University of Minnesota to evaluate the sarcoma on her left, rear leg, and make sure it has not spread elsewhere. The surgeon there thought he could still debulk it, but it has grown since he saw her two and a half weeks ago. The goal was to debulk it and get her into a new sarcoma immunotherapy study that starts next month at the U. I am afraid it may have grown too much to get her into that, as it is wrapping around her leg.  She is going in for surgery tomorrow, and I am not sure if we will be bringing home a three or four legged dog. The vet's preference was to amputate.  If she can't do the study, then we will probably need to opt for amputation, as the surgeon said it will likely grow back in two months or so, if it is just debulked. (She has had it removed about 6 times since it first appeared when she was 7. The other times have not been near this large. COVID related delays (still) have allowed too much time for it to grow while we wait on appointments.)

My big concern is that she will not be able to walk after the surgery. Although, she is still a strong, active dog and in quite good health, she will be 14 next month. How do I even get her walking again? What if she gives up? What if it ends up being too much for her remaining limbs? I know most of these can only be answered with time, but I don't even know how to help her, or do what is best for her. I watch her running along the fence right now, egging on our mini mules (who are on the other side, and unfazed), and I don't want her to lose that happiness. Yet, I don't think she can go much longer with that tumor growing on her leg, before it causes problems.  

Advice?

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 September 2021 - 10:10 am
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Hey there welcome back to you and Tess. I'm sorry that the tumor is growing. Ugh! How frustrating, but at least you have a plan now. We are sending tons of Tripawd Power your way for a speedy recovery!

The Covid delays at vet clinics are sooo bad everywhere. I'm sorry you are dealing with that right now, on top of everything else. 

 I don’t even know how to help her, or do what is best for her.

You already are. She's getting excellent vet care, you are here so we can support you and help you feel better about this, and you already know what to expect because you had a dog with hip dysplasia. So, remember, age really is just a number to dogs. If she was not a good candidate for surgery, UofM would have told you. She may be 14 but she is a young at heart dog --- and those mules aren't going to be able to rest too much because she will be back out there in time!

As for her walking....the vets won't let her go home until she is ambulatory. She has to be able to walk, and stand to drink water before they release her. And even if she is wobbly when she gets home, you will be so surprised at her ability to maneuver on three. She's already doing it really! Rarely can a dog not walk when they get home. If that happens it's usually just a matter of pain medication needing some fine-tuning. So don't panic. She may be wobbly and seeing pink elephants but that is temporary.

Right now, you can help her by remembering that your pawsitivity makes all the difference. A good, upbeat attitude is something she will feel, and reflect right back to you. Worry, and she will reflect that back to you too. So try not to. I know it's hard! But you can do it. Tess is a rock star and she is going to show you that she is stronger and more resilient than you ever imagined.

You can prepare for her homecoming by checking out our What to Expect articles , and if you haven't already, Jerry's Required Reading List has lots of good stuff too.

Keep us posted and start a new topic in Treatment and Recovery, or Size and Age Matters, when she comes home. I'll look for you over there!

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