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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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3-yr old Goldendoodle with chondrosarcoma front right leg
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Member Since:
30 January 2024
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4 February 2024 - 9:55 pm
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Hello! Two weeks ago, a beautiful tripawd crossed my path on a walk, and as I took note of its strength and grace, I had absolutely no idea that I'd find myself just days later frantically researching bone cancer, amputation, and finding this amazing resource and community. We've been on a fast journey that really caught us off guard. Front leg amputation is scheduled for Feb 14. Many of my initial questions and anxieties have been calmed by information I've already found on this forum, but I have a few lingering questions if anyone would like to respond. 

Trevor is a "flat-coated Goldendoodle", 75% golden and 25% poodle. He weighs 70 pounds, so a big guy. Long legged. He just turned three in October. He came from a responsible, well-established breeder whose dogs have generally lived to ripe old ages in excellent health. Nothing is certain, of course, but I mention this because despite the golden in Trevor, and the large size, we just weren't thinking about cancer at all when we started noticing a very slight limp in his right front leg in late November / early December.

It seemed like a paw issue, and more like a "tentativeness" than an actual limp. It was intermittent. Trevor loves running and bounding and leaping. We figured he took a hard landing somewhere, or stepped on something. Our vet did an orthopedic exam, and she detected nothing too concerning. She thought it could be a soft tissue injury and said those can take awhile to heal in dogs. She prescribed some Rimadyl and Gabapentin and two weeks rest, which we did, even though "rest" is Trevor's least favorite word. He's a super high energy guy.

The issue got better quickly, it seemed, even before the full two weeks of rest were over. We let him do short walks, and then let him re-join his daily pack walks with his pals. (He goes out with a walker his best friends, off leash, and loves his romps). And he was fine. And then the limp was back, off and on, just a little, but noticeable, and restarting medication didn't seem to help much.

January 19, we took him back to the vet and got X-rays as a precautions. We were shocked to learn of an aggressive bone lesion on his proximal humerus. That's pretty far from the paw we'd been focused on! Our vet cautioned this looked suspiciously like osteosarcoma. Lungs looked clear, but she recommended a bone biopsy as the next step.

We moved over to the first animal hospital with an immediate opening for a consult, and got the biopsy on January 22. We had to wait a full week for results. We were unprepared for the biopsy recovery. He was not using his front leg at all when he came home, and then the limp was worse. But he bounced back, and now his gait looks somewhat steadier again. Sometimes it seems as though nothing is wrong! The challenge has been to keep him on restricted activity, as there is the risk of pathologic fracture. Trevor is still high energy. We don't let him off leash in the yard now and he doesn't go on his pack walks, just short "sniff" walks, out of an abundance of caution. It feels like having an high energy dog that's made of glass. Gapaentin doesn't slow him down one bit.

So after a week of fearing the worst, we got the biopsy results. The diagnosis is NOT osteosarcoma, but Chondrosarcoma. So it's "good news" in that it's got a somewhat better prognosis, if we act fast, before it spreads. I guess it's a very small percentage of this type of lesion that ends up being something other than osteosarcoma, and Trevor's apparently landed in that percentage - although there is a small chance that it could turn out to be "chondroblastic osteosarcoma" - we won't know until after his procedure I guess. But right now they feel pretty confident with the chondrosarcoma diagnosis. 

We will need to amputate the front right leg. He will not need chemo. We are relieved to have this news, and some hope, and a path forward. We believe he'll make an amazing Tripawd. He's been training for therapy dog certification, and while this will set us back a little with timing, I think we'll still pursue this goal when we're on the other side of all this. But it's also very sad and hard to process this major change for such a young and active dog. 

I have several questions at this stage: 

1. Does anyone know of a discussion thread specific to Chondrosarcoma?

2. I hear positive stories of dogs rebounding quickly from this procedure, for the most part, but taking awhile to get endurance back up. I also understand he may need to limit some of that high-impact activity he's used to to protect his other limbs and joints. I fear that he won't make it back to those glorious 60 minute off-leash walks / runs with his pals, or won't be able to keep up. Is that length of off-leash walk with other dogs a realistic goal to work toward, or is he likely going to need shorter walks after this indefinitely?

3. Due to a long-planned family event, the rest of my household is going to have to be away for some of Trevor's first week of recovery. I'll have help for the first two nights that he's back, and then I'm on my own for a week, though friends and neighbors will be coming by. I was able to help him move outside for the bathroom and back in after the bone biopsy, and friends loaned us a wheelchair ramp, which helped a lot. I think I"m ok physically to handle him, and I have a sling.  I can't quite tell yet if dogs tend to sleep a lot in those early days, while medicated, or if there's a lot of hands-on round-the-clock work involved. At the moment it almost sounds easier, if he's resting, compared to the constant vigilance I do now to keep him from running / jumping and preventing fracture. Should I consider having someone stay with me for the days my family members need to be away - for physical and/or emotional support? Or can this be a one-person job? 

Many thanks in advance for your help. 

Livermore, CA

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5 February 2024 - 10:12 am
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry you have to be here but glad you found us. I'm also glad that you have found some resources here to help as you navigate these changes with Trevor.

Yes, dogs tend to rebound quickly relatively speaking, two to three weeks is usually what it takes for the surgery to heal and to get off the meds.  I would reccomend that you take Trevor to a rehab vet after the amp surgery.  Some vets will tell you that dogs don't need it but I have found it very helpful with my now 9 year old rear amp Tripawd Elly (car accident when she was 7 months old).  Core strength, leg strength and balance are even more important for Tripawd dogs for long term health.  Many rehab vets will tell you that a 60 minute walk is way too long for a Tripawd- my rehab vet recommends a couple of short walks a day, 15 minutes or so each.  Will Trevor be able to do more? Probably so, especially since he is so young, but if you are dealing with a curative amputation then he has a long life ahead of him on three.  Being a bit more conservative now will help his long term health.

Check out our Rehab Vet Reimbursement program... we may pay for your first rehab visit .

There are other things to do besides walks like food games and puzzles, scent games, and trick and obedience training. I am a big advocate for Nose Work for Tripawds, Elly has been doing NW for 6.5 years.   I have a stroller for Elly, she is a little Pug mix, and yes they make them for big dogs.  I also have a 2 year old quad dog who needs exercise.  We hike at a nearby lake once a week. I do about 3 miles, my quad dog Callie goes at least 3.5 miles and Elly walks about a half mile and rides the rest of the time. 

You could handle recovery by yourself, many here do, but if you have someone who can stay and help I would do that.  Not that Trevor will need help but you will be stressed and tired and having someone around to let you rest would be helpful.

BTW- training for Therapy Dog work is AWESOME!  I've always wanted to do that but haven't found the right dog yet.


Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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6 February 2024 - 10:35 am
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Hi Diana, welcome. Sorry you are having to join our club! Nobody ever expects a diagnosis like this, and it's a tough situation for sure. We hope to make it easier for you and Trevor. Who, by the way, sounds like a really bouncy, strong, and young pup who will do pretty darn well on three once this is all behind you.

Sally has given you some fantastic insight! One other pup I want to point you to is Farley, who is also doing super cool things on three legs!

I'll try my best to answer your questions:

1. Does anyone know of a discussion thread specific to Chondrosarcoma?

There have been quite a few dogs with chondrosarcoma over the years. Yes, sometimes it does get mistaken for osteosarc, or vice versa. Chondro is definitely the "better" of the two if it happens.

So a lot of the forum posts may start out with a discussion about one or the other, then switch. It gets a little muddy. 

One dog we knew personally was Liam, a Husky sled dog who had a scapulectomy for his chondro, and went on to live a long, active, healthy life into old age. His original forums post is here.

Here are some Tripawds blog posts about dogs with chondrosarcoma.

 Is that length of off-leash walk with other dogs a realistic goal to work toward, or is he likely going to need shorter walks after this indefinitely?

It is very dog dependent but in general a dog missing a front leg is going to have less endurance than a dog who has all four legs. That's not to say they won't try to keep up, or won't be able to for a while. We see it all the time. But what we also see here is that eventually too much of the wrong types of activity takes a toll and without good moderation, it will result in severe OA, joint stress, and possibly injury. Conscientious pet parenting is required for a long, healthy, injury-free life.

However, it's best to have him evaluated by a rehab therapist so that 1) you can know what his limits and capabilities are now and in the future, and 2) you can work with a pro to help you keep him strong and able to do things he loves. It's also good to have them as a point of contact so that should he happen to pull a muscle or have aches and pains in the future, they know his history and can quickly address the issue.

3. Due to a long-planned family event, the rest of my household is going to have to be away for some of Trevor's first week of recovery.

The first week is the hardest. Having someone who can assist always makes things easier, but it's not impossible to handle recovery solo. Sally knows about that!

Most dogs will be chill and sleep a lot if pain management is good. Round-the-clock care is rare but you may feel like you need it if he starts showing signs of dysphoria from the pain medications.

If a dog is young and active, recovery can be as challenging as watching a senior dog go through it. But in this case your hardest part may be keeping him mellow and not overdoing things. 

I'd say that if it's easy to have someone stay with you for the first week, that's ideal. But if not, as long as you have a friend or neighbor you can call to assist you with him if necessary, like going outside to toilet, that would give you peace of mind. I kinda doubt that your active boy is going to need that level of support, but don't hold me to that.

Hope this helps. Please ask any questions you'd like and let us know how things are going.

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30 January 2024
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8 February 2024 - 5:08 pm
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Thank you for these encouraging words, links to success stories, and additional tips, I really appreciate it! 

We have done nose work and tricks classes - he has a certificate in Intermediate tricks -- so maybe we'll get more into those activities in this new chapter. I've been so grateful for the tricks classes I took as they've given us some things to work on that are low-key while I"m trying to prevent vigorous activity pre-surgery.

I definitely hear what you are saying about endurance, and how dialing down the walks will benefit him in the long run. We will definitely be taking him to a rehab vet or program after he's recovered. I love the idea of having someone to work with for ongoing monitoring too, and as a point of contact in case something else happens. 

Thank you again for the thoughtful responses, I really appreciate it and feel better! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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9 February 2024 - 10:58 am
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Diana said
We have done nose work and tricks classes - he has a certificate in Intermediate tricks -- so maybe we'll get more into those activities in this new chapter. I've been so grateful for the tricks classes I took as they've given us some things to work on that are low-key while I"m trying to prevent vigorous activity pre-surgery.


Oh my gosh than you need to check out the story of Kaiserin! She started out as a trick dog too, and went on to create incredible paintings!

Kaiserin Pet Cancer Care PackageImage Enlarger

Here's a little about her from our Teach Your Dog to Paint video series announcement:

Her mom Natasha earned her Trick Dog Trainer Certification from Do More with Your Dog. In 2018 she began training her Trick Dog Champion Kaiserin to create beautiful masterpieces. Today, Kaiserin’s siblings Schultz and Wilhelmina keep her legacy alive in this course as they show you how to have fun painting with your dog.

I'm so happy you want to check out rehab therapy! Let us know whatever questions you have, we are here to help.

Katherine H.
12 February 2024 - 3:53 pm
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Hey Diana! Just wanted to send some positive energy and reassurance your way as it seems our fur babies are going through similar things at the moment. I have a roughly 3 year old Great Dane mix. Her name is Dallas and she is the light of my life. Rescuing her was the best decision I have ever made.

Back in October ‘23 she had a slight limp on her front right leg. We went to the vet and did 10 days of skeletal anti-inflammatories (Deramaxx) along with rest from most activity. It seemed to get better for a week or two but the limp returned along with a lump. Late November we returned to the vet and x-rays showed what then was suspected to be osteosarcoma (no lung metastasis detected based on x-rays). They started her on a regimen of pain medications that help the pain but the tumor continued to grow. Our local vet suggested a second opinion and to seek further treatment since she is so young. We finally got an appointment at the University of Georgia’s Veterinary Hospital on January 10th where we did more x-rays and an aspiration of the tumor. She still had no visible metastasis on any other scan thank goodness, but the aspiration suggested osteosarcoma as well. We opted to remove the leg and had it sent to pathology for further testing and grading of the tumor.

Dallas had her amputation surgery January 12th and came home on the 14th. She was very heavily medicated to keep her calm while the incision healed. After 10 days, her sutures were removed and we started weening her off the calming meds. She slept a lot due to the meds which made me question if it was worth it, but after we stopped the meds she was back to who she was before all of this started in October ‘23.

It took some adjusting for sure but dogs really are very resilient. She was already not using the leg before it came off so she already understood how to do most things without it. She had some soreness in the remaining legs and her hind hips for about the first three weeks. To combat this we put her on an arthritis joint supplement (Arthritis-Soothe Gold) and also after two weeks continued on more Deramaxx to help with inflammation.

Happy to say that she is totally adjusted to life with three legs! The process seemed much harder on me mentally than it was on her. I was an emotional wreck the few days after surgery. It was so lonely with her sleeping all of the time, but it got better. She slowly started regaining her personality and it made it all worth it. There was one night in particular where she was visibly sore in those back legs and struggling to find a comfortable way to lay. I burst out into tears and she did exactly what she used to do before all this started. She put her stuffed animal in my lap and gave me kisses on the face. It was the first sign that made all of it feel worth it. Like she was saying “Mom I’m okay. You did the right thing.”

Fast forward to where we are now, she is running after squirrels in the yard and jumping around like a little bean when she gets excited. Yes, day-to-day looks different for her now but with the pain of that leg gone, she is so full of life. Seeing her resilience has made all of it worth it. Every second feels like the biggest blessing and I am so thankful to have to have my girl back.

Dallas went through her first round chemo 2 weeks ago, however pathology spoke with our oncologist today. The biopsy results are suggesting we may be looking at another type of cancer. We are doing additional stains but at this point, I am just blessed for every moment I get to spend with my sweet girl. The amputation was very much worth all of the anxiety and heartache.

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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12 February 2024 - 8:24 pm
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Hi Katherine and Dallas! Welcome. What a story! Thank you so much for taking time to share such details and offer hope to Diana, and many others who will see your amazing girl's story.

Please consider registering as a member so your future posts won't need to wait for approval. Then start a new topic all your own so we can follow along and support you both in your journey. Can't wait to see it! Thanks again.

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30 January 2024
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16 February 2024 - 8:56 pm
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Katherine, thank you so much for sharing Dallas's inspiring story! I'm glad she got back to her old self so quickly. I'm so sorry to hear you may have another diagnosis on the horizon, but it sounds like you really appreciate every moment with her, which is also inspiring! I'm also glad to hear that her personality returned after the meds were reduced. 

Quick update: Trevor had his front leg amputation on Feb 14 and we bought him home today. He ended up staying two nights, but mostly because it was hard for us to get to the hospital in the snow for an evening discharge. I'm actually glad he had two nights, as it alleviated some anxiety, knowing he was being well-monitored, and it let me bank another night of sleep (sort of) as I've been monitoring him so closely for weeks since the bone biopsy, to make sure he doesn't get hurt. I had a little extra time to prepare, lay out rugs and mats, etc. -- all the great advice I've been getting from this group and the books!

He did really well with the procedure - he was standing up to greet the surgeon the next morning. He has mostly slept since we brought him home though. The Trazodone seems to really do a number on him. But I'm glad he's resting, as I was worried about him being too active. He's been able to eat (though I had to hand-feed him at first) and hop outside with great assistance - in the snow - for two bathroom outings. A friend came to visit and his tail thumped a greeting, but he didn't even try to get up, he was so exhausted. (Or medicated - I cannot tell).

We made an appointment with a rehabilitation vet the surgeon referred us to, for March 5, so that's my new milestone marker to look toward. 

I am so thankful for every bit of advice and all the stories and photos in this group! Hugely helpful for preparing myself and my family for what to expect. (Though we're only on Day three, so I"m sure I'll pop back in with more questions - something is likely to come up!)

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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17 February 2024 - 2:42 pm
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Yay for our Valentine Tripawd Hero! This sounds like a good recovery in the making. The rest is good and yep Traz can really zonk dogs out. In a lot of cases that's good, at least for the first week. If he starts having trouble with balance and movement the Traz could be cause so don't panic and let your vet know.

I love that he's got a rehab eval coming up! Be thinking about your goals for him as far as activity and lifestyle, and what you want to get out of rehab. Write it down so when you go to the eval the communication starts off clearly. 

Way to go with advocating and nursing!

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