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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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4yo Great Dane - Osteosarcoma distal left radius - aggressive - amputation recommended? I'm not sure!
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Forum Posts: 10
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13 January 2015 - 4:51 am
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Hi all,

Please offer any advice you can.  My baby girl, Tippy, went from being a happy, jumping, swimming, running joy of a Great Dane just 10 days ago, to a limping, pained and confused girl now.  She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma 4 days ago (CT scans showed bone changes associated with sarcoma and 2 nodules on lungs but these are inconclusive), and cytology could not confirm cancer.  First treatment option is amputation and chemo.  Second option is radiotherapy and IV bisphosphonate.

I admit I am so hurt and shocked right now that I may not be capable of making the best possible decision for Tippy.  But my initial instinct is to refuse amputation and try radiotherapy and whatever other palliative care is available.  Tippy weighs 160 pounds (72kg) - she is not fat, but she is a big solid girl.  She is also incredibly anxious and insecure and easily upset and frightens at the slightest thing.  She is my baby and my shadow and I love her to bits.  I would never want to hurt her, nor am I concerned about cost or how a tripawd dog would effect my life.  My gut feeling is that she just won't cope with amputation due to her size and her temperament.  It may just traumatise her beyond what can be deemed necessary.

I feel my duty is to ensure she has the best quality of life she can possibly have for as long as she possibly can - I know now that my time with her will be all too short - but I think quality trumps quantity.  If 60% of her 72kg has to be balanced on one leg, her mobility is going to be severely limited.  We live on an acreage that is not flat but made up of lots of hills and uneven ground and rocky terrain.  Our home has many stairs both inside and outside.  Access would not be easy for such a big girl.  Beyond how amputation would affect her emotionally - how would she ever navigate her world again?  And she is so timid and anxious, I very much doubt she would have the confidence to even try.

If anyone out there has any advice or stories concerning similar circumstances, I would really appreciate hearing from you!  Time is of the essence - my understanding is I have to make my decision within the next few days.  I'm at my wits end. Please help... I need to know if anyone out there has made choices to amputate or not amputate in the face of a similar situation.

Thank you...

Tippy's mum, Vee.

The Rainbow Bridge



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13 January 2015 - 8:57 am
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Hi Vee and Tippy, welcome. Your future posts won't require approval.

We're glad you're here so we can help you decide if amputation is right for your Dane. You definitely have her best interests in mind and your belief in quality over quantity is exactly what we believe here too. And that's exactly what amputation can do for a lot of dogs; no matter how much time they have left, once the painful leg is gone, their time they spend can be pain-free. Recovery isn't always easy and easy (see Tracy and Angel Bailey's story) and it's not always without complications, but we've seen a lot of giant breed dogs, some even larger, do fine on three legs (see Nova's story, our all-time longest-lived Dane member). You'll find these folks chiming in here, like Atlas the Wonder Dane and Sally and her Angel Happy Hannah, who offer a ton of insight about the experience with a giant breed dog. We've had mastiffs, saint bernards, wolfhounds, all sorts of giant breed dogs join us and have a great quality of life. Do a search in our Member blogs for the breeds and you'll see lots of stories.

What does your vet think about her candidacy as a Tripawd? It sounds like she is a very sensitive dog, which of course also plays into the decision, we understand that. A big factor is also your attitude; if you are scared and unsure, she will be too. Dogs our our mirrors, they absorb our emotions and whatever we are feeling, they reflect. So if you are at all uncertain, that will affect her recovery. You really have to believe she will be fine if you decide to proceed.

Have you talked to your vet about limb sparing or palliative radiation therapy? If these are an option I would consider that if you're feeling this uncertain about her life on three legs.

I hope this helps. Stay tuned, others will chime in shortly.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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13 January 2015 - 9:58 am
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Hi Vee,

I got the same devastating news for my 8 year-old (at the time) Great Dane, Lily. It was a similar situation...she's perfectly fine and then all of the sudden she has a slight limp that within days turned into her pacing the house in pain and not putting much weight on it. All the emotions you're going through: shock, grief, confusion - I experienced them all. Although Lily was 8, she was in great shape and I did not have any reservations about doing the surgery. She had her right rear leg amputated last May. She did WONDERFULLY on three legs, like she was born to it. It was tough seeing her for the first time post-op and the first month can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster as they heal and regain their strength. The Tripawds community really helped get me through the whole journey.

Once Lily recovered, she was able to do everything she could do on 4 legs. My husband and I restricted her squirrel hunting to on-leash chases as she tried to climb trees and we always worried she might tear the ACL on her remaining back leg. We also helped her back end up into the car and onto the bed at night to keep her from putting too much strain on her back leg. She got really good at making a quick turn on her stump and boy could she run!

We followed up Lily's amputation with 5 rounds of chemotherapy (Carboplatin) and after that she began Palladia three times a week. She did develop 2 small nodules in her lungs but the cancer and the chemo never got her down, never slowed her down. We very sadly had to say goodbye to her two weeks ago due to a brain tumor but I wouldn't trade the 7 extra months we got with Lily for the world. If I had to go back and do it all over I would tackle the osteosarcoma in exactly the same way.

I hope this helps. It may not be the right decision for you and Tippy but I hope it provides some comfort to hear of a similar experience. I know how special Great Danes are and I feel for you in this tough time.

 

-Kerry, Lily's Mom

Lily the Great Dane (she was actually a lot more than just "Great") joined our family as an ornery puppy on December 20, 2005 and changed our lives forever. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in early May of 2014 and her right rear leg was amputated on May 8, 2014. She sailed through 5 rounds of Carboplatin and 15 weeks of Pallladia. She hopped on 3 legs like she was born to it and continued to fight cancer with grace, valor and an abundant sense of humor...and always a *giant* smile on her face. Lily had two small nodules on her lungs but was brought short by a brain tumor in late December, 2014. Lily earned her wings on December 28, 2014 and we miss her terribly every day. http://lilyt.tripawds.com

Norene, TN
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13 January 2015 - 11:47 am
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Hi Vee and Tippy!

Firstly, welcome! Secondly, hate that you're here.

All the decisions you're trying to sift through are very taxing on your emotions. And just like Jerry said, Tippy will pick up on those emotions and reflect them in her behavior. That's why we have to be a solid anchor for our Tripawds, pre-op, post-op and maintenance care.

I will only add to the great advice already given, whatever decision you make, as long as it's made with love, will be correct. There are no wrong answers in a loving heart.

Find your center, and Tippy will respond too.

pam

Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.

"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."

- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey

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13 January 2015 - 2:13 pm
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Thank you all!  Thank you with all my heart for your compassion and your stories.

Kerry - I am so sorry you just lost Lily.  I know how devastating it is to say good-bye to a Dane-child.  My boy, Jonas, died a year and a half ago - he was almost 7yo and just dropped to the ground one morning from a massive heart attack.  Cardiomyopathy was the likely culprit - and we never even knew he was unwell.  I know what a massive vacuum they leave in their wake, but I can say that Jonas never really left us and he still makes me smile when I think of him every day.  I hope Lily's love, and all your wonderful memories with her, sustain you through this painful time.  And thank you again for letting me know how precious these last 7 months with her have been - and how worthwhile.

Jerry - thanks for the links to the other dane stories.  In answer to your questions, Tippy is not a candidate for limb sparing surgery as the length of affected bone measures close to 15cm.  The surgeon does believe she is a candidate for amputation despite her size.  The vets feel the main objective is to get her to be pain-free and radical surgery (despite its own complications and after-affects) is the best option.  The other option is radiosurgery, which may give her some pain-free time - we just don't know how much.  The vets are doing their best to help us to make the right decision for Tippy but, as you all say, it's as much about treating our response to this devastating disease, as it is about treating Tippy.  

Pam - you're right. My centre seems to have slipped away.  When we lost Jonas, it never occurred to me that we might lose Tippy as well so soon.  She's just too young!  

It's a beautiful morning here in Sydney now and Tippy has limped off her bed to join me on the sofa while i have my cup of morning coffee.  I'll take her down to the beach now and let her enjoy a good swim. It's her favourite thing in the world.  She's not eating much lately and I know the pain meds (Fentanyl patches and codeine) aren't doing much for her overall sense of well-being.  I have to decide soon.  I will read all the stories of the other brave Danes who have soldiered through this process and I'll try to be as open-minded as possible.  If it had been Jonas who developed this disease, I would not have hesitated to amputate.  He was such a forceful, active and brave boy - he would have adapted well.  But Tippy is just so anxious and frightened - her standard response to anything out of the ordinary is to hide her massive frame under the coffee table.  A few months ago we even took her to a canine cardiologist because her regular vet was worried about her elevated heart-rate - when he saw her for her check-ups it was consistently between 150 and 180bpm.  She had CT scans of her heart and wore a halter-monitor for 24 hours - the official diagnosis was that she's just an incredibly anxious dog.  The moment she is taken out of her familiar setting, or away from us, she panics.  I'm crying again as I write this because it slays me to see her frightened and hurt.  This is why I'm unsure.  I just feel that no matter what choice I make, I'll be betraying her trust in me and hurting her.  

Thanks again to each of you. I'm speaking to the oncologist again later today.  I'll be sure to let you know how we proceed.

Much love,

Vee

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13 January 2015 - 3:28 pm
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Thank you so much, Vee. Lily was our first Dane-child and she was really something special. She definitely left a HUGE hole in our home and our hearts. She taught me a lot of things and one of the things I will always carry with me is a deep love for Great Danes and their huge hearts and personalities. We will definitely be doing some rescue adoptions as soon as our hearts have healed enough to think about it. It sounds like your Dane-kids are just as amazing and it's great to hear from someone who feels the same way :) I'm so sorry that you lost Jonas. It's really devastating.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got through the osteosarcoma/amputation process was from another Tripawd family member: Keep in mind that, whatever you decide to do, you are doing this *for* Tippy and not *to* her. You know Tippy better than anyone so you'll make the right decision. Whatever you decide, she will *not* feel betrayed by you at all. You are her person and she'll just be looking to you for comfort as you both make the journey through the process.

Try to go easy on yourself. Easier said than done, right? This is such a hard time - I remember so vividly taking Lily to the vet for her limp just praying that she hadn't torn her ACL or broken something. An hour later I was hit with this horrible news and beginning to make life-changing decisions for her (and wishing she had torn her ACL). I know it all seems so overwhelming right now but things will get better! Don't be afraid to lean on all of us here as we all understand.

 

-Kerry

Lily the Great Dane (she was actually a lot more than just "Great") joined our family as an ornery puppy on December 20, 2005 and changed our lives forever. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in early May of 2014 and her right rear leg was amputated on May 8, 2014. She sailed through 5 rounds of Carboplatin and 15 weeks of Pallladia. She hopped on 3 legs like she was born to it and continued to fight cancer with grace, valor and an abundant sense of humor...and always a *giant* smile on her face. Lily had two small nodules on her lungs but was brought short by a brain tumor in late December, 2014. Lily earned her wings on December 28, 2014 and we miss her terribly every day. http://lilyt.tripawds.com

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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13 January 2015 - 6:39 pm
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I so hope you are able to find peace in the decision you make.  I know how hard this is for you. All of us struggle, but knowing you have an apprehensive dog already has got to weigh heavy on your mind.  Have long discussions with the vet and the oncologist.  If you still aren't satisfied you have the information you need to make a decision, go for a second opinion.

Tippy sounds like an awesome gentle giant. Regardless of your decision, the folks here will support your decision.  Don't try to do this alone when you have all these people here who will be there for you.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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13 January 2015 - 10:50 pm
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Hi Vee and Tippy

We picked up Duke this morning from having his rear leg amputated. Our beautiful blue Great Dane boy is 6 and went from a limp on Xmas day. Which was gone the next day to a slight limp on Monday 5th Jan to not weight bearing by the Tuesday.

xray on Wednesday confirmed bone cancer. Our initial reaction was like yours Duke is not the type of dog to cope he is nervous and very sooky. He will not understand what we have done but the pain progressed so quickly. He stopped eating and drinking fentanyl patch and tramadol he was doped to the eyes balls to stop crying. So for pure pain management and to give him a chance to survive we opted for amputation and chemo.

i did a huge amount of reading on this site and cancer dogs and agreed that for purely palliative reasons we no longer had a choice. Radiation would take 10 days before knew if it helped.

On seeing him today I am sad and it is a big shock we still pray we made the right decision. he is walking really badly leaning to the left and his back leg is not under him so we have to take a huge amount of weight on a sling. We have a chest harness with handle due tomorrow which we hope will helps us get him up straight and use the power of his chest and front legs better.

He got home and drank some water from his bowl which he would not do last weekend I was syringing  water ito his mouth. He has still not eaten. But he is sleeping like a baby. Which makes me happy.

We took him home early as he will not rest even with lots of drugs at the hospital due to his nervousness. He is calm now.

fingers crossed we progress well from here.

 

Chemo starts maybe Friday if we can get him back in the car.

Thanks as always Kirsty and Duke

The Rainbow Bridge



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14 January 2015 - 9:56 am
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Hi Duke and Family, welcome. Your future posts won't require approval.

I'm sorry you are also in this situation. We've had three Danes join us this week and it's only Wednesday. So sad for everyone who is facing this but you are all starting your journeys together and can lean on one another. Good to  hear you did your research, glad you're finding it helpful. Be strong and know that recovery is only temporary, Duke will have many great days ahead once this hard part is behind you.

Did you happen to read about Moose, our original inspawration for proceeding with Jerry's amputation? When we were faced with this decision for Jer, we saw Moose's video and knew that if he could be happy on 3, so could Jerry. Read Moose's story and be inspired!

Inspawrational Great Dane Moose Leads the Big Dog Parade

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It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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14 January 2015 - 2:36 pm
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Duke - I am so sorry you are going through this with your beautiful boy!  

Strangely enough, when I was seeing the surgeon at the SASH hospital in Ryde, here in Sydney, this week, I was waiting with Tippy at reception when 3 staff members came out supporting a blue Great Dane who had just had his rear leg amputated.  He was a gorgeous boy, with the softest big eyes.  As soon as I saw him, slowly and tentatively making his way across the tiled floors, supported by a sling, I started sobbing.  He just broke my heart.  They took him outside onto a patch of artificial grass opposite the entrance, and they were clearly trying to coax him to wee.  But he seemed too confused to do anything but just stand there and pant.  After a few minutes, they gently led him back inside towards the lift.  He spotted Tippy sitting next to me, and tried to move towards her.  "Oh no you don't", the nurse told him and steered him gently away.  That's when this wonderful boy made us all crack up laughing - as soon as they stood still waiting for the lift, he started to pee... and pee... and pee some more!  For a full minute.  Possibly more.  A nurse turned up with a bucket and everyone stood there waiting for him to finish.  Everyone there had to laugh as there seemed to be no end to the flow.  That's a Dane for you - they break your heart and heal you with their goofy behaviour at the same time.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  It means so much.  And I hope that Duke will go from strength to strength and find confidence on his three strong legs.  Please let me know how he gets on.  

I am taking Tippy to the University of Sydney this morning.  I just need to get a second opinion.  I am leaning towards radiotherapy because Tippy is still weight bearing on her front leg - but there is no question she is in pain.  I am feeling the weight of this decision making process and need to be sure I am doing the right thing.  

I really do understand that the most effective pain management protocol is amputation but I am still leaning towards radiotherapy or, the more expensive, stereotactic radiosurgery.  Our oncologist seems to think this radical, more targeted, form of radiotherapy has greater risk of bone necrosis, but I've read some reports that say it has better results in killing tumor cells and sparing tissue.  Then there's the bisphosphonates - do I stick with Pamidronate at $800 per IV treatment, or go with the Zoledronate which is $3,000 per drug dose but in some studies shows better outcomes with protecting bone and attacking cancer cells... the choices I am faced with on Tippy's behalf are so many and have such major consequences that it's no wonder I feel paralysed! 

Yesterday I took Tippy swimming at a local dog beach.  For over an hour she was her old self again.  Swimming with us and playing and as she ran along the beach, she was not limping at all!  I desperately want to preserve that for her for as long as possible.

I'll let you know what we decide.

With much love to you all,

Vee

Virginia




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14 January 2015 - 11:10 pm
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HI TIPPY AND VEE!!! I'm a little late but just wanted to lend my support and love! As you have seen, you are NOT alone here!!!

MyBull Mastiff Hapoy Hannah and I did opt for amputation and she did a brilliant job on three legs! It did take me almost three weeks jnto recovery before In could final k y say I did this FOR her and not TO her! Recovery was no picnic and I stayed glued to this site for dear life...it was my lifeline!

You have done your research...you are talking to the professionals...you have been told Tippy is a good candidate for amputation and a good candidate for radiotherapy. You feel like you are stuck in a nightmare and have no clear answers. And the sad thing is, there really are no clear answers!! Whatever decision you make will be out of love for Tippy and that's NOT betraying Tippy! This piece of crap disease is evil and cruel and brutal. It makes us make decisions for our cats snd dogs no one should ever have to do.

Remember, Tippy doesn't care about statistics or prognosis, and he sure doesn't come with a time frame stamped on her butt! This whole journey is about BEING MORE DOG....BEING MORE TIPPY! Live inn the MOMENT, the NOW, just like Tippy! Let nothing rob you of your time together! Follow you intuition....talk it over with Tippy. The decision you and she make...that's the right decision for her!!!

Would love to see pictures!!!

Sending lots of love!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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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14 January 2015 - 11:51 pm
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Hi all

thanks for the words of encouragement. Thanks Vee for the lovely story about Duke it made me cry. We are still hopeful we will get our little boy back to walks to the park and snuffling on the bush track though he is a bit of a Dora the explorer. 

I hear you on being paralysed we went from Wednesday last weeks diagnosis thinking based on the pain probably and him being such a baby thatwhen it gets too bad to put him down was our only option. To let's give him the best chance we can.

we picked him up Wednesday after surgery Monday which is very early but he already had swollen elbows from lying like the Sphinx all day and night even heavily sedated he would not lie on his side. It took us sitting with him for the first two hours once home to get him to actually sleep. He kept jolting himself awake still. Now he is sleeping. Still no eating so would love some advise on what we can do.

fentanyl patch comes of in an hour and he is just on tramadol then....hoping that might help. I have some chicken and veg baby foot to try to squeeze into his mouth,.....any other thoughts 

he is due for his first chemo tomorrow at 2pm but I'm not sure if we still have not got him eating....

he is hopping so much better today being more weight bearing himself and not leaning so heavily, which makes  it easier...not sure what he weighs now but he was 78kg....so he is a big boy to move around.

Thanks for the Moose video what a trooper

 

Sally - you and happy Hannah gave me hope between 1am -4am on Sunday night that as you say we are making a decision out of love and wanting home to enjoy more life and hugs.

Thanks Kirsty, Tony and Duke

photies to come

Thanks as always Kirsty and Duke

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15 January 2015 - 2:11 am
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Hi all

Here is a few photies....hope they work

 Duke

DukeImage Enlarger

http://www4.sna.....=SALBlink/

Thanks as always Kirsty and Duke

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15 January 2015 - 2:37 am
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Hey everyone,

Kirsty and Tony - so that was Duke at SASH!  He's an amazing boy.  So stunningly beautiful and all sweetness.  I understand your concern about his refusal to eat. Tippy has gone off food since we started the pain killers.  From what I understand, the opiates slow their digestive tracts right down.  When you combine that with the lack of exercise, its a bad mix.  They don't feel hungry because their guts aren't moving and they feel full - they may even be nauseous from the pain killers.  I've stopped the Fentanyl patches and I've got her on 2 and 1/2 codeine tablets, twice a day now.  She seems less zonked out on codeine.  My biggest battle is getting her to take the medication.  No matter how you disguise it, she seems to know it's there and spits it out.  I've had to adopt more brutal techniques and shove them into her mouth by force - and she's bitten down on my fingers as a thank you!  little-devil

You may want to consider trying different pain meds?  See what the doc thinks.  My understanding is every dog is different - some do better on Tramadol others on codeine.  But all pain meds seem to cause constipation and problems with eating. Have you tried to offer him some roast chicken?  I can usually get Tippy to at least go for a little of that.  I personally don't like the smell of the roast chickens from Woolworths - but Tippy seems to think they're pretty awesome.  I'm not really worried about how healthy her diet is right now - as long as she eats something!  

Sally - thanks heaps for the words of encouragement for Tippy.  I've been trying to upload some pictures - but I don't know how to?  It seems you can't upload images from your computer into this forum?

Well - we saw the professor at Sydney University today, and I've finally come to a decision.  I won't elect to amputate.  CT scans did reveal 2 nodules on Tippy's lungs.  Although we can't be certain, it is likely they are metastases.  Also, and more importantly, Tippy is still weight bearing on her diseased leg.  The doctor did explain to me that dogs who present to them already hopping on 3 legs, in order not to place any weight on the affected limb, tend to be the best candidates for amputation - they are already doing their best to walk on 3 legs as it is.  Tippy not only insists on walking on all fours, but even when she stands, she places some weight on her bad leg.  Add to that her extremely anxious temperament, and the fact that her only true remaining joy is swimming - and it seems obvious that I have to go with the palliative option.  And, in the end, amputation may not buy her much more time anyway.

So - we start radiotherapy on Tuesday.  Two doses and then followed by more bisphosphonates .  We have to travel out of Sydney to go to the only facility where radiotherapy is available (which I find shocking - I am already trying to think how it might be possible to establish a fund that would raise the monies needed for a linear accelerator at the university's veterinary hospital.)  In the meantime, I am hoping and praying that the radiotherapy will give her some relief.  

I realise it may sound shocking that I am not aiming for a cure.  But all the indications seem to be that a cure (outside of a miracle remission) just is not possible.  I want Tippy to be herself for as long as possible.  I know this awful, destructive disease is stealing her away from me far too soon.  My way of fighting it will be to devote myself to her night and day for however long we may have left together.  You're right Sally - we have to listen to what they are telling us.  And she is telling me with her movements and her whole body, that she is determined to go out on all fours.  So be it.  She'll know when it's time and I'll listen to her then too.  I love her too much to do anything else.  

Please let me know how to post pictures up on the forum.  Would love to share with you all some photos of her in her element - swimming in our beautiful seas.  

Lots of love all,

Vee

Here and Now


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15 January 2015 - 10:55 am
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tippy said
Please let me know how to post pictures up on the forum...

Please review these detailed steps for adding photos to forum posts. If you do not already share photos online somewhere, you can start a free Tripawds blog and upload them there.

Hope this helps! If you need further assistance, post in the Tech Support forum or send a PM and we can meet in the Chat Room to walk you through posting photos.

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