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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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8 y/o Ridgeback diagnosed with Osteosarcoma - what to do???
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3 August 2018 - 9:04 pm
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Hi there. sounds like many may have posted about something similar, but i hope to find some help. 

Our dog Mango (8 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback; 120 lbs-he’s giant) just got diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his right front leg (ankle area). It’s devastating; he is our first dog and a member of our family like any human. Our oncologist did a needle aspirate and chest Xray, which came back clear (good right?). Vet recommends amputation and chemotherapy asap. But even with amputation and chemo, she is saying the average survival time is only a year after the amputation surgery. If we don’t amputate, and just do palliative care, she’s saying he’ll have about 4-5 months. I’m just shocked. 

Amputation seems so drastic if it only gives him a year (or less). he doesn’t seem like he’s in that much pain currently, he limps a little, licks it a bit, but is otherwise his silly, hungry, friendly self. I do not want him to be in pain, but it seems to drastic to take his leg if he’s not in that much pain. But I don’t want the cancer to spread either.  And I don’t want to see him get sicker if we don’t amputate. 

I’m so conflicted. I can’t imagine my 120 pound dog with 3 legs. It just seems so mean to do to him if he only has a year. If I knew he’d live a long healthy life after amputation, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. I don’t want to make a selfish choice, but of course I also want to be with my puppy for as long as possible; but I want him to be as comfortable as possible too. It just seems like an impossible decision. Accepting a few short, potentially uncomfortable/painful months with him or a year-ish of difficulty/discomfort as an amputee. 

Anyone have any thoughts? thanks in advance. 

Livermore, CA




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3 August 2018 - 10:10 pm
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Welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I’m sorry you are facing these difficult decisions. 

We have had many large and giant breed dogs do well with amputation.  You might browse the Size and Age Matters forum for some stories.

Remember too that dogs are really good at hiding pain- in the wild the weak become dinner.  If he is limping and licking you know he has significant pain.  Bone cancer pain tends to get bad very fast, until pain meds don’t work.  There is also the risk of fracture so you have to be careful with his activities.

One thing I learned on the cancer journey with my dogs is that they don’t know or care about a prognosis or a calendar.  My Pug Maggie was given 6 to 9 months after her rear amp (mast cell cancer) and I thought I had made a terrible decision putting her through surgery for ‘only’ 9 months.  Once she was healed and used to her new normal she didn’t have a care in the world- every day was a great day for her as long as there was food, naps and laps!  While I was worrying and waiting for her to pass she was living her life the way dogs do- one day at a time. 

And Maggie beat the odds- she lived almost 4 years and passed from a second cancer.  My friend Cemil, a 150 pound front amp Anatolian Shepard recently passed after 9 YEARS on three (OSA).   Not all are so lucky of course, but it does happen. 

While there are a few pups who struggle after amputation, most do fine.  There are some changes you may have to make in activity levels, but that does not mean there isn’t a good life quality. 

You might also read through this thread on Eurydice’s Travels after amputation.  She was a huge Great Dane nicknamed Miss Cow who lived large!

This is your decision to make, you know what is best for your boy. No matter what path you choose to follow we are here to help and support you.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

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



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4 August 2018 - 2:41 am
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Hi Mango and family 🐾🌻

So sorry to hear Mango’s diagnosis but you sure came to the right place for advice and guidance, we’ve all been where you are now and understand perfectly what you are going through.

I agree with Karen, dogs are masters at hiding their pain.

My baby girl Eurydice didn’t show pain (only limping) but when she was diagnosed the vet told me she was in pain and asked me to look at her eyes when he slightly pressed the tumour (on the wrist). 

She blinked as he pressed and he said that was as much as she would show us her pain was…

Osteosarcoma is a very agressive, very fast developing cancer so you must be aware doing nothing means he will be in excruciating pain soon.

My surgeon explained I could go for palliative care but (apart from the 4-5 months average life expectancy) very soon drugs would not be able to contain his pain.

He told me there are no drugs powerful enough to contain osteo pain eventually. 

Also, the risk of a pathological fracture which never heals is always present and when this happens your options are amputation or saying goodbye. 

As for amputation plus chemo this is what statistically gives our pups a better chance but that doesn’t mean it is guaranteed.

We had dogs here who lived long lives with and without chemo, there is just no way of knowing for sure.

Same goes for life expectancy, there is just no way to know for sure either.

My baby lived 13 months and 1 week but others have lived many years and some got into total remission like Cemil above!

Remission is rare but it does happen so why should this not be your baby’s case? 

Age is also somewhat of a factor with osteo, generally the older a dog is the slower cancer progresses.

I know amputation is very, very hard to process in our human brains but dogs are different.

For them, having three legs becomes a “new normal” very quickly and they definitely don’t dwell on it! 

Besides, in the case of osteo, loosing a leg means the pain is gone 100% and that is guaranteed! 

When Miss Cow was diagnosed me and my husband were on opposite sides.

He insisted in keeping the leg at all costs and could not even invisage our 77kg dog without a front leg, me, I wanted her to live painfree for as long as possible.

In the end I took the amputation decision and never looked back even if recovery was no picnic during the fist weeks (because she was really huge), she lived the most gloriously happy life, enjoyed every day to the full and I learnt the most precious lesson from her: how to live each day to the full and be happy with every small thing.

Mango is no different, sweetie, he doesn’t know he has cancer and all he wants is to enjoy each day with his loving family.

Him and you can do this.

Him and you have loads of happy time ahead, just around the corner.

And we are all here for you to help and guide you through your journey. 

Sending you hugs and cuddles 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

Scotland, ON
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4 August 2018 - 9:42 am
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Hi Mango and peeps

As the others have said, it sucks that you find yourself here, but it is an excellent place for advice and support.

Our big beautiful boy Bruce was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 6 years old, when we were give the option of amputating his leg our first reaction was “oh no, we can’t take his leg”, we thought it would be a terrible thing to do to him. But after a bit of thought and weighing the possible timelines and outcomes, we decided that we weren’t ready to be without our sweet Bruce. His amputation was scheduled for 1 week after his diagnosis, we were terrified and had no idea what to expect. We brought Bruce home the same day as his surgery (super scary), and his first night was pretty rough, but the next day he was out doing his business and managing to get around on his own (only very short hops from his bed to his food/water bowl and out to pee). Within three weeks he was out running around the property like he had 4 legs (his was a rear amp, which is probably a bit easier to adjust to than front, but as you will see here, lots and lots of really big dogs doing really great missing a front leg). We were given the timeline of a week or two without any treatment, to 4-6 months amputation alone, and 9-11 months amputation and chemo, we decided to go all out and do everything, we have not regretted one minute Bruce’s 2 year ampuversary is quickly approaching (Aug 31). If faced with the same situation again, I’m not 100% sure I would do chemo, some dogs do great without it, but I would not hesitate to amputate. Bruce’s pain is gone and he’s still having a great time being a dog and getting spoiled rotten. 

Whatever decision you make, the wonderful people on this forum will support you, there is a lot to consider and it is a very personal choice and you know Mango best and no double will make the best decisions for him, you have to follow your heartheartheartheartheart

Tracy and Sweet Bruce

Virginia




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4 August 2018 - 11:51 am
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YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  We are here with you whatever path yoh take!

Of course you’re conflicted and, if like the rest of us, scared poopicon_png-less!!   But good for you for doing your research.   That makes all the difference  in the world when trying  to devise a course of action.

Great jnput from Tracy. Karen and Teresa❤

As already said, we support  whatever decision  this piece of   poopicon_pngdisease forces upon you.  You know your situation  best, you kmow your Mango best.You WILL make a decision  out of love and that is always the right decision. ❤

Like Tracy, when I first heard the word “amputation ” I said absolutely  not!  I wouldn’t  do that TO my dog!  I had not found this site and had ro do my “research” on my own.  And let me tell ya’, research  in mh “own” had very little value compared  to what I found here on the Tripawds site!

From this site I learned “statistics” don’t  mean much around here.  As the Admin Guy says,  Prognosis…schmognosis.    As you can see, Bruce didn’t  listen to “statistics”.  Good thing he didn’t.   He’s getting ready to celebrate his TWO YEAR AMPUVERSARY!!

Good thing Stubborn Pug Maggie  didn’t  listen to her six to nine month “statistic”.  She thrived FOUR YEARS and passed from something  else!!

Sure, some dogs get “less” time, some much more.  It’s  a crap shoot.  The thing is, we all made the decision  because it would just be a matter of weeks probably,  before pain got so bad that pain meds were not working….and that would be it.

The most important  thing to remember  is dogs DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE NUMBER OF DAYS ON A CALENDAR!!!  Quantity of time doesn’t  mean squat…but QUALITY  time means everything.   We all learned very quickly to Be More Dog ….live jn the moment, in the now, with no worries about the tomorrows. 

Continue  your research.  Stay connected  here.  Ask questions.  And eat lots of CHOCOLATE!!

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!

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4 August 2018 - 12:25 pm
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I’m so thankful to have found this support system. thank you all for your replies. We are decided on going through with the amputation and chemo and he’s scheduled for this coming thursday. I’m encouraged by everyone’s stories and am hopeful for any additional quality time with our Mango. 

I forgot to mention initially that we have a 3 y/o son and a baby girl coming in a month- I has always thought that once baby girl came, our family would be complete and the thought of not having Mango in that picture just kills me. Maybe this way we will have our family for a little while. 

It also killed me this morning because we took Mango for a short walk and he was so excited- he barely limped while on the walk and seemed like his usual happy self. It still just doesn’t compute in my head to take his leg when he’s currently so functional (although it scares me that he may just being hiding the pain). But i guess its more about preventing things from getting worse as quickly as possible. 

Anyway, thank you everyone for your support. it is truly comforting. 

Virginia




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4 August 2018 - 12:58 pm
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Deep breaths!  B R E A T H E!  You’re  moving foward to a quality  pain free life for Mango!

Okay, you have a plan, a GOOD plan for Mango so he can help you welcome your baby girl!😊  Your famiky will be complete!   How you spend that time and how you decide to make treasured  memories are all that matter!!   Cannot wait to see pictures!!

As a point of reference,  my Happy Hannah was treated  off and on for a “tweak”.  Her limp would clear up, and then it wouldn’t.   Fast forward.  After her “diagnosis “, she was limping but, to me, it seemed “managed” with pain meds.  Again, I had not found this site.  Then one day she held her leg up and didn’t  really want to use it because it hurt so badly.  I made the surgery appoint the next day.  Still scared out of my mind, I cancelled  a few days later!!  Thankfully  I rescheduled  and had the most glorious extended  bonus  time of loving and spoiling anyone could ever imagine!!

Speaking  of pictures  here’s  a link adding images …….we would love to see yoir handsome  Mango!

Hang on to us!  We’ve  got your back!

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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4 August 2018 - 1:34 pm
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Mango is lucky to have you for a family! I’m sorry you’re dealing with this when you have so much going on, I can’t imagine. But you can lean on us for support and any questions along the way.

You’ll see that this entire journey, as sucky as it is to be on it, can teach you so much about animals. First, that they are incredibly stoic, and yes, masters at hiding pain. It wasn’t until our Jerry’s leg came off that we saw how much pain he was really in, the difference in his facial expressions and movements was night and day. 

One thing that will help during Mango’s recovery is this blog post about Pain Indicators in Dogs and Cats. Take a look at it and use it as a reference point as he heals, just to make sure he’s not hiding any pain from you. Also, our Tripawds e-books library is another great go-to resource for all our best tips, so be sure to hop over there too.

Let us know what questions you have. Your Mango and future Tripawd Kurtis are having amputations on the same day, you’ll have lots to talk about!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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4 August 2018 - 2:04 pm
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Oh, you are having a baby, that’s sweet 💕

Yup, your family is going to be complete indeedy 💕💕

So glad to hear you are getting rid of that painful leg, he is going to surprise you at how well he is going to do 🐾

You will take him for walks with your baby girl and your son and he will be as excited as he was this morning, you’ll see 😉

One important thing to prepare for is to get carpets, rubber underlay or yoga mats to create paths for him to hop on if you have hardwood or slippery floors. 

Also consider getting a harness, most of us use a ruffwear harness which is great as it has a handle and that allow us to help them in and out of cars, up and down stairs, etc.

My baby girl wore a tshirt under a soft harness to protect the incision until stitches came out.

If you can, leave Mango at the hospital for the first couple of days, this is a time when they are very drugged and unsteady so it would make it easier for you to have him looked after by qualified staff if possible. 

And we need some pictures of your sweet pup when you can…

Sending you an avalanche of kisses and a cloud of burger shaped cuddles to Mango 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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5 August 2018 - 11:00 am
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Hi again everyone. 

thank you so much for your encouragement. I’m trying to remember that we are doing the best we can for him. It still seems so drastic, But at the very least hopefully this will help things from not getting worse. 

Some have mentioned awesome tips for preparing for the surgery (yoga mats, etc). Anyone else have any tips or things we should buy/consider in preparation? 

I’m wondering how the heck we are going to get him in/out of the car following the surgery and I’ve read not to use the Ruffwear Harness until after stitches come out. any ideas? he’s so big and lanky! 

I’ll post a few pictures when I can figure that out 🙂 

The Rainbow Bridge



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5 August 2018 - 12:20 pm
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Did you see our Tripawds Recovery Shopping List? Lots of tips are available there.

As for the harness. If you need to put it on him to make life easier immediately after surgery, then by all means go ahead, just put a t-shirt on underneath and watch for any signs that the Webmaster straps are irritating it. We haven’t heard of that happening but we always like to play it safe and let folks know there is a small risk of irritation.

Here’s a link that explains adding images to the Forums. Let us know if you’d like assistance.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Livermore, CA




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5 August 2018 - 1:23 pm
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The Recovery Shopping List Jerry linked above really covers all the basic things you should think about.

I think good traction is the most important for new Tripawds.  It helps them navigate with confidence and helps them get up from laying down. 

You might also want to look at some post op pictures so you are prepared to see Mango when you pick him up.  The incision on a front amp tends to be pretty large and depending on the surgeon a large portion of his front end will be shaved. 

You can look in our Gallery, scroll down to the Surgery and Treatment Pics.

When you see him post op remember to look in his eyes and see how happy he is to see you!  His damaged, painful leg will be gone but everything that makes him ‘Mango’ will still be there!

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

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

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5 August 2018 - 4:10 pm
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Hey sweetie 🌸

My baby Eurydice wore a soft harness over a t-shirt until stitches came out.

But bear in mind our situation was different as Miss Cow weighed 170lb and was truly huge.

As she had a difficult time adjusting during the initial recovery stages I was the one helping her getting up and laying down and steering her for potty breaks.

I am as sure as I can be without having tried it, in her case, the ruffwear harness would have potentially interfered with the incision.

Having said this, Mango is much smaller and lighter so chances are he will have a smoother recovery and maybe the ruffwear harness will be ok for him, over a tshirt. 

As Renee quite rightfully says, you can always try and keep an eye on the incision.

Hugs and cuddles 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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5 August 2018 - 4:59 pm
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Were you offered cyberknife radiation.?  ( 3 consec days of powereful radiation  ..  1 hour session)  I did this with simon in February and a ct scan shows clean lungs… Note:  I might have caught this earlier than most.

You said the needle aspirate showed clear?  Did you get a firm diagnosis for osteosarcoma via the cells?  You do need this diagnosis  to take the vaccine,, so be sure you have this..  all the best to you

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