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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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Advice on whether to have a biopsy or not...
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Forum Posts: 6
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26 March 2015
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28 March 2015 - 1:35 pm
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Hello to everyone on this site.  This is my first post.  The information I have found here has been very helpful.  Thanks to everyone who has shared their thoughts and experiences.  However, I face a dilemma and am curious as to your thoughts.

My eleven year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever began favoring her left rear leg approximately two weeks ago.  We went to the vet.  He confirmed she does have a ligament injury and suggested x-rays to see if there were any other issues.  The x-rays showed she has arthritis in that knee and they also showed what is suspected to be osteosarcoma.  The vet is telling me there is an 80%-90% chance this is bone cancer and he suggested a biopsy to confirm this.  Now, I have read that the biopsy is extremely painful for the dog and increases the risk of fracture.  Additionally, I was told that here is a chance the biopsy might come back inconclusive (he believes we have caught this at an early stage which he thinks will make it more difficult to obtain a good sample).  On one hand, I think there is no way I can justify amputating a leg without proof of cancer.  On the other hand, I don’t want my pup to go through any more than she has to and if the results prove to be inconclusive, what’s the point?  

I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts or experiences with this.

Thank you!

Livermore, CA

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28 March 2015 - 1:45 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I didn’t deal with OSA, my pug had mast cell cancer. Have you seen an oncologist? My understanding is that OSA is very distinctive on X-rays.

Hopefully you will hear soon from other members who have had to make this decision.


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

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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28 March 2015 - 3:14 pm
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Trouble had osteosarcoma.  Within 36 hours of diagnosis, I had two vets tell me they were 90% sure it was osteosarcoma.  We elected to not do the biopsy.  I felt they were certain enough to skip that procedure and go straight to the healing part. I’ve never regretted our decision.  The post amputation testing confirmed the diagnosis.

When the surgeon had her prepped for surgery, he gave us one last chance to do the biopsy instead of amputation.  I appreciated that we were being given every opportunity, but at that point we were ready to make the decision and not look back.

The decisions you have to make are hard. You have to do the research, ask questions, and be confident that the decision you make is the best you can do given the information you have. You are in a great place for ongoing support.  No one here will question your choices.

Good luck as you come to that final decision. I know you will do what is best for your girl.

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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28 March 2015 - 3:27 pm
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I should probably write an intro first, but I’ll jump in anyway w/o a proper introduction.

Our 10+ year old, 100lb Pyr mix came up lame very sudden. Our regular took X-rays, saw nothing (other than effusion in the knee), suspected a cruciate tear and sent us to an ortho for a possible TPLO. The morning of the surgery, the ortho called us and said he’d taken another look at the X-rays and was concerned that there could be underlying disease which caused the cruciate to tear. He thought there as a 50-50 chance there would be cancer, but certain types of cancer were much worse news than other types. So, he said he’d go in and depending on what he found, he’d either biopsy the site or do a TPLO. He did say there was a chance a biopsy would be inconclusive but that was not his typical experience. Well, you can guess what happened….

So Ellie got a biopsy and amputation (left rear) 10 days later. I don’t know what we would have done if we had been given the option of doing a biopsy first. But her presentation was a bit odd—no prior lameness, no pain, not a hint of what was coming—that in the end we’re glad we got the biopsy, which was definitive for OSA. It made the decision to go ahead with the amputation easier. And, because she was essentially three-legged after the biopsy, we also got a preview of how well she’d be able to get around if we did have to amputate. She didn’t seem to have any particular problems recovering from the biopsy itself. 

Ellie did have a rough time recovering from the amp (she was very nauseous and could not eat). Was it because she had a biopsy first? We’ll never know. But her biopsy was probably much more involved than most, since the surgeon opened the knee in prep for a TPLO and exposed the bone area. Then once he got a good look at the bone he decided that it just looked too suspicious. On the other hand, he had very good access to the suspicious area so perhaps that made getting a good sample easier and that gave us a definitive diagnosis. 

Hope this helps, 


Active 10+ Pyr mix suddenly came up lame with ACL tear in left rear leg. Scheduled for a TPLO but final pre-op x-rays indicated a small suspicious area, possibly OSA, which could have caused the ACL tear. Surgeon opened the knee for TPLO but found soft bone. Biopsy came back positive for OSA. Became a Tripawd 9/18/14. Carbo6 with Cerenia and Fluids. Pain free and living in the moment. Crossed the Bridge on 7/12/15 after probable spread of cancer to her cervical spine. A whole lifetime of memories squeezed into 10 months. Here's her story: Eloise

Livermore, CA

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28 March 2015 - 4:50 pm
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Hi Denise, 

Thanks for sharing your experience here. Your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

 Please do post in Share Your Story so you can tell us all about your girl Ellie.

And of course we love to see pictures here!


 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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28 March 2015 - 10:05 pm
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I know this is such a scary and uncertain time for you right now. Do remember that your pup isn’t worried about a thing though!! Ahhh, the bliss of being a dog!!

Your concerns about biolsy are valid. Because I did NOT do a biopsy first on my Happay Hannah, I can’t really give you any first hand advice. It does seem though, thst many here who have gone through the process did have complications. From what Ive seen here, I can certain l y jnderstand your concerns. However, not all dogs have issues…but there is still the risknof the test coming back inconclusive anway.

Very little is clear cut on thiis crazy journey!! There are so many variables and it seems nothing is black and white. Hopeful k y others can chime in with more specific feedback.

Have you had a radiologist or orthopedic surgeon look at the xrays?

We are here for you as your travel on this journey. You are not alone!

When you can, we would love to hear more about your pup…and photos too!!


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!

The Rainbow Bridge

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29 March 2015 - 10:27 am
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I’m so sorry you’re facing this. You’re positive the vet is talking about a bone biopsy and not a needle aspirate, correct? The bone biopsy is the extremely painful one, the needle aspirate is not.

I think the big question to ask is when there is any doubt is, will amputation be required regardless of the situation? Sometimes the bone is so far gone that there’s no doubt it has to go. If so, you can biopsy later once the leg is off.

You can also have a radiologist look at the x-rays. Getting a referral to an oncologist could allow an expert radiologist review them. Also,  the oncologist may have better x-ray technology than your vet (which is exactly what happened to us, it was diagnosed with a second digital x-ray at a teaching hospital).

Based on what we’ve seen here with members’ experiences, almost all of them said they had wished they had not done the bone biopsy since 1) amputation was going to be required anyways and 2) it was a painful procedure that put their dog through two separate surgeries and anesthesia.

I hope this help. Please keep us posted, we’re here for you.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Forum Posts: 345
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29 March 2015 - 1:58 pm
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Hello !  my dog’s incision from the bone biopsy took more time to heal than the amputation itself, and came back inconclusive. 

A needle aspirate, yes, absolutely.  

good luck!

Our awesome Golden Boy was diagnosed for OSA in April 2014 in the proximal humerus, front-leg amp on 05/20/2014. Finished chemo (Carbo6) on 07/10/2014. Ongoing treatment: acupuncture + K-9 Immunity Plus ( 3chews) and home-cooked no-grain diet.   Stopped Apocaps because of liver issues.   Liver issues: controlling altered enzymes with SAM-e and Milk Thistle.  October 17:  started having seizures.  Taking fenobarbital for seizures.  April 18: started prednisone.

Orrtanna Pa.
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29 March 2015 - 8:29 pm
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I have to add our experience with the needle aspirate. TY had one done the October before his amputation. It showed absolutely nothing. We had it done after I figured out that his pain was originating in the shoulder and not the lower leg as we had thought. He had pins and plates in there for 7 years. TY limped on and off, but after the needle aspirate, he never put weight on the leg again. He was in terrible pain the day I brought him home from that. I think that it just irritated what was going on in there. I am not trying to scare you. Quite the opposite. It sounds like you have gotten to this quite quickly. 2 weeks, that is a very quick diagnosis. I wonder if our outcome would have been different if it had only been weeks, rather than a year of trying to figure it out. We just all thought that with the hardware in there, he had arthritis. I waited to do the bone biopsy when we did the amputation. By this time, we were pretty sure what we were dealing with. The same thing happened with us as Jerry experienced. Our regular vet told us his shoulder was full of arthritis, but he sent us to a specialist as he still felt something was off. 5 minutes in a room and an xray later, the specialist was able to see what was in there. Keep us updated. Lori, Ty & the gang

TY GUY, Best Black Lab ever! Diagnosed  and had amp in January, 2014. Kicked MRSA's butt. Earned his angel wings on April 16, 2014. Run Free my boy and don't forget a shoe. Ty is a proud member of the " April Angels". Ty sent us Daryl, a Tripawd rescue in Sept. of 2016. Daryl is 5 +or -. We are also Pawrents to Chandler, a Border Collie mix who is 15 and 1/2, Lucy, a Corgi who is 7, 2 minis, 2 horses, and a feisty cat named Zoe. Zoe had a non skeletal Osteosarcoma removed in July 2015. No Chemo, she was at least 16. She is going strong although she is now completely blind. She is now close to 20 and her hobbies are eating and sleeping in front of her personal heater. 

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29 March 2015 - 8:48 pm
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I also did not do a biopsy. My vet felt it was either a fungal infection or OSA. I actually scheduled her for a bx but after reading in here and other places I felt sure it was OSA and did not want to subject Maggie to any more trauma. My husband was worried we may have amputated her leg for no reason but in having a heart to heart with the vet she really felt it was OSA and it turned out to be that. If your vet says there is a 80-90% chance it’s cancer I think those are good enough odds to skip the bx. Don’t regret anything you do. You love your dog and you are making the best choices with what info you have. Good luck with your chessie.

Penny and her gang

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30 March 2015 - 8:45 am
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We have an appointment with an oncologist tomorrow – for her opinion.  We’ll let you know what she says.  Thanks for all of  your replies.

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30 March 2015 - 12:10 pm
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I am so sorry that you are going through this. We had a biopsy first. It was painful for my Lily but she healed fine. I was shocked to learn it was cancer. I don’t  think I would have amputated without the biopsy because I was in such shock that it was even happening. It depends where you are with it. The vets see this all the time so chances are it is what they see. This is a tough decision. We are all here for you. Keep us posted. 

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31 March 2015 - 11:22 am
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Hi ~

With Murphy we did the biopsy, but knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have.  When he had his first appointment with the orthopedic specialist, he had been limping for almost 4 months and it was getting worse.  On pain medication he could bear weight on his leg, so I really thought that he had a fracture or something that had bee misdiagnosed on a previous x-ray.  So when they suggested it could be cancer, ior maybe just a fungal or bacterial infection I really had no idea what to do or what to expect.  I hadn’t done any research at all and had to make a decision while I was there (the specialist is a 1 1/2 hour drive from our home).  They medicated Murphy and used x-ray to guide the biopsy to try to get a good sample.  Murphy was in quite a bit of pain afterwards, but he did ok with tramadol.  But after 2 weeks it was still inconclusive.  His repeat x-rays showed a worsening of the tumor and we decided to remove his leg, assuming that it was osteosarcoma.  It was another 3 weeks after his surgery before we knew that it was actually histiocytic sarcoma.  Murphy has done well since his surgery, and we’ve had 2 years with him so far!


Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs


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29 May 2015 - 11:48 pm
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Sorry it’s been awhile but I wanted to follow up and let everyone know of our experience.  

We did go to an oncologist (and we are still going to her, more on that later).  She agreed that our pup probably had osteosarcoma and she suggested a biopsy to confirm this.  She also added that most of the time, the needle aspirate biopsy will confirm the diagnosis.  So we proceeded with the (needle aspirate) biopsy and the results did come back positive for osteosarcoma.  Certainly not what we wanted to hear, but not unexpected at that point.  We elected to amputate (her left hind leg).  

Dropping her off for surgery was one of the worst days of my life.  Like many people who have posted here, I was unsure if I was doing the right thing.  Fortunately, the surgery went well.  She stayed in the hospital for two nights and we brought her home as soon as they told us she was ready to go.  I feel very fortunate in that the most stressful thing for us once she was home was the “cone of shame “. Maybe it bothered us more than it bothered our pup but we tried to keep it off of her as much as possible which meant we had to watch her like a hawk to make sure she didn’t lick or bite her wounds.  Otherwise, her recovery went smoothly and we have been so impressed and amazed with how she has adapted to life on three legs.

Currently, our pup is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.  She will receive her third of four planned treatments of Carboplatin this upcoming Thursday.  Her chemotherapy treatments have also been going remarkably well.  She has experienced no major side effects from the treatments.  I don’t know if we are seeing a great doctor or if we have a great dog (actually, I know we have a great dog), or both, but I feel blessed that the process has gone as smoothly as it has up to this point.  I only hope the chemotherapy has the desired effect and gives us many more years with our pup.  I am nervous about Thursday’s treatment however since the doctor is planning on taking lung x rays to look for any sign that the cancer has spread.  Hopefully we get good news.

So, that’s where we are now.  Obviously, the day that we found out our pup had osteosarcoma was one of the worst days ever.  However, since then I feel very blessed that things have gone as well as they have.  Thank you so much for everyone who posts on this site.  I have learned a lot from reading about everyone’s experiences and it’s good to know that you’re not alone as you go through all of this.

Here and Now

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30 May 2015 - 8:08 am
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Oh my gosh no need to apologize for not being here, we’re just so glad to hear that things have gone so well! It’s especially pawesome to know that a senior pup is doing great too (be sure to post in “Size and Age Matters” to let folks know!). Just curious, who is your oncologist/clinic? 

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