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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Amputation Decision
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Forum Posts: 14
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6 December 2008
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6 December 2008 - 6:57 pm
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Hello all:

I'm so glad to have found this site. Our dog Coda, recently turned 9, a husky shepard mix, was just diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma in her elbow, right front leg.  She began limping in July of this year. Our vet took x-rays and didn't find any reason in the x-rays for the limp. The vet suggested that we take her to an orthopedic specialist.  I found another vetrinary clinic in town who claimed to have orthopedic care so we took her there for another opinion.   The vet there also looked at the x-rays and didn't see anything. 

We all thought it was probably a muscle injury. (We live in the mountains of Colorado and have many trails through the forests, she had just gone for a run through the forest jumping over some fallen trees). The vet manipulated her leg and finally got her to respond to an area in her bicep, I believe.  They prescribed Rimadyl and told us it could be 4-6 months before she healed. They advised us to rest her and give her the Rimadyl.  

1 month passed with no improvement.  We then took her to yet another vet who looked at the previous two vets recommendations, manipulated her leg and told us 1 month wasn't enough time for a muscle injury to heal, continue to rest her and try Metacam. Over the next couple of months we got refills of the Metacam and the vet assured us these injuries take time to heal. Four months of being told to be patient, (and now the third vet to tell me to be patient, I asked the vet to repeat her x-rays as there had been no improvement.  He did and that's when he saw the cancer in her elbow. She then had a biopsy and was diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma. 

I cried after the x-ray and then the whole weekend after the biopsy results.  The Dr. is recommending amputation.  After much research, I've found that Chrondrosarcoma has a very slow growth rate and doesn't usually metastisize.  At this time her lung x-rays are clear and her other front leg doesn't appear to have any growths.  (We had this x-ray done so we know if we can proceed with the amputation).  This should be pretty good news, however, the doctor isn't confident that this is the primary cancer site as it's not very common for this type of cancer to appear in the elbow.

Coda is very, very dear to me. She is with me 24/7.  We own a computer service company and she comes to work with us.  I can't imagine being without her.  My husband and I believe the best thing we can do for her right now is to have the amputation done, although I am very scared. I know if we don't do it the cancer will spread.  Sometimes you wouldn't even know she's in pain.  She limps, however, when she runs, she runs on both legs and I mean runs.  When she sits though you can tell it hurts and she won't put weight on it.  I'm so afraid she won't be able to run anymore and will be miserable. As mentioned earlier, we live in the mountains so nothing is flat and for about 7 months out of the year there is several feet of snow on the ground.  In my heart I know we must move forward with the amputation, both to relieve her pain and to save her life.  She does have an appointment at CSU animal oncology department next week, I guess just one more opinion.  I understand CSU is recognized nationally as having some of the best vetrinary oncology specialists and research.  After that I'm sure the next thing will be amputation.

I'm so very glad to have found this site.  I know I'm going to need all the support I can get after this amputation.

Thank you Jerry for setting up and maintaining this site so we can come her and get support from each other.  

 

 


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6 December 2008 - 9:02 pm
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I am very sorry that your dog has been diagnosed with chondrosarcoma.  It is true that the elbow is not a "normal" site for this type of tumor, but the biopsy results are probably accurate.  At least this cancer is not as malignant as osteosarcoma.

Colorado State is well-recognized for research into bone cancer in dogs, and they also offer a limb-sparing surgical procedure, although this is not recommended for the elbow joint.  I would pursue amputation. Many dogs on this site can still run and play (even in the snow) after surgery, though they might need frequent rest breaks!

Pam and Tazzie

Golden, CO
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7 December 2008 - 12:58 am
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My 11.5 year-old dog, Molly, had her right front leg amputated in mid-August. Like Coda, Molly leads a very active life in Colorado. In fact, a month before her leg was amputated, we had gone on a backpacking trip up in the mountains. She ran, swam and carried her doggie pack on that trip, though it was obvious that her leg was hurting her. Like Coda, when she sat, she wouldn't put weight on her leg. Though the vet originally thought it might just be a strained muscle, a biopsy and trip to CSU confirmed it was cancer (synovial cell sarcoma). The day after our first consultation at CSU, we made the tough decision to have her leg amputated. It all happened very fast, but we haven't regretted the surgery for a second. 

She had no major issues immediately following surgery. My husband and I stayed home from work with her the first 3 days. After that, she
was able to move around well enough to bring to work so that we could continue to keep an eye on her
(fortunately we have very understanding employers!) She had some soreness and very minor swelling, but healed up quickly. Molly was walking (galloping) within a week and swimming again (with the aid of a Ruff Wear doggie life vest) in 3 weeks. The chemo we opted to do post-amputation slowed her down due to a bad liver reaction, but once we stopped the treatments, her healing accelerated even more. Now she is going on 1/4 mile walks, playing Frisbee and basketball (she loves playing defense), and digging through the snow to bury her toys. Of course, she won't be able to do long hikes or backpacks again and she must rest occasionally when we go on walks, but other than that, she is back to her active self. We bought the Doggie Ride bicycle dog trailer so she can go on bike rides with us. It is great because she can ride in it... then get out and play or walk alongside for a while... then get back in the trailer to enjoy a few more miles... then get out to walk a bit. It allows us to go on longer outdoor adventures together without having to have her walk a lot. However, we do live down in the Denver metro area where the bike paths are amazing. This might not be a possibility up in the mountains.

I cannot recommend CSU enough. The vet students, oncologist and surgeons there are incredibly thoughtful and caring. They also have some staff there with the Argus Institute to help you deal with some of the emotional aspects of the surgery if interested.

Deciding to go forward with amputation is scary, but just take it day by day and celebrate each small achievement Coda makes following surgery.  I remember how excited I got the first time Molly felt well enough to go to her basket to dig out her favorite toy. Before I knew it, she was swimming and retrieving again.

Heidi and Mollydog

Molly was diagnosed with Synovial Cell Sarcoma (grade 3 with hystiocytic markers) and had her front leg amputated on August 15th 2008.  We had a wonderful two years with her until she passed at age 13.5 on August 29th 2010.  As far as we could tell, her cancer never returned.

The Rainbow Bridge



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7 December 2008 - 2:03 am
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Hi Karena and Coda,

Thanks for joining us here at Tripawds and becoming a member, and we hope we can help you through this difficult time. By sharing Coda's story with us, you are helping others to cope
and find comfort during their journey as well. Thank you so much.

Wow, I can't believe how similar all of our stories are. Like you and Mollydog, I too was an active hiking pup, and the vets all thought I had arthritis too. When my pawrents learned what was wrong, they were like "What? Jerry? WHY?????"

Well, there is no sense in going round and round and asking why, I told them, the important thing is to focus on the now. And right now, the best thing you can do is to take care of the awful pain that Coda is experiencing, through amputation. We know how scary it is. And it is still a gamble, there are risks, so please remember that. And with my case, the cancer still spread to my lungs, after almost 2 years. But, most times, the gamble is worth it, and the amputation will help your dog to live a pain free, happy life again.

As Mollydog says, yes, things will be a little different, and you may not be able to be as totally active with Coda as before. But just to have her around and being happy and doing some of what she still loves to do, makes going through the surgery so worth it.

You are so fortunate to be near CSU! Also, my oncologist, Dr. Marie Mullins, is at Animal Hospital Specialty Center in Highlands Ranch. She is AWESOME! Do think about giving her a call, she was an incredible help in my battle with OS, and we love her dearly.

Good luck Coda. We are here for you. Please let us know what you decide OK? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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7 December 2008 - 9:43 am
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Hi Karena and Coda:

 I'm so sorry, right now we are on parallel paths, we just got our diagnosis for Chondrosarcoma in our Malamute (Tika) right rear leg.

We amputate on Tuesday, I've been spending the weekend prepping the house and starting to get Tika used to the fact that I'll be handling her in a different way, right now, she is generally bemused about things. The kick in the gut feeling has dissipated somewhat, but I'm still terrified of what's ahead. However, yesterday Tika's limp was pretty severe and in my head I know I'm doing the right thing.

 Since our cases are similar, I'll share with you what I've learned, be sure to have Coda's leg sent to be full biopsied after amputation.  Our oncologist delivered the sobering news that 50% of the time when Chondrosarcoma is found in the joint and bone, there's also Osteosarcoma present. If the Chondrosarcoma is localized to the cartilage, the odds are better, but amputation would be necessary to not only improve the quality of life but the length of her life.  Not the cheeriest of news, but I guess it's just part of the rollercoaster we are all on right now.

 Tika and I will be thinking of you and looking out for your progress.  I'll be posting Tika's post-op experience sometime this week.

Take care and chin up--our 'kids' need us right now!

 --Kim and Tika

Kim and Spirit Tika http://www.tika.....ogspot.com

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7 December 2008 - 2:06 pm
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Hello Tika and Coda,  I know that right now is a very scary time for both of you and your pawrents but you will see that this is the best decision to make.  You will be free of pain and will be back to your usual self (with a little bit of more rest breaks) in no time.  You will get to go on walks and play one more time like you used to and enjoy life once again as you will be feeling soooo much better.  Crossing my paws (and my two brothers are crossing theirs) and our prayers go to both of you on your surgery.  Keep on trucking and your chin up!!!  Laughing

Kellie

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8 December 2008 - 9:42 am
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Hi Coda & Tika.  We are thinking of you and praying that all goes well with your recovery.  Please shout if you have questions or just need to let it all out...  because it surely is a rollercoaster ride!  You are sooo lucky to having loving pawrents who cares for you and are doing their best to make life easier for you during this time.  You are stronger than your pawrents think you are - you will surprise them every day!

I still go for nice walks on the beach and enjoy life to the fullest - I dont even realise that I'm a tripawds - it's the people that stare, not my fellow canine pals!! 

Wishing you all the best - and hoping that there are some nice treats for you when you wake up from your operation!!  We are keeping our paws crossed that everything will work out fine!

Lots of love and lots of licks

Dee and his mommy, Ansunette xxx

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9 December 2008 - 10:02 pm
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Thank you all for your support! When I got the diagnosis from my vet and the mention that she might have more cancer somewhere else, I thought a trip to CSU made sense, maybe to find out if she had more cancer and maybe they could miraculously save her leg. After further research and contemplation, I feel like I'm prolonging the inevitable and for Coda's sake, I must move forward with the amputation and the sooner the better. For these reasons I have cancelled her appointment with CSU and will be contacting her doctor tomorrow to schedule the amputation. Kim, thank you for the mentioning having her leg biopsied. I'll be sure to have my doctor do this. If more cancer is found, we may still find ourselves at CSU after that. Kim, I really hope Tika, and you, are doing well today. Please let us know how you're both doing.  I am very concerned about her having Osteosarcoma as well.  We both know the prognosis for Chondrosarcoma alone is better for a longer life. I pray that both Tika and Coda have only Chondrosarcoma.

Pam, thank you for your insight about amputation being the only real treatment for an elbow.  My doctor told me the same thing, however, I didn't want to believe it, hence the appointment with CSU.  As mentioned above, I cancelled this appointment and I'll have my vet do the amputation.  

Heidi, thank you for your story about Mollydog.  It's really good to hear how well she's doing. I know Coda won't be able to do long hikes anymore but she'll do what she can and still be happy. 

I want to thank all of you for sharing your stories. I'm still scared but at the same time I'm anxious to get Coda on the road to recovery and out of pain. 

You're all very kind and it's so good to be able to share with you.

I'll keep you posted as to when her amputation is scheduled and her progress.

Karen & Coda

 

 

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10 December 2008 - 12:51 pm
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Hi Karen and Coda - welcome to our family - we will always be here for you while you and Coda walk this journey together...always.

It is VERY scary when you first get the diagnosis, go through the process of questions/answers and finally treatment decision - then the waiting for surgery and the waiting while in surgery...this is your baby!! The first couple weeks aren't going to be easy either after surgery, but one thing at a time.

I believe in my heart that you are making the right decision amputating...but what matters most is that you believe you are making the right decision and it sounds like you do.

Though I'm crazy in love with my life partner Chuck, Zeus is my soulmate - he has been with me through hell and back when I wasn't sure that I had a future and there is a bond there that words cannot express that only he and I can understand. I amputated (obviously) and have poured out our story on several occasions on here if you're interested, but my main message to you now is that Zeus can do everything that he used to do except take those long walks (that obviously I realize now that I took for granted). He is still the same in every other way and we just adjusted. Now we cherish sitting on the deck with the sun on our faces, rolling in the grass (not me of course), chewing sticks while I read a book on a blanket and we take shorter walks now - that's all.  

I live in Maryland - we obviously don't have the winters that you do, but just last weekend we were up at Deep Creek Lake in Western MD where they had a lot of snow and I was very nervous about how Zeus was going to handle it. As he's done so frequently - he surprised the hell out of me...running and playing in it like he always did. Now, he did hit a few ice patches and woops...he tumbled, but then he just took a bit extra care looking for the ice patches. It's incredible how they adjust, it really is.

I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever and would do it all over again the same exact way. We send lots of love and prayers to you that you have the same type of experience we did. Stay pawsitive...

Much love,

Heather and Zeus

Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together

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10 December 2008 - 8:22 pm
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Thank you Heather and Zeus for your story. Heather, I know what you mean about soulmate. I've been married for 25 years and I love my husband dearly but there's just something about my relationship with Coda that's just so special. It's wonderful and scary at the same time. When she turned 9 I really started thinking about the time she wouldn't be around anymore and then with the cancer diagnosis, I've really had to face the fact that someday, I'll have to say goodbye. It makes me cry just thinking about it.  I'm more confident now then ever that Coda will adjust just fine.  Her amputation will either take place on 12/15 or 12/22, the vet will be getting back to me to firm up the date.   What bothers me now is my vet re-iterated to me today that she very likely has cancer somewhere else in her body because of the way this Chondrosarcoma presents itself.  He's really afraid that she'll have the amputation and die shortly after because she succumbed to the other cancer, although we don't know if or where this "other" cancer may be. He's afraid I'll really regret putting her through the amputation only to have her die shortly after.  As mentioned before, her lung x-rays are clear but he's wondering if maybe we should do an ultrasound of her abdomen to make sure there's nothing there.  I know it's probably denial but my heart keeps telling me to do the amputation and let her live happy as long as she can.  I asked him if there was a treatment option if she is found to have cancer somewhere else and he stated not really but maybe your decision regarding her treatment might change. At this point if it wasn't for the limp you wouldn't even know this dog is sick. I'm feeling that if she does turn out to have cancer somewhere else, after alot of crying, we'll do what we can to keep her pain at bay until she let's us know it's time.

I don't know if this is selfish just trying to keep her around as long as I can. Is it selfish not to pursue looking for the "other" cancer.

Thank you all for listening.

Karen and Coda 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rainbow Bridge



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10 December 2008 - 8:33 pm
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karena said:

I know it’s probably denial but my heart keeps telling me to do the amputation and let her live happy as long as she can...


Trust your heart. Amputation is the only way to rid Coda of the pain.

It's not a matter of denial with cancer. It may indeed have already spread. And if not, it will return. You just need to reframe the situation and focus on quality of life, not quantity.

An ultrasound or other tests may be a good idea. If only to help confirm your decision to amputate. Though it may present you with an even more difficult decision depending on the results.

Best wishes, and please keep us posted.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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10 December 2008 - 11:42 pm
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Hi Karen - something about those dawgs isn't there? When your physical journey becomes a spiritual one, she will still be there with you...I have witnessed and participated in too many experiences to believe otherwise. But yes...it is hard and I, too, find myself crying tears of grief thinking about the inevitable when in fact he is sitting in front of me with that big grin of his. It's part of our human nature to look into the future when our fur pals are saying "hello...this is today....not tomorrow!"  I dread the day and I'm certain I will be a complete mess despite all my faith and beliefs and the grieving will be long and painful - we have to feel those emotions as humans...but we are here and we are now (as they teach us) and the only thing that matters is getting Coda out of pain. What will be will be...NO ONE can predict if the cancer will spread or not...the likelihood is strong and it's good to be made aware of it, but leave it at that.

Jerry is SOOOO right, it's about quality, not quantity. You are self-LESS to walk this journey with her and not go the "simple" route... I remember when I was making this decision and I asked myself a lot of the same questions you seem to be asking yourself and before Zeus made the final decision (he let me know in his unique way that he wanted to fight) Chuck and I were talking and he said something to me...knowing my feelings for Zeus..."if you put him down, you will always wonder and you will always regret not fighting" and I would have.

If you can manage it, do the ultrasound and you'll go into this surgery (if there is no evidence of it elsewhere) feeling better about the prognosis.

Love and prayers to you - please keep us posted.

My email is hkourcklas@comcast.net if you ever want to chat.

Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together

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19 December 2008 - 9:31 pm
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Thank you all for your kind words and support.

We went to the vet today and had the ultrasound of her abdomen. All's well. There's nothing there!!! Yipee. 

Now we've had an ultrasound of the abdomen area, lung x-rays and an xray of the other leg, all clean.  I got to be with Coda while the radiologist did the ultrasound. The vet walked in at the end and had a little discussion with the radiologist basically stating that he was happy about the results but still found the presentation of the Chondrosarcoma strange because it appears to be coming right out of the bone above the elbow and not from the elbow joint. The radiologist stated to him that there are many cases of Chondrosarcoma in ribs right in the middle of the bone and not necessarily in the cartiliage. The radiologist then said to me that the chances of Chondrosarcoma in the limbs is about 5% and Coda could very well be that 5%.  In any case, I know it may be somewhere else and could return, however, at this point it just doesn't look as scary as it did.

Coda's scheduled for amputation on 1/29/08.  I'm very optimistic she'll do well. 

Thanks again for all your support. 

You'll definitely hear from me again after the amputation.

Karen and Coda 

 

 

 

 


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19 December 2008 - 10:36 pm
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Good news for Coda!  We will all be wishing you the best in January.  Please keep us updated, and make sure to enjoy the holidays with Coda.

Pam and Tazzie

The Rainbow Bridge



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19 December 2008 - 11:40 pm
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Karen, it's good to hear that things went well, you sound so upbeat! How cool that you got to be there for the ultrasound, that's one really great radiologist. To be able to hear that kind of conversation is worth its weight in gold.

We hope you have a great holiday. We'll be thinking of you and Coda, keep us posted OK? If you have any questions whatsoever before the amp, just ask!

 

 

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