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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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Amputation scheduled for Friday...
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Forum Posts: 132
Member Since:
11 February 2009
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11 February 2009 - 12:32 pm
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Thank you SO much for this site. I've been getting information and reading others' stories.

My eight year old Rottweiler Cooper has been through a lot since October when he had left elbow surgery for a dysplasia condition (to remove pieces of his coronoid process that had broken loose.) I've known he was dysplastic since a year old but he defied the predictions of early arthritis and has had a very full life, competing to fairly high levels in agility and being generally an active doggie who has accompanied me on many adventures, as well as keeping the other dogs in my house in line. 🙂

So...the elbow surgery was unsuccessful (I was very aware this was a risk, no fault of the surgeon.) He actually became steadily worse after a while. A month ago, a needle biopsy indicated no cancer. Unfortunately that was a false negative, as it turns out. In the meantime I researched lots of options for him and settled on the TATE elbow prosthesis which is in clinical trials at MSU. The vets agreed at that time that amputation was NOT an option, given his age and size. He's 95lbs, very lean and fit, but that is still a lot to bear, and he does have some mild arthritis in his right elbow (bilateral dysplasia.)

On Monday went to see the ortho surgeon at MSU. They did more xrays...and the tiny ambiguous shadow from 3 1/2 weeks ago is now a big blurry mass and part of his elbow joint is simply gone. They do not know what type of cancer yet (possibly synovial cell) without biopsy. But he is in considerable, unrelenting pain - Fentanyl patches may be taking the edge off at this point, but it's hard to tell - and I am down to two choices: euthanise or amputate.

I chose amputation because I do not want the life of this vital, high drive, wonderful dog to simply end after months of pain and inactivity. Right now he is hobbling on three legs and does not even want to get up unless he has to. He's wearing his tracking harness so I can help him get around. He obviously can't continue like this so the day after tomorrow the leg comes off. I realise this may be palliative, as there is a tiny spot on the lung that may be a cancerous nodule, and we haven't done an ultrasound yet to check for cancer elsewhere. But  I really, really want him not to hurt. At least for a while. I have promised myself that I won't put him through any more pain or heroic measures if the cancer spreads.

I so hope I am making the right descision for Cooper. It's been an overwhelming week.

Thank you for any words of encouragement or experience...this is not (unfortunately) the first time I have dealt with cancer in a Rottweiler, but I have zero experience with amputation.


Forum Posts: 173
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17 December 2008
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11 February 2009 - 1:31 pm
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You have come to the right place for good information and support. Max is a 20 month old Black Lab who had TPLO surgery in Oct and in Dec had the same leg amputated due to osteosarcoma. He just finished with his second chemo treatment and the third is scheduled for Feb 26. I know what you mean about the pain. Max was is horrible pain before the amp surgery and it was awful not being able to do anything about it. He still has pain, and we arent sure where its coming from. We have done CT scans and x-rays but nothing shows up. He is on gabapentin and Tramadol for that and it seems to manage the pain well. You are doing the best thing you can for him and thats taking away the pain. Even if you dont do chemo or the spot on the lung ends up being a met, he still will feel so much better than he did before the amp surgery.

After the surgery, the first 2 weeks are pretty tough, but after that it gets much easier. Max is running and playing much like he did before and has no issues with balance or getting around. We have a Ruff Wear Web Harness for him that has a handle on the back and its the best thing since sliced bread! Lots of the Tripawds on this site use the harness and have great results, especially the front leg tripawds. You mentioned having a harness already so you are familiar with the support and security they give.  

Good luck in the next few days. If you know in your heart that you have made a decision that is right for you and for Cooper, then thats all that counts and you will get through the surgery and recovery just like the rest of us.  We will be thinking about you and sending hugs and pawsitive thoughts your way!!

Paula and Max

Paula and Spirit Max

Forum Posts: 104
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24 January 2009
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11 February 2009 - 1:38 pm
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Hi Carina, 

We just came home with our 12 year old chocolate lab Marley - she had her left hind leg amputated on Monday after 4 weeks of turmoil on what to do, talking to vets, surgeons, oncologist... our surgeon and oncologist thought amputation was definitely the way to go and we're so glad we made that decision! The tumor was clear on xrays... the surgery was delayed because one of her lymph nodes was enlarged - an aspirate did not show cancer, only reactive cells (can be normal), but the lymph node is still enlarged so the aspirate may not have caught the "bad part". So her prognosis may not be good - possibly only a couple of months, but otherwise we probably would have had to put her down last weekend - she was in such pain!!! we got to the point where we were looking forward to the surgery! 

Now she is home, pain free (on Tramadol) and I cannot even tell you what a relief it is! I'm sure we'll have some obstacles with the recovery, but it cannot possibly be anything like the torment of the past 4 weeks. I can hear her snoring peacefully in the next room... I don't even miss that painful leg! she's already hopping around (see my "Marley is home" post)! not bad for 12 1/2 I think! It just feels so good not to have given up her! 

We look forward to hearing how Cooper does on Friday. I really think you'll be happy with your decision. It's getting to surgery day and getting home that is the hardest part I think!! 

Holly and Marley

Forum Posts: 132
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11 February 2009
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11 February 2009 - 4:22 pm
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Thank you, thank you...that is my first and main objective: get my dog out of this awful pain! He's on 100mcg Fentanyl patches now because Tramadol/Deramaxx wasn't effective any more.

I love hearing about dogs like Max and Marley who experienced pain relief after amputation.

Here and Now

Forum Posts: 12473
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25 April 2007
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11 February 2009 - 8:48 pm
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Thanks for joining the discussion Carina. Bless you for taking such good care of your pup. Here's to a successful procedure putting an end to Cooper's pain, and much more quality time together. Thanks for sharing your difficult decisions with everyone here.

The Rainbow Bridge

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11 February 2009 - 8:52 pm
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Hi Carina,

Thanks for joining the Tripawds family. We are sorry you had to find us under these circumstances, but hope we can be of some help and support as you and Cooper walk this journey. We are right there with you too.

Everyone is so right; he will feel much better after the surgery and a few days of snoozing it off. While every dog is different in their recovery times, most of the time they are just so glad to be out of pain, and it really shows on their faces and through their tail wags. There have been 175 pound mastiffs here who have recuperated just fine, even when they had a history of other orthopedic issues .

Whatever we can do to help, please let us know. Keep the faith that all will be well. Cooper is doing the same, we're sure of it.

Good luck with the surgery, we will be thinking of you and sending our good healing vibes your way. Keep us posted OK?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 132
Member Since:
11 February 2009
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12 February 2009 - 2:37 am
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost euthanize was one of the options I was given. But he is not ready to die. He still eats, drinks and "smiles." If he could talk, he would not ask me to kill him, he would ask me to take the pain away. So hopefully, that's what we're going to do!

He is a very tough dog and deals with life head on with confidence and good doggie grace, so barring any complications, I think he'll do fine. I was warned that he may need a transfusion because his red blood cell count was low, but everything else looks pretty good. So I am confident. I will post updates (and will update my sadly neglected blog as a diary.)

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