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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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Facing left foreleg amputation - large Golden "Piper"
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Forum Posts: 4
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3 January 2020
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4 January 2020 - 11:42 am
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Hi, I am also new to this forum and am facing what I’ve always dreaded, having owned 7 Golden Retrievers. This is my 4th with cancer, first ever osteosarcoma. I am usually on the other side of the table – I am not a veterinarian, but have worked closely with my husband who is a veterinarian, for the last 32 years. I have seen dogs and cats do well with amputation – we have even performed a few over the years – but it’s hard when it’s your own dog. My concern is that she is about 95 lbs. – she’s a large female but also a little overweight. I know larger dogs have had amputations, but are they also overweight? I had a consult with a radiation oncologist (who mentioned this website!) to consider limb-sparing radiation, and we are fortunate to have a facility that can do stereotactic radiation therapy. Unfortunately, a CT scan revealed that her cancerous bone is very thin and almost non-existent in some areas, so risk of fracture would be quite high. She had only been limping slightly for about a week (we have an 18-month-old also, so I had assumed she had tweaked it when they played rough), so it’s unbelievable how aggressive this is. So amputation is the only option. I have a surgical consult in about 5 days (earliest I could get in, and an amputation is not something a veterinarian wants to do on his own dog), and am managing her on pain meds that both the oncologist and radiation oncologist recommended – meloxicam, gabapentin and amantadine. She’s doing ok, but clearly still in pain. So I know the amputation will relieve that. We have a house practice, and we live above our clinic so we have no living area downstairs – my concern is also she will have to get upstairs somehow. I could install ramps on our outside stairs, which are easier to navigate than our indoor stairs. I am sure there is a lot of information on this forum, which I will work through. I’m just having a lot of mental angst over this, and will need support through this whole process. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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4 January 2020 - 2:27 pm
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Piper and family, welcome. This is the club nopawdy wants to join but we are here for you! I’m sorry you are dealing with osteosarcoma. Many of us have also dealt with this cancer and we understand what you’re going through.

To answer your question, yes, many overweight dogs have still been viable candidates for surgery. Dogs can lose weight unbelievably fast, since after all it’s we who controls their food intake. During recovery she will probably have a decreased appetite anyways so she will have a head start if you proceed.

As for the living situation: we can totally relate! We lived above our workspace when our Jerry had his amputation. He was 75 pounds and we had 18 very narrow, noncarpeted steps to manage with him during recovery. Carrying him was not an option and that’s when the Ruffwear Webmaster came in super handy. It has a handle that allowed us to guide him up and down the stairs. Since he only needed to go outside to potty during those first couple of weeks, we walked him in and out by hanging onto the Webmaster and making sure he didn’t slip (he never did). I have a video I can dig up if you’d like to see it.

For now I would recommend talking to your husband about some stronger pain medication if it’s going to be longer than those 5 days for the consult. I think she could conceivably be on a Fentanyl patch at this point which could reduce her pain level. Right now she’s on good drugs, but if she’s still showing pain signals then she really really hurts.

Please know that even at 95 pounds she wouldn’t be the biggest dog we’ve had join us. Some have been as large as 175 pounds!

In the meantime be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List and the What to Expect series about amputation. Our e-books library is also helpful. And stay tuned for more feedback from the community. 

Oh and please give our thanks to the vet who recommended us! May I ask who it was?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 4
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4 January 2020 - 3:55 pm
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Hi Jerry, and thanks for your helpful post and support. Yes, the radiation oncologist who mentioned you was Dr. Benoit Clerc-Renaud with Veterinary Referral Specialists in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I’m going to check out the Ruffwear Webmaster – Ruffwear stuff is really great quality.

Virginia




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4 January 2020 - 10:20 pm
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Awww….Goldens are such sweet happy dogs.  Just hate that you’ve had so much exper6 woth this piece of crap disease.   We DEFINITELY  understand  the emotions  involved getting to this point.  As you know though, it will get rid of Piper’s pain and give him a good chance at a quality  pain free life full of loving  and spoiling and sloppy kisses.

We know this is a stressful time and, regardless of all the Vet experience uoj and your husband have,  it sure doesn’t  make it any easier on your heart strings at all❤  So we are here for you to help in any way we can, okay?

You probably already know recovery is no picnic for a couple of weeks.  Having said that, we always say that the Surgeon sees the dog walk out after surgery and knows it was successful,  yet has no idea how rough the recovery  is once they get home!😉   

My Happy Hannah was quite a “fluffy” Bull Mastiff at 125 lbs and had no problem navigating  on three.Weve had large Great Danes, Anatolians, English Mastiffs, etc handle three just fine.  I had steps she had to go up and down to get in her yard and had enough time to have a ramp built before her surgery.  So that’s  an option for the outside stairs rhat lead up, as well as the harness of you jave ro ise rhe inside stairs.

If you have hardwoods or vinyl floors, you’ll want non slip scatter rugs for traction ,  as well as raised food/water bowls.

Just let us know as questions come up and how we can help you navigate  thru recovery.  TRY and get some rest!  

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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5 January 2020 - 8:27 am
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Hi,

Brownie was overweight at 90 lbs at time of amputation. He had a tumor in his front left leg at the ankle. I thought he was fine but the vet said he was overweight. 

Brownie did wear a fetinol patch for pain. After amputation he went on the “feed the dog starve the cancer” diet and is now 75 lbs. So it is possible for them to loose weight. I cut way back on store treats and started making my own dehyrated treats.

We also use the harness which is extremely helpful.

Since Brownie is a front leg amputee he can go upstairs fine but has an issue going down stairs, and that is where the harness comes in.

Wishing you the best and sending good thoughts your way!

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6 January 2020 - 10:19 am
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Thanks for all this helpful advice and support. Yes, I know I will have to get some weight off her – what worked best for Brownie in terms of diet? I know cancer diets need to be low carbs/high protein (?) anyway, and I see recommendations of strictly grain-free . I’m assuming that the benefits of a cancer diet outweigh the risk of DCM (which is higher in Goldens too). And I assume it would be wise to install ramps before the surgery so she can become accustomed to them. 

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6 January 2020 - 3:46 pm
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Hi.

I have a large yellow Labrador (was 93.6lb), Named Mojo Wizard Big Paw: American Field Lab. The cancer (osteosarcoma) was not diagnosed until he had been limping for awhile, Dr. thought it was arthritis (Mojo is 10 yr old) but X-Ray showed the lump, and into the bone: right front leg, amputated totally. We were food restricting him, and when he was getting sicker from the cancer, he dropped to 79 lb! (We knew something was really wrong, not arthritis). He was in pain, and I put him on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory way back when it started. After the diagnosis, onto that plus Tramadol (synthetic opiate).

We just amputated almost 3 weeks ago (Dec. 20th). Met with oncologist, after initial diagnosis, we did it pretty fast, within a week of diagnosis.  We were told it is a rapid spreading cancer type. We are starting chemo this week. Four sessions, 3 weeks apart. I am scared to death. He was initially traumatized by the amputation. Mojo is 10.

I initially felt it was a selfish plan, to take a leg. Then I realized it is more selfish not to, that is, to let the animal die in suffering. I almost backed out at the last minute. I love this dog more than anything. He is so sweet, a bit timid, but a “Big Boy”, and his favorite thing is to walk in nature, run, swim. I realize he may only have a short life left, but I pray it’s a couple of years. It’s been about 17 days since the surgery: He is doing really well. He can take carpeted steps just fine: one step at a time. His walking is OK, just have to watch he doesn’t trip on sticks until he gets used to his new way of walking. We give him massages regularly, and let him go for rides in the back of the SUV. We lift him in and out of the car though. He eats like a pg, as he loves food!! But I realize we have to keep his weight down. He overall improved greatly form the time we brought him home. It took a few days for the Fentanyl (sp?)patch med to wear off, and he was weary and “stoney baloney” for a few days. He can walk outside to pee, and poop, he just doesn’t lift the hind leg to pee. I walk on his right side, where the limb was removed, and give him support with a leash at all times. He’s trying to jump up int of the back of the SUV already! (this one thing, he cannot do). He jumps up on the couch, and sort of slides a little to get off the couch. He has mastered alot of skills already. We put rubber runner type (rubber backs) rugs down on the tile entrance and kitchen linoleum (Amazon). Slippery floors may be difficult.

I had trouble looking at him and the incision marks, I had trouble looking at him without the front leg. I just felt so bad for him, and I still do. But I know it was the right thing to do. And never to let him know that I had trouble, I slept with him close and massaged him and stayed with him close (I still do). He is a very sensitive animal, very much so. This helped me too. He and I are very close buds. He still has some days where he wants to be not alone: staying close to me or Mike (partner) and his stuffed animals. I put a tee-shirt on him to keep the area clean (the staples were removed about 5 days ago) and to help me adjust to visualizing the scar where the leg used to be…It was so hard to do this to him. Good Luck, and know that your dog will be healthier without the bone tumor/the pain of that tumor could never be cured or temporarily fixed, it would only get worse, even if you give him strong meds (this is what the Dr.’s told me). Peace and Love, LAS

PS: I wasn’t offered radiation therapy by the oncologist. Also, there is vaccination study being done at Yale for a new vaccination against spreading cancers in dogs. Interesting work. Research type study. ($1000.00 to enroll). I’m thinking chemo first though.

Here and Now


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6 January 2020 - 4:03 pm
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bigpaw1 said
I have a large yellow Labrador… 

Welcome, and best wishes for Mojo! Please consider starting a new topic to share your story so others can follow his progress.

Please keep us posted. Your future forum posts will not require moderation. Meanwhile, if you ever need help navigating the blogs, start here for help finding all the helpful Tripawds resources and assistance programs or watch this quick tutorial video.

The Rainbow Bridge



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6 January 2020 - 5:36 pm
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piperlove said
Hi Jerry, and thanks for your helpful post and support. Yes, the radiation oncologist who mentioned you was Dr. Benoit Clerc-Renaud with Veterinary Referral Specialists in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I’m going to check out the Ruffwear Webmaster – Ruffwear stuff is really great quality.

  

Oh that’s terrific! What a great practice. They are AAHA-accredited , which is the Cadillac of care! I noticed they are not on our Tripawds Outreach Brochures mailing list, but I’ll be sure to have our awesome volunteer Martha send some to them. Thanks for letting us know. 

And I agree, Ruffwear is the best quality!

As for ramps . . . many dogs will have challenges with them. Dogs have really poor depth perception and ramps can be scary. If Piper hasn’t used them before you may want to do a test run before investing time and money in them. We also have these stair and ramp training tips and a blog post about stair training that might help. There’s a video of our Jerry using the stairs in our old house that you should check out.

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

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Forum Posts: 561
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7 January 2020 - 7:34 pm
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Hi again,

Brownie was on the diet ” feed the dog starve the cancer”. It is high in protein and low in carbs. I am sure you already know that cancer feeds off of sugar. The recipe is in the book “the dog cancer survival guide by Dr. Damian Dressler. I believe I do believe on found it o. This site. You can also look at K9 immunities site. They have a recipe. It is mostly meat and green vegetables with some eggs and cottage cheese. Brownie was on it for about 9 months but he started having bowl issues do to being a senior so now he is on a very bland diet.

As far as a ramp, I can only use one with Brownie if he has his harness on, the one with a handle so I can guide him. Otherwise if he sees it he hops the other way. Lol

Hope this helps!

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