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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Finnigan is facing amputation with possibly chondrosarcoma
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21 December 2020 - 11:32 am
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Hello everyone.

I wanted to share Finnigan's story that started 3 years ago. When my German Shepherd/Labrador mix just turned 7, I noticed that he was limping and his front left leg was swollen. I took him to the vet and when they brought up the word bone cancer I was devastated. However, further tests like a fine needle aspiration and bone biopsy were inconclusive so I was hoping they would be wrong. Months passed and I kept him on Deramaxx and the swelling went down. He was doing fine and no limping so I was very suspicious that he should have this very painful bone cancer. 4 month later I took him to a different vet to get a second opinion. He took an X-Ray and the bone looked completely healthy. I was so thankful and I’m glad I waited it out and didn’t jump to an amputation since it clearly could have not been osteosarcoma.  

Now 3 year later when my boy turned 10 the same story seemed to be repeating itself. Finn started limping again and his front left leg was swollen. I took him to the vet but this time I wasn’t worried because I thought it’s definitely not cancer. My vet took an X-Ray and it looked exactly like the one from 3 years ago. He said it could be cancer but wanted to try it with some Deramaxx and Clindamycin in case it was a bone infection. Unfortunately, it didn’t help and my vet wanted to do a bone biopsy because it could be bone cancer. I told him that I don’t think that’s what it is because everyone told me that osteosarcoma is super painful and Finn was still playing in the backyard with his sisters and his limping wasn’t bad. Just the swelling concerned me. So I reached out to different vets but everyone kept saying I should do a bone biopsy because it looks like cancer. When the winter kicked in his limping got worse and I assumed it was because of the weather change. We have very cold winters in Saskatchewan, Canada. I decided to go back to my vet to see if he’s still certain that it’s osteosarcoma. Since it’s been 4 months he finally agreed with me but still wanted to do a bone biopsy because it could be a different kind of cancer. I didn’t know that you can also determine other cancers other than osteosarcoma otherwise I would have done it sooner. Anyways so Finn went for a fine needle aspiration last week and the oncology team thinks that it could be a chondrosarcoma. His X-rays are clear which makes sense since it’s a very slow spreading cancer they told me. But to be 100% sure they suggested a bone biopsy (risk of being inconclusive or fracturing the leg which would lead to amputation) or a PET CT scan that might light up the tumor. I asked them what we could do if it’s just a cyst and they said that they could only treat it with painkillers. They also brought up radiation therapy but for this we need 100% certainty that it is chondrosarcoma which would mean bone biopsy and or PET Scan. Since I just want my boy to be not in pain anymore for the last few years he has, I’ve decided to go ahead with amputation even though they are not 100% sure if it’s cancer or a cyst. I just want him to be able to run around again and play with his sisters and go to the beach and swim in the water. It was a very hard decision but the surgery date is booked for January 5th, 2021.

I’ve already ordered a special harness and bought an orthopedic dog bed for him. Is there anything else you would recommend? Also my vet suggested to do a full leg amputation and not a scapula sparing amputation. He thinks that it’ll be easier for him to balance but he would also follow my wish in case I want to keep his shoulder blade. Can anyone give me some advise of what would be the better solution?

Sina & Finnigan

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21 December 2020 - 4:47 pm
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Sina I am in the Tripawds Chat right now if you want to talk. Back in a second with some thoughts.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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21 December 2020 - 5:02 pm
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Wow, you and Finnigan have been through so much! What a crazy thing for the cancer to manifest the way it did. It goes to show you that cancer does some crazy things and we have very little control over how it behaves. The good news is that we have control over how we react to it and you are doing an excellent job of taking charge and helping Finn enjoy life again.

Whether the cancer is chondrosarcoma or osteosarcoma, if the bone is so destroyed that it's beyond saving then amputation is the course of action to take. Taking the scapula is what most vets will do when a forelimb cancer is involved. That is, unless the tumor is so low on the limb that they can get "clean margins" around it, in order to allow the dog to have a prosthetic limb. If a prosthesis isn't part of the plan, we see that when members' dogs have the whole leg and scapula removed, there is faster healing and less wound complications. Here is an article that may help you decide:

https://tripawd.....ts-better/

Recovery isn't a picnic but Finn sounds like an otherwise healthy dog who will get to doing what he loves again, very soon! Patience is a plus during this time, and I can tell you've got it. Check out the following resources to help you get ready:

Jerry's Required Reading List

Tripawds What to Expect articles

and the Tripawds e-books library

How's your home? Is it Tripawd-proofed with traction and a safe recovery space? Are you able to stay home with Finn during recovery? Also, what about stairs?

Another thought: Ice and snow add to the challenges you will face but there are many ways you can deal with that. How about starting a new topic in "Hopping Around" to ask how others cope with snow and ice during recovery?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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26 December 2020 - 3:27 pm
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Hi Jerry,

Merry Christmas and thank you so much for your quick response. Thanks for all the links; they were very helpful. It looks like removing the scapula is the way to go. 

Our home is half carpet and half laminate but we are already planning on putting some runners down to make it easier for Finn. Luckily or unfortunately my partner is still at home because he lost is job due to Covid 19 (but fingers crossed his restaurant will open up again once all this will be over) so he can be there 24/7 and help Finn with his recovery. 

We do have the stairs to the basement blocked off with a doggy gate but I'm a little worried about our deck. When you want to enter our garden you have to take 2 sets of 3 steps to get onto the grass. So we're thinking on building a dog ramp he'll hopefully use. I already bought a portable one for the car he doesn't like at all. He rather jumps in and out of the car but we're trying to get him used to it.

I will definitely start a topic to see how other people handle the snow and ice during recovery. I'm also hoping that our winter stays as mild as it is right now and we won't get the -30/-40 degrees we usually experience in January/February since Finn is going to loose lots of fursmiley13

Every day I feel more confident that I'm making the right decision for him. His limping isn't getting any better and adding more medication like tramadol makes him feel dizzy and sedated so I stopped that and only have him on Deramaxx. I hope one day he won't need any medication any more and lives a happy and healthy life on 3 legs.

Sina and Finni

Virginia




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27 December 2020 - 11:02 am
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Just catching up o  your sweet Finnand sending extra pawsitive energy for a successful  surgery and recovery.!   

And Finn will be able to run and swim and be Finn again, but without any pain!

You've  gotten good links and input from Jerry and seemed to jave your home prepared. As you've  read, recovery  is no picnic for a week or two  and pain management is very important.  He most likely will come home with Gabapentin,Rimadyl ( or similar),  and a antibiotic  and maube Tramadol.  Tramadol and Gabapentin  compliment  each other with this type of surgery pain.

When you pick Finn up to take him home, just greet him with a Happy attitude, big smile and tell him he's going home!  Don't  even bother to draw attention to his incision.   He just needs to know everything  is all good and home awaits!

Stay connected and update when you can. 

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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27 December 2020 - 11:08 am
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It sounds like Finn will have a great recovery team! Sorry your partner is out of work but yeah there's the blessing, to be home with Finn during recovery.

I wouldn't worry too much about the garden steps. Tripawds can usually handle 2 or 3 steps as long as they aren't too steep. If you can put down some outdoor grip tape it might eliminate the need to build a ramp. And don't feel bad that Finn won't use the car ramp: most dogs won't use them! They have a terrible time judging depth from the ramp to the ground and for many dogs it's terrifying so they'd rather jump. Consider getting a Ruffwear Webmaster or Flagline harness instead to help Finn get in and out of the car.

You sound confident, which is terrific! Keep up the great attitude. Oh, you mentioned Finn is really sensitive to pain medications: be sure to work with your vet so that he has enough meds during recovery to keep him comfortable. He may be realllllly woozy on pain control, and you may need to keep close watch to ensure he can toilet and eat. Otherwise though it sounds like everything else is ready for his recovery. And YES! He will feel good again and get his sparkle back, just wait!

Holler with any questions.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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27 December 2020 - 3:54 pm
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Hi Sina, 

Sorry you and Finnigan are going through this.  It is not an easy decision. 

About the stairs...you will be amazed at how fast they will be mastered.  We are on day 10 post op and my baby mastered them 5 days ago.  The first few days you will want to assist him, either with a towel under the belly or a canvas bag with the side seams opened.  (There is a wonderful article on this site on how to make the canvas bag sling.)  We haven't had much snow here in Quebec yet so I have no tricks for that yet.  I just make sure to sweep/shovel the steps clear each time I go out with my girl.

About the cold, our vet did not bandage the wound.  Ceira is wearing a medical shirt suppied by the vet.  Its a huge doggie onesie.  It allows me to check the stitches everyday and provides warmth for her shaved body when outside.  A little doggie sweater might not be a bad idea for our frigid Canadian winters.

Take care and let us know how everything goes when its time for his surgery.

Lynnette and Ceira.

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27 December 2020 - 7:45 pm
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Lynnette thank you so much for sharing your experience and offering such fantastic tips! 

There is a wonderful article on this site on how to make the canvas bag sling.)

Thanks for bringing that up, and the compliment! Here it is:

Make a DIY Dog Sling for Your New Tripawd

Ceira is wearing a medical shirt suppied by the vet.  Its a huge doggie onesie.

Awesome! Glad you're enjoying a recovery suit. Here's an amputee recovery suit that we really love.

It helps so much for others to read about recent experiences, so thanks again.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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30 December 2020 - 3:11 pm
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Thank you so much for sharing your stories and tips with me smiley4

I've found a medical shirt on amazon that should arrive a day before Finn's surgery. That should keep him warm and hopefully cover up most of the incision. I assume it won't replace a cone though!?

The sling is also a good idea. His special harness with a strap arrived yesterday but I've read that I should wait with putting it on because it can sit on his stitches so I'll use the sling first if needed.

I'm glad to hear Lynnette that Ceira is doing so well and has no problem with the stairs. Since Finn is already mostly hopping on 3 legs, I'm pretty sure he'll learn to manage the steps very quickly. 

I hope we'll figure out some pain medication that work for him and don't make him feel dizzy like the tramadol did. He has no problems with Deramaxx and Gabapentin so I'll make sure my vet considers those plus the antibiotics. 

It's a strange feeling to know that in less than a week he'll hop around on 3 legs. I'm glad dogs live in a moment and don't stress out in advance like we humans do. I'll update you once he's home from surgery. Thank you so much for all your support. I'm so thankful for this forum and this great community.

Sina & Finni

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30 December 2020 - 9:53 pm
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Awww we are thankful for you too!

The medical shirt can be a substitute for a cone if your dog absolutely refuses to wear the cone. Some dogs are super sneaky though and need both, so you may want to use both and see how he handles the combination. And yes, do wait on the harness until his stitches are out but if you really need to use it, you can put it on over the medical shirt and it should be fine, just watch the incision carefully. A sling is also helpful if you don't want to chance it.

You are so right about dogs not stressing out the way we do. No, he doesn't know what's about to happen but when it does, he won't look back in anger or sadness, he'll just hop on out of that hospital and get on with life! And as an honorary Tripawd already he should take to his new gait without any real issues.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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5 January 2021 - 12:09 pm
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Update from his surgery:

My vet just called and said everything went well but he lost a fair amount of blood. I hope he won’t be too weak when I pick him up in less than 4 hours. Unfortunately, they don’t keep pets over night. I hope he’ll be fine and just very sleepy. How does this work when they loose blood? Do they give them blood transfusions?

Virginia




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5 January 2021 - 12:15 pm
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Sorry for quick reply...

That's  an excellent  question you need to ask your Ver.  What caused it?  What solutions they are implementing??

Depe di g on what the Bet says, I would check into the possibility  of leaving him overnight in an ER clinic if if you jave one in your area.

Let is know....and yay surgery is done!!!

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 2021 - 12:27 pm
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Yes I will definitely ask him. I was never thinking about this. It's not like dogs donate blood for each other lol.

That's a good call with the ER clinic. I will talk to my vet and see what he thinks. I'd like to have him home but I also want him to be safe!!

Yes it's finally done. My partner laid out all the carpets we have to make it as easy as possible. We had some icy rain this morning and I hope this won't complicate things...

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5 January 2021 - 1:13 pm
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Oh yeah I agree with Sally, he would be better off at an ER clinic overnight after a situation like that. The first night at home immediately after surgery can be quite stressful.

I would also want to know what they gave him to fix the blood loss issue.

Haha dogs DO donate blood for each other! See:

https://www.akc.....ation.html

Keep us posted. 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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6 January 2021 - 9:16 am
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Good morning,

I wanted to give you an update on my Rockstar. We took him home last night because my vet said that he recovered very well from his surgery. They gave him lots of fluids to make up for his blood loss but apparently amputation is a very bloody surgery with all the veins to cut. That's great though that there are actually dogs that donate blood. Thanks for sharing the article, Jerry. 

He was very winy when he was home until the middle of the night be we've already experienced this from his previous anesthetics and were prepared. Once it was worn off and he wasn't dopy anymore he was fine and passed out here and there. It's tough for him to except that he can only lie in one position so he was doing circles  a lot to get comfortable. At 9pm we were allowed to feed half his regular food and he downed it and drank water, too. 

The biggest challenge was to get him outside to pee. The first attempt failed because his wound started drooping so we decided to give him a break. We tried it later a few times again but he did not want to pee. Finally after he had breakfast he hopped to our front door (it only has 3 steps and it's easier for him to get down then on the icy deck with 2 sets of steps) and I helped him down. It's really impressive how could he gets around but I think because he already didn't put much wait on his front left leg he was used to it. He went straight to our bush through deep snow and tried to pee. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that he can't just lift his back leg anymore like he used to so he collapsed. He still must have managed to finish peeing because when my boyfriend went out later to shovel the spot for him to give him easier access he noticed a big pee spot. Yeah Finni smiley_clap 

I'm so relieved that he's doing so well. He had breakfast this morning and got his pain medication and drank some water. I can't wait to get home to him from work to snuggle up with him. It was a short night for my boyfriend and I and we took turns sleeping with him in the living room.

Sina and my superhero Finnigansp_hearticon2

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