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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Front Leg Amputation for Large Chocolate Lab
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mafiamike
1
9 January 2012 - 3:57 pm
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My wife and I have a 10.5 yr old Chocolate Lab. He has had 3 surgeries removing tumors and the most recent (1.5 yrs ago removed cancer) from his front left leg. It has come back and is growing quickly.. Well my wife and I are expecting our 1st child (after 2 miscarriages)… My wife is about 5.5 months in and everything is looking perfect. But our dog's Cancer is growing so quick it is going to soon start hurting him and will also tear the skin and come through. The vet said either Amputation or putting him down are our only options because she can't get enough skin to close up wound from cancer tumor. I just want what is best for him, but also my wife (something has to happen before she gives birth).

 

Problems..

 

1. Our income has reduced drastically and being self employed our insurance is very expensive. So not a lot of cash. Amputation is expensive.

2. Our Dog Twixx is a very good dog (NOT great w/kids – he gets skidish – but never have a lot of kids here for long) but very good toward us and my wife in particular.

3. He doesn't take surgery well. He is very smart and has itched his stitches and all kinds of other fun things.

4. @ 10.5 yrs old, Not sure if it is going to increase his quality of life enough to justify having the amputation.

5. We live on a very steep hill. There is no part of our property that is level. We have stairs going to backyard. Worried he won't be able to get around well – HE IS A BIG DOG.

6. He loves to swim and chase his Kong (for hours). Our concern is he will be droopy and not into 'life' anymore.

Please note.. he is 10.5 yrs old, not best w/kids, BIG DOG (97lbs).

 

*He is an emotional dog. We just want to do the right thing for him. Our vet has agreed to do the amputation for a VERY reasonable price. My wife's ob/gyn said – it would be best to do what it takes to not get my wife more stressed right now.

 

What are your suggestions? I have a pic of the leg/tumor. I'm going to try to figure out how to post.

Here and Now


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9 January 2012 - 4:35 pm
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Welcome Mike, your future forum posts will not require moderation.

Answering your photo question in the chat now…

San Diego, CA
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9 January 2012 - 5:37 pm
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Oh, dear, that is such a hard situation to be in. And obviously there is no easy answer.

I guess I'll start by saying that we have seen dogs who are older and/or heavier do well here, post-amp. So, is his weight just a big # because he's a big dog, or is it a big # because he's overweight? It's not necessarily hard on a tripawd to be big, but it is hard on a tripawd to be overweight.

As you said, your vet has worked with you on a reasonable price for the surgery so that's good. But another thing to consider is any follow up or other treatments. What type of cancer is it? If it is a type that is generally cured just by the amp alone, that is good and you won't have to worry about other treatments.

As for the stairs issue, I'll let others weigh in on that. Our dog was quite young at the time of her amp, so our stairs weren't a problem for her after she got over the initial recovery period.

I think the main thing to consider in your situation is obviously your wife and the baby. Going through the recovery from amp surgery can sometimes be stressful — not always, but there is often what we call “two weeks of hell” where you don't sleep a lot and you worry and you question your decision. For some, this process can go on for longer – maybe 4 weeks. Usually at the end of that time, the pup is back to acting like his old self and everyone is happy with the decision. Of course losing a beloved dog is also very stressful. And, from your post it sounds like he is very close with your wife. I guess the best thing to do is have a heart to heart with her and try to figure out what is going to be the least stressful option. If the finances of the surgery will add stress, (even at the reduced cost) be sure to factor that in. 

There is no wrong decision here! You will do what is best for your family and your pup and that is all you can do.

I hope that helps… I really do feel for you in this difficult time! 

Hang in there!

Jackie, Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

mafiamike
5
9 January 2012 - 5:45 pm
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AbbysMom said:

Oh, dear, that is such a hard situation to be in. And obviously there is no easy answer.

I guess I'll start by saying that we have seen dogs who are older and/or heavier do well here, post-amp. So, is his weight just a big # because he's a big dog, or is it a big # because he's overweight? It's not necessarily hard on a tripawd to be big, but it is hard on a tripawd to be overweight.

As you said, your vet has worked with you on a reasonable price for the surgery so that's good. But another thing to consider is any follow up or other treatments. What type of cancer is it? If it is a type that is generally cured just by the amp alone, that is good and you won't have to worry about other treatments.

As for the stairs issue, I'll let others weigh in on that. Our dog was quite young at the time of her amp, so our stairs weren't a problem for her after she got over the initial recovery period.

I think the main thing to consider in your situation is obviously your wife and the baby. Going through the recovery from amp surgery can sometimes be stressful — not always, but there is often what we call “two weeks of hell” where you don't sleep a lot and you worry and you question your decision. For some, this process can go on for longer – maybe 4 weeks. Usually at the end of that time, the pup is back to acting like his old self and everyone is happy with the decision. Of course losing a beloved dog is also very stressful. And, from your post it sounds like he is very close with your wife. I guess the best thing to do is have a heart to heart with her and try to figure out what is going to be the least stressful option. If the finances of the surgery will add stress, (even at the reduced cost) be sure to factor that in. 

There is no wrong decision here! You will do what is best for your family and your pup and that is all you can do.

I hope that helps… I really do feel for you in this difficult time! 

Hang in there!

Jackie, Abby's mom

Thank you Jackie..  — We are reviewing everything here.. You seem to be spot on  (regarding our situation).. and His comfort and my wife/child are keeping our minds racing.

 

I will be reading a lot of the information on here over the next few days. I put a pic of his tumor on my avatar. The doc things if she does AMP that he will be fine (as did the other 3 vets/surgeons)..

 

Thank you to everyone.

San Diego, CA
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9 January 2012 - 5:58 pm
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I thought of one other thing you might want to factor in to your decision… Who will be around w/ him while he recovers? Will you be there? Because often while the dog is recovering, you need to use a sling to help them up or help them go outside to do their biz. With our Abby, she's only 45 lbs, so it wasn't hard for me to help her. But at 97 lbs…. I'm guessing that is more than your wife should be trying to lift at this time?? 

That's probably only really necessary the first few days, but it is something to consider.

Poor sweet pup. The tumor looks nasty. Cancer, you do not play fair.  

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Chicago, IL
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9 January 2012 - 6:35 pm
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What does your wife's heart tell her to do?  Obviously, it would be very stressful to lose Twixx right now.  But has she been through the loss of a beloved pet before so she knows what to expect?  The grief can be astonishing.

If Twixx is emotional and prone to do fun things that will drag out his recovery, you are looking at long, drawn out stress in the final months of her pregnancy.  And what will you do if Twixx doesn't accept the baby?  I don't know if a tiny infant will make him skittish like little kids might, but he might not like the competition.  On the other hand, he may feel protective, it would give him a job – guard the baby!

Only the two of you can decide how Twixx will react to the baby and which stress is going to be more tolerable for your wife.  Because, really – she and your baby are the only ones that count right now.  Twixx has had a good, long life and now his job is to be there for your wife when she needs him.  If you don't think he's up for it, don't feel guilty one darn bit.  It's okay.  I can't stress this last part enough – really, it is okay.

Best of luck to you with this very, very difficult decision.

http://tate.tripawds.com/
August 16, 2006 to November 28, 2011
TATE ~ Forever in our hearts.

mafiamike
8
9 January 2012 - 7:14 pm
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Jackie – I own a Private Investigation company.. I work from home and this is the slow time of the year. Being there for him until he is ready to try it on his own is an option.

 

@ Tatespeeps – Her 'heart' things he will be fine. Regarding if Twixx doesn't accept the baby, we would put him down, regardless of amputation or not. And we have thought about the fact that it will be 10 months from now before the baby would even be on the floor or anything. But we are older and not the type to leave an infant on the floor next to ANY dog.You are right, he has lived a GREAT life. I wouldn't feel guilty except I feel I owe it to him a little. He has been there for my wife.. and for me.

 

Thank you all for the great feedback.

Washington
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9 January 2012 - 7:22 pm
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Wow, that is a tough position to be in. I can’t really add anything to what folks have already said, aside from “listen to your heart.” You know in your heart what is best for you and your family.

This can be a very stressful decision, and definitely each side of the coin comes with its own baggage, but Twixx will not hold it against you regardless of what you decide to do. My girl, Rio was almost 11 when her cancer required amputation. She just had her 11-month ampuversary, and although the journey hasn’t been all sunshine, the extra time that the amputation surgery gave us was almost like a miracle.

We wish you all the best with the challenging days that lie ahead. We are here for your support and encouragement!

Micki and Rio

the Woo

~ ~ Rio ~ ~
Forever in my heart...

April 2000 – January 20, 2012
Diagnosed with Mast Cell Cancer in June 2007. Left rear leg amputated Feb. 8, 2011.
Mets discovered Aug. 31, 2011. Read more of Rio's story here.

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9 January 2012 - 8:53 pm
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I’m so sorry you are dealing with this during what should be such an exciting time for you with a baby on the way! Others have shared great information regarding the pros and cons so just thought I would share some info regarding stairs. It’s totally doable – not without challenges but totally doable. Our Sam was a front leg amp and 118 pounds before surgery. Front leg amps tend to get up stairs fine but have difficulty going down. We used a sling going down stairs for about 6 weeks – the amount of support we needed to give lessened (and we stopped for our outside stairs which was only 6 stairs) but for longer staircases we still helped for the initial 6 weeks – and then for a few weeks more, only at night when he was tired. He learned to stop and wait for the sling when he wanted help. He became great at it though – we were at a friend’s house last fall and he acquired quite a number of admirers as he buzzed in and out of the house at a cookout – up and down about 40 steps as if he had always been on 3 legs – he just followed the food! Good luck – we’re thinking of you! Xo Sue

Georgia
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9 January 2012 - 9:12 pm
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I'll weigh in with my experiences…

 

First – on the amputation… Spencer was only 4.5 when we found his tumor, so much younger.  And Spencer was about 85 lbs.  he was a little overweight.  So I swapped him to a grain free diet and also cut out all of the snacking that he was doing.  With the amputation Spencer lost about 4 lbs.  With the new diet he lost 6 more and now his a healthy weight at 74 – 75 lbs.  Recovery was not bad.  He stayed over night at the vet's office the first night.  The next day he came home and it was best to have 2 of us take him out.  We used a sling to help carry his weight.  One person did stuff like open the doors and just kind of encouraged him along (so no weight bearing), the other person held the sling.  To get to our back yard we chose to go out the front door and down 3 steps, then around to the back yard.  If we went out the back door we would have to go down way more steps on the deck to get to the yard.  By day 4 Spencer could handle the few steps in the front on his own with out the sling.  We didn't even try the back stairs until much later.  Probably would have started at 2 weeks post op; but he got MRSA and had to have another surgery a few days after having his amputation stitches out, so was again on restricted activity.  By 1 month post amp, and 2 weeks post surgery for the MRSA , he was able to handle any stairs or hills.  We definitely didn't have the 2 tough weeks that people talk about.  Honestly, at 2 weeks post amp I was having to hold Spencer back on things because he was ready to be more active.

 

You would have to be there to help for at least 4 days post surgery because there is no way that your wife could help him getting around on her own.

 

Has the vet said what kind of cancer it is?  Grade?  My dog has Fibrosarcoma, which is generally NOT aggressive.  But his is grade 3, which means it IS aggressive.  But still… we had hope that the amputation plus chemo would be a cure (doesn't appear to have been since it is now in his lungs).  But our oncologist said that had Spencer's cancer been grade 1 or 2 we could have expected the amputation alone to have cured Spencer.

 

So I'm saying, you need to know what you are looking at.  Is this something that the amputation would be a (likely) cure for?  Or is it likely the cancer has already spread?  Will you be OK if this just buys a few months?

 

On to dealing with it all while pg…  Just before my husband and I got married we found out that our dog (Baron) had lung cancer.  We found out in April of 2003.  I got pregnant in October 2003.  Due to where his tumor was (against the bronchial tube), that he did not handle anesthesia well (we found out about the cancer because he had a hard time recovering from anesthesia when he had surgery to remove what ended up being a fatty tumor), and that he was older (almost 12, also a doberman, so definitely “geriatric”), we were just treating him with prednisone .  I had soooo hoped that he would make it to see our twins born.  I just really wanted one picture with our beloved dog and our twins.  But, in Feb. 2004 things went down hill and we realized it was time to put him to sleep.  It was hard on me; but I knew it was the right thing.  Your wife will know what the right thing is.  Either way there will be some stress; but in the end you have to go with your heart and trust that you will make the right decision.

 

On a side note… Is it just that your dog is indifferent towards kids, or is Twixx actually aggressive towards them.  That would color my decision.  If he is aggressive towards children; but the cancer is one that can be cured with amputation, then maybe consider finding him a new home?

Jac and Angel Spencer.  Spencer was 5.25 years old. He fought a grade 3 fibrosarcoma, started on his shoulder.  Left front leg amputated in August 2011.  15 weeks of chemo finished 12/22/11 (mytox and adria).  Lung mets found on x-rays 12/28/11.  Started carboplatin 1/6/12. Went to Heaven on 2/27/12. I miss him like crazy every day.  See his blog here:  http://spencer.tripawds.com/

mafiamike
12
9 January 2012 - 9:13 pm
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Thank you all. We are going to do some reading. These personal experiences will help us. Thank you all. MM

In your heart, where I belong.
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9 January 2012 - 10:18 pm
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Hi Mike,

Sorry I didn't see this earlier because I have direct experience with some of your issues. My Dakota is not as big as Twixx. He was about 86 pounds at the time of amputation (11 months ago), so he wasn't a little guy. He turned 9 within days of the surgery, so you may as well say he was 9. He is a highly-anxious, nervous, non-adaptable dog. And his cancer was a soft-tissue sarcoma, not bone cancer. The prognosis for him without the amputation was exactly the same as Twixx's: the tumor would grow, the skin would burst, the tissue would die, the leg would become gangrenous, D would die.

And location. Last weekend we moved into an actual town. For Dakota's entire life, he lived in the mountains on uneven terrain, no sidewalks or pavement. Hillsides. Boulders. Huge boulders. He was used to hopping up and down rocks over 8 feet tall. He walked on giant pine cones, big sticks, logs. He hopped over and ducked under fallen trees and branches. He let himself outside through a dog door. Indoors, our bedrooms were on the second floor of our house, up 13 stairs. D was used to going up and down whenever he pleased.

Forward to post-surgery. Dakota had a standard, typical recovery. He did well after the first several days. He adapted. On about day 3 of being home, he exited through the dog door and walked around half the perimeter of our house, looking for me. He had to hop down about a 2-foot retaining wall to get back to the house, but he decided to do it. He was exhausted afterward but very, very waggy. 

Dakota did become less active. He quit his rock climbing but still followed us if we headed for the woods. He explored. He brought home junk that I didn't want and pulled it through the dog door. He had no problem with our terrain, and we get snow. Deep snow. (Last month he was wading through 28 inches of it.) This year he followed me into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree, and that was about a 45-minute adventure in deep snow. He is less active, but he isn't less happy. He did quit going upstairs, but he never slept up there anyway.

Now, after about 10 days in our new home, Dakota has 15 stairs and no dog door. The only way outside is down 15 stairs. He has a RuffWear harness, and I made him use it the first 4 or 5 days. I held onto the handle and guided him. He didn't like it. It was too slow. So I took it off and he began bounding. He comes downstairs carefully but not like an old man. He races upstairs because momentum is his best friend. He is not hampered at all. By anything. His potty visits cost him a lot of unnecessary energy because it's a new place with many new areas to mark. He is determined to mark them all.

I cannot speak to the baby issue or any aggression toward children (had it in another dog but not D). I can, however, speak to the exact same prognosis without amputation that Twixx has been given. I can speak to the age issue and somewhat the size. I can definitely speak to the terrain concern. It is not a concern. Dakota watered every square inch of our property (many acres) and sniffed every bush, pine cone and rock. And since he doesn't have bone cancer, his life expectancy is the same as if he'd not had cancer. So if Twixx was destined to live to be 13, he still gets his destiny (if his cancer is like Dakota's, which it sounds like it is).

Don't let your terrain or stairs or anything like that be how you decide. Those should not be considerations. Make no mistake–at first Twixx will be unbalanced. He will fall. He will struggle. You may question your decision. You may think “poor guy.” But it will pass. That other leg will migrate to the middle of his body and he will be a tripod. He will learn his new balance. Terrain will not be an issue. He will learn what he can do and what he should avoid. He will not be a poor guy. And if you don't think he's a good candidate for amputation for other reasons, that's fair enough. But these things should not be how you decide.

You can see photos of some of our terrain and read about Dakota's recovery and adventures at his blog, which is in my signature box below. There are also photos of Dakota's leg and the tumor he had, which also could not be closed up if we'd wanted the tumor removed.

Whatever you decide is the right decision. You love Twixx and your decision will be guided by that. 

Shari

From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at http://shari.tr.....pawds.com/

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9 January 2012 - 11:54 pm
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Great advice already given here!

 

So sorry you find yourself here with us facing this awful decision.

I really don't have too much to add because my circumstances were totally different – my dog was born three legged.

One thing not mentioned, which may not be a consideration at all but it was in my case…SOMETIMES when you take away a dog's ability to 'fight or flight' (removing their leg), they can become more skittish, reserved and possibly aggressive.  We don't find it often here because most dogs here are pretty outgoing confident dogs.  Mine was a trauma puppy and never overcame it.  (she liked that no one could touch her except my husband and I and it became a game to her – only a handful of people ever touched her in 12 years!!)

NOW THIS MAY NOT BE THE CASE AT ALL!  Please keep that in mind. 

However, with that said – you can always move forward with the amputation and if it doesn't work out, then there is still the option of letting go.  Not knowing if it would have worked out is also emotionally difficult.

Let your heart guide you.  We ar here to help and support and will do whatever we can.

Lots of good wishes coming your way.  

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Golden Girls
15
10 January 2012 - 9:02 am
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Welcome to Tripawds. I'm late in responding, but all comments given to you so far – I agree with! Just wanted to offer my support. Whatever your final decision, it will be made out of love for Twixx & family – so there is no “wrong”. Please keep us posted, and know that we are all here to support you!

Sending you many golden hugs!

Cathy

P.S. Love the name Twixx. My brother has a choc. lab named Hershey & my dad has one named Cocoa.

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