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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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Is there any support here for people who could but decide not to amputate?
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11 January 2013 - 8:22 am
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I am struggling so much with this decision, it is tearing me apart and I feel like my heart will break either way.  I think this is a great group for those who decide to amputate.  But where can I find support if I feel like I can't go through with the amputation even though I think my dog would probably do fine?  

11 January 2013 - 8:26 am
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And yes, I know everyone says their dog feels better after the surgery and the pain from the surgery is nothing compared to the pain from the OSA.  And they get up right away and after a 2-4 week recovery period they generally do great.  I know all that.  And I feel like I SHOULD do the map, but when I think about it, it makes me feel filled with fear and dread and anxiety that is unbearable.  When I think about canceling the surgery and taking my dog to the beach and feeding him cheeseburgers, even knowing that we'll have less time together, it makes me feel unbearably sad but relieved because I would rather end his life a day early than a day late.  He is on pain meds now and in some pain I'm sure, but he is clearly happy and eating and loves playing and running.  That won't last, I know.  But it won't last with amp either.  Is prolonging his life for him or for us?  Is there any support for those who decide not do to the amp surgery?

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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11 January 2013 - 11:18 am
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Hi Sad, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this decision. To answer your question; of course we would be here for you no matter what you choose to do. We are here to lay the options on the line, show folks the good and bad of each, and then never judge for whatever path they decide to take. Many members here didn't go through with the amputation, in fact Sophie, who just earned her wings yesterday, was one of these dogs. So whatever you decide, we will stand by you.

It's hard to put those human fears aside, it really is. If you decide to go forward with this, you will have to be unbelievably strong, both during recovery and afterward. It's not the easiest route to take, some people will judge you harshly and you will need to stand tall and be confident that you made the best decision. Can you do that?

I will tell you this; in all the years we've been online as Tripawds, only one person said they would not go through it again. They had a very large dog who had a difficult recovery and it was extremely hard on the entire pack. This doesn't sound like your situation.

Yes, most dogs do great after recovery and many go on to beat the depressing survival statistics. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know it seems. You've done your research, good for you!

Being an advocate for our dog isn't easy, they can't tell us what they want. The only person who knows what your dog wants is you. What is your dog like?

Thanks for joining us, your future posts won't require moderation.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

11 January 2013 - 11:52 am
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Thank you, Jerry.  I have done so much homework but it hasn't made the decision any easier.  In some ways it has made it more difficult.  I can't hear anymore about how well dogs tend to do on three legs.  Or how owners rarely if ever regret their decision to amputate.  I can't help but think that part of the reason they don't regret it is because they can't at that point.  How could they possibly allow themselves to?  Once that decision is made, the owner has to be convinced that it was the right thing to do and can't go back in their thinking or they'd fall apart.  


There is more to the equation.  I am an anxious person.  I wish I weren't, but I just am.  I would do my best to try to stay calm for him, but I know myself well enough to know that I would be a basket case and would worry myself sick wondering if he was okay and being scared to death if he didn't eat or fell down or if the incision looked red even though rationally I know that stuff is not that big of a deal.  And I know my anxiety would make him anxious.  I feel guilty because I wish I could be a different kind of person, but I don't think I can change that aspect of who I am whether I try or not.  


Right now he is in some pain I'm sure and I know it will get worse and my time with him will be shorter than it otherwise would be if I did the amp.  But we have had ten beautiful years together and he has never been sick or injured even for a day.  Just like dogs don't experience amputations the same way humans to, they also don't experience pain the same way.  Although he is in some pain now, he is clearly not anxious or scared or unhappy at all.  At some point, the pain will make him unhappy I know.  And then I will do what is best for my best friend even though it will mean that I get to share less time with him than I would if I did the surgery. To me, I would rather lose him one day too early than one day too late.  

But I can't help feeling like I'm somehow disregarding what everyone else here and vets say to do because of my own fear.  And I don't want that either.  This is an impossible situation.  I hate it.

11 January 2013 - 11:56 am
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Right now I am going to take him to the lake to see if he can teach our 5-month old pup to swim.  About the only thing I do know for sure is that we will all enjoy that.  And I want to spend our remaining time, however long that is, doing things we enjoy and not doing things that make us scared and anxious.

On The Road

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11 January 2013 - 12:04 pm
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Don't beat yourself up; you know yourself well, and you know your dog better than anyone. If you feel that amputation would make you even more anxious, then you're right, your dog will absorb your emotions and this will be a very difficult situation. 

You are a team, you have to do things that you both know is best for both of you. The fact that you even gave amputation consideration, that you were even brave enough to post here, says loads about your character. Bravo! You are not a bad person if you don't proceed, and nobody will judge you, especially your dog.

We all come from different places, we all see the world differently. I do have to say that based on the members who have been here, I'm absolutely certain that when people say that they don't regret it, that feeling is real, it's coming from the heart. I don't believe they have convinced themselves it was a good decision because they had to, but because they saw how much their dog was still enjoying life. Take a look at our videos, our blogs, etc., and you'll see. People are incredibly honest here, moreso than in the real world. Their feelings are real.

I don't know if this helps you at all; I'm not trying to convince you, and I want you to know that you can always come here to talk about how things are going with your pup. We will be here for you.



Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
2 April 2012
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11 January 2013 - 1:06 pm
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Sadandconfused, as mentioned in a previous post on this topic, my Sophie girl crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday and I was one of the folks who chose not to amputate, nor did we do any chemo or radiation.  Sophie initially went through 2 rounds of Aredia which did not seem to help with the pain.  My main reason for no amputation was that as a great dane, Sophie would not have done well as a tripawd since our house has many steps/stairs and our yard is on a slope. My vet hometown told me that without chemo and amputation, Sophie would only make it 6-8 weeks before the cancer spread and the pain became too unbearable.  We went 9 1/2 months on a very strict diet that significantly reduced her carbs and I found some holistic meds (Curamin) that helped tremendously with the pain.  If you'd like to talk with me, send me a private message and I can fill you in via email or phone on what I found worked and didn't work to save you time and money.  I would highly recommend that if you can, visit with a canine oncologist.  I live in NE Arkansas and found a wonderful canine oncologist in Memphis who gave me great advice when I decided not to amputate or use chemo.  Hope this helps.

11 January 2013 - 1:13 pm
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Thanks, Jerry.  It is really great how supportive you are to everyone.  It helps more than you know.  It's hard not to beat myself up over whatever choice I make since none of the choices available are good or clear.  Your words were comforting, thank you.


We just got back from the lake.  Everyone went swimming and had fun.  It was the best I've felt in a week.  


I would like to say that right now I'm here for support for my current thinking, which is to let nature decide when his time is and not me. So for others who may want to respond to my post, please know that it will not feel supportive or helpful for folks to remind me about how painful bone cancer is and how many dogs beat the statistics with amputation, etc.  Believe me, I know all that already, but those aren't the only considerations.  Thanks for any help and support you can offer as I try to get through this as best I can for my buddy and me and the rest of our family.  

Member Since:
2 April 2012
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11 January 2013 - 1:17 pm
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One other thing I'd like to add about the pain.  Seeing Sophie limp really tore me up as I did not want to see her in pain.  But as my canine oncologist and some reading showed me, dogs handle pain much differently than we do.  The only significant difference in Sophie for the first 8 months after the intial diagnose was she would not go on long runs.  She would still sprint some short distances to go after a squirrell or a rabbit, and up until Thanksgiving, she would beg me to take her on walks.  Once I saw that the tumor was quickly growing, her limp became increasingly noticable and I saw a sharp drop off in her activity level.  However, up until the very end, her appetite and spirit were strong and never wavered.  I did read some articles about dogs with bone cancer having severe and painful fractures when the cancer went untreated, but my canine oncologist said that in her decade long practice, less than 5% of her clients experienced any such problem.  In the past six weeks I did notice that Sophie's back legs began to bow out a bit and her right leg--with the tumor on the ankle--had a slight bend in it.  As hard as it was to let her go yesterday, I have no doubt that my wife and I chose the perfect time to say goodbye.  So hang in there and know that whatever you decide is the right choice for you and your companion.

11 January 2013 - 1:29 pm
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Thank you so much, uscphanatic, for your helpful and comforting response.  It is clear that Sophie was very loved and had a great life because of you.  I did just send you a PM, by the way.

San Diego, CA
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29 October 2010
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11 January 2013 - 3:21 pm
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I'm sorry you had to find us here. Amp isn't for everyone/every dog. Some people decide not to for various reasons.

Have you considered artemisinin ? Have you heard of it before? I don't want to sell it as a miracle cure, but I have seen some dogs do really well on it. Here's a blog post I wrote about it for Tripawds:


There was a woman on the Yahoo Group "artemisinin_and_cancer" who had a Great Dane that was not a candidate for amp. She put her dog on a very strict routine of arte and other supplements and the dog's tumor actually improved. The xrays confirmed that the fracture risk was gone. I don't belong to that group anymore, but when I left, the dog had already survived about 8 months past diagnosis. This might be a freak case, but it certainly is a reason for hope if you can't do the amp. You might want to check that group out. There names were Penny & Jane (I forget which was the woman and which one the dog!) but if you join the group there are files there you can download and one of them was the protocol they used.

Hang in there!
Jackie, Angel 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!

11 January 2013 - 5:13 pm
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Hi S&C-

As Jerry said- people here support each member with whatever decision they make for their pups.  We know that you are making the best decision you can for your pup-what's his name?  And you love him- that comes across in your posts.  You wouldn't be so torn up if you didn't care.

Kbear is another member who chose to fight OSA without amputation.  Here is a link to her posts. This first post tells her story and talks a little about the radiation treatments they did.

We come off for the most part as pro-amp because it's what we did and what we know.  When I talk to new members I want them to take into consideration is that most pups do fine on three legs, and not let fear of amputation itself be the deciding factor.  But there are so many other things to consider- and it sounds to me like you have done lots of research and considering. 

I've been on both sides when deciding on cancer treatment.  My little pug Maggie had an amp due to mast cell cancer.  A few years later she developed oral melanoma.  For many reasons, including her health at the time, I chose not to do any of the recommended treatments- surgery to remove part of her jaw, radiation and then some injections.  Having done an amp I was not afraid of the surgery itself, but I just thought that it was not in her best interest.  She passed 3 months later.

My only advice to you now is to be able to live with your decision- and have no regrets. Write down now what your though process is- because after your pup passes you will have questions- I know I questioned myself.  But because I was so sure that my decision was right I have peace with what followed. 

No matter what you decide you will get support here.

Karen and Spirit Maggie

11 January 2013 - 7:21 pm
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Thank you for the supportive comments. They are helpful.  I need all the support I can get right now.  I read some articles on artiminisin and am interested in getting more info.  One article said there may be neurologic side effects in dogs, but it's far from clear.  I hope to be able to consult with an oncologist about options including radiation and maybe bisphosphonates ?


Thanks again for this great community of people who love their dogs so much.

In your heart, where I belong.
Member Since:
9 February 2011
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11 January 2013 - 7:39 pm
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I think the only other consideration for you is to have an emergency plan for your dog if he does experience a fracture. It may be that only 5% fracture, but there are lots of members here whose first inkling that their dog had OSA was when their leg fractured. That's when they were forced into a decision.

For your sake, since you say you are anxious by nature and prefer things to be calm, I think it would be wise to talk with your vet and develop an emergency plan in case of fracture or in case of a sudden increase in pain that you cannot manage at home. Like children, dogs seem to have medical emergencies in the middle of the night, on weekends or on holidays. So my advice would be to know who to call or where to go and know the route in advance of needing it. Some vets don't do pain management as well as others so maybe your vet has a specific recommendation.

And for good measure, if it were me I'd ask my vet to give me 24 hours worth of narcotic pain meds to get my dog through a pain crisis. Just in case. If you don't ever need it, great. If you need it and don't have it, your anxiety will increase, believe me.

I hope you have many more swim times with your boy. Can you post a picture of him and tell us his name?


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

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
Member Since:
28 November 2008
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13 January 2013 - 1:43 pm
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My thoughts are along the same lines as Dakota Dawg.  The thing that frightened me most about the thought of not doing surgery was the chance of a fracture.  Have that plan in place long before you should ever need it.

Also, discuss with your vet the possibility that pain management currently used could at some time fail.  What are the options at that point.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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