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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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Large labrador--to amputate or not
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Member Since:
6 June 2022
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7 June 2022 - 11:58 am
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Hello,

We have an 8 year old 100lb chocolate lab (Chaco) who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma about 2 weeks ago in his front left carpal joint. His bloodwork & x rays of the rest of his body came back clear.  We initially thought we'd go the palliative care route since he is so large & has always been a fairly active guy, but I am now second guessing that after seeing how much energy & life he still has in him. I'm waiting for a call from the vet to talk through some of these things as well, but I am interested in hearing the experiences of others while trying to make our decisions.

With amputation, I'm concerned with recovery time & then longer term quality of life. I'm currently 5 months pregnant, and as the primary care giver, I'm concerned I won't be able to help him get up while my husband is at work if he needs a lot of help. I have 3 other children at home, and I do good to lift the 20lb one year old up & down all day. Realistically, how long does it take for them to adjust to getting up & down on 3 legs? What could we do to prepare ourselves & him for the recovery period?

As for longer term, he's always been kind of moody/ anxious to change--mostly when we travel & when we added the first child to the family. By that I mean he has stomach/GI issues/the gas labradors seem to be known for. We've always been able to keep that under control by giving him long walks daily. In the past year, those walks have shortened to about a half mile. Since he's already slowing down in that sense, how much will this affect his anxieties? 

If we continue to just treat the pain with pain pills--he's currently on carprofen & doing great, barely limping, but the tumor is significantly larger with each week that passes, how will we know when it's time? I guess I can't bear the thought of the bone breaking & having to say goodbye when he's still very much all there & full of life. Even with the first couple of vet visits & no pain meds, he jumped all over all the vets & techs to the point that they all commented that he didn't look like he was hurting. 

This guy was our first baby--we got him about a month before we got married--and it's so hard to go through this so soon with him. Any advice or insights or well wishes you can share are greatly appreciated! 

Gerica

The Rainbow Bridge


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7 June 2022 - 12:09 pm
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Hi Gerica, I'm in the Tripawds Chat for a bit if you want to talk. Back in a sec with some thoughts.

The Rainbow Bridge


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7 June 2022 - 12:28 pm
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So welcome to the club nopawdy wants to join! We are glad you found us though, and hope to help make this easier for you no matter what path you decide to take.

Your concerns are really common, and totally justified. No matter the size of the dog, anyone who has been in this situation asks themselves the same questions. With larger dogs, it's easy to see why someone is extra worried. But if it's any comfort at all, modern thinking about who is and is not a candidate for amputation surgery is that that neither size nor age should exclude a dog from being a candidate as long as they are otherwise healthy. So the question is, how does your vet feel about Chaco being on 3?

Is he overweight at all? If he is, that extra weight will be an extra challenge until it comes off (1 lb of extra lbs on a dog is the equivalent of 5 on a human). But it shouldn't totally exclude him from being a candidate because dogs can lose weight with our help (and much easier than humans!). 

We've had dogs close to 200 pounds join us. What we've learned from their experience is that they can do fine on three, but do take a bit longer to bounce back, especially if they are senior dogs. All recover on different timelines but they do get to a happy place eventually. Recovery time can be 2-3 weeks or around there. What recovery looks like is a little different for all, but lots of couch time and good pain management are essential. 

Your vet won't let him come home until he can eat, pee and poop on his own. You probably won't need to assist him too much but it is possible you may. A sling and harness will be essential for a while, or always if you have stairs in your home. If you have slippery floors, you'll need to add traction to make it easier for him to get around. These minor modifications are important, and they're just simple things you would do anyways to help any senior dog get around. You're just doing it sooner for Chaco if you proceed with amputation. 

While you make the decision, it's important to have him on good pain control. While he may not be showing pain signals now, the pain will catch up and as you know the fracture risk is real. The NSAID he is on is helpful as you've seen, but if he is limping, he's in pain. Dogs do a good job of trying to hide it. By the time they limp, it's bad. Be sure to get him on something stronger like Gabapentin while you try to decide.

We will support you no matter what. Be sure to check our our What to Expect articles for some glimpses at recovery, and Jerry's Required Reading List can help too.

Keep us posted!

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7 June 2022 - 12:47 pm
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My Rottweiler was brought out to me after surgery and immediately started sniffing the ground. They adapt fairly quickly. I regret not amputating immediately after the diagnosis. The tumor gets huge and is very, very painful. Radiation was an option, but amputation would remove the pain completely, so I opted for that. I wish I would have done it sooner. It does, however, speed up metastasis. That's a well established fact. Ideally, if the dog does not have metastatic tumors to begin with, you would amputate and start chemo to slow down the metastasis. 

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7 June 2022 - 2:24 pm
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Hi Gerica,

I'm so sorry for your family and sweet Chaco. My 69 pound, 12 year old yellow lab Bailey was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in her front leg May 11th. She had her amputation May 16th. I won't sugar coat it, recovery is hard and I'm a nurse. The first week was especially stressful and worrisome. However, I would amputate again in a heartbeat, knowing it is bringing us a little more time together and that Bailey is pain free. Today, Bailey is doing really well, even doing a three- legged hop/run after squirrels. She is happy and has her sparkle back. She enjoys hopping around the yard and sniffing all the good smells. She's even figured out how to climb on and off the couch! She doesn't know she has cancer!

A couple of thoughts...maybe your husband could take the first few days of Chaco's recovery off, in case he needs extra lifting help getting outside. Obviously, you need to be careful with yourself. Another thing, please get all the information from your vet on prognosis before moving forward with amputation. Survival times can vary based on what treatment routes you chose. I've found the more info I have, the easier it is to make decisions. Financial resources also need to be discussed. I'm finding things are always more expensive than you think. For instance Bailey's diagnosis, medications and surgery were around $2000. We opted to try the standard chemotherapy which is going to be about $4600 with the medication and required blood work. We really wanted to try an experimental Immunotherapy drug, but realized after the first dose, that it would add another $5000 to the treatment costs. These crazy high costs are just not realistic for most pet owners, especially when you have a whole family to consider.

Whatever choices you make, know you are doing your very best for Chaco. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this evil disease. Keep us all updated and know this site is the best for support and information. 

Sending thoughts

Shannon ❤

Virginia




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7 June 2022 - 4:01 pm
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Your boy sounds like quite a spitfire of a Lab.  Would love to see pics.  Here's  a link on how to post pictures and videos.    adding images

I can only ditto what Jerry and Shannon said.  We support you whatever path you take.  Do your research, check out the links Jerry gave you and "talk" to Chaco. 

Just remember  every dog is different.  Some dogs blow statistics  out of the water, some don't.   The most important  lesson on this journey m is to make every day the best day ever, live in the present and flow effortlessly  from one moment to the next!

Let us know as questions arise.  We are here to help in anyway we can.

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

PS.  I'll also alert another Lab member  named Nancy who traveled  this journey with her 12 yr young  Chocolate Lab named Brownie.  I'm sure her input will be helpful 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!

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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7 June 2022 - 5:32 pm
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And another PS

Wanted to add this link that can help in your research and help yu formulate questions for your Vet.  Just kind of a short synopsis of"options" (including not amputation) all in one place 

    https://avim.us.....a-in-dogs/

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!

Member Since:
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7 June 2022 - 7:39 pm
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Hi, from one lab lover to another. Brownie was three weeks from being 12 anf 90 lbs at time of being diagnosed with bone cancer and amputation. The vet told me three weeks without amputation. As you, I thought I will just treat with pain meds and let nature take it's course. Right at the third week I saw a lump appear. I could tell the pain medication was no longer working. But just like Chaco Brownie had a lot of life left he just hurt. So listen to Sally when she saids ''talk to Chaco". I decided this was Brownies decision, he deserves the right to fight. But I live alone. I thought how am I going to manage a 90 lb dog on three legs. Well, it turned out I didn't have to. Brownie did it. Brownie due to being a senior stayed at the vet for two days, my decision. When we came home he was getting around slowly but on his own. After the stiches came out we used the Flagline harness . It has a handle on it where I could offer Brownie some help if it needed it. It took about three weeks for Brownie to get his spark back, but it did come back. The vet told me 10 months with chemo, and two or three months without. I did not choose chemo for Brownie because he stressed so badly at the vet I did not want to put him through all those vet visits. I am proud to say Brownie lived an additional one year and eight days with a lot of cookies, love and prayers. I know a year doesn't seem like a lot when we speak of our pet but it gave me time to spoil him rotten and make it the best year of his life. We even went on a camping trip two months after amputation.

You know your pup better than anyone. You know what your boy can do. You will make the right decision. I do know that labs are one determined animal, and that is exactly what is needed.

Sending positive thoughts your way...

You can click on the signature below to see video of Brownie on three.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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7 June 2022 - 8:58 pm
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Thank you to everyone for your responses! Today has been a much better day for me & Chaco. He’s definitely showing us he’s got lots of life left—I said the word “bunny” this morning & he bounced up & ran to the door to look for one 😅 His limping has been minimal (mostly just after he ran up the stairs), and he’s jumped on the bed for a nap several times today. I personally feel much more at peace knowing we’re trying something rather than just waiting for the bone to break.

We spoke with our primary vet this evening & she was very optimistic about his chances for a good recovery. We’re waiting to hear back from the oncologist we saw to get his thoughts as well. Our primary vet does amputate for almost half the price, but we’re leaning towards the specialist clinic because they have overnight care & we imagine they see more of these cases.

Either way, I think amputation and then chemo will be in our near future & I will be sure to check in here for all questions & give updates. I’ll try to post some photos tomorrow when I get back on the laptop rather than my phone.

Virginia




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22 February 2013
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7 June 2022 - 9:15 pm
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Had to laugh at the visual of Chaco junior after the"bunny".  

Sounds like Chaco  is a good candidate,and he seems to concur as evident  by his actions😎

Yes, if you have that options definitely  have an Orth Surgeon perform the amputation AND at a 24/7 fully staffed clinic.

Keep things chunked down for now. Just focus on thesurfery then the recovery and then you can decide  on chemo or not.

Chaco is a very lucy boy to have you as his hooman ♥️

Hug

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!

The Rainbow Bridge


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8 June 2022 - 11:41 am
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YAY! SO glad to hear things are good with Chaco and you. Having the information you need to decide a path is so grounding isn't it?!

We would love to see pics!

This is how adding images to the Forums works.

  • Upload pics to a photo sharing site like imgur.com or your own Tripawds blog (https://tripawd...../supporter). Pictures and video have to be hosted (live) somewhere other than in the forums.
  • Once the photo is uploaded somewhere, right click and copy the Image URL or just copy the image if you’re on a phone
  • Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself) in your post. It should automatically appear. 

If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know.

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16 June 2022 - 6:42 pm
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Hi everyone. Apologies for our absence in the past week--it's been an emotional rollercoaster. I almost backed out the day before the surgery because I didn't think I could handle it. We ended up proceeding yesterday & brought Chaco home this evening. It's already hard. Emotionally, obviously. But he had also wedged himself far back in the minivan so we had trouble getting him out. Ended up getting a neighbor to come over & help lift his back end up. He's pretty drugged & has been resting on his bed ever since. Vets were saying he's on par for where they expected him to be at this point. He's a little more wobbly than we thought he'd be. I'm sure things will get easier, but it's hard seeing your buddy in such rough shape.  

I started an Instagram where I plan on posting updates if you want to follow along. @chacodouglastripawd I'll try to keep this feed updated as well as best I can.

Gerica

Virginia




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16 June 2022 - 9:06 pm
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Alrighty, surgery is done!! YAY!!!  And yes, this early part of recovery is rough emotionally  for the hoomans.  On top of all the stress getting to this point, you are exhausted mentally and physically.   FWIW, I actually did cancel the first scheduled amputation appointment  for my Happy Hannah.  I finally proceeded and joined this community  six days later convinced   I had made a horrible dec.  This community  threw me a lifeline and guided me through the recovery  with their knowledge  and  reassurance.

Hopefully we can do the same for you. Keep in mind he jist had MAJOR surgery, still jas strong hospital  meds in him and adjistingmtonthree.  Hoomans would still be in the hospital  on a morphine drip.

You said he's "wobbly".  Does that mean he is already taking a hop or two....even though unsteady?  If so, he's already furthrr along than some dogs.

For now, drinking and peeing are important.   He may be off food a bit, so feed him anything yummy he'll eat.  Pooping make take a few days.  Lots of rest and

Slow and easy, lots of patience, pawsitive attitude  and recovery will be over before you know it. 

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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16 June 2022 - 9:23 pm
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Definitely questioning if we made a terrible decision right now. Glad that seems to be normal at this point.

As for wobbly—yes he’s taking a few steps with the assistance of a sling & the motivation of a treat. We let him just rest for about 4 hours once we got home, and just got him up & outside to potty. He did good all things considered—took some breaks, ate some treats. Not sure if it’s the drugs or just hard for him to figure out, but his main issue seems to be getting up initially. It’s almost like he doesn’t know to move his hips under him when going from laying to “up”. Our vet advised us to not do it for him, but just give him support with the sling, but we are having to assist some in that initial standing.

We did get him to eat a bit when we gave him his pain meds for the night—with the motivation of some chicken stock, reddi whip, and peanut butter. Hopefully he’ll do okay & sleep through the night peacefully & we can start again tomorrow.

Would love any tips or advice or just kind words at this point 🙂

Gerica

Virginia




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16 June 2022 - 10:34 pm
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Keep in mind recovery doesn't  last furever.....it just feels like it right now.

Like most of us this early on you are in the "What have I done TO my dog?" phase.....soon you'll recognize you did this FOR your pup.  Promise!!

Yeah, the drugs are kind of playing havoc with his awareness as far as standing, etc.   It's not unusual at all to need to assist him from laying to sitting to standing.  Perfectly normal this very, very early on.

What meds is he on?  Frequency?  Dose amount?  Did he come home with a morphine  patch (someday dogs do, so e dont)?

As far as potty breaks right now, try and wait until he starts to get restless and really shows signs he needs to potty.  In the meantime, just let him rest.

I know it doesn't  seem like it, but everything seems pretty normal at this point.   And to already potty and to eat some treats.......good boy!

TRY and get some rest yourselves.  Stay strong and confident  around your pup.  He'll pick up on your energy.  His sparkle WILL come back, slow,y but surely....PROMISE!!!

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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