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Large melanoma tumor on dog foot - amputation recommended, but she can hardly stand now - what to do?
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Member Since:
29 March 2015
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29 March 2015 - 8:58 pm
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 Hi - it's great to have someone to talk to about options for my dog's cancer this besides the veterinarians.  Especially since you've all experienced this with your pets.

I'd appreciate your opinion/thoughts on amputation of the front foot on a dog that is already lame in the two back legs.

My 12-year old Border Collie was diagnosed in January with a malignant melanoma tumor in her left front paw.  Vet gave her 2 weeks to 3 months to live. Well, she's still alive and doing great, except for the large tumor.  I took her to two oncologists and they recommended amputation of the entire leg, not just the paw. Or radiation therapy for palliative.

When I was a kid, one of our family dogs lost its front paw in a trap. I remember how much he would yelp and cry whenever he bumped the end of his leg on something. That went on for years until he died.  So, amputation seemed like the last choice for my girl.

I started my dog on palliative radiation therapy and Apocaps (from Dr. Dressler). She's had one treatment so far and it hasn't had any noticeable affect on the tumor. I think the tumor is still growing.

The tumor is really big and has split the skin in one spot. So it bleeds regularly.  She doesn't limp or fuss with her foot.

They shaved her foot for the radiation therapy and now I can see just how big the tumor is.  It's sickening to see. And now I think I should have considered amputation.

But, with her bad back legs, I think amputation would leave her without any ability to get up, stand or walk on her own. 

We're doing one more radiation treatment to see if anything changes. But, if the tumor keeps growing and the skin continues to split open, it seems pointless to continue that.

Thoughts/opinions would be appreciated.

Thank you!

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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29 March 2015 - 9:06 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

How lame is your girl in her back legs? Also what's her name, Lizzy?

What does your vet think about how she would do with the amputation?

Sorry for the questions, but it would be helpful to know more about what the situation is in her back legs.  

I'm sorry you are dealing with melanoma, that is a tough one.  How many rad treatments did the vet recommend and when should you see improvement?

There I go again, asking questions...


Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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30 March 2015 - 12:24 am
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Sorry to hear about your dog's diagnosis. I had a black cat with malignant melanoma. At that time there wasn't anything I could do other than to clean his tumour which continued to grow. He did not seem to be in pain but it caused some discomfort because he was always cleaning it. He lived for many months after the diagnosis.

I've read that they use a vaccine called Oncept (Interleukin 2) for canine melanoma and are now testing it on cats with fibrosarcomas produced by vaccines. They expect the IL-2 to promote a strong immune response which will inhibit tumour growth. I'm not sure how successful this is for dogs but you might want to ask about it. I believe it's used with surgery or radiation treatments. It doesn't cure the cancer but prolongs survival time.

I understand your concerns about your dog's mobility with an amputation. I'd imagine that the vets would not recommend amputation if they did not think your dog could manage it but it's well worth discussing it further.

These are sometimes hard decisions to make. We want to save our pet's life from the cancer, we want them to live longer and we want them to be pain free. Sometimes we don't have many options for treatment. I hope you can explore all the options to make the best decision for you and your dog.

All the best to you at this difficult time.


Member Since:
5 February 2015
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30 March 2015 - 5:52 am
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I'm sorry that you're having to go through this with your pup. None of these decisions are ever easy.

Has she had any radiographs of her chest done or the local lymph node sampled? I assume a biopsy has been done, do you know the mitotic index(number of dividing cells seen)? If this is an aggressive tumor it will have a high mitotic index and you may potentially already see spread of it at this point. Melanomas in general can be pretty nasty and aggressive so it is always a good idea to have this information before any major decisions are made. 

There are indeed treatment options such as the melanoma vaccine(Oncept) that Kazann mentioned although they take several weeks to even a few months to see potential results and sometimes you don't see results at all. (Side note, the interleukin-2 for felines is a different injection and protocol and is actually already on the market. We treated our first patient with it last week!) There is also the option of trying chemotherapy(carboplatin) with her to try and shrink the tumor, but again, chemo isn't terribly effective against melanoma. There's also some information out there that shows that high doses of cimetidine may help as well.

Personally if it were my dog I would check the chest rads, lymph node, and note the mitotic index of the tumor. If there are any signs of spread, or if it has a high MI I would not opt for an amputation. I would just keep her as comfortable as possible and enjoy her as long as she was happy.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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30 March 2015 - 11:12 am
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Hi and welcome. You've gotten some pawesome insight here (Elaina, thank you for your expert POV, super duper helpful!) and what I would add to this is, who verified the condition ofher rear legs? Has an orthopedic exam been done prior to the cancer diagnosis? If she checks out OK with the suggestions that Elaina recommended I would consider getting that ortho consult. Many people have assumed their dog wouldn't do well as a Tripawd because somewhere someone said their dog had bad hips/knees but after careful consult with an ortho vet, proceeded with the amp and the dog did well.

I know you have a lot to think about, it's enough to make anyone's head spin. Just take things one step at a time and ask as many questions as you'd like from your vets and us. And give that sweetie doggie of yours a big ol smooch from us, we have our paws crossed for you both. 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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30 March 2015 - 11:20 am
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Your pup sou ds like quite a "young senior" with a lot of spunk!

You've gotten good insight from Champ's mom a d from Kerren. I don't have much "advice" specific to your situation. My Happy Hannah had the amputation due to osteo.

I do know that many dogs here with arthritis, "senioritis", hip dysplasia, etc. seem to do okay with some physical tnerapy. Some dogs just need har ess help getting ull and then do okay. Some bring a little wagon/stroller with them in their walks. When their pups get tired they just hop in their "limousine" for the ride home!!

Tazzie, a 190 lb. Mastiff, had her front leg amputated. Even though ner remaining two rear legs were in bad shape, she was avle to manage just fine.

Just want you to know we are all nere with you. We u derstand the love you and your pup jave for each other like no others can! Continue your research, see if you can get a second opinion perhaps from a rehab. physical therapist.

The most implrta t thing to remember is your pup doesn't give a rip about anynole statistics kr prognosis! She certainly does NOT have a time frame stamped on her butt! She js enjoying the spoiling and loving and not worrying about a thing!!

Staying in the moment...staying in the lresent....not letting anything rob you of your time yoh have NOW!! And NOW, your pup is feeling good and enjoying life!!
Lots of treats, lots of pictures, losts of burgers and steaks! Spoil, spoil, spoil!!!!!

Hugs to all!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!
Stay connected and update when you can.

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:
29 March 2015
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30 March 2015 - 5:38 pm
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Hi - Thank you all for your replies and support.  This means alot to me.

To answer questions about my dog (Lizzy), she's been to an ortho/rehab vet specialist and had therapy treatments for the past year: water walking, laser, chiro.  The ortho surgeon wanted to redo the knees on both legs last year, but I opted for the therapy treatments instead.  

She's on Adequan and Previcox for her lameness and arthritis. The rehab vet agreed that it would be tough for Lizzy to be mobile if her front paw/leg was amputated. She'd need a harness, etc., and maybe a prosthetic if just her paw was removed.  She'd be in continuous therapy treatment for the rest of her life if her foot was amputated.

I didn't get good info from my regular vet about options at the time of the cancer diagnosis, but I can't expect him to know everything.  It took her 6 weeks to heal from the biopsy alone. Then it took three weeks for all the tests, and they still were inconclusive about the melanoma, although they were 90% sure.  The tumor has a very high mitotic index.  It was listed at 41.  It hadn't spread to the lungs or other organs, according to x-rays taken a few weeks ago.

I took her to 2 oncology vets.  The first only only offered surgery/amputation because he didn't have access to radiation equipment. The second vet offered surgery, radiation and the meloanoma vaccine as options.  the oncology vet would only administer the vaccine after amputation or after the radiation.  It costs $800/shot and she'll need 4, then a booster one month later, and another booster 6 months later.

She's going in tomorrow for her second radiation treatment. I chose the palliative treatment for her, which is 6 treatments, once each week for 6 weeks.  My goal is to reduce the size of the tumor and give her pain relief. So far, neither has happened. And now the tumor is really big and causing her pain.  The vet gave me Tramadol for pain relief.  I've taken her off the Previcox and put her on Apocaps .

You don't have much time to make decisions when tumors grow fast. And without all the info and hindsight or a crystal ball, it's hard to know what to do.  As noted above, my goal is to give her comfort at this time and try to reduce the tumor size.  I sure hope that radiation will do that.

But each time I look at her foot and the huge tumor, I think I should have it removed.  If the radiation doesn't start showing results soon, amputation may be the only option left.

Thanks everyone for your support and advice.

Member Since:
5 February 2015
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30 March 2015 - 7:06 pm
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If the tumor is large and causing her pain may I ask why you took her off of the Previcox? It is a proven anti-inflammatory and pain medication.


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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30 March 2015 - 7:24 pm
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Just want to commend you for beingnsuch an incredibly devoted and determined advocate for Lizzy! You've done a lot of research and, amid some varying opinio s from different vets, you've figured out a treatment plan for your girl! This is a very stressful part of the journey! Stay one understands like we do!!

And glad she had good xrays! That's good news!!

Yeah, this blankety-blank piece of crap disease is so brutal and cruel. But you are staying solution oriented and focused on making sure Lizzy gets quality with lots and lots of loving and spoiling!

Okay all you members with a better memory than mine...(yes that woukd be all of you!).....which Lab went through radiation recently for some form of tumor ohpn his leg? I want to say "Charley"? Anyway, didn't he have a slow start with the radiation.....didn't it get worse before it got better??

I coukd be confused and completely delusional!!way-cool

Cheering for improvement Miss Lizzy!!

Sending love and lots of steaks for Lizzy!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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1 April 2015 - 10:28 am
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Wow, can I just say that you are one pawesome doggy pawrent? I am so impressed at how you've looked at so many options for her, you've done everything right and it's clear how much she means to you.

OK, two thoughts for you:

Have you considered stereotactic radiation therapy? I'm not even sure if it can be done for this type of tumors but I do know that it has huge success rates for similar situations. It's very targeted and effective in a minimal amount of sessions. If you're anywhere near Colorado or Florida, both universities there offer it, as well as Dr. Sue Ettinger's clinic in Yonkers, NY.

Another thought: Neoplasene.

Neoplasene is known as an “escharotic” treatment that’s prepared with an herbal concoction containing bloodroot. This preparation is injected into the tumor site and is supposed to cause necropsy in subcutaneous tissues, which will supposedly cause subcutaneous tumors to die without any chemotherapy treatment.

Now, I would be careful with this one, especially after one of our favorite oncologists, Dr. Avenelle Turner, recommended against it because of this paper. But, I know that if I were dealing with this kind of situation I might at least look into it if there were no other options. I would only think about doing it if I knew that the vet was extremely experienced with it. Just something to consider if you haven't already.

Lots of hugs and pawsitivity coming your way, keep us posted OK?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Norene, TN
Member Since:
21 October 2014
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8 April 2015 - 1:39 pm
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Just checking in for an update on Lizzy?????

Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.

"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."

- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey

Member Since:
2 April 2015
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8 April 2015 - 2:37 pm
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I'm so sorry. I hope you find peace with your eventual decision.

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