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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8 December 2016
My name is Megan. I have a golden retriever, named Liberty. She is about 1.5 years old. Unfortunately, back in May they diagnosed her with an aggressive form of osteosarcoma. We were told she would likely live a month without treatment and about 4-6 months if we were to amputate. Shocked by the diagnosis, I opted for pain management to keep her comfortable during her short time left. Well…. 6 months later, still a large regimen of medication, Libby has been doing fairly well.. only limping occasionally. We had been doing X-rays every month and it appeared the cancer wasn’t growing (we’d finally gotten the miracle we wanted!) Until about two weeks ago, Libby slipped on the hard wood floor and we ended up back at the vet. So, now we at looking at osteosarcoma, torn acl, and mild hip dysplasia. I am very very torn on what to do! I want the absolute best life for my pup and I would appreciate any advice. I am nervous for how she will respond to amputation, what her life will be like following the amputation, and so on. Before the fall, she did not appear to be in much pain. I could touch/rub her leg, she would run and play like nothing was holding her back. However, now her limp is more consistent, her gait is very awkward, and we have the occasional bad night where she just cannot get comfortable so she moans the majority of the night. I know in my heart she isn’t ready to be put down because she still eats, plays, and loves company, but I feel like continuing the medication will only lead to other problems such as liver failure. Plus, her quality of life is not where I want it to be. Sorry for the overload of information!! I need help!! What should I do!? I hate to see my baby suffer, but I worry putting her through the amputation surgery/recovery will cause more pain/sadness for her. Any input is appreciated!
Megan and Liberty!
25 April 2007
Hi Megan, welcome. I know how worried you must be, and totally understand. My first question is, have you gotten an opinion from a board-certifed ortho surgeon? How do you know her cruciate ligament is damaged? Second and even third opinions are very helpful in deciding what to do in tricky situations like this.
If she is not a candidate for amputation surgery, she may be one for a limb sparing surgery if it’s in your budget. Radiation therapy is another option if you live in a major metro area or near a vet teaching hospital. So even with existing ortho issues, all hope is not lost.
First though, make sure your vet has prescribed enough medication to get that pain under control. It’s pretty horrific and it sounds like it’s getting really, really bad. Remember, dogs are stoic and they only show signs when it becomes unbearable. Unfortunately even the best pain meds won’t control the pain for long, so it’s urgent you start making decisions. Amputation recovery is nothing compared to the pain of slowly exploding leg bone. Dogs and cats usually handle it better than we think they will. Plus, she is now at risk of fracture. So I don’t want you to panic, but know that a quick decisin is important. But first, breathe, get other vet opinions and know that we are here to help you get through whatever comes next.
Read Jerry’s Required Reading List if you haven’t already. It will answer a lot of questions and of course so will this wonderful community. Holler with any questions at all K?
15 December 2015
Hi Megan and Liberty,
i am sorry you find yourselves in such a difficult situation. A couple of questions: I wasn’t sure from your post, is the osteo in a front or back leg? And is the torn cruciate in the same leg as the osteo? What does the vet think re amputation? Why are you worried about her liver? Is this general worries or have blood tests revealed a cause for concern?
I can’t advise you on the osteo situation as we are lucky enough not to be dealing with cancer. But my Meg had a foreleg amputation nine months ago despite severe dysplasia and other problems with her remaining front leg and she is doing just great.
I don’t think the sadness you talk about is honestly an issue for the dog. I just don’t think they work that way. Sure, there is a period of physical adjustment, which can last from a few days to a number of weeks. Most seem to see a major improvement after ten days to two weeks. The main thing is that amputation gets rid of the terrible osteo pain completely and allows you to enjoy some quality pain free time together. Things can go wrong with the surgery, of course, and the time people get varies hugely, but the crucial thing is that it is quality time.
Stay tuned, as others with more relevant experience will chime in I’m sure.
All the best with it and remember whatever you decide, we will be here to support you.
Meg, Clare and Elsie Pie xxx
Meg, Mutt, aged around 12, adopted 31/12/2009. Sudden explosive right elbow fracture 06/12 (caused by IOHC), diagnosed with End Stage Arthritis 03/15, Total Elbow Replacement 08/15, problems with healing leading to skin graft & skin flap surgery, Chronic Infection leading to implant breakdown. Became a Tripawd 9th March 2016. Lives with Mum, Clare, watched over by Angel Pie and Angel Billie My life as a MEG-A-STAR
14 February 2016
I have read your post multiple times, but haven’t responded because your situation is really hard. It is just hard to know what advice to offer. I had two dogs and went through cruciate repair with one and osteo with the other. This is really hard. But in the end, it feels like your choice might be similar to mine with Otis – amputate or say goodbye. The latter was not an option for me, although Otis’ only consideration was arthritis. Amputation would get rid of Libby’s extreme pain, but obviously becomes more difficult in terms of the cruciate. But, we do have members who have faced both (although not at the same time) – Izzy had cruciate repair recently. And, it sounds like she made get have a slower growing form of osteo (but I am not a vet, just thinking about how well she has done to date.) I really cannot offer solid advice, other than to say to make sure you speak to an experienced surgeon, and then get a second opinion. Maybe they can fix both? (Can you carry her?). I wish I could say more, but wanted you to know that I, and probably others, have been reading your post and thinking about your situation.
Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016. Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016. Lung mets August 25, 2016. Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016. Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.
Wherever they are, they are together.
23 April 2016
Megan had also earlier posted this in a blog entry and she and I did exchange some additional info there because I had asked some questions while also suggesting she would probably get more advice here. I’m going to take the liberty (ooops, pun on Liberty’s name!) of including her answers to my questions here (the questions will be obvious).
“Sorry for the confusion, the torn acl is on the same side as the osteosarcoma. As for the hip dysplasia,I believe it is on the same side as well but that is something I will need to clarify before proceeding with the amputation. We would be amputating the back right leg, do animals respond differently to front legs vs back?
I see a general vet on a regular basis but I met with an orthopedic vet at the beginning of the diagnosis. My vet recommends we return to him for the surgery which we plan to do if the surgery will still be an option.”
My feeling is, as the torn ACL is same leg as osteo, then amputation will solve two issues. Ridding Liberty of the pain of osteo, which has increased and the additional aggravation of an ACL injury. I would still want to know, as it has been a while since initial diagnosis, whether there were lung mets. She’s had x-rays monthly and there seem to be no obvious signs of spread of the osteo. And Liberty has been using that leg even less since the slip and injury which would help her adjust to being without the leg.
In the end, Megan, though, all any of us can offer is what we think we would do and what we have done. Amputation will be expensive and it is not typically a cure – but often gives pet and person more quality and pain free time together. You can take a look at my blog for images of a large 11.5 year old dog who positively bounded back to life on his terms nearly instantly post amp. We had 5 and a half more wonderful months. I would not change anything except to have found his soft tissue sarcoma earlier and have amputated earlier.
Ultimately, I’m not even sure I would let the hip dysplasia potential worry me if it turns out to be on the other rear hip. And if the concern is the hip attached to an osteo leg…. well, yet another reason amputation might be favorable.
Yes, there are differences for how dogs cope with front versus rear leg amputation, but I don’t think there is one that is “better or easier” for a dog. The challenges are just different.
Hope you can reach a decision soon! We know how hard it is.
On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly. His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.
15 July 2016
I also started a reply before and never posted because I didn’t think I hit the mark. Here are my thoughts, fow whatever they are worth.
- The fact lungs have remained clear for 6 months is a good thing. It seems cancer is slow growing.
- I wish your vet hadn’t been so pessimistic about the cancer early on, and action could have been taken then, but that’s water under the bridge.
- I know with 100% certainty that amputation was the right thing for us. 0 regrets on that. Milo lost the battle just 2 months later because of a very rare, very aggressive form of osteo. It was still worth it to us. Dogs don’t get sad or have self esteem issues over missing limbs.
- Amputation and cancer is expensive. We got into a clinical trial that reduced some costs, but it needs to be considered. As much as I loved Milo, he is a dog with a maximum lifespan of 15 years without cancer. My human family is forever, and needs to be financially stable, and handle college and retirement and such. It’s not cruel to put your finances first. We were lucky that finances were never a driver for us.
- Amputation and cancer take a lot of time and energy. Lots of appointments. Extra time on dog care and massage and such. Using vacation time for days after surgery. And so on. Again, we were lucky. I had plenty of time banked, kids in college who don’t require my time, a college kid across the street home on summer break who did dog care for dirt cheap when I went back to work (he watched TV and played computer games and hung with another friend at my house.)
- Milo had injured his right shoulder twice in the two months before the cancer diagnosis in his front left leg. We worried about his ability to adapt and whether the shoulder would be ok. We decided without the amputation, his life was weeks long due to pain from the exploding bone. We decided to give it a shot, and if the shoulder collapsed, we would be in the sme boat as if we never did the surgery, but if the shoulder lasted, we could get months or years.
Those are my experiences. Yours may be different. So if you have the time and money, and if the cancer is still not spreading to Liberty’s lungs, the amputation surgery is “relatively easy” for the dog (compared to the pain of cancer.) It’s us people who bare the brunt. Be honest with yourself about what you and your family can handle.
Jenifer & Milo
21 May 2016
Hi Megan and Liberty 💖🐶
My girl Eurydice lost her right front leg 7 1/2 months ago due to osteo.
She is a huge Great Dane so I worried a lot whether she would recover and have a normal life again.
Although I hated the idea of amputation, I never hesitated because bone cancer pain is excrutiating and removing the leg removes the pain instantly.
Well, all I can say is my girl has fully recovered and loves life to the full, the only thing she will never be able to do is go up and down stairs but that is merely because her body is so long she cannot negotiate normal size steps.
The first couple of weeks after surgery can be very challenging but once stitches come out progress is generally fast.
Whichever your decision will be in the end don’t be afraid Liberty will not adjust to life on 3, she will surprise you and enjoy her days with her Mom 💕💕
Of course, there are risks involved but the majority of dogs recover better than we ever imagined and have a wonderful life painfree.
We are all here to help you both go through this so don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Sending you a cloud of pawsitive energy and many many cuddles to your cutie 💞💞💞🐾🐶
Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-)
20 October 2016
Hi. I’d like to chime in. My Rosie started limping in early 2016. By May it was progressively worse. Ex-rays showed that she had mile arthritis in 3 legs and cervical area. Even though it was her right front that the limping was most pronounced, she fully ruptured and tore her right rear CCL in August and had TPLO surgery. Recovery was rough-but she did ok.
During rehab the right front leg got worse and worse. Vet suspected Osteosarcoma. New ex-rays showed a huge tumor in right front leg. No mets to lungs.
We were told 6-12 months with amp and chemo. We went ahead with the amp on 10/26/16. The first 2 weeks post-amp were hard, but not as hard as the TPLO.
She is now 7 weeks post amp, has 2 chemo treatments behind her and is loving life to the fullest-pain free!!!
i didn’t realize how much pain she was in pre-surgery. But now that the pain is gone-I have my spunky girl back. She is such a wonderful dog and is so happy.
Yes-expensive. Almost $4,000 for amputation and 2 chemo treatments. Probably another $1500 to finish.
I jave absolutely NoRegrets. Rosie is happy and healthy today.
If the ACL and tumor are in the same leg-you get a twofer!
Even if it’s just a few more weeks, it was right for us.
I will never have another dog without insurance though!!!
kellye and Rosie the Wonder Tripawd 🐕❤️🐕