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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Need advice for Derry. Almost 4yr old Husky recently diagnosed with Fibroblastic osteosarcoma
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Member Since:
16 September 2023
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1 October 2023 - 6:35 pm
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Mischief, thanks so much for the tip. 

Prior to amputation, Derry hadn’t used his troublesome leg for over a month so he had the advantage of being a three legged pro post surgery. He gets so excited when he goes out, that he wants to go faster than we’re supposed to be letting him.  He definitely hasn’t lost his stubborn Husky character which we are so happy about. 


Member Since:
4 July 2023
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1 October 2023 - 7:27 pm
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Hi Brenda - good question and sorry if this is confusing. It’s a lot to take in at a stressful time.sp_hearticon2

It’s the percentages that change. The 12mo. isn’t a prognosis - it’s more like a milemarker. The two different treatment mixes look like this:

With surgery + chemo:
35-40% of dogs are likely to live 12mo. or more.
60-65% of dogs are likely to live 12mo. or less.

With surgery + chemo + vaccine:
65% of dogs are likely to live 12mo. or more.
35% of dogs are likely to live 12mo. or less.

It’s sort of like reading the weather forecast. If it says 65% chance of snow, you know that that’s more likely than a 35-40% chance of snow. So, the vaccine makes it more likely that Derry could live 12mo. or more. That could be weeks more, months more, or even years more. It’s hard to say.

The reason researchers describe things this way is because with cancer (and especially an aggressive one like osteo) there just isn’t a sure-thing-that-will-totally-work-no-matter-what (a 100% chance). And there are even dogs who fall into that small percentage of individuals who despite little to no treatment beyond amputation live years beyond their diagnosis. Jerry (spirit dog of Tripawds) and Onder come to mind. Still others whose owners did give them further treatment fell into the lower percentage of dogs who only lived weeks or a few months. While numbers can help guide us, in the end each dog and owner’s experience is unique. As a sage soul here at Tripawds once said, “There’s no expiration date stamped on your dog’s butt."

And as far as practicalities, you don’t need to do the vaccine and chemo at the same time. (You can, but you don’t have to.) You can do one and then the other. Talk to your amazing oncologist - they’ll likely have some great advice and maybe even other options here.

Also, you can do what we did and just start chemo and explore other options later once recovery is done and chemo is well under way. I was waaaaay too overwhelmed when June was in recovery and then first started chemo to even consider looking into the vaccine. Later, when the nerves and tears calmed down and June was back to herself and chemo was going well, I looked into it further and we decided to go ahead. It all really is a lot to take in.

You’re right to question how much poking and prodding you want for him - and only you’ll know what’s best for him. In the end regardless of which treatment(s), if any, you choose, it's about living with him in the moment day to day no matter how many days you and he get. If you get a chance, the Be More Dog book is a great story about exactly that.

Hope that helps - let me know if you have further questions.

Cheering for you, as ever, and happy to support whatever you decide is right for you all and Derry. sp_hearticon2

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

Member Since:
16 September 2023
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1 October 2023 - 9:11 pm
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Thank you SO much. You have provided lots of great information and knowledge here.

I think what we keep beating ourselves up about is our continuous questions. Derry’s journey has so many unanswered questions. 

We first noticed a swelling on Derry’s front right leg over his elbow at the end of May that was visible to the eye. Between May and August, he was treated for Hygroma and then later after X-ray and needle aspiration with cytology, he was treated for chronic soft tissue injury trauma. The swelling had become quite big and hard and he went from limping to not using the leg at all. It was like he only had 3 legs. He was active still during all of this and running up and down stairs etc. He got Trazohdone to help keep him more rested. 

Anything we read and two family members that are nurses, have read the reports as well and are a bit confused, The 3 picture X-ray he had saw nothing concerning. In fact, while he was sedated, they called me and said the X-ray looked good other than the soft tissue swelling they could see but the bone was good. They asked permission to do a needle aspiration to try and figure out was the swelling was. This was going for cytology. 

The cytology report wasn’t bad either and supported the soft tissue idea. 

The report after amputation isn’t definitive what the primary spot was. They lean towards starting in bone but did consider it may have been soft tissue that invaded bone. We feel that the X-ray and cytology prior should also be taken into consideration along with the pathology findings of the amputation. 

It’s like those two medical diagnostic tools have been left out. To us, they are still medical results that should be taken into consideration WITH the surgery results. The results of how clean the margins are soooo good. It even states distances in the mass where no cancer cells were even present. 

We definitely want whats best and are trying not to get hung up this point. However, we feel that there is some contradiction from one report to another. It seems to be consistent that X-ray is the first sign of showing something in the bone, This was not the case with Derry, We have asked how could a visible swelling visible to the eye and growing over 3 months turn up a clean X-ray? If it started in the bone, that would mean that by the time it reached soft tissue and became visible and grew, then there would be no way nothing would have shown up as suspicious on an X-ray 

We wonder, is it medically possible that when they did the needle aspiration that cells were able to escape outside of the soft tissue mass and this is how the bone became involved?

Even when we went to the specialist, and we tried to talk about the X-ray and cytology they sort of brushed it off. To us, it’s part of the medical history and feel it shouldn’t be disregarded. 

I have read so many stories on here that are consistent with limping = X-ray diagnosis even with no visible mass. This is why we keep shaking our heads. How did Derry have such a big visible swelling yet a clean X-ray of bone? 

We want it make sure we have a very clear understanding and explanation so that we can be 100% we make the best choices for Derry. 

New England
Member Since:
11 January 2022
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2 October 2023 - 3:25 am
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We wonder, is it medically possible that when they did the needle aspiration that cells were able to escape outside of the soft tissue mass and this is how the bone became involved?

I'm not a vet/medical expert, but I've noticed that the terminology you've used to describe Derry's particular cancer includes "fibro". My dog, Tempest, had a benign fibroma removed two years ago. It was unable to be conclusively diagnosed by needle aspiration because fibroma do not give up cells easily. I think it's possible that a cancerous fibrous tumor would also be hard to get cells from. 

Member Since:
16 September 2023
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2 October 2023 - 5:49 am
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She has used the term Fibroblastic osteosarcoma. This apparently is a better subtype of an osteosarcoma but what does that even mean?


The cytology report had said there was a low number of spindloid cells which are present individually and in small groupings. It has listed lots of other reasons why they could be there. Although a spindle cell neoplasm was in the list, it was listed last. It was this report plus a good X-ray that made them think soft tissue injury as primary concern. After amputation, the pathology team of 3 said “Sarcoma with boney involvement.” To us, with everything else, makes it sound soft tissue that invaded the bone. Not the other way around. 

The surgeon felt very confident he got everything with excellent margins. They took the front right leg and shoulder bone. 

Member Since:
16 September 2023
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5 October 2023 - 4:11 pm
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Derry has been approved for the Yale vaccine. Tomorrow he gets his stitches out. Then we have to figure out the start of chemo and if we do the vaccine at the same time or after. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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5 October 2023 - 4:16 pm
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Wow how exciting! Another Dog of Science among us! 


Member Since:
4 July 2023
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5 October 2023 - 5:44 pm
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And one from the first study site for this vaccine in Canada! Derry, D.O.S. 🇨🇦


Natalie & Juno (aka June)

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