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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. . . and trying to come to terms with this.
Rylee is my 7-year-old lab. She had a mass removed from her left elbow by our primary vet on February 11. The mass was very vascular and she lost a lot of blood during the surgery. She received two units of blood and the surgery took over seven hours. The biopsy showed that the mass was NOT cancer (just a seroma ), which was a huge relief to us.
However, the mass recently returned, and its higher up this time. It’s positioned on her left shoulder, just above where the original mass was. Our vet is very skeptical of the biopsy results since it returned so fast and is growing very quickly. She sent us to a surgical specialist today, who is equally skeptical of the biopsy results. The specialist is pretty certain that this is a soft tissue sarcoma, which needs to be removed ASAP since it’s growing so quickly. Removal of this kind of mass requires very wide surgical margins, and the only way to get good enough margins is by removing her leg as well. She’s staying at the hospital overnight and surgery is tomorrow.
I’m trying to prepare myself. I want to make this as easy on her as possible, but at the same time I’m worried that I’m making a huge mistake. Any help would be so greatly appreciated.
Hi Rylees Mama, we are so sorry you had to join us but glad you decided to post. We understand your worries and are here for you as you and Rylee walk this journey.
It’s totally normal to be afraid of this decision..it’s HUGE. But the thing to remember is that it’s only huge to us as humans. Rylee won’t care that her leg is gone. She only want to get on with life and be happy again, without more surgeries and vet visits. She won’t be mad at you and she won’t have regrets. I promise! Animals are so good at handling this change, it’s only the people who have a hard time with it.
Based on what you described it sounds like Rylee is getting some great care. When you described the first surgery, I think you might have meant she had a lipoma, not a seroma , right? A seroma is a side-effect from amputation surgery, a lipoma is a non-cancerous lump. I know it’s easy to confuse terms right now if that’s what happened, and that’s why we are here, to help you wade through the confusion.
The best thing you can do right now is to visit our Tripawds Start here page. Visit our What to Expect article series to get some post-amputation info. Browse Jerry’s Required Reading List , to find out some of the most common issues you might face. And ask any questions you want here, and we’ll chime in with help and reassurance.
Also, get your home ready today. Elevated feed bowls, no-slip rugs and a nice quiet area for her to recover in will be super helpful in the coming weeks.
Lastly, remember that this recovery won’t last forever. Rylee will surprise you and your bond will be stronger than you ever imagined.
Stay tuned for more feedback from the community.
Hi, Jerry, and thank you so much for the reply!
No, I really did mean seroma . She had what we believed to be a hygroma on her elbow at first. Our vet thought this had then developed into some sort of mass, which they removed on February 11. The biopsy then showed that it was a seroma , which we thought might have developed as a result of the trauma from the hygroma. But apparently, it wasn’t a seroma at all. It was a soft tissue sarcoma and the biopsy was just wrong somehow.
I have been doing some reading online this afternoon and I’m starting to feel more confident about our choice to go with amputation. More conservative treatments would probably only result in the tumor returning and we would eventually have to amputate anyway. I’d rather just do the amputation now while she’s only 7, rather than postponing it until she’s older and it’s not as easy for her to bounce back from the surgery. I’m still nervous though, not gonna lie.
Hi Rylees mom. My lab also had Front leg amputation 10 days before his 12th birthday. He surprised the heck out of me. He stayed two days at the vet. On his 2nd day home he was hopping on his own and even used the doggie door. He breezed thru recovery. It did take him about 3 weeks to get his spark back, but it came back stronger then ever.
Brownie was happy and hopped around for one year and eight days when he was only given three months.
We are sending good and positive thoughts for a speedy recovery.
Thanks for explaining about the seroma !
I’m so glad you feel a little more confident now. You’re not alone in how it isn’t easy to think about. Amputation is not an instant decision for anyone I think. But when you look at the long term, oftentimes it’s just best for the health of the pet and your wallet too. We see many people go through multiple surgeries with a soft tissue sarcoma issue, only to end up amputating anyways. So as hard as it is to say “yes,” in the long run you may be saving yourself a lot of heartache.
This is certainly a scary, stressful time for everyone so I can only imagine how much it adds to the stress of deciding on amputation. Just know that you are not alone, and we are here with whatever questions you have OK?
Jerry, thank you so much! Everyone here has been so kind and understanding and it’s really helping me to feel better about this. Fortunately, my employer is allowing me to work from home starting today because of the COVID-19 situation, so I’ll be home with Rylee for the foreseeable future. That really takes a weight off my mind. I’m so glad I’ll be able to be there to help her get settled and work on learning how to navigate on three legs. I’m sure we’ll have a ton of questions! Thank you all for being here!
That’s great you will be working from home!
Brownie being a front leg amputee could go upstairs fine but needed help going down. We used the flag line harness and it was So much help. You can see it here in the gear shop, but you are suppose to wait until the stiches are out before using. Some will use a towl or cut a canvas bag to use as a sling until then.
When does he come home?
We’re home and she is doing GREAT!!! We picked her up at 9:30 this morning and she hopped right out to the car. She was very quiet on the ride home and for a few hours after we got home, probably because she was still feeling the anesthesia a bit. But she has perked up throughout the day today! She ate a little right after we got home, but didn’t seem too enthusiastic. But just now, she INHALED her dinner, had some cheese (with her Clavamox and Rimadyl in it, but we don’t need to tell her that), went outside and peed, wanted to bop around the yard some, then came back in and asked for more cheese!
I am over the moon.
That is fantastic! I am so happy she is doing well!
For the first two weeks they say more rest is most important until the stiches come out. Brownie slept most of the time besides taking care of business. It’s wonderful she is already eating.
But I expected nothing less from a lab. I have a special place in my heart for labs!
Aww so glad she’s home! And that she’s spunky. She may slow down a bit but as long as she has good pain management things will be ok. I’m also curious what other pain meds she is taking.
Have a sweet Sunday together!
22 February 2013
Just catching up in time to say welcome home! And boy what a great update her homecoming it is! Eating and peeing already……. way ahead of the curve!
Now, sometimes there can be a bit of a crash around day three or so after all the hospital meds wear off, so don’t be alarmed. Keeping the pain meds consistent to stay ahead of mthe paun is important. This is MAJOR surgery, all while adjusting to life on three, so no picnic for awhile.
Keep us posted and give that RockStar Tripawd of yours a big smooch for us!😘
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!