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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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New Here - Amputation for 9 yr old German Shepherd with Degenerative Joint Disease??
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Forum Posts: 2
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15 May 2020
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15 May 2020 - 6:25 am
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Hi Tripawds Community,

I’m glad to have found you. I’ll get straight to my question. We have a 9 1/2 year old female German Shepherd, Skyli, along with three other German Shepherds.  About two years ago, Skyli dislocated her front left elbow. She was splinted for about 6 weeks. Soon after her recovery for that injury, she began to limp not using her front right leg. At first, our vet thought she may have overused that leg during her dislocation recovery and stretched her tendons. For several months, she would still use that leg, but not fully. She was on carprofen and movoflex because of the dislocation. 

Fast forward to today – after having numerous xrays and adding amantadine and cbd oil for pain, she uses that leg less and less. Both of her front legs have been xrayed and she has been diagnosed with Degenerative Joint Disease in her right elbow. We’ve seen the xrays of the entire left leg beside the entire right leg. The left leg, though having been dislocated, looks healthy and the joints look good. She only uses her right leg as a crutch while going to the bathroom or when walking slowly. It’s obviously painful and the muscle in her entire leg has atrophied. 

My husband and I are at the point where we know something needs to happen. The vet says he thinks we’ve maxed out our options medicinally. She does have periods where she still wants to play right after her medication dose. But she’s very guarded when she lays down and won’t go down the three steps to the yard – she’s not too heavy to lift to assist and my husband is building her a ramp, but we know she hates it. And often she’ll choose to not go outside to play if she doesn’t need to potty.

Our options are to continue to manage her pain until her quality of life warrants euthanasia or to make an appointment for a workup (blood work, comprehensive xrays of all joints and lungs) knowing if everything looks okay otherwise, amputation the same day. 

This is especially tough because I lost my spirit animal shepherd in March from colon cancer at 12 years old. We made the choice about a month after diagnosis until he could no longer digest the homemade ground/blended food that I made for him. I slept in the floor on a mattress with him for that month and we played fetch until an hour before the vet came to our home to euthanize. 

Sorry for such a long post, but I wanted to see if anyone else here has had amputations due to degenerative joint disease? 

Thank you in advance!

Jamie Smith

The Rainbow Bridge



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15 May 2020 - 11:19 am
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Hi Jamie and family, welcome. Your future posts won’t need moderation so post away.

I love that you have four German Shepherds! I’m a total sucker for pointy-eared dogs as you can see 😉

We have had quite a few members amputate for the same and very similar reasons. One of the most recent is Meg, aka The Meg-a-Star. Her mom Clare explains here. I’m hoping she sees your story. Maizie’s story is also similar, and there are lots more who amputated for similar reasons but off the top of my head I can’t think of who right now. I searched our forums for amputation because of DJD and came up with a lot of search results, some which may be relevant and some may not. 

My main question for you is, how many opinions have you gotten for Skyli’s situation? Have you sought out a board-certified orthopedic surgeon to have her assessed?

I’m sorry you are going through this rough time, and the recent loss of your special heart dog. We hope to make things easier for you, so thanks for becoming part of our community. Stay tuned for feedback from others.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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15 May 2020 - 4:37 pm
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Sorry to hear about the loss of your special dog this year. I’m sure the loss makes it especially hard to wrap your mind around the best option for Skyli. I wanted to add another option to consider – a prosthetic. I’m sure there are lots of things to think about going this route (cost, time, availability) but wanted to let you know about some resource info the Tripawd Team has put together: https://tripawd…..osthetics/

All the best in your decision-making.

Kerren

Virginia




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15 May 2020 - 5:15 pm
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One thong for certain, Skyli is mighty  lucky to have you as her hooman family.  AMD I know your Spirit pup is watching  over you and so grateful  for all the care and love you gave him before heading  to the Rainbow Bridge

As Jerry Said, Meg’s story may resonate  with you, as well as give you reassurance  as to how Happy Sykil will be with that bum leg gone!.  One surgery, one recovery and done!

Gonna email her right now.  She’s in UK so may not see this right away.

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!

London, UK


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16 May 2020 - 2:43 am
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Hi Jamie,

As mentioned above, my Meg had her right foreleg amputated for similar reasons. In her case, the left elbow was not entirely healthy (IOHC and moderate arthritis) and for this reason amputation was not considered an option. Faced with the prospect of euthanasia (she was 7 at the time), I sought a second, third, fourth opinion and ultimately decided to go ahead with amputation on the basis that I felt she deserved a chance, and if she could just have one year doing all the things she enjoyed (swimming, squirrel-chasing, rolling around in the mud and general mayhem) then that would surely be worth it. That was more than four years ago, and Meg has not looked back. The arthritis in her left elbow has increased, and she now takes a range of meds (amantadine, metacam, gabapentin, tylenol) and uses a buggy on longer walks, but she will be twelve this year after all, and her quality of life is excellent. She is a very happy dog.

Having dealt with recovery from an elbow dislocation (which you clearly did extremely well, given the joint looks so good), you will be well set up for recovery from amputation. Meg had been through multiple surgeries in our efforts to save her leg and certainly for us, amputation was a much more straightforward procedure with a far faster recovery time. In fact, though Meg was on pain meds and not showing very obvious signs of discomfort before her amputation, the moment I picked her up from the hospital, it was as though a great weight had been lifted. Her face looked relaxed and her whole body seemed to express the relief she felt at being done with that bum leg once and for all. Within weeks, she was jumping in the river again, catching rabbits and generally getting herself into trouble. I was nervous about the amputation. Worried I was being unfair to her, putting her through a procedure which would leave her with a poor quality of life (she is a highly active dog), but I now look back on that day as a liberation.

I’m so sorry about the loss of your beloved Shepherd in March. I lost my other dog from liver cancer a couple of years ago. In her case, as in yours, there was no alternative to euthanasia. I just feel so incredibly lucky that in the case of Meg there was. I agree with Jerry about getting a second opinion from a board certified orthopaedic surgeon if Skyli already seen one. I also explored the possibility of a prosthetic for Meg, but was told that she would need two working joints in order to be able to use one. Because her amputation had to be above the elbow, it wasn’t an option for her, but that was more than four years ago and these things are developing all the time, so it’s certainly worth checking. A front-wheel cart is also a possibility.

Good luck with everything, and please keep posting. Whatever you decide to do, this community is here to support you.

I’ll leave you with a couple of videos of Meg, which will serve, I hope, as a signpost towards a more positive future.

Sending love,

Meg, Clare and Angel 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 


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16 May 2020 - 6:13 am
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Hi all!

Thank you for the warm welcome. I do feel more encouraged. Wow, Meg is 4 years out?? Way to go Meg!!

We haven’t seen an orthopedic surgeon, only our normal vet whom I trust fully. But with something as drastic as this, you are all probably right that I should seek another opinion.

I have a few videos I’d love to share of my pack once I read the forum directions and figure out how. 🙂

Again, thank you all for reaching out and offering such encouragement!

London, UK


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16 May 2020 - 6:36 am
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Yes, if you possibly can see a specialist, then I would certainly suggest doing so. It’s not a question of not trusting your vet, who I’m sure is excellent, but a specialist, by virtue of them being a specialist will have seen far more of this type of thing than a regular vet, who must cover the full range of issues. What’s rare for a general vet to see, may be pretty commonplace for a specialist and that experience really can make a difference when weighing up options. Your own vet’s input is also invaluable of course, as they know you and the dogs so well and will be well placed to support you in making the right decision. 

Re the videos, I would LOVE to see Skyli. It’s actually very easy to post them. Just upload to YouTube and then cut and paste the link (on a line on its own). It will just look like the link, but when you submit your post, the video appears like magic.

M, C, AP 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 


Virginia




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16 May 2020 - 9:03 am
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CLARE, thank you so much again for taking the time to help support Skyll!  Meg is one of a kind on so many levels, but  especially  when it comes to her “journey”.  And, the extra bo is for “is” when you come here to help some7 is we get to see her delightful  self “being Meg”.❤

Sending love always❤

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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16 May 2020 - 12:39 pm
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Ditto to Clare, your insight is super helpful, and thanks for the video instructions.

As for photos, yes, we would love to see them. Here’s my generic list of instructions, let me know if this helps:

We have these instructions for adding images to the Forums. If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know. It’s pretty easy: 

  1. Upload pics to a photo sharing site like imgur.com or your own Tripawds blog
  2. Right click and copy the Image URL
  3. Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself if possible) in your post. It should automatically appear.

Yep, a veterinary specialist will bring you peace of mind knowing that you are looking at all options and leaving no stone unturned. It’s awesome that you have a great relationship with your vet, but at times like this, the more minds working on a case, the better. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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