Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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Thank you for giving me this platform to ask questions and seek advice.
My rescue dog Rox is the staple of our family. Last May, we received the unfortunate diagnoses of a soft tissue sarcoma on his rear lower leg. What saddens me is that his first vet dismissed it -so unfortunately when his new vet rushed to FNA it, it was already at a grade 2 intermediate leaning towards a 3. Our wonderful vet was able to remove it , but sadly it had dirty margins. I have been driving him from Maryland to UPENN on a regular basis to receive the best care possible. At our consultation we discussed options including amputation and radiation. At the time, the leg looked really good and the mass had not grown back so the limb was too healthy to treat. We continued to go back for regular checks and scans. Fast forward to now, November, it has sadly grown back. Our only option is palliative radiation or amputation. They don’t think there is enough skin to re-excise. Radiation is only a temp fix as I understand that it only shrinks and slows things down but ultimately the tumor is still there. That leaves us with amputation. Hearing that your dog needs an amputation is the scariest thing besides cancer that you can hear. I felt frustrated and upset leaving his last appointment because mentally I wanted them to make the decision for me , which is unrealistic. I know that the decision falls on me and no matter what I choose I have to live with that decision.
Several things are on my mind. I hate that I can’t explain to him what is happening. I hate that I can’t ask him what he wants. If he was older, we wouldn’t be having this conversation as I would likely choose palliative, but he is a lively and active dog; you would never even know that he was sick. Though we don’t know his exact age, we believe him to be around 9. In the past, our previous vet diagnosed him with IVDD. This was an assumption without imaging because periodically he gets a little sensitive in his hind area. He has been on Carprofen for bad days, but knock on wood - this hasn’t been an issue in I can’t tell you how long. The ortho surgeon at UPENN has said that they have done amputations on dogs with arthritis in the past and they did just fine by upping their meds.
I guess my thing is , this is a lot to take in. I grapple with knowing that whatever decision I make, I have to live with it. I am ok with him being a tripawd , but don’t know how he is going to handle it. It is a chance either way. I also understand that this is his best chance at survival. For now, I am scheduling for him to have an ortho consult to see if he would still be a good fit for amputation. I guess we will start there. If anyone has any words of encouragement or thoughts on the process, I would sincerely appreciate it. This weighs on my mind heavy.
Hi Ashley and Rox, welcome. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.
We understand where you are coming from, it IS a scary decision especially when a dog is bigger and older. I'm sorry your vet didn't catch the tumor. That's pretty common, unfortunately. Now though, I think that working with UPENN gives you the best advantage for treating the STS, they're amazing world leaders in veterinary care.
Now, it doesn't sound like it, but did they happen to mention electrochemotherapy or intralesional chemotherapy ? I mention these two treatments because they are ideal for STS and although not widely practiced in the states, are common treatments in people and pets in other countries. Both can shrink and sometimes eradicate the tumor completely. We've had a few members here over the years go through both treatments and with great success. They just don't get the credit they deserve because oncology is more focused on newer breakthrough treatments and there just aren't a ton of US-based studies to convince more practitioners to use these therapies. But again, electrochemo is especially more widely done outside the US and a handful of practitioners are doing it here.
Meanwhile about the possible spinal and arthritis issues. Good move to consult with an orthopedic vet. Yes, we've had loads of members whose dogs had arthritis go through amputation surgery and they did great during recovery and after. Medical pain management , and weight loss/management are key to giving a good quality of life for any Tripawd but especially older ones with arthritis. I look forward to hearing what the ortho vet has to say.
As for not being able to converse with Rox in the same language: you're right, it makes things difficult for us. But if there's one thing we know even without verbal language to communicate with our dogs, it's that they always want to feel good right here, right now. They don't focus on yesterday or in the future. They live in the now, and just want to make the most of it. Also, in your heart, you know he's a young, spunky, active dog. This is the way you communicate with Rox; with your heart. So sit down, just be with him, "think" with your heart and converse that way. Tell him how much you want to do what's best for him, so that he can enjoy life pain-free and with his favorite people. He will get it. He will feel your heart and your emotions.
I hope this helps. Stay tuned for feedback from others and keep us posted!
20 October 2022
I recently made this decision for my 10 yr old lab mix. In his instance we first had to repair his other rear leg since he had a torn ACL. He had this surgery on Monday. I am only responding with sympathy and no real advice since I am also struggling with this. They will amputate in just two weeks if he is healing OK from the TPLO. His soft tissue sarcoma is growing at a rapid rate now so time is of the essence. I thought I'd have more time to make a decision but the sarcoma doesn't care. I thought I could let him live out his life with the sarcoma but he's such a happy guy I can't do it.
I am spending more money I ever thought I would on a dog 🙂 I love him though, so here we go!
I can’t login into my account for some reason and my attempts at resetting my password aren’t working, but this is the original poster “Roxsmom” a.k.a. Ashley.
Thank you both for your kind words. Jerry, I think you brought up a lot of good points here and brought me some comfort in making my decision. Thank you so much. I actually hadn’t heard of the electrochemotherapy before. I have done some research on it and it appears very successful. The only bad thing I heard was in a Korean medical journal , but I am hesitant to believe some on the stories on there. They also featured different cancers than what I am dealing with. It is very hard to find someone that does it in the US and I wonder why that is- being that it is so successful. I did however find a place that is an hour from me that does it and made an appt just to get some information to see if it is even an option for him.
Otherwise we have our ortho appt scheduled for December 5th at UPENN to see if they think he is going to physically be a good candidate for amputation.rnrnHey Cheri, thank you for such kind words also. I am so sorry to hear about your pup. His picture is so cute. I hope that he heals well enough to have the surgery.
It is such a tough decision to make. I am in the same boat as you though, my dog is around 9 (we think-he is a rescue) and he still acts like a puppy. You would never know this dog was sick. Not doing anything was an option, but I can’t see doing that when he has so much more life to give. Please keep me updated on your pups progress. Thinking of you and your pup ! rnrnAshleyrnrn
Hi Ashley, I'm so sorry about the trouble you had logging in. Please contact us in Technical Support if you are still having problems tomorrow, we will try to help.
That's pretty amazing you found a place that does electrochemotherapy just one hour away. Let us know if you are able to get a consult with them. And yeah keeping the UPENN appointment is smart, just in case.
Yes it is a very tough decision. Lots of us here understand that dilemma, it's heartbreaking. You are doing everything you can for Rox, and at least you can feel like you left no stone unturned no matter which way you decide to go with this. Please keep us posted OK?
Absolutely. I really appreciate it. I hope to bring forth whatever information I learn at this appointment to hopefully help others that may be interested in it. Thank you so much for being such an amazing resource. I would have not known about electrochemotherapy if it wasn’t for you !
9 November 2022
I just want to offer sympathy for what you’re going through. My 7 year old Lab, Bo, had his front left leg amputated due to soft tissue sarcoma on Tuesday, so I know where you’re coming from. I can’t offer much advice beyond making sure you are prepared when you bring him home. My vet only told me that I should get the Flagline harness to help stabilise Bo while he learns to adjust to his new normal after surgery. It would have been helpful to have it in advance. It also would have been helpful to know that I needed the trunk space of my SUV set up for him to ride in going home. He’s learning to walk on three legs and I don’t regret giving him a chance at an extended healthy, happy life.
I wish you and Rox the best. Only you know your dog best and I have confidence you will make the best decision for both of you.
Bo’s mom, Alice
22 February 2013
I can only say ditto to everything everyone has said.
As you can see from the support from Kerry, Cheri and Alice, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! No one understands the emotions involved in getting to this point in the journey more than we do. Always remember you are making decision out of love for Max and that is ALWAYS the right decision.
Good job of doing your research. You are a wonderful advocate Rox!
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!
28 November 2022
My dog Pip is 12.5yo, and has IVDD diagnosed in 2017 (thoracolumbar spine). He had a hind left leg amputated 8 days ago.
Prior to the surgery he was on gabapentin, pardale (paracetamol/codeine), and Amantadine,
8 days post op he is on no meds at all and pain free.
He is up to 15 mins walking now 3 times a day (well basically going as fast as he can whilst still on lead cos the silly human thinks he needs to take it easy).
The dogs don't care, thats just us. They are just grateful the pain is gone and they can get back to fun, there is no sorrow for the missing leg, or how they look, other dogs don't care. They bounce back so fast.
I would, 100%, make the decision to amputate again in a heartbeat.
I wish you all the best and hope it goes well for your dog xx