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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Newly diagnosed and has other orthopedic challenges
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Member Since:
21 November 2022
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22 November 2022 - 2:11 pm
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This is my first post; Dee is an 8-10 year old Am Staff mix. Diagnosed a couple weeks ago with bone cancer in his back leg (distal femur). Xrays and ultrasound last week were clear, with the exception of one enlarged lymph node which could be something or could be nothing. We adopted him in July 2021 from the shelter where I volunteer. He has had a hard life. Found chained up in an apartment after his owner died, had an embedded collar that had to be surgically removed. Was heartworm positive and was treated. His back has spondylosis and 'remodeling of spinous processes TL region, likely secondary to past trauma'. Hip dysplaysia. And a torn CCL in his 'good' leg. It is so unfair that he has had so much pain in his life and now this. But he has overcome everything that life has thrown at him, he loves his life and that is what makes me think he could do okay on 3 legs. I don't know if I'm being naive, though, with all his orthopedic challenges. The surgeon who did his initial consult said he wasn't a good candidate for amputation. But she doesn't know him and she doesn't know me. His regular vet initially said he probably wasn't a good candidate but we shouldn't necessarily take the option off the table. I should also add that he will not tolerate handling by anyone at a vet's office unless he is drugged. I think he has experienced a lot of pain at the vets in the past.

One of our Rotties had bone cancer 10 years ago. It was in his shoulder and we did not amputate; we did palliative radiation, pamidronate and various alternative medicine and supplements. We got a year with him. But Dee's tumor seems to be growing fast. I have doubts that we would get so lucky a 2nd time. And SRT does not seem like a good option to me.

He is still using the leg, usually in a step/hop/step/hop pattern. He's on lots of pain meds. He did have a zolendronate treatment last week when he had the imaging done. Also, he did have a mast cell tumor removed from the sheath of his penis in September. It was a low grade 2 with a mitotic index of 5, but margins were incomplete.

My hope with amputation would be that he could still get around the house ok and short bathroom breaks. I'd be planning to get him a wheelchair for long walks, to not overwork the remaining back leg. I am lucky to be home most of the time with him. He's never been one to run around much, I'm sure he already compensates a lot for his prior physical challenges. He does two 20-30 minute walks a day and enjoys his life of leisure in the house the rest of the time. He loves car rides and stuffed animals. So his lifestyle has never been 'athletic' during the time I have known him. At present he still acts very much like himself. I also need to be mindful of his hatred of veterinary handling. Though if I could explain it to him I think he'd be ok with some drugged vet visits if it meant longer life. : ) He is a slim 66 pounds.

I am having a terrible time making a decision. I keep going back and forth between amputation and palliative radiation. I just read a thread about a dog with a slipped disc and I question how I can consider putting more stress on his back.

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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22 November 2022 - 11:00 pm
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Hi Jill and Dee, welcome. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

I'm so sorry for the diagnosis. You are so right: it's incredibly unfair and tragic that Dee has bone cancer. It's never fair for anyone of course but for a dog who finally found the love and care he deserves, it's gut wrenching. At least he is in the right hands now, and has the best pet parent any dog could ask for.

Was the surgeon you talked to a boarded orthopedics doc? The torn CCL in his good leg is concerning, as well as the spondylosis and dysplasia. It doesn't men he should automatically be ruled out, but n these cases when the decision is so unclear, it is helpful to have additional expert opinions. Some people get third or even fourth opinions from vets. For Dee, you might consider talking to an ortho vet with a lot of experience with 3-legged dogs, and even a rehab therapist who can assess Dee to see where he's at right now, and how being on three legs could impact his mobility. If you are anywhere near a veterinary teaching hospital, I highly recommend going there to get an opinion. They have so many smart and fresh-thinking vets, vet schools are a great resource. 

You sound so knowledgable about vet care. I have no doubt that what you decide will be in Dee's best interest above all else.

Keep us posted on how he's doing and the path you decide to take. We are here for you.


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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23 November 2022 - 2:09 pm
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Right off the bat, Dee is soooo lucky to jave you as such a powerful  advocate.  Your devotion and focus on what's  best for Dee is a stellar exam 9r what a beautiful  bond you two have. 

You have a solid grasp on therapies and how they may, format not, benefit  Dee.  You've already added additional  time for spoiling and loving because  of the "treatments" you already have used in your tool box.

I wish with all my heart the decion on a path forward  was more clear.  The additional challwnges that face Dee if you proceed with amputation are "concerning".  That doesn't  mean amputation  is off the table, it means to keep soil g what you are doing..research and more opinions!

One of my favorite  journeys to share is that of a Great Dane.  If I recall it was suggested thst euthanasia  would be "best".  She had arthritis, Wooblers and maybe some spi e issues.....can't  remember  everything  exactly.  But the fact that she was a very large "mature" Great Dane with the Wooblers (that was progressive  and causes limb weakness),.  Her regular Vet and two Surgeons offered no hope.  But the Dane's owner would not give up.  She knew her girl better than anyone.  It was the third Orthopedic Surgeon who said, YES, he thought she would do well on three.  And she thrived for almost two additional  years.  Cant rem all the add therapies she did with a Rehabilitation  Spec, but acu was vig on this.

So as Jerry suggested, get more opinions from additionsl CERTIFIED ORTHOPEDIC SURGEONS.   More inout from other professional may make your path forward more clear.  And, hopefully,  that can give you more peace on whatever decision  you make.

We're  here to support you in anyway we can, okay?


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!

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