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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Newly diagnosed, questions if amputation not an option
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Member Since:
21 March 2012
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21 March 2012 - 8:36 pm
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My dog Jack is a 10 yr. old husky/shepherd mix. Today we got the results from the biopsy that he has both OSA and Chondrosarcoma in his front left leg. The results were pretty bad as the biopsy samples had a lot of necrotic material.

About 9 months ago he suffered a ruptured disc in his lower back which impacted the nerves in his bladder and both back legs (he dragged them a bit). We did back surgery to fix the disc. Surgery was pretty successful, bladder function improved and his back legs improved, but not entirely. He has been limping on the front paw for 2 months, but since he is already on pain meds for his back, he might have been hurting longer and the back meds were covering it. Whirl wind of x-rays last week, radiology reports, and biopsy this week. 

We don't think Jack can handle an amputation of his front leg because of the weakness from the ruptured disc in his back legs. Our regular Vet agrees. We are meeting with a Veterinary oncologist Friday to learn about possible next steps. Can anyone give us insight into what we will be facing if amputation is just not an option? Are there drugs or treatment options we should ask the oncologist about that would be different from what we would use with an amputation? This one is tough, but no one seems to be able to give us a gage of how much time we might have if we can't amputate. Any guidance or insight would be helpful. Selfishly I want all the time we can get with Jack, but I think what is right is to get quality time and trust we will meet again somewhere else. 

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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21 March 2012 - 8:54 pm
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Kate, we are so, so sorry, this is a tough spot to be in. 

Amputation is not right for every dog, and only you know if Jack is strong enough to bounce back from something like this. A vet's opinion is always something to put a lot of weight on too, and if you're at all doubting that one, a second opinion can be worth its weight in gold.

We have covered the topic of bisphosphonates in the past, which is a drug that can be given when amputation isn't right. Here is a blog post that can tell you more:

Bisphosphonates: When Amputation Isn't an Option

Unfortunately, no vet will say for sure how long a dog has, either with or without amputation, since nature gives us no guarantees. All we can do is take things one day at a time and make the most of each moment we have together. I have read stories about non-Tripawds who made it several months with just palliative therapy like bisphosphonates , while others just got a few weeks. If you're at all in doubt about whether or not he is in pain, or when the time might be best to set his spirit free, pet hospice care can help. These blog search results (scroll past the 1st one) can shed some light on that sad, but necessary topic.

Let us know what the onco doc says this week. Even though is sounds like Jack probably won't become a Tripawd, we are here to help you through this journey wherever it takes you. {{{{hugs}}}}

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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22 March 2012 - 12:26 am
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I'm so, so, so very sorry about Jack!  I know you heart is just broken!


Jerry gave some great advice and I'd definitely check into it.


Unfortunately, amputation is the option for pain relief, which is why we advocate it here.  I have to be honest since you ask, bone cancer pain is unbearable.  There is no toleration for it at all.  It's the most serious of pains and can't really be controlled. You can google it for humans to understand it better.  Dogs hide pain better than humans. But it's still excruciating.   In addition, the bone weakens from the cancer eating away at it and the leg will probably break.  As much as I'd like to paint a sunny picture...I just can't. 


However, is there anyway to strengthen his back legs - like a rehab center?  I know they aren't available to everyone but  hydrotherapy does wonders!  Weakened muscles from a herniated disc can be improved and strengthened.  And if that's the case, then there is hope for amputation.  I know it's a lot of work, but it's something to think about.  My dog was three legged from birth and she had neck disc issues (infection of the cervical disc at 11 years old) and we managed through NSAIDS and therapy.

Sending you lots of good thoughts.  Please keep us posted.

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

22 March 2012 - 1:40 pm
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Hi Kate,

You do have tough decisions to make. I can't help with the OSA treatment options other than what Jerry shared above, my pug Maggie's amp was due to a mast cell tumor.

I just wanted to say that I think you are approaching things the right way with your decision making process for Jack.  I was so fortunate that Maggie far outlived her original prognosis after amputation.  But she developed a second cancer- an oral melanoma tumor.  Because of other health issues she could not tolerate the usually recommended surgical removal. It was a difficult decision in some ways because you want to really try and fight the cancer the most aggressive way you can.  I talked with all my vets, and considered all the options.  But when I looked at all the health factors involved, and considered her life quality, I knew aggressive treatment was not an option for her.

My piece of advice would be that no matter what you choose to do, don't focus on how much time you have with Jack.  It is a hard concept for us humans sometimes to 'Be More Dog ', but that is what I had to do after the melanoma diagnosis.  Don't focus on how much time, focus on making each day the best that it can be for you and Jack. Maggie didn't know she had cancer again, and she didn't know her time was probably short- she just went on living her dog life and found happiness in each day as dogs do.

Good luck with your consults, and let us know what you decided to do.

Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
21 March 2012
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23 March 2012 - 9:53 pm
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We went to the Veterinary oncologist today. More bad news unfortunately. Chest x-rays showed multiple quarter-sized spots in Jack's lungs. Vet. Oncologist agreed that Jack isn't a candidate for amputation due to his back surgery and rear leg weakness. I have never wished so bad that Jack was a candidate for amputation, what a thing to wish for. Jack's outlook is pretty grim and weren't given much hope that he would have much time. We started alendronate today and more pain meds to add to what he is on. The oncologist has sent Jack's records to Colorado State University to see if they think he is a candidate for radiation/chemo or if the cancer has progressed too far. Adding to my wish list is that Utah had a veterinary medical school, Colorado is our closest option. His leg is very swollen although the biopsy incision looks fine. Very puffy around his "ankle." 


Thanks to all for the advice and kind words. Dog people get it. Krun15- thanks for the advice on living in the doggie present. We have been through a whirl wind of shock and grief this week. This evening when we walked Jack around the block to do his business, he stopped to sniff trees, tried to get gum off the sidewalk and stopped for pets from the neighbors. We will indeed try to just enjoy every moment for what it is. Even if it is the joy of licking ABC gum on the sidewalk. 

Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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24 March 2012 - 6:11 am
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Hi Kate

I am so so sorry you and your boy are having to go through this.  I am assuming that the avatar picture is Jack?  He is absolutely beautiful.

Karen has given you some very good advice.  We lost Zeus' brother, Merlin, to cancer a couple of years ago.  It happened very fast and we spent every moment traveling to vets and specialists and doing our best to fight.  It was not meant to be and we lost him after a month.  Although I do not regret fighting for him, I do regret that during the times we were home and things were quiet, I spent worrying and crying.  Yes, I was next to him, petting him, caring for him, but I was upset and distracted.  I do regret that I didn't cherish that time with him.  "Living in the now" is hard to do, but in the future you will be glad that you did.

I pray that Colorado State offers you some options.  Please know that we are thinking about you guys!


Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

Member Since:
21 March 2012
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24 March 2012 - 9:27 am
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That is indeed Jack's picture. He is a very handsome boy. He has the softest double coat and people stop us all the time and ask what breed he is (black n'tan double coated sprawler). We did one of those breed genetic tests and it came back a mix of belgian shepherd, husky, and golden retriever. Really just a great dog, gentle personality. The neighbor kids just love him and he is often invited for tent sleep overs in their backyard. I think our entire block is grieving Jack's illness. 

Jack has been having serious gas issues that I think are related to the drugs. I mean he has always been able to clear a room, but he has alternated this week between constipation, diarrhea, and lots and lots of gas. Is this a normal reaction to all the new drugs? Has anyone else had this happen? We gave him immodium for the diarrhea, but not I'm wondering if gas-x can be taken by dogs. He's not even giving his butt the surprised look that he used to do when he farted, because it is happening with such regularity now. 

San Diego, CA
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29 October 2010
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24 March 2012 - 10:01 am
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Oh, poor sweet Jack. I'm so sorry you are having to go through this. I hope the other vets have some words of hope.

The advice from the others is good - try to enjoy every moment. I know it's so hard, but there will be time for sadness and crying later. Loved your comment about the joy of licking ABC gum off the sidewalk. That's the spirit!

No help on the gas issue. I (luckily) have not had a dog with that problem.

Sending pawsitive thoughts out to you and Jack.

Jackie, Angel Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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24 March 2012 - 10:28 am
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Awww man I'm so sorry about the latest news. That is tough. Your vet sounds fantastic though, you would be surprised at how many don't take that next step to send out records for another opinion without the dog pawrent asking them to. I hope CSU has good news for you. Their stereotactic radiation option is pawesome, we wrote about it here.

I'm not sure about the gas-x. I wouldn't try it without asking your vet. The drugs could be the culprit if his diet hasn't changed. It sounds like they're really upsetting his stomach. Try focusing on things to soothe his stomach; see this blog post "Nausea Remedies for Tripawds."

Cancer can be such an awful thing but it does have some blessings, like getting humans to slow down and see the world as Dog does. Those little things, like licking gum off the sidewalk, do start to take on special significance all of a sudden. It really makes you see that we can't take even the most mundane things for granted. 

Hugs coming at ya.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
28 March 2011
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31 March 2012 - 7:32 pm
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I have finally had time to wander thru the other posts, besides mine.    So I'm not sure where you are in diagnosis and/ or treatment.  Dozer, myself and my husband are at CSU Animal Cancer Center this week and next.  If you haven't contacted them yet, do so.  Even if you just email Jocey the cancer clinincal coordinator she can get you some help  Jocelyn.Pronko [at]  I have to say these guys rock. Professionals from the start.  We sent out a blind email to Dr Withrow the head of the oncology department and within 24 hours he had us pointed in the right direction.  They can help you with medications and managing side effects.  They can also give recommendations on  meds that may cause less GI distress.

Also is a good company to work with on carts and mobiity assist devices.

Dozer sends wet puppy kissess, Renee7979

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