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Not a candidate for amputation - but still need your help
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Member Since:
4 November 2016
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4 November 2016 - 5:03 pm
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Hi all,

I am new here - and like everyone here - wish I didn't have to be here 🙂 ... technically I don't belong here since this is not an amputation story but you guys seem to understand difficult decisions and cancer diagnosis and I could really use some guidance. Hope you don't mind me intruding.

A little about us. I am Julie and my puppy is Ginger. She is a beautiful Golden Retriever. I was a volunteer with the SPCA at the time and there was this huge a puppy mill seizure. They started sending the dogs out for foster and Ginger came home with me. It was love at first sight. I can still see so clearly the first time I met Ginger. She was lying in a cage, front paws crossed. 25 lbs underweight, fleas, worms and all. But she finally had a clean cage, and food and she was happy. At the time, the vet guessed she was between 4-6 so we chose 5 years old. That was 8 years ago which would make her ~13 years old, give or take. 

I could go on forever with all the ways Ginger is the best dog ever. Her love of tennis balls. Her beautiful smile. Her grudging acceptance of the foster cats we've had. All the fun we've had - that time she jumped out of the boat into freezing cold water trying to retrieve the fishing lure when my DH went fishing with her. The time we went to Sandbanks and played and played and played in the water. How she gets fake-grumpy and 'howls' at us if we stop petting her. How she can tell time (it's noon, now we go play outside)... She truly is my best friend. 

3 years ago, she was wobbly on her back end and Xrays showed severe hip dysplasia. The vet was amazed she was still standing. She was put on Deramaxx and Tramadol. We've changed the dosage over the years and she's always done well on that. Ginger does not run anymore and 

On labour day weekend this year, we went to the beach and she jumped out of the car and fell hard. She never does this (I always help her in and out) so I guess she was real excited about going swimming. She limped a bit afterwards but I figured the Deramaxx and Tramadol would do their thing. A few days later, no better. We made an appt at the vet looking for a break and Xrays came back with 90% chance of bone cancer. We did not biopsy. I died. 

It was decided that Ginger was not a candidate for amputation due to her severe hip dysplasia. The Xrays also showed arthritis in her elbows. She's kinda down to 1 good leg at this point... We cranked up the meds to max dosage and hoped for the best. She's on 75mg of Deramaxx, 400mg of Tramadol and 400mg of Gabapentin (daily).

So, that brings me to why I'm here. If she's not a candidate for amputation, why am I hanging out in a forum for 3 legged dogs ? Because you guys *know*. You guys *get it*. You understand why this cancer sucks so, so much and how hard all the decisions are. And because of that, you can hopefully guide me in the right direction for the next part: Her final goodbye.

Most of Ginger's days are OK. Not good, but OK. She can't walk anymore (I mean she can, to go pee or to eat, but we can't take walks) so we mostly sit together. She chews sticks, or gnaws on a tennis ball, and I talk to her and pet her. I'd say she's still happy. Some days are less good. Yesterday was a hard one for her. It was the first time I could see in her eyes that she might be ready to go. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day.

One of the bumps in the road is that I am leaving on vacation in 2 weeks. She'll be almost 3 months into her diagnosis at the end of the month (when we are scheduled to be away). My parents and teenage daughter will be home for Ginger. My mom is understandably worried that she will go downhill while I am away and they will have to deal with the hard part. I am equally worried about this - Ginger leaving without me being there is beyond heartbreaking. I would die if I can't say a last goodbye. I'm not even exaggerating. What if she gets hurt (pathological break, she fell today due to her wobbly back end) and they have to put her to sleep without me. What is the pain meds don't make her comfortable anymore and she's in pain until I get home. What if...

All the options are horrible right now. Do we put her to sleep before we go so it can be done at home, calmly, with me there ? I would feel so guilty doing it out of "convenience"... Do we wait and hope nothing happens while I am away ? I would feel so guilty not being there for her if anything does happen...

This sucks...

Sorry - I talked your ear off. Help.

Julie and Ginger

On The Road


Member Since:
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4 November 2016 - 5:25 pm
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Best wishes for Ginger, you are not intruding at all. Ask your vet about Bisphosphonates, and consider consulting with Orthopets about a brace to help protect the limb.

Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option

Others will chime in soon. In the meantime, use the Advanced Search above to refine your search results with specific phrases, and you're sure to find lots of helpful feedback. You can also search all blogs here .

Please keep us posted, your future forum posts will not require approval.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Minneapolis, MN
Member Since:
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4 November 2016 - 6:42 pm
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Hello, Julie:

I am so so sorry for this difficult diagnosis for your beautiful Ginger and for the added difficulty of her not being a candidate for amputation.  

How long will you be gone when you leave in two weeks?  A week?  More?  

Unfortunately this is something you have to assess a day at a time - none of us can be sure what the next two weeks will bring.  There are some great harnesses that can really help you (and her potential caregivers when you are gone) support her so she does not experience another fall.  

I actually have two types, the Get a Grip and the Help 'Em Up.  My boy just passed away last week 6 months post amp - his soft tissue sarcoma had come back and was in his spine causing extreme back end weakness, so we did not use them long.  Unfortunately, I have to leave early morning tomorrow for a conference or I would offer to send you one.  I think the Help 'Em Up might be useful.

One thing you could be doing is to get together all the emergency medical info your family might need for her care  - having a plan for the possibilities of her needing some treatment (credit card number on file with vet and some directives of what you would want and wouldn't want for her; all the numbers and addresses for vet and e-vet services) might make you all feel better prepared so that over the next two weeks, if she is holding on and doing okay, you would just have this ready as a contingency.  

Thinking of you...

heart

Lisa, Minneapolis

On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly.  His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Member Since:
4 November 2016
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4 November 2016 - 7:09 pm
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Hi Hester,

Where do you get the harness ? I am in Canada so shipping here (from the US) takes about 2 weeks and by the time it arrives I'd be gone. Still do-able but if they sell them in stores, that might be a better option. 

We're gone for 10 days - which sounds so long now when I say it. We're from Canada and going to the FL Keys - so it's not an impossible trek home if something happens, just costly.

Question about the Biophosphonates - does it really cost 1000$ ? (saw that on the link above)

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30 August 2016
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4 November 2016 - 8:31 pm
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Julie I am so heart broken to read your story.. literally all teary here. Is this vacation a must? Like nonrefundable? I can hear the guilt u have for going on the trip and leaving your baby with family, yet I see the reluctance for making a decision prior to u leaving too. Either way it's such a tough call. I just don't see a way that u will be able to relax & enjoy your trip. I always believe that as dog moms we will know when our babies have had enough and we need to make the hard call. But if there is still a spark in the eye and some tail wags and playfulness, hang on to those days! How is the appetite?

By the way I'm also in canada 🇨🇦 and I ordered my ruffwear harness and brush guard off Amazon.ca and it arrived in a few days. Kylie is a rear amputee so it's helped us a lot to assist her with the stairs and in/out of the car. 

Best of luck & much hugs! Keep us posted

Chris & Kylie xo

Minneapolis, MN
Member Since:
23 April 2016
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5 November 2016 - 4:14 am
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Hi, Julie - up early packing for my flight.

Help 'Em Up harness - Pofi was fitted for one and they sold it to me at our university vet hospital - do you have a larger, referral vet hospital anywhere near you?  A place like that may have them on hand or another place that offers pet rehab.

Get A Grip harness - actually sold through this Tripawds site - there is expedited shipping available - Jim and Rene at Tripawds made sure mine got to us quickly in the US - not sure about CA shipping.

Documenting with your vet all the possibilities of what might happen with Ginger and what you would want to do for her will help you and your family assess when it is closer to your trip whether you all feel comfortable with leaving her in their care or if there has been too much change and too high a risk of that dreaded possibility she will decline significantly while you are away.  Putting it on paper may help you stay focused on the "facts"...

Best thoughts.

Lisa, Minneapolis

On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly.  His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Member Since:
4 November 2016
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5 November 2016 - 12:59 pm
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I searched the area by phone today and found a place that sells the Ruffwear harnesses ! (the WebMaster model). I'm going to go tomorrow. It's near work so I'll sneak out at lunch and pick it up.

The vacation is non-refundable. I wush I could delay it but that won't work because it's to go see a race in Miami, followed by some time in the Keys. (Hubby is a big Nascar fan, this was his choice of Bday gifts - go see the race in Homestead...). Airline, race tickets, hotels are all pre-paid. Horrible timing... It always is though, isn't it ? The time she partially severed a toe and required an emergency vet visit on a Sunday evening and stitches and a giant bandage was the night before another vacation years ago. The time she got an aural hematoma (her ear swelled up like a blood-filled balloon) was just before I left on a work related trip. Sneaky puppy, maybe she's doing it on purpose... 🙂

Based on all your advice, my plan is this: We go for the race and should things start to go downhill, we fly home early. If all is good, we stay and finish our vacation. We'll have an emergency plan, a new harness, I spent the morning making a better access for the front door (it's only 2 steps, but when you only have 1 good leg...) so we should be pretty good accident-wise. We're all stocked up on pain meds. Boy, I hope it doesn't snow while we're gone. Slippery snow is the last thing Ginger needs. Just in case, I'll get some paw-friendly salt for any slippy areas.

I don't see any recommendations for the Montreal area as far as oncologist - I know there must be some at the University hospital but that's about 2 hours away. Are the Biophosphonates something done at the regular vets office ? or is this from a specialist ?

Her appetite is so-so. She was never a big eater but now you have to make it interesting for her to eat her meals. She's getting cooked ground beef/turkey mixed with her kibble and she'll eat most of it. I was making her home made stew to mix, but she quit eating that so we improvised... She's lost 5 lbs from July-Sept and probably 2 lbs more since then. Like me, she snacks well ! She shares my sandwich for lunch, my toast corners at breakfast and for dessert at supper she gets her meds in whatever we have leftover from supper. Likely not the healthiest combo but...

Related story - we were going to be part of a clinical trial for new pain meds - but when I found out she had to be off all her meds for 5-14 days (14 days Deramaxx, 5 days Tramadol) I cancelled our participation. Even if the new drug was magical and she was pain free for her last weeks, I just couldn't put her through 2 weeks of pain to get her there. Hope I made the right choice...

Feels better having a plan ! Thanks to all who chimed in 🙂

Member Since:
14 February 2016
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5 November 2016 - 3:25 pm
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We also used the Webmaster Plus and highly recommend it.  And totally agree on your choice about the trial.  At some point, it is important to make every day the best it can be, and that's enough.  I can't imagine how much you are agonizing over the trip.  I took a 1 week vacation over the summer - Otis was doing fine then, but there were all the what-if's.  Not an option for you, but I decided to drive (8 hours) rather than fly so I knew I could head home on a moment's notice.  Eight hours was still pretty far away, but it made me feel like I had a plan.

Hopefully it won't snow, but my Otis lost his leg in February (in Chicago), and did just fine.  I just made sure to keep a small area very well shoveled.

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

Livermore, CA




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18 October 2009
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5 November 2016 - 9:27 pm
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Hi Julie and Ginger, and welcome.

I'm sorry you are dealing with cancer in your girl, and that your options are limited.  Such a hard time. 

You got good advice already I just wanted to welcome you and say that once you log on here you are family.  We've had several members here for who amputation was not an option.  The cancer journey is a tough one no matter how many legs you have, it does help to have support along the way.

As far as timing- my pug Maggie was pretty good at developing health issues just when I was getting ready to go somewhere.  The pug girls stayed with my parents when I traveled and I was always dropping them off with with a pile of meds and a complex dosing calendar.  When Maggie had her amp I was lucky that I could stay home with her for two weeks...because I had a vacation scheduled!

I hope things go well through your vacation.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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4 November 2016
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6 November 2016 - 10:26 am
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Having a rough day today...

Ginger was really wobbly this morning. The tumour is on her right front so she puts a lot of weight on the left side. Well this morning her left rear was weird. It almost looked like her foot was asleep ? Like she wasn't sure where it was. She fell over into me (she didnt fall down, just kinda tipped over but I was standing in the right spot). She looked drunk 🙂 She was able to walk around after a bit but when she gets back up from lying down, it's was back to wobbly.

She ate her breakfast but had to lie down midway through. I moved her bowl to between her feet and she finished it all up. Is she not eating because it hurts to stand, or because she's not hungry...

I will get her the harness today which will help but I am wondering if I am pushing this too far. This won't be getting any better. A harness will help with her getting around but it won't make her be able to do all the things she can't anymore. I think Ginger has been in pain for so long with her hips, that she doesn't know the difference anymore. She'll smile though it like she always has. 

Am I hanging on for her, or for me ?

What a crappy day...

Maybe tomorrow will be better...

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14 February 2016
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6 November 2016 - 10:42 am
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Wish there was an easy answer to give you, or a black and white test, but there just isn't.  I guess all I can say is get advice from your vet and then do what feels right in your heart.  I was fortunate in that when both of my dogs transitioned, it was sudden and obvious and the medical evidence made the decision clear.  I know that several members, including one in Australia who was in a situation very similar to yours, picked a date and scheduled a vet to come to their home, knowing that if they saw great improvement before then, they could cancel.  I am so sorry that you and Ginger are going through this.

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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6 November 2016 - 1:33 pm
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This is such a tough situation, I wish I had answers for you. What I can say after reading through your posts is this:

No, a harness won't give her back the things she used to enjoy doing. But it will help you help her so she doesn't have to struggle as much when trying to get around.

In the meantime, is there any chance you can get her to a pain management specialist? Here is a certified vet/pain management specialist in Montreal:

Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun
Centre Veterinaire DMV
Phone: 1-800-463-8555
Fax:
Address: 2300, 54th Avenue  
Montréal,   QC   H8T 3R2

This vet might be able to offer bisphsphonates into the mix. yes, it's pricey. No, most vets don't offer it, usually only specialists.

Sometimes all it takes for more comfort and a better quality of life is an adjustment in pain medications and adding something into the mix like acupuncture. If you haven't already investigated other options in addition to pain medication, now's the time. If you could help her feel better right now, it would hopefully last through your vacation so that you'd have time to come back home and figure out "what's next?" instead of feeling so rushed.

I hope this helps. {{{{hugs}}}}

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Member Since:
4 November 2016
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6 November 2016 - 1:56 pm
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Hi Jerry,

I am on the phone with them now !! (DMV is our 24h emergency vet)

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6 November 2016 - 2:12 pm
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Hi Julie,

I'm so sorry you are having to face this choice. Its always so hard. My tripawd is still hanging in there, but in June, I had to make the decision to let my old guy Murray go. He had been declining for several months (strictly old age, he began to have neurological issues, etc.) but kept on going. Every day I looked at him to see if he would give me a sign, I didn't want to prolong things just for me. But like you, I didn't want to let him go because of convenience - he took a lot of care at the end, and I didn't want to say goodbye just because of extra work.

For us, one night he had a really bad night. He soiled himself, started crying, and I couldn't calm him for a long time. We both finally fell asleep, but the next morning, although he was "better," I decided he'd had enough. It was time. I'd read a lot on "how to know it is time" and there was one thing I read that really stood out - the idea that I'd rather be one day too early than too late.

Whatever decision you make, you are making it out of love and that's all that any of us can do. You will do your best for Ginger and she knows that! My thoughts are with you, please reach out for any support.

Kristin

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4 November 2016
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6 November 2016 - 2:13 pm
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Ok, according the the DMV, Dr Kona-Boun is an anaesthesiologist (that's what I had on their website too) so they suggest I speak with the Oncology dept. 

They have left him my contact info and have asked Dr Lacoste to call me back. I will check with him about pain management to see if they have anything superior to our current Deramaxx/Tramadol/Gabapentin cocktail as well as he addition of any magical potions they can think of. They said he'd likely get back to me early in the week. I will ask about the Biophosphonates at that time too

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