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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Questions for a Newly Diagnosed Dog with Mast Cell Cancer
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Member Since:
13 June 2022
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13 June 2022 - 8:45 pm
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Hi! My boy, Max, is a 60lb lab mix, who was diagnosed with Mass Cell Disease. The vet has presented me with options, one being amputation. 

Max is 10 (he will be 11 in December). The things I’m struggling with are all human things.

I worry about his after care by myself. What can I expect?

Is he too old to put through amputation?

I worry that taking his leg will make no difference and only cause him more problems or the cancer will show up elsewhere. 

I worry I will regret the amputation and recovery will be too hard for him and me. 

Is it selfish to want more time with my precious boy?

What if I can’t afford everything he needs?

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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13 June 2022 - 9:51 pm
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I hope you don't mind that I moved your first post here to your own topic so we can address your questions about Max.

In my book age is just a number- the real question is how much living does Max have left in him?  Does your vet think he would do OK as a Tripawd?

Is the tumor in a front or back leg?

My Pug Maggie lost a back leg to mast cell cancer.  You can read her story and about her amp and treatment, the links are in my signature below.

What we see here is that the more 'mature' pups take a little longer to get their sea legs.  But we've had lots of dogs here as old or older than Max who do just fine on three.

What were the options the vet presented?  Have you seen an oncologist?  Maggie's amp was way back in 2006 and there have been several new drugs and treatments introduced since then. 

Unfortunately mast cell is one of the most unpredictable cancers in dogs, I certainly experienced that with mast cell cancer in two dogs.  There are a suite of tests that should be done before amputation to check for metastasis, but they are not 100%- again what I experienced!

You have to decide what is best for you and Max.  Many here have gone through recovery alone and it can be done.  Don't worry about putting a financial limit on what you can do either.  With cancer all the money in the world does not guarantee the outcome you want. 

Look through the Reading List for answers to lots of your questions.

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

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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14 June 2022 - 12:01 pm
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Hi Alaina, welcome! I'm so glad you posted. It was great chatting with you yesterday on the Tripawds Helpline .

I'll try to answer your concerns too:

I worry about his after care by myself. What can I expect?

As I mentioned, lots of folks here do the after care on their own. He may be wonky and hard to maneuver so having a sling is helpful. Taking someone with you to pick him up and bring him home and out of the car is a good idea if you can do that.

We love harnesses to help new Tripawds as you might have gathered, but we don't recommend using them until stitches are out unless you have inside stairs he must navigate to go outside. I think I recall you said he only has a few to deal with?

Most dogs will be wonky and zonked for a few days, then tired, and then slowly over the course of a week or two start to get their sparkle back. Older and larger dogs tend to need more time to recover, but they do get there. Just try not to compare his recovery against what you see here or in other places online. Max is his own guy with his own timeline.

Is he too old to put through amputation?

If your vet feels he's a good candidate, that's awesome. I think I recall they gave him the green light? Age really is a number to a dog who is otherwise fit and has no serious health issues. 

I worry that taking his leg will make no difference and only cause him more problems or the cancer will show up elsewhere. 

While there are challenges during recovery, mainly our own emotional ones, once recovery is over Max will start being Max again. It may not happen on a linear timeline and there may be hurdles, but he will get there. As for the cancer, there are no guarantees. Your vet and oncology team can let you know what to expect with the type and grade of MCT he has. Keep in mind that cancer doesn't always do what it's supposed to and in this case hoping for the best and preparing for the worst is smart. But you also need to focus on the present and remember that Max is here right now, and all he wants is for you to be there with him.

I worry I will regret the amputation and recovery will be too hard for him and me. 

You may do that during the first few days. There's not a single person here who doesn't feel guilty when their dog is struggling during recovery. But too hard on him? Probably not based on what your vet thinks his physical shape is in right now. And as for you, nope, I'm betting you can handle it too. Together, Team Max can do anything!  And as you mentioned, you've been through TPLO recovery. If you can do that, you can do this easy peasy comparatively speaking.

Is it selfish to want more time with my precious boy?

There is never enough time. But sometimes we have to take steps to ensure that whatever time we have is spent pain-free so our dogs can be dogs. Amputation does that, it gives a better quality of life for whatever time he has left. People may say you are selfish. Ignore them, they've never been in this situation most likely. We get it. NO you are not being selfish. Is wanting to help an otherwise healthy dog live without pain being selfish? Of course not! 

What if I can’t afford everything he needs?

By taking care of the pain, that's the #1 thing he needs. Anything after that is icing on the cake. Even chemo is optional. Money is always an issue for a pet parent, and we have to make hard choices many times. We get it. And nobody here will judge you for your treatment choices because every situation is different. But just getting rid of the pain is a huge gift to Max that will enable the two of you to have more quality time together, for however long that is. 

Gotta run for now, I hope this helps. Keep us posted OK? 


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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14 June 2022 - 3:56 pm
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Jerry and Karen said everything  so well.  

Regardless of whether you are the wealthiest  person in the world, there are NO guarantees  with the variety of therapies offered that "money can buy"...or not. 

You know Max, and yourself, better than anyone.  Have Max evaluated  by an Orthopedic  Surgeon?  That can give yoj the reassurance  uou meed tonknow if Max is a good candidate  and can do well on three.  As already  mentioned,  age really is just a number around here.

Many of 'us" here are the only caregivers fprmpur pups during recovery.   Not necessarily  easy the first two weeks-ish, especially  when it comes to sleep the first several days.  As Jerry mentioned,  a harness or sling can help with mobility IF needed.  

Update is  when you get a chance to review the responses and the links.  Whatever you decide, however you decide to handle this, we support you no matter matter what!!


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!

Member Since:
13 June 2022
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14 June 2022 - 5:10 pm
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Thank you all so much!sp_hearticon2 I didn't realize how much community support and hearing others' stories would help me through this process. 

I was able to schedule a consultation today with a surgeon at Blue Pearl. They were able to get us in on June 30, so we don't have to wait too long. The internal medicine vet recommended that I do that to help me make a decision that is right for us.

I did ask Max what he wanted, but he just stared at me with his big brown eyes. I'm going to snuggle with him this weekend to see if I can hear his doggy thoughts.smiley4

I appreciate the support and information. Once I know more, I will post an update. I'm sure I'll have more questions, too.  

Member Since:
13 June 2022
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1 July 2022 - 10:14 pm
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Update: We met with a surgeon this week and have decided to move forward with amputation. 

Max’s surgery will be next Tuesday. I’m still struggling with the decision and hoping it is the right choice. 

The surgeon said Max’s other legs are in good condition and should support him. He said Max shouldn’t need PT, but I’m not sure about that. Any advice on getting physical therapy post surgery?

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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2 July 2022 - 6:34 pm
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Hi Alaina, I'm so glad you were able to consult with a surgeon. Although amputation isn't the route anyone wants to take, if it can help Max be out of pain and live a good quality of life, that's what counts right?

How is your home set up? Is it Tripawd-proofed? Here's the Tripawds Recovery Shopping List for some things to consider to make recovery and life on 3 easier for max.

When it comes to rehab therapy, it's almost more helpful for the pet parent than the actual Tripawd. Well really it helps both, but honestly, if more people took their Tripawds to rehab, we would see healthier, stronger Tripawds over the long term. Moving on 3 has a big impact over the course of a dog's life.

Surgeons don't see the dog over the long run, just in the recovery phase. But what we often see here is that after recovery, many folks just aren't aware of their pet's physical needs. We sure weren;t. And without that knowledge, injuries caused by the wrong kinds of activity (flyball anyone?) happen more than anyone wants. Surgeries on remaining limbs happen all the time in our community, many might have been prevented with the right knowledge.

Every dog is different, and a therapist can evaluate the individual pup to assess their strengths and weaknesses. What may look like strengths now may be prone to injury later if the pet parent doesn't know how to prevent those injuries. Therapists go over things like their findings with the pet parent, and show them how to keep their dog injury free with certain exercises and mobility parameters. We see such a difference with dogs who get rehab versus those that don't, that the Tripawds Foundation will pay for your first rehab visit . It's that helpful!

Please let us know how we can help you and Max OK? 

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