Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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I have an 11-year-old black lab mix named Shelby. And though she is technically my dog, she has lived with my parents all her life. (This becomes important later.) Her story seems a bit unusual compared to what I’ve read.
Almost exactly 2 years ago, when she was nine, she had a mass removed from her right front paw- right in the middle between the two toes. Surgery went well and her recovery went well but the lab report on the mass indicated osteosarcoma. Our vet was surprised and a bit skeptical at this unusual presentation. As Shelby was showing no symptoms we chose to keep an eye on her and see what happened. Surprisingly nothing happened for almost 2 years! The surgery site healed up. She walked, ran and played normally and gave every indication of being a happy healthy dog. She has a lot of energy for her age!
We continued to regularly check her paw for signs of the mass returning. Unfortunately about a month ago it showed up again. And though it seemed to cause her no discomfort, appeared to be growing fast this time. It was also much harder feeling than before. I made an appointment with our vet who said that the osteosarcoma had returned and because of its location between her toes couldn’t be removed with enough skin leftover to close the incision. As Shelby was still walking normally, and because my budget is very limited, I again elected to wait and watch. Over the next two weeks the mass grew out through the bottom of her paw and began to bleed. She was limping severely now too, usually not even using that leg. The vet gave us pain/anti-inflammatory meds- tramadol and gabepentin.
Currently, Shelby is on a very low dose. She is still excited about her food and playtime- though she only watches now instead of chasing the ball. And of course she doesn’t jump up to bark at everything anymore. The mass is huge and seems to take up all of the bottom of her foot.
I know her time is short, most likely months. Afterall, she is eleven. I don’t want her to hurt or be in a med induced haze. Part of me wants to go with amputation so that whatever time she has left is pain-free. I’m not bothered by the idea of her losing her leg, but it’s a major surgery and that scares me a lot. It would be a lot to put her through and while she’s otherwise healthy, she is an anxious dog and gets scared going to the vets. My parents, who are her main caretakers are against it too. And then there’s the financial aspect! Unfortunately, that is a HUGE influence on the situation.
I don’t know what I expect to get from posting all this. But I wanted to share it with people who have been here and know what it’s like. Needless to say, I’m not feeling very merry this Christmas. Thanks for listening.
Sabrina, I’m so sorry about Shelby’s situation. That’s a tough one to be in. The amputation decision is definitely harder when a senior dog is involved.
It doesn’t sound like anyone who loves Shelby feels like amputation is the best way to go for her, and that’s OK. It’s not right for every dog, and if it’s going to stress all of you out and cause financial hardship, well that’s not what Shelby wants for her favorite people. We will support you in that decision.
The important thing to do right now is, be aware that dogs are masters at hiding their pain. The pain signals dogs give are subtle, until they are not, and that’s when you know they are truly in horrible pain. And the pain of osteosarcoma is pretty terrible. Try to put yourself in her paws: what would it be like to live with a tumor that size on your foot? Most humans couldn’t tolerate that level of pain.
Animals are truly amazing, but not even the best pain medication will control her pain much longer. She likely needs something much stronger than she is being given, like Fentanyl or another narcotic. Most dogs reach that point pretty quickly and Shelby may be there based on what you are describing. If her caregivers have all decided that amputation isn’t the answer, then have your vet create a plan to better manage her pain right now. Don’t wait much longer: the tumor will get worse. When it’s time to set her spirit free, you don’t want it to be under duress. Here’s a blog post about preparing to say goodbye.
I’m not sure if this helps, but I hope so. We are here to support you as you cope with the situation, just let us know how we can help.
Thanks so much for responding! It feels good to know I’m not alone in this. I’m going to take Shelby back to the vets after Christmas. After looking at her tumor and researching a lot (especially here! Thanks for all the amazing resources!!) I have more questions. Again thank you so much for being here.
You are so welcome! And remember, if you don’t like what one vet says, a second or even a third opinion can make all the difference. Do what you need to do to feel comfortable about your decision and keep her from being in pain and you’ve done your job as a pawrent. You can do it!
Keep us posted.
Shelby has an appointment Monday afternoon. I think it will be goodbye. The mass on her paw is large and bloody and has begun to smell rotten. And while I can still up her pain meds, how much quality of life can she have lying on the couch? I don’t want her last days to be spent in pain or always asleep from meds. I think I’d rather have her go (even if it could be considered a bit early) than to wait and watch her decline more. Maybe it would be different if she was younger, if she lived with me, if money wasn’t so tight. And maybe it wouldn’t be any different. I’ll never know. However it ends, she lived a long, happy, healthy life. She got two years past her initial OSA diagnosis and we had one last Christmas with her.
I’m so sorry to read this, but it’s understandable considering the situation. She knows without a doubt that you love her dearly and want what’s best for her. And as you cope with the heartache of saying goodbye, try to remember an old saying that it’s better to say goodbye a day too soon than a day too late. We hope her last few days can be spent pain free and getting spoiled rotten by the people she loves.
We are keeping you and Shelby in our thoughts and lighting a candle in her honor.
22 February 2013
Your love for Ahelby is so pure, so selfless. You are making a decision, as hard as it is, to let Shelby still have quality and dignity and not overcome with pain.
The fact that Shelby has beaten the odds this long and with such good quality is a miracle in itself! It’s also a reflection of the care and love you and your parents have given her all three years.
Shelby’s in a situation where she cannot get better, she can only get worse. It wouldn’t surprise me if that the piece of crap disease hasn’t already spread and just isn’t detected yet. I
As horribly sad as it is to make this decision. it is one where there will be no regrets. It’s never “too early” when you know the tomorrows could be rhe moment when the pajn starts to become unbearable for your girl. So IF Monday is the day you need to let her run free to The Rainbow Bridge, she will welcome the relief. She has had the kind of life most dogs dream about.
We will be by your side as you celebrate Shelby’s life with he. Smile with hier, laugh with her, tell her what a good girl she is. She’ll like that. Make her tail wag. Jave jer ball with you. She will have these special memories to take with her to The Rainbow Bridge . You will have thousands of happy memories to keep her in your heart furever.
As we say here, when you love hard, you grieve hard. If we can help in any way, we are here with you. We also have a helpline staffes if uou meed someone to take with. 1- 844 -TRIPAWD. Stay connected. You are not alone.
In the meantime, spoil that girl like crazy!! Let her eat any forbidden food she wants! Tummy rubs, massages, hogs and kisses. Ice cream, cake, french fries, cheese pizza, three, maybe four, 😉
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!
1 October 2017
I am so sorry that you are faced with this. My heart just aches for you. Remember, you are not alone and no 2 instances are the same.
Spoil your baby and know in your heart that you loved and gave the best that you could.
I have lived similar, its RUFF!! Like Sally said, get the most out of the time you have left ❤️
You have lots of love and support here.
Jackie and Huckleberry ❤️
Jackie, David, Mitchell, Bo, Andy, Oscar,and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry