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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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Find out in Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now by Tripawds founders Rene and Jim. Learn life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Get the book and find fun gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.

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So.. my dog has cancer and is losing her leg...
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Member Since:
17 January 2022
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18 January 2022 - 7:45 pm
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Hi there!

We discovered a huge lump on our 8 year old hound mix, Bella's, leg recently. The vet diagnosed it as mast cell tumor.. a nasty and aggressive one. She had a tiny one in the same spot 5 years ago. This tumor though, seems to have showed up overnight. Due to the area and how deep it is, they don't think its likely to get the needed 2cm margin to remove it. If one cell is left behind, it can grow back and we may have to amputate anyway. The other options are "give prednisone to see if it shrinks ", amputate or basically put her in "hospice/palliative care". She's acting like her crazy self, so the last option is NOT happening.

I'm worried since it's her front left leg. My husband feels like this is his fault for not noticing the lump sooner. He thinks Bella will hate him/us. I just feel like I'm torturing my poor dog. It's hard to wrap my mind around removing a body part that is structurally sound and functioning. It's just the least crappy option of the three. I can't stop thinking about the PROCESS of what they are going to be doing to my dog. It's just HORRIFIC. Will she be able to do things she loves like laying on the furnture and playing with my other dog, Raven? Will she be in pain? Will she have trouble walking? Will it mess up her joints? SO much guilt. 

Good news is that no cancer spread is shown on xray and her shoulder/front leg looks good without arthritis signs. I know that there can be microscopic cancer cells though. Vet said she palpated the lymph node, didn't feel anything off, but there could be cancer cells there as well. No indication of that at this point.

Bella doesn't do well with cones. Looking at one of the surgical suits for amputees, but i know i won't get it in time. Surgery is the 26th. Right after my birthday 🙁 The cost.. well that's a whole other issue but I'm more worried about my poor baby girl.

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18 January 2022 - 9:47 pm
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Hi Bella and people, thanks for joining. I'm sorry for the quick hello but I have to run and wanted to get your post approved so others can see it. I have some thoughts for you that I will share asap tomorrow am. Hang in there and stay tuned for feedback from others.

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

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19 January 2022 - 11:37 am
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Ok I'll try to address your worries here and hopefully ease them:

I'm worried since it's her front left leg.

At 8 years young, she's got a lot going for her. Front leg amputees have their own challenges just like rear leggers but for the most part they get around so well. Yes she will move differently and lack some stamina. You will need to monitor her activity and make sure she doesn't overdo things (our ebook Loving Life On Three Legs has lots of tips!). But she can get stronger and go back to many of the things she already enjoys. Consider making an appointment with a canine rehab therapist now (most are booked at least a few weeks out) so that they can show you how to keep Bella strong and injury-free. The best part is that Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit , so no need to worry about that cost.

My husband feels like this is his fault for not noticing the lump sooner. He thinks Bella will hate him/us. I just feel like I'm torturing my poor dog.

Not at all! Oh my gosh. Remember, dogs don't share our silly emotions of regret, shame, or worry. They just want to feel good. By helping Bella now, you are avoiding the inevitable pain of a tumor that will soon get out of control. As we say around here, when you decide to amputate to give back quality of life, you're not doing it to her, you are doing it for her.

It's hard to wrap my mind around removing a body part that is structurally sound and functioning.

For now. But if you wait until she is lame and the tumor explodes, it's an extraordinary amount of pain and heartache that you will all go through. You are being proactive to avoid that terrible scene. Try to put yourself in her paws: if you had the same condition, would you wait until it was awful or preempt the pain?

It's just the least crappy option of the three. I can't stop thinking about the PROCESS of what they are going to be doing to my dog. It's just HORRIFIC.

Agree, totally. Horrific is when the tumor explodes, or when the bone breaks, or when you have to euthanize because there are no other options and time is run out. You aren't there. This is a surgical procedure that will give back quality of life. Try to focus on that big picture and let your vet focus on the actual procedure.

Will she be able to do things she loves like laying on the furnture and playing with my other dog, Raven? Will she be in pain? Will she have trouble walking? Will it mess up her joints? SO much guilt.

Of course she will! You can make things easier for her by putting pet steps and traction down. Many of the things a Tripawd needs for safety around the home are just things you would do for her if she was a much older senior dog. You're just doing them now. 

The pain issue can be resolved by talking to your vet and ensuring Bella is going to get awesome pain management . The recovery process is much easier if pain is handled well before, during, and after surgery.

Most dogs get around really well within a few days. Not perfectly, and she will face plant here and there. But right away she should be able to potty and eat on her own, and move about in your home. Then in a few weeks she should be able to do all she wants to do, and you'll need to reign her in so she doesn't overdo it. 

Tripawds are more predisposed to osteoarthritis. But if you make sure she stays slim, watch her activity levels,  and incorporate an NSAID into her day, you can ward off OA effects. That's another reason we are so gung-ho on rehab. They can explain all of this to you as it relates to Bella's individual needs.

OK I don't want to overwhelm you. Let us know how we can support you guys in your journey. Check out Jerry's Required Reading List and the What to Expect articles when you get a chance and ask us any questions you'd like. Remember, the more optimistic and hopeful you are going into this, the easier things will be for all of you!

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

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19 January 2022 - 2:57 pm
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Hello,

Sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis.

My dog Addi (9 yr old) also had a very aggressive MCT (mast cell tumor) on her hind leg that grew rapidly and wasn't able to be removed without removing her leg. I was hesitant at first but, after doing some research - I learned that dogs recover quite well from amputation.
I am not saying it is easy by any means but, MCT can get really nasty. They release awful chemicals and when they aren't removed you increase the chance of spread.
It is quite difficult to get a tumor grade from a needle prick. In order to do a full analysis of the tumor you need to take the whole thing off. We did that with my dog and unfortunately, it was a very high grade with a very high mitotic index (which is an indicator of metastasis). We put Addi on chemo (Palladia) and she has been on it for about 10 months now. We wouldn't have had any of the above information if we never decided to pursue the amputation. Her initial prognosis was very poor about 11 weeks and we have greatly extended it.
Addi gets along pretty well and seems to be happy just like she was before her leg was removed.

If you have any MCT related questions please feel free to reach out.

Jerry always has great advice as well.

Rachel and Addi 

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19 January 2022 - 6:53 pm
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Rachel, your insight is so appreciated, thank you for sharing. I'm so happy Addi is doing well!

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

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24 January 2022 - 9:04 pm
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thank you, everyone~

Wednesday is the day. She's so lethargic but that's because she is on benadryl for the MCT. I both want it to hurry up and happen and for it to never happen. A lot of mixed emotions. I bought her an elevated food/water dish setup and some kids' shirts for wearing after/while she heals. She has an inflatable donut for her neck because she does poorly with cones. Tomorrow she goes in for pre surgery bloodwork. 

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24 January 2022 - 11:09 pm
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Awwww sweet Bella. You have such a sweet face sf-kissI'm so sorry you are in this situation but when that bad leg is off and you are all recovered, oh boy that sparkle is going to come right back! 

Heather, you're doing everything you can to prepare for the big day. smiley_clapLean on us. Let us know how we can help OK? When things start to feel overwhelming remember you are not alone. Keep us posted!

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

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26 January 2022 - 6:33 pm
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She is home. She went through the surgery well, but hasn't moved. SHe cried as we carried her in and my heart just hurts so much. The incision is intense

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Virginia




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26 January 2022 - 7:18 pm
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Gosh, just catching up!  And just in time to say WELCOME HOME BELLA!!!

You've  already gotten great input from Jerry and Rachael.   Try not to draw attention  to the incision.  Bella just needs to feel your confident  and strong and pawsitive  energy and she will pick up on thst and it will help her heal.

So she's home the same day of the surgery, right?  Yeah, "intense" is a perfect word for the first night or two or three.  She's trying to shake off the anes and she's heavily drugged from strong hospital meds.

Did she come home with a Fentyn patch?  They can make them quite vocal and confused.  What pain meds did she come home with?  Gabapentin?  Also probably  came home with an ant and an anti-inflammatory  like Rimadyl.

If she stays pretty well "knackered " right now, that's probably a good thing.  Just let her rest as best she can.  

When she's up to it, drinking is important  as is peeing.  Even of she pees in her bed tonight without  getting up, that's  okay.

Remember,  this is MAJOR surgery and she doesn't  feel like running a marathon  quite yet.  She'll get thru this, as will you!!  This will be well worth it once you see how good she feels without that bum leg!

STAY CONNECTED!!  We are all here with you!

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

PS...That picture of her sweet mug with the blanket  over her head is absolutely  adorable!!!

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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26 January 2022 - 7:30 pm
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They sent her home with carprofen, gabapentin,hydrocodone and cephalexin. 

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26 January 2022 - 8:06 pm
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Welcome home Bella! So nice to see you snuggling in your favorite place on earth.

Heather, I know that incision is gnarly. I cried buckets when I saw our Jerry's incision. But you know what? He didn't care! Not one bit. Once he got his spunk back he just moved on. Bella will too. As Sally mentioned, don't focus on the incision, concentrate on what you picture her future to be. She will get her mojo back when this is behind you! 

Yes, pain medication can cause dysphoria (confusion, anxiety, etc). It wouldn't be unheard of for the hydrocodone to cause that. But don't cut back whatever you do. Follow the vet's schedule and if it continues into tomorrow let your vet know. Pain meds often need to be tweaked and adjusted during the first week, since all dogs react to them differently.

Stay strong, you can do this! Thanks for taking time to update. And oh! Bella has graduated to Treatment and Recovery now! 😉

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

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26 January 2022 - 8:18 pm
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right now, she just lets the pills sit on her tongue. She won't swallow,  move her tongue/mouth. Any ideas to get her to take these?

Virginia




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22 February 2013
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26 January 2022 - 9:01 pm
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Have nyou been able to try  things like peanut butter, cream cheese, hot dogs?.  Pill pockets seem to work in a lot of cases too.  Of course, anything yummy at all she'll eat is all that matters right now.  

I was never good at the "stuffing the pills down their throat" routine.  But you can try smearing peanut butter with the pill inside her cheek gums, close her mouth and she'll eventually  swallow....supposedly.

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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26 January 2022 - 10:08 pm
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Our Appetite Tips have some good pointers:

https://nutriti.....edication/

More in the AM

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

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26 January 2022 - 10:31 pm
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It's been a rough night. At first, we thought we had gotten Bella to take her meds by licking peanut butter off of a spoon. Hubby later realizes she never swallowed and it's just sitting on her gums/outer teeth. He tries to get her to eat/swallow. She starts yelping/crying and then gets up and falls/flops across the floor to our horror. Her incision bled a bit in the ruckus. I called the 24 hour vet. They said to let her alone for a while. I'm afraid of getting behind on her pain management . She finally flopped onto her good side and seems to be sleeping.

If I could get her in the car again, I'd take her to the 24 hour center because this is stressful. We are not vet techs! 

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