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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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Soft tissue sarcoma and amputation
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Forum Posts: 21
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27 February 2021
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27 February 2021 - 1:46 am
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Hi, my dog was recently diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma on her front ankle. With it being in such a bad spot and being such an aggressive cancer my vet and the specialist both not only recommended amputation but said it’s our only option. She’s 12 now, but still very active and we’re obviously heartbroken, I have so many questions about sarcomas and especially the amputation.

The specialist sent an estimate of around $5000 for the entire procedure and as I’ve spent over $1500 already on x-rays and aspirates, and lab work I just became a little overwhelmed by the process and price and the effect it will have on our daily lives. I’ve called around and have found places that will do the surgery for about half that price but I was wondering if anybody else has gone through an amputation and about how much the entire procedure ended up costing.

I’m looking for recommendations on slings for front leg amputations, and what I should expect during the healing process. She has a tendency to get depressed when she’s cooped up and I’m hoping she won’t be out of commission for too long and when she is ready for exercise again what are some good ways to get her back into action? She loves swimming and hiking and all the regular dog things. Swimming is really her thing though. 😍

I’m making a list of questions for her pre surgical exam but I would love to hear from people who have dealt with this already. Thank you in advance!

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 February 2021 - 2:17 pm
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Hi there and welcome. Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away. Is your dog’s name Maeebee? So cute!

Amputation is a tough recommendation to swallow, I feel for you and know how it feels. You’ve done a great job doing your homework. I just have one more suggestion that you can take or leave, but I want to mention it because most oncologists don’t recommended it as a treatment for STS diagnosis.

A procedure called electrochemotherapy is sometimes an alternative to amputation surgery. It’s commonly done in other countries but not so much in the states because of the lack of studies here. However some Tripawds here have gone through it and had good results so I like to mention it. It also costs at least half if not less than amputation surgery, at least initially (sometimes more treatments need to happen).

Another technique that may be able to save her limb is called intralesional chemotherapy . Both of these therapies work to shrink the tumor without getting rid of the limb. It’s not necessarily a cure the way amputation can be, but more like a way to shrink, sometimes dissolve tumor completely. The links have more information and links to vets who practice these cancer therapies.

 was wondering if anybody else has gone through an amputation and about how much the entire procedure ended up costing.

The numbers you gave are pretty much on-par for specialty centers. Yes, other clinics will do it for half the price but you need to compare apples to apples. Less costly clinics often don’t have the experienced staff, modern surgical protocols and pain management , or technologies that specialty clinics do. Here’s some reading for you:

Top 10 Questions to Ask Vet Before Amputation Surgery for Dogs and Cats (Part 1)

Considerations When Price Shopping for Veterinary Care

How to Choose a Veterinarian for Amputation Surgery

Costs of Amputation and Chemotherapy for Dogs: What Did You Pay?

I’m looking for recommendations on slings for front leg amputations, and what I should expect during the healing process.

Here are some more tips:

What to Expect After Amputation Surgery

What’s the Best Harness for a Tripawd?

when she is ready for exercise again what are some good ways to get her back into action?

Starting her life on three with an evaluation by a canine rehabilitation therapist is one of the best ways to give her a strong, happy life. It’s helpful for her and educational for you, the parent, to know what are some safe activities that can build strength and endurance. The Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so please take advantage of the program!

I hope this helps. Be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List and holler with any questions. Keep us posted.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 36
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28 February 2021 - 5:43 am
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Hi Maebee’s mom – Happy you have reached out here, there is lots of great information and supportive people. My 14 year old cat had her front leg amputated just over 1 week ago due to fibrosarcoma (cancer of the connective tissue). It was a tough decision but we basically faced the same choice as you: knowing it would progress and be terminal, or amputate and hope it is all gone. What a heart-wrenching dilemma. We have not yet received her biopsy report from the lab to show if the surgery margins showed any cancer cells. It’s due in another week.

All this being said, I totally understand the financial concerns on top of everything else. You obviously want to choose the best care you can afford. “Discount” surgeons raise a red flag for me but it is worth getting a 2nd or even 3rd opinion. Sometimes facilities are less “fancy” but the surgeon is excellent anyway. It’s really a question of research. Even try calling regular vets in your area and asking around about who they would send their pets to with such a diagnosis. Who has a good reputation? Who doesn’t? The questions Jerry pointed you toward (above) are excellent. Critically important is the surgeon’s experience with amputations and their criteria for pain relief. I did not push for a nerve blocker in addition to pain meds when my cat was discharged and it turned out she did need them. We caught it within a day or two but I would push for it in in any case. Worst case Maebee doesn’t need it and you don’t have to administer it. But best to have it if needed, and hopefully someone on call at all hours if you have urgent concerns. You know your pup best so you can make the best call on this.

I was amazed at how well Yum Yum has adapted to 3 legs. She was up and walking as soon as she came home the day after surgery. Have a homemade “sling” to help your pup if needed but don’t be surprised if she gets along just fine! (tip: an old folded sheet works great) The one I got for Yum Yum has never come out of the package. LOL

Regarding being “cooped up” she will probably welcome quiet time to recover. It’s major surgery, after all. A chew bone with a little peanut butter (100% peanut, no sugar or sweeteners) or butter smeared on it will keep her busy until she conks out for a nap. Yum Yum kitty has a treat ball that rolls around. Also just being in the same space with her calmly reading, working on your computer, etc helps a lot. I used our XXL dog crate with a blanket over the top as a recovery quiet space. This helped also if I needed to enclose her while I ran errands etc. She spent most of week 1 in there by her own choice but is now out and about almost to her normal routine.

Best of luck in your research and decision making. 

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1 March 2021 - 7:13 am
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Hi there!  My dog Jake lost his left front limb to soft tissue sarcoma.  The oncologist and my vet gave me no other options but removal of the limb.  I was told radiation would be of no avail due to the cancer being in the elbow.  Check out Jake’s forum posts and you can see some videos of how quickly he recovered from the surgery.  

My ears perked when reading the other possible alternatives that Jerry spoke of.  I hadn’t heard of them and perhaps would have pursued that route first before amputation.  Jake is only 4 years old.  He is doing great but I do wish he could have had his leg longer!

The upside, I think, is that your pup is 12 years old so lived a good part of his/her life healthy and on all 4’s!  I wish you the best!  I also started a blog but have not wrote about his cancer journey yet.

Forum Posts: 21
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1 March 2021 - 2:12 pm
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Thank you for the reply.  The homemade sling is a good idea!   She’s a medium sized dog, 62 lbs at her last visit.  I am definitely going to get her a harness for after she heals up and can get in the car with me.   She normally goes pretty everywhere with me.  Her being able to get into my truck and onto our paddle board (which is her favorite thing) we’re concerns for me.  But I already have a really good life jacket that can be used to help pull her up.  I’m hoping that by fall maybe she’ll be pretty much back to her old self, swimming, hiking, snowshoeing.   A big concern is that this will keep her from some of her favorite activities but she is 12 now and maybe a change of pace will be good for her.   Lol.  Thanks for the advise.  I’ve been calling a few surgery centers in our area.  We live close to Denver so we have a lot of options.   Thank you.  

The Rainbow Bridge



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1 March 2021 - 4:31 pm
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Oh you lucky dog, Denver has some fantastic clinics. 

Even at 12, you’ll see that your girl can still have a great quality of life and do many of the things she loves, just modified a bit for her needs. Check our our Size and Age Matters Discussion for some great senior dog stories!

Keep us posted!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 12
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2 March 2021 - 10:29 am
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Maebees Mom, as for financial help if needed you could ask your Primary Vet if there are any Clinical Studies being done close by for Soft Tissue Sarcoma; We are currently dealing with our sweet boy having Osteosarcoma. Luckily he was accepted into a Study for treatment, which paid almost all the cost of his treatment. We had to pay a portion of his Amputation but thats all we are required to pay out of pocket..1500. VS the upwards of 10,000 was an answered prayer. We were referred to the Tripawds site by the Vet over the Study during our first conversation with him and there is soooo much helpful information here; Reading through others experiences, etc helped ease alot of our worries & fears as well as answered alot of questions when we were weighing all our options for Our Boy and EVERYONE is so supportive; I will definately keep you all in my prayers

The Rainbow Bridge



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2 March 2021 - 10:37 am
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Tiny’s mom that is so sweet of you to offer your input and experience (and thanks for the kind words!).

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Read my story here.

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Forum Posts: 12
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2 March 2021 - 10:38 am
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How far are you from Flint Animal Cancer Center? They are currently doing several different studies in regards to several different cancers. 

https://www.csu…..al-trials/

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2 March 2021 - 8:51 pm
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Thank you everyone for all the great advise.   I went ahead and scheduled an appointment in Denver on the 15th.  The clinic was recommended by a close friend of mine and I feel confident.  They already gave me a ton of information and they are more affordable than the specialist I’ve been seeing.  But I can still take her to the specialist for her rechecks.  I did fill out an application for a clinical trial of 2 radiation treatments for soft tissue sarcomas, but the clinic is an hour from us and I’m pretty confident with this amputation.  I haven’t looked at physical therapists yet.   I was hoping to get a recommendation from the specialist or from our regular vet.  When should her first appointment with the therapist be made?  And when will she be ready to go for car rides again.   I know every dog is different I’m just a little anxious about the surgery and mostly her recovery.   I want to make sure I’m doing the most to assure a full and speedy recovery.   I don’t want to push her.   I’m hoping that maybe a month after surgery it’ll start to warm up and we can start to go on short hikes or maybe even a little swimming.   I want to make this summer a good one for her as she’s adjusting to her new body.  I am a little worried about her losing some of her confidence.  She’s a brave girl, she’s a hell of a rock climber and loves being on top.  Maybe after this surgery she’ll finally slow down a little and start to act her age.  Thanks for all the information and support.  I love reading all the stories and have already learned so much.  I feel a little more prepared going into this with my girl.   

The Rainbow Bridge



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3 March 2021 - 9:56 am
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Wow you’ve done your homework, great job! Glad you found a clinic that you feel good about, that makes a big difference!

When should her first appointment with the therapist be made?

I would make it now, since therapists can have long waiting lists. Most like to see the new Tripawd about 10 days after surgery, or as soon as stitches are out. If you would like help finding a practice (many general practice vets aren’t always familiar with therapy practitioners), let us know. You have a lot of great ones to choose from in your area.

 And when will she be ready to go for car rides again. 

I would wait until the stitches are out so she can get in and out of the car comfortably, and as long as you have something to assist her while entering and exiting. We recommend the Ruffwear Flagline or Webmaster harness for dogs who go lots of places. The handle on top is indispensable.

 I’m hoping that maybe a month after surgery it’ll start to warm up and we can start to go on short hikes or maybe even a little swimming. 

A month might be a little soon but all dogs are different. That’s where a therapist really helps out, by showing you how to build stamina and strength safely so that she can do the things she loves. She’ll get there!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Read my story here.

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Forum Posts: 21
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3 March 2021 - 7:02 pm
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Thanks again for the advice Jerry.   I’ve already decided on the flagline.  It comes in her favorite color.  Lol.   I will give her plenty of time to heal, if it takes all summer then I guess we’ll have a fun winter.  She does love the snow.  I think I’ll start a blog for her so yall can see pictures of her and some of her adventures and of course her recovery and progress.  I’ll be researching physical therapists in my area tonight.  And I’ll keep yall updated on everything.  Thank you so much. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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3 March 2021 - 9:43 pm
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Awww we would love for you to start a blog! Yes we would very much enjoy watching her get stronger over time. Thanks for being an amazing, terrific part of the community!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

The Rainbow Bridge



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3 March 2021 - 9:43 pm
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Awww we would love for you to start a blog! Yes we would very much enjoy watching her get stronger over time. Thanks for being an amazing, terrific part of the community!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Forum Posts: 21
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27 February 2021
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17 March 2021 - 8:12 am
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Maebee had her operation.   She did really good through the surgery and the night.   I can go get her in a couple hours.  I’m so nervous to see her and bring her home.   I have a week off to lay low with her. 

Her first checkup with her regular vet is in a week and she goes to her physical therapy consultation the week after that and the week after that she has her first actual physical therapy session.   I am really excited about this place, she will get an hour and a half session which includes laser treatments for her arthritis.  We’re also going to do some acupuncture, I just can’t wait to see her recover and start to get stronger.  I’m excited to learn how to deal with this at her pace. 

All that said I am still very anxious to see her and bring her home.   I’m nervous about the first time getting her out of the car by myself, and taking her on her first potty breaks.  We have no stairs which is nice for her and rugs and floor runners in place.  I just bought her the Flagline harness , elevated her food bowls, put my bed on the floor and put a waterproof cover on it, her kennel is ready and she has a brand new bed.  We’re as prepared as we can be I guess.   She’s not a small dog but very fit and not over weight at all but I know losing a front leg is harder on their bodies than losing a hind leg and she already has a little arthritis in her hips. 

Anyways, I’m excited to see her and scared to bring her home.   The car is ready, I have a towel to use as a sling to help her but getting her out of the car when we get home is my biggest hurdle right now.  I’m just so scared to hurt her or rip her stitches. 

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