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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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This should be the happiest time but I'm terrified
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Forum Posts: 19
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28 June 2016 - 11:29 am
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Hello – two nights ago in a panic I went to the tripawds live chat and luckily had a few people calm me down but at this point I’m really struggling as a pup owner. 

Quick background: My 11 year old shep mix Rufio for the past year or so would limp for a day after playing but after 24 hours he was perfectly fine. Then, 2 weeks ago he was limping for a week so I took him to the vet to basically have the floor drop from under me (as Murphy’s mom would say) with the almost certainty of Osteosarcoma. I thought he had a sprain but no, the awful news was delivered. Also, Rufio had fractured his leg already but he’s so dang stoic I had absolutely no idea. I scheduled a biopsy but got a second opinion and cancelled it – I didn’t want to have to put my boy through any more pain and anesthesia than he needs to. Went to an onoclogist and did the staging to find that his cancer hasn’t metastasized to his lungs (literally the best news you can get in a horrible situation). I’m waiting to hear back about the blood test and discussing the next steps aka amputation.

Why I’m struggling so so much:

I’m suppose to get married in 3 weeks and then leave for a week on my non-refundable honeymoon. This should be the happiest time of my life but unfortunately I spend my days and nights just crying non-stop it feels like (and he hasn’t had surgery yet!). How would you expect your dog to be 2.5-3 weeks post op with a surgery like a front right leg amputation? I have plenty of family and friends who would watch him but I’m not for certain I’d be worry free – he’s been my sidekick since I rescued him, he really only trusts me.

I’m so conflicted on this but also, how can a vet/specialist be certain based on an xray alone that it’s cancer? I live in Colorado so fungal infection is unlikely but what if it’s just some bone marrow leakage from his fracture? I’m so scared to be taking his leg when it could be not necessary. I know these probably are all concerns of the individuals here and are not new so hopefully someone can help me feel just even slightly more calm about it all. I just want to stop worrying about him – he’s still limping but trying to chase bunnies, play with our other dog, etc. He’s still himself and such a fighter if he’s in that much pain (he’s on rimadyl and tramadol).

Also, post-op, how closely do you need to keep an eye on your dog and for how long? I can only take so much time off work and my fiance as well so we aren’t sure what to expect but dangit we will do all we can for him.

Thank you.crying

The Rainbow Bridge



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28 June 2016 - 3:24 pm
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Hi there! I’m so glad you posted here so that we can help.  It was nice talking to you in the chat the other night. I had no idea you’re in Colorado: so am I! Where is Rufio being treated? If you are on the fence you can also have your vet consult with Colorado State’s Argus Institute. It’s on a donations-basis and they are always happy to help.

Of course there is a very slim chance that it’s not cancer you’re dealing with. We always hope for that when we hear the news. But it sounds like you’re getting all the best care and working with people who know and see these situations every day. If you were working with a small town family vet that would be a different story altogether.

As I mentioned in the chat, if his leg is fractured and needs to come off anyways, there is no point in delaying amputation. He is in pain, and just not showing it. Dogs do that. Remember, they’d get eaten in the wild if they showed pain. Try to put yourself in his paws and imagine how terrible you’d feel walking around with a broken limb. Ouch!

The stress of all that you’re going through right now is a given. It’s bad enough to deal with this but a wedding too? Wow. No wonder. Is there any way you can go get a massage and maybe just spoil yourself for a day so you can relax and breathe better? If there’s a sport or outdoor activity you love doing, DO IT. Get your mind and body in a better place so you can be strong and cope with the situation, and of course enjoy your awesome wedding too.

Most dogs are moving around within a few days and doing a million times better in about two weeks. If you have friends and family who can be there for him while you’re away, you are SO LUCKY! Take advantage of that. Odds are he will just be resting and sleeping most of the time anyways. Once you see him he will be so excited to see you and he’ll be a million times better and stronger too.

Stay tuned, more will chime in OK? Hang in there. We’re here for you.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Minneapolis, MN
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28 June 2016 - 3:46 pm
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Hi:

One thing I thought of right away – would you really be any better off or enjoy your honeymoon more if you delayed?  I think you’d be every bit as worried – maybe more so.  If you can get amputation scheduled quickly and he is past those initial days before you leave, I think you might be more at ease knowing you’ve already taken the most significance step you can to fight the cancer.  

My boy has a different cancer, but also had been limping on and off for a full year prior to diagnosis and amputation and is similar size to your boy and is 11.5 years old.  He, too, was unbelievably stoic till he just couldn’t be anymore.  Two weeks prior to the amputation, we started him on Gabapentin (combats nerve pain) in addition to Rimadyl and Tramadol.  Partly because his was a nerve sheath tumor and partly because our surgeon and anesthesiologist both believe managing pain in advance of the op means pain is already better controlled post op.  And I believe it because he did really, really well almost immediately post surgery.  EVERY dog is going to be different and of course, none of us can promise you what Rufio’s experience will be like.  But this is our experience and the wisdom I think I have gained from it.  

You can look at my blog for some more info or other posts.  But these two posts have videos of Pofi – they are from one month post surgery and 6 and 7 weeks, but believe me, he was actually climbing the stairs the first night home.  Some of his ease also comes from the fact he was a virtual tripod for several weeks prior to the surgery – he was completely non weight bearing on his front left for at least the last month, maybe 6 weeks.

Pofi 6 weeks post

Pofi Week 4 and Week 7

Very best thoughts for you and Rufio.

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 Daddy and I miss him terribly along with his canine sister, Mia, and two feline siblings, Lucia and Cliff.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Virginia




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28 June 2016 - 4:22 pm
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Okay…deep nreaths….B R E A T H E…..B R E A T H E…….B R E A T H E!!

As you can already see, you have come to the best place for information support and understanding! This kind of news knocks you to your knees without question! But then, like all of us, you get yourself together, you do your research, and you move forward with the treatment plan. A biopsy is often inconclusive anyway. And it can be quite painful and sometimes become infected.

You have gotten great advice already, plus I’m sure you got great Insight from being in the chat room . Rufio has a fractured leg. A decision does need to be made regardless. For whatever it’s worth, even if this was not that piece of crap disease, repairing fractured legs can often end up with amputation anyway. Many times there are infections that are involved or the surgery has to be done over or it never heals quite properly. Of course, that is not always the case but we do see it happen here.

Obviously amputation is major surgery and, just like with humans, major surgery has risk. It sounds like you have good Insight from your vet who is familiar with these types of things and can read xrays very well. We all understand far too well how scary and panicked you are. We understand the Heartbreak, the fear and the uncertainty. We also understand the relief and joy when we get to see how well our dogs do without that painful leg. Recovery is no picnic for about 2 weeks. Most dogs, not all, start hopping around within 24 to 48 hours. They act as though they never needed a fourth leg anyway. Recovering from the surgery itself can be full of ups and downs. It hurts. Getting the pain medicine balanced and managed properly can take a little bit of tweaking. You can expect some restless nights the first several nights as Rufio tries to get comfortable and has trouble doing so. We are all here to help you through the recovery and onto a journey of quality and pain-free life. It is wonderful that you have friends who will come and take care of Rufio. Have them stay connected with us and stay connected with the vet and you should have no worries.

Generally, not always, the first week is the roughest. You’ll be home for that. The second week you should, again, not always, see signs of his sparkle starting to come back. The “hard “‘part is done! And sure, sometimes older dogs take a bit longer to get their sea legs and recover from the surgery itself. These are just “general” recovery guidelines.

And here’s what you need to know to be true!! Are you ready? RUFIO WANTS YOU TO ENJOY YOUR HONEYMOON!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 It would hurt his feelings if he thought you were not having a good time because you were worrying about him!! And you know what? As crazy as it is, some dogs seem to perk up when they are around people who haven’t been so invested in their caregiving and who aren’t so emotionally and physically exhausted! Their energy can be a lot more confident and stronger and that will help Rufio heal even faster!

Oh, and in addition to deep breaths…..eat lots of CHOCOLATE!! It helps calm the nerves…..and then go work out and get a massage! 🙂

Lots of hugs and lpve ro all!heart

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!

Michigan
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28 June 2016 - 9:42 pm
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When Murphy had his surgery, my adult son was living at home.  He had his surgery 4/4 and just over 2 weeks later, we left on a vacation we had planned.  We were out of the country, so our cell phones didn’t work, but we had wifi in the room, so we were able to keep in touch through facebook .  At least once a day we were able to get in touch.  By the time we left Murphy was weaned off of his medications and was eating pretty good, so I was pretty confident that he would be ok while we were gone.  If you have family that can take care of him, that’s great!  So many people don’t have that.  The timing isn’t perfect, but just like kids, our fur babies tend to do that to us lol. 

Did you look at Rufio’s x-rays?  Would it help to compare his with others?  I have Murphy’s someplace ..I can’t seem to get into them tonight, but I can look later or tomorrow.  I know it looked like a fat area with bubbles or holes in it – where it was eating away at the bone.

Donna

Donna, Glenn & Murphy  http://murphyh......pawds.com/

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old.  He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  

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28 June 2016 - 11:25 pm
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I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with this. You’ve already gotten so much great advice.  Maybe my story will help a little (when I was researching osteo trying to make my decision, I ready every first hand account I could about people having to deal with this for their pets and it really helped me, plus it brought me here).  I took Clyde in because he was limping the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. My vet said the x-rays showed a bad area and had a fungal infection blood test done. The following Tuesday he confirmed it was negative and said it was likely osteo. I’d spent the entire weekend crying my eyes out and researching everything I could find on osteo, and so after thinking about it for a day, I scheduled his surgery for that Friday.

Surgery went well. Osteo was confirmed by a biopsy of the tumor in his removed leg – a bone biopsy is the only way to tell for sure. My vet initially said that we would need to biopsy the bone first and then do the amputation later. I did not want to do that because a bone biopsy is painful from what I’ve read (and my vet confirmed) and since it was probably osteo, what was the point. After talking to the vet further, we agreed to just go forward with the amputation and have the biopsy done then.

Clyde’s initial recovery was fine (what is that doctor term they use, something like “unremarkable”), but he did not bounce back immediately like other stories I’ve read here. Its hard not to compare, but try not to. Each dog is different and each will react in their own way. Clyde seemed “depressed” to me for a few days, although he got around pretty well. I had lots of episodes of questioning my decision at first. He began to improve when the Fentanyl patch came off on day nine- he perked up. By the time he got his staples out (two weeks), he was doing really well. And now he’s doing great – I posted a video of him at three weeks post amputation in his thread called “Clyde’s progress” if you want to see how one three week post amputation dog is doing. For me, once I made the decision to go forward I felt so much better about everything. And now that we are three weeks out I can absolutely say it was the right decision for us no matter what happens down the road.

As for your timeline – honestly, I think that if you can get the surgery done right away (if that is what you decide to do) at least the roughest part will be past him by the time you leave. His wound will have healed enough to have the staples removed by then, so you won’t have to worry about that. I happened to be on medical leave myself when Clyde had his surgery and so was with Clyde all day, but can honestly say that would not have been necessary for him. Again, each dog is different but Rufio will be on painkillers – Clyde was pretty out of it most of the time because of them and slept most of the time.

You will need to make sure he’s confined in some way until those staples come out – I used an x-pen because Clyde’s cone of shame was too big to fit in his crate. I didn’t see if you mentioned whether your house has stairs – if it does, I know others created basically a ground floor bedroom situation at first so that the dog wouldn’t be tempted to try to take the stairs.

Its a terrible thing to hear and so unexpected. The timing for you is so hard as well. But as others have said, take a deep breath. You are going to do the best for your guy no matter what you decide to do because you love him and are doing everything you can to help him. The people here are the best and honestly, I would have probably had a breakdown had I not found this site. So keep asking questions, everyone is so helpful.

Clyde’s Mom

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29 June 2016 - 4:46 am
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I think Susie’s mom had to leave for a month long business trip shortly after Susie’s amputation, and all went well.  Do you have a friend or family member who can watch Rufio while you are gone?  Rufio might still need some meds at weeks 2 1/2 to 3, but that should also be a time when there is improvement everyday.  Otis was able to jump up on the sofa in week 3.  He still got pain meds at night, but just 1.  I was back to work, so he did not need full time supervision (week 1 I would recommend it).  I was still sleeping on the first floor (too soon for lots of stairs for us) on a mattress with him.  I think my first business trip was toward the end of week 3 – hard to leave him, but he did fine.  Perhaps take the volunteer caregiver with you to staple removal (about day 10) and first chemo (if you decide to do chemo) so they hear first hand what to expect?  And make sure they have access to this site.  It is amazing how quickly this community responds to questions!

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.

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29 June 2016 - 9:10 am
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Oh my gosh, you are so wonderful. I am so beyond happy I found this site and all you saints. Just reading your stories and blogs has made me feel so much more comfortable with my decision. God bless all of you who take the time to respond to scared people like me!

I just love Jerry’s story as it hits so close to home! I’d love to meet up with other tripawds in Colorado once Rufio is better adjusted to his tripawd-ness. Currently Rufio is being treated by Dr Lori at the Animal Emergency and Specialty Center in Parker. I did have a chance to talk to a surgeon at CSU who suggested a fine needle aspiration prior to taking a limb – she never wants to take a limb that’s not necessarily cancerous. It’s weird though because, none of the 2 vets or the oncologist suggested this…Anyways, he has his amputation scheduled on Friday morning and I feel a sense of relief just having it scheduled. It does sadden me greatly when I see his leg now…the coloring on it always made it look like he had a sock on and random strangers would always comment on his sock 🙂 I’m definitely reconsidering my cry sessions in front of Rufio too – you’re right, I need to be strong for him. Thank you for the quick reply as well.

Hester – Pofi does remind me a lot of my boy and seeing the videos of him post op is very encouraging. Rufio is currently on those three drugs as it is now since he’s walking on a fractured leg – I never thought having those drugs in him before would help for post surgery. Thank you for responding and sharing your story as well.

Benny – you crack me up, you’re right, I need to just breath…and you’re also right, to heck with my wedding diet, chocolate is my friend now! I’m preparing for the first couple days with him home this weekend and I need to remember to just have hope. Thank you.

Donna – Hello again and thank you for keeping up with my sad story. Dogs sure are resilient, aren’t they? Unfortunately, Rufio’s blood work came back yesterday with a high ALP meaning his tumor/cancer is highly aggressive trying to regenerate the bone (at least this is ho I understood it). I ask the oncologist if this was pretty much more evidence this is definitely cancer and she said she can’t say with 100% certainty since we didn’t do a biopsy but that yes, this in her opinion is cancer. Regardless of cancer or not, his bone is so unhealthy his leg would never heal so, I guess that’s my answer. Thank you for offering to look at the x-ray though! Much appreciate the suggestion.

Clyde’s Mom – again, the more similar stories I hear the more I do feel much better about my decision. It also seems like no one regrets the surgery (at least that I’ve read about) in the end so I’ll try to be more thoughtful of the process and keeping the faith that the first 2 weeks are rough. You may hear from me more though during that time, just a heads up! Thank you again.

Otisandtess – My mom has offered to watch him while we go, I just worry because she has a lot of steps and all wood floors. May just have to find some other alternative out, I don’t want to leave Rufio with an obstacle course 3 weeks post op! That’s a great idea though to make sure whoever is watching him knows about this wonderful community – everyone is so quick and helpful, it’s truly amazing. Thank you.

As if I haven’t said it enough, thank you all so much. I’ll definitely be checking back in on Saturday once I get to pick my boy up from surgery. Fingers crossed all goes well.

Kristie

Michigan
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29 June 2016 - 11:31 am
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Kristie ~

We’re so quick to reply because we all know how it feels!  We know the despair, the fear, the sadness that comes with the diagnosis (or even if the leg has to come off due to an injury, that’s usually very sudden, too).  Sally (Benny55) is always our shining star!  She always knows just the right thing to say to everyone heartAnd the amazing thing is, in just a couple of weeks, you will find yourself on here offering support to someone else in your shoes … it’s a giant circle.

Last night I was trapped in the bedroom with the dogs while DTE replaced our gas meter due to a leak, so I only had my laptop.  Here are the pictures of Murphy’s x-rays, maybe seeing them will help you compare to Rufio’s.  The picture on the left was about a month before the one on the right.  20130327_111200_zpsxpgcez0q.jpgImage Enlarger

On this side view, you can see where the tumor was really eating away at the bone.  Murphy didn’t have a fracture, but it was just a matter of time.  He was on pain medication and could still walk on this leg.   20130327_111254_zpslmtrwoce.jpgImage Enlarger

Donna

Donna, Glenn & Murphy  http://murphyh......pawds.com/

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old.  He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  

Donna.png

The Rainbow Bridge



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29 June 2016 - 4:34 pm
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Donna, I hadn’t seen those x-rays. May I add them to our gallery?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Michigan
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29 June 2016 - 4:35 pm
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Of course!  

Donna, Glenn & Murphy  http://murphyh......pawds.com/

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old.  He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  

Donna.png

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29 June 2016 - 4:45 pm
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Okay, I’m struggling, how do you upload a picture? blush

Minneapolis, MN
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29 June 2016 - 4:50 pm
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Don’t be embarassed!!  

This thread will help: Uploading Photos

Essentially, the photos don’t get directly uploaded – they have to be hosted somewhere else like Flicker or Photobucket.

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 Daddy and I miss him terribly along with his canine sister, Mia, and two feline siblings, Lucia and Cliff.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

The Rainbow Bridge



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29 June 2016 - 4:55 pm
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Thank you Hester!
If you need any assistance just bark.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
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29 June 2016 - 4:59 pm
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Thank you Hester, so helpful!

Here’s is Rufio’s fracture and cancer area…it’s peculiar because it’s not huge and it’s not near the elbow or wrist…it’s right in the middle. Hence why we were hesitant on whether this was “clearly” Osteosarcoma. Anyone ever experience this?

Rufio3Image Enlarger

Another random side note, any suggestion on sturdy dog ramps for cars? Both Rufio’s dad and I have Jeeps and one is lifted! I just don’t want him hobbling on one leg from the get-go and sliding off a ramp.

Thanks!!

Kristie

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