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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Treatment Decision for Brandy (8 year old Rotty) with Osteosarcoma
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Member Since:
15 May 2024
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15 May 2024 - 10:41 am
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Hi Everyone,

My name is Hunter, and I have a Rottweiler mix named Brandy that I co-own with my fiancé and my brother. We all live together. Brandy was a rescue, and we estimate she is between 8 and 10 years old. Recently, she was diagnosed with what appears to be osteosarcoma in her front right shoulder. Over the last month and a half, she went from limping to developing a small tumor, to now having a baseball-sized bone tumor. Despite this, she maintains a good appetite, wags her tail when she sees us, and goes to the bathroom (with support).

Since her initial shoulder x-ray and diagnosis on 4/19/24, Brandy has been on gabapentin 100mg (1-2 pills every 12 hours) and carprofen 50mg every 12 hours. Her blood work showed normal values, a 3-view chest x-ray showed no evidence of metastasis, and we are scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound tomorrow. Based on those results, she has an amputation appointment set for Friday.

Our vet recommended trying to bind her affected leg to see if she could get around on three legs before committing to amputation, but we couldn't find an effective way to do so. About a week ago, Brandy stopped using her affected leg and started dragging it around. Maybe I'm naïve, but to me, her ability to get around despite her bum limb demonstrates that she's ready to be a tripawd. Our hope is that with amputation, she can have a few additional quality months without significant pain. We do not plan on doing chemo after the amputation.

Here's where it gets complicated and where my questions start. My fiancé and I are getting married on June 15 and leaving for our honeymoon on the 18th—a month-long trip to Europe. We have saved for years and started planning and booking a full year ago. Prior to Brandy's diagnosis, the plan was for my brother to take care of her as usual. We all work during the day, so she spends a large chunk of the work hours at home alone, with the back door open for her, which has never been a problem.

With the diagnosis and the inability to reschedule our honeymoon, my brother will be her solo caretaker. My hope, although it may be naïve, is that with surgery this Friday (5/17), Brandy will have a large window of recovery—nearly a full month—where my fiancé, my brother, and I can support her. We hope that she will be in a more regular lifestyle by the time we leave. Maybe I am underestimating how much support Brandy will need in her new life. My brother works construction and is unavailable from 6 am to 5 pm every weekday. We hope that with a good recovery, she can exist independently during that window. We are going to lay lots of rugs and carpet on our hardwood floor, build a ramp for her to go down the stairs out the back door (only two steps), and set up doggy cams to monitor her virtually.

What's really keeping me up at night is whether we are doing the right thing. With our month out of the country and my brother's work schedule, are we setting ourselves up for failure? I understand that her life will be significantly different on three legs. I just want to see her out of pain. She's still so much herself mentally that the idea of euthanasia seems impossible, but maybe that is selfish of us. Are we making a decision for our own mental comfort and ignoring the reality of Brandy's new situation? I struggle to tell, and that's what's hardest.

I'm hoping to have some of you who have been through this weigh in with experience or advice. Are we underestimating the challenge of Brandy's new life? Have any of you navigated having a new tripawd and working/having to travel? What kind of additional support was needed that you did not initially anticipate? Any general thoughts or advice you would care to share?

Thank you all in advance.

Best, Hunter

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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15 May 2024 - 1:04 pm
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Hi Hunter, welcome. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so please post away!

I'm sorry you are coping with cancer, on top of all the stuff you have going on with the wedding (congrats, by the way!). Cancer and amputation is stressful enough but with all you have going on, I can see why you are so concerned. I would be too! Your concern shows how much you love her, and I'm glad you posted here. It sounds like she has some good years ahead, so of course she deserves a chance at life on three! 

The good news is that as long as your dog is otherwise healthy she should do fine on three legs. We've had many rotties join us over the years, and they really do better than their humans imagine. 

I'll be honest; I'm not a vet so FWIW, but I've interviewed many vet pain experts for our community, and it concerns me that she is on such a low dose of Gabapentin right now (generally, a dog that size would be getting 300mg at least 3x a day for pain, as well as an opioid when the pain is severe enough to show symptoms like she is showing now). I can't help but worry that her pain control will be less than optimal after surgery. I hope I'm wrong. It also worries me that your vet asked you to bind her leg to see how she would do. Has your vet had many large breed amputation patients? Binding a leg on a dog who is already painful just seems unnecessary, since it's common knowledge among vets that canine amputees do pretty well. Please have a conversation with your vet about pain management (follow the link for suggestions) to ensure her pain will be well controlled before, during, and after surgery. If it isn't, recovery is practically guaranteed to be more difficult than usual. Controlling pain is one of the most difficult parts. You will be there for most of it (generally you'll know in the first week or so if it's going to need fine-tuning).

Can Brandy get around fine without all-day help, a few weeks out of surgery? Again, most dogs will do fine. Usually dogs are on their own about a month out, but larger ones tend to take longer than smaller ones.

Most people do not take off more than a few days from work, then their dog is alone in a controlled environment at home. My guess is, she can do fine while your brother is at work, as long as everything goes as planned during the initial recovery. Usually it does, but there are times when things happen, like an incision infection, or uncontrolled pain, that delays recovery. Should an issue overlap while you guys are getting married and then leaving, you'll need a backup plan.

My suggestion is to have a plan for a pet sitter to come in and be with her at least once a day. Preferably one with a veterinary tech background, who can look for signs of problems like pain signals . And also have a veterinary boarding kennel in your back pocket just in case she needs more supervision, should she have some medical issues crop up. Hopefully the won't, but this would be good insurance since your brother needs to be at work all day. Ask your vet practice to refer you. They might even have a tech who can help out, or even offer in-clinic day boarding, and then take her home with them at night.

I wouldn't worry about making a ramp for two steps for her. If she's used ramps before without issues, that's fine to do. But if not, you don't want to test her now. Most dogs won't use ramps. They have poor depth perception and struggle with gauging distance to the ground, it makes them nervous. For two steps and a dog her size, she should be able to navigate them without any issues, even shortly after surgery. 

I hope this helps! Please keep us posted on how things are going by starting a new Recovery Topic so we can follow along. And congrats on the big day! smiley_clap

Member Since:
15 May 2024
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15 May 2024 - 1:29 pm
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Hi Jerry!

Thank you so much for the warm welcome and the detailed advice. I truly appreciate it during this stressful time.

We'll definitely have a conversation with our vet about Brandy's pain management . Your insight about the Gabapentin dosage and the use of an opioid for severe pain is really helpful. We'll ensure that Brandy's pain is well-controlled before, during, and after surgery. I'll also discuss your concerns about the binding suggestion with our vet to understand their experience with large breed amputations better.

Your reassurance about her potential to adapt to life on three legs is comforting. We’ll make sure to monitor her closely during the initial recovery phase and adjust our support based on her needs. I think the not knowing of what's to come is the most challenging part.

Regarding the post-surgery period and our honeymoon, your suggestions for a pet sitter with a vet tech background and a backup plan with a veterinary boarding kennel are excellent. We'll look into these options immediately so Brandy has the best care possible while my brother is at work.

We’ll rethink the ramp idea as well, considering your advice. It's a relief to know that she should be able to handle two steps even shortly after surgery.

Thank you again for all your support and congratulations. And a special thank you for founding this incredible community. It’s a huge help to pet owners like us navigating these tough situations. I will work on trying to make a recovery topic for Brandy to keep everyone updates


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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15 May 2024 - 5:39 pm
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Brandy is a very lucky girl to have so much support from you, your fiance and your brother. 

Jerry's advice has been spot on and the suggestions for any backup plans while you're gone is something everyone needs to do, whether they are in town or not.

Be sure and keep your brother connected with us here on the tripawd site and we can continue to support him if he has any questions or if any issues arise, etc.

With your honeymoon being a month away Brandy should be over the hardest part of recovery which is generally the first two weeks. A month out and she should be able to have adjusted to Mobility on three, Stitches would be out and any likelihood of infection would have generally passed.

FWIW As far as holding a leg up to see how well a dog will do on three, my vet said that would not be a good indicator at all. Some may stumble and fall and yet do really well on three, or some may not stumble or fall and have a longer adjustment n three. And as Jerry said, to try and hold up a painful leg is just not a good indicator of how well they would do.

Here's a link you can scroll through to find some reassurance on what to expect during recovery.

You are making a decision to give Brandy an extended quality pain free time for more loving and more spoiling. I have no doubt that is exactly what she would want and it is not a selfish decision at all. It's a decision made out of love.


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:
15 May 2024
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16 May 2024 - 9:31 am
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Hi Sally,

Thank you so much for your kind words and support. We try our best to give Brandy a strong support system to lean on, and your reassurance means a lot to us.

Jerry's advice has been incredibly helpful, and we’re already working on backup plans for when we’re away. We’ll definitely keep my brother connected here so he can get support and advice while we’re gone.

It’s comforting to hear that Brandy should be over the hardest part of recovery by the time we leave for our honeymoon. Knowing that she’ll likely have adjusted to mobility on three legs and be past the risk of infection is a huge relief.

Thank you for sharing your vet's perspective on holding a leg up as a test. It makes sense that it wouldn’t be a reliable indicator. We’re focusing on making her comfortable and ensuring a smooth recovery.

Thank you for the link and for reassuring us that our decision is out of love and not selfishness. We want to give Brandy as much quality, pain-free time as possible.

Much love to you, Happy Hannah, Merry Myrtle, and Frankie!


The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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16 May 2024 - 10:26 am
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I'm glad we could help and give you some ideas! Everything will work out, and by planning ahead you're making sure of that. Great job! smiley_clap

Member Since:
15 May 2024
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17 May 2024 - 11:27 am
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How do I upload photos? I was trying to share a photo of Brandy but couldn't quite figure it out. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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17 May 2024 - 7:11 pm
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Here's how adding images works, let us know if you have any questions.

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