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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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Trying to make a decision - amputation or put down
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Forum Posts: 2
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23 January 2016
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23 January 2016 - 1:10 pm
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Bottom Line Up Front – I am trying to figure out the right choice to make, have our dog’s front right leg amputated or put him down. Background – We have several dogs. The one in question is a lab, hound mix named Tank that we rescued when he was a puppy. Normally about 100 lbs. Since the cancer diagnosis hes dropped about 20 lbs. About six months ago, we noticed what looked like an ankle sprain and took him to the vet. They took some X-ray’s and said he most likely had a form of cancer called osteosarcoma (sp?). They said he would most likely only live a few months and we could either amputate and do chemo, let him live out the time he had left, or put him down. If we chose amputation and chemo then he would be very sick for about a year and if he survived, he wouldn’t live more than a few months. We chose to let him live out the time he had left because we didn’t want to put him through pain and discomfort for no real reason. Now we are six months later and he is still kicking. He doesn’t get up a whole lot. He does eat and drink and when I come home he does get up and greet me at the door while wagging his tail. He also follows me around the house when I get home. Most of the time, he is laying down though. I have noticed his excitement get a bit less as well. A couple nights ago, he wasn’t even wagging his tail when I was giving him attention. His tumor on his leg has gotten so large that it has started to seep so we took him back to the vet hoping they could drain some of the fluid. The vet told us that our two options are to amputate or put him down. She also said the amputation will cost $1500 to $1800 which is pretty steep for us. On top of that, my wife is getting a major back surgery in about one week and will be recovering from that for about three months so we are worried about how he will recover without anyone really able to nurse him back to health during the day. He does get around on three legs right now so the vet said he is a good candidate but obviously there are a lot of things in play here. I don’t want to put him down but I also don’t want to move forward with the amputation because I am being selfish to Tank or my family and $1500 is a lot to spend when he could still go the next day. From what I’ve seen, most dogs only live about a year after their amputation even though there are rare cases of dogs living up to 5 years afterward. I called the hotline and talked to a wonderful woman named Sally who gave me some information on what to expect with recovery but would love any insight from others. How much extra attention and help should we expect tank to need during recovery? Is there a good place I can get the amputation done for under a grand but also trust to take care of my dog (We live in Michigan)? Is it putting him through a lot of pain for most likely limited additional life span? I’m sure there are other questions, as well. Any feedback, opinions, ideas, or information appreciated. Thank you.

The Rainbow Bridge

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23 January 2016 - 4:03 pm
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Hi Russ, welcome. Your future posts won’t require moderation so post away.

Yes, Sally is terrific, I’m so glad you called the Tripawds Helpline . Your situation is indeed tough, it’s a lot to consider. When it comes to this disease, you just never know. Some dogs do great and live a long time, and sadly some do not. It’s a lot like life, there are no guarantees. So while we can’t make the decision for you, what we can say is:

The pain is horrible. Think of your own leg bone slowly disintegrating. Owwwww right? Well, dogs are super good at hiding their pain, which is why your pup is still getting around. He doesn’t want you to know he’s hurting, dogs will do whatever it takes to not show their weakness. But I guarantee he is in pain. No doubt about that. It’s why he’s lost so much weight and why his personality is so changed. Something must be done, it’s the kindest thing to do. That is indeed NOT being selfish, it’s thinking of him.

So, have you tried working with your vet to bring down that surgery quote? One of the easiest ways is to bring him home the same day. It’s not easy that first night but it will save you some money.

Recovery is usually over within a week or two. Most dogs don’t need a lot of help getting around. If you have hardwood floors, you will need to put down throw rugs so he can get around. Slippery floors are a Tripawd’s worst enemy. As far as how much help he needs, it really depends on the dog but he sounds like a hearty fella who will do pretty good once that bum leg is gone. You can probably already tell that he’s a Tripawd even with that bad leg.

So I wish I could tell you that if you amputate it’s a sure thing that he’ll have a long time with your family. I can’t. But what I will tell you is that if you can see time through his eyes, and even if he gets a month, two months, whatever, of quality, pain-free time with the people he loves most, then that is a pretty darn good outcome. Remember, dog’s don’t see this world as we do, with timelines and dates and statistics. They just want to live every day to the fullest.

Be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List , it will answer a lot of your questions as will this great community who will chime in shortly.

Call or write with any questions OK?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Durham, NC
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23 January 2016 - 5:53 pm
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Poop. I typed a really eloquent reply (if I do say so myself) and the site killed it. 🙁

So sorry to hear about Tank. I have walked this mile and understand all the questions and tough decisions with which you are struggling. I faced a very similar situation with my Izzy, who is a senior dog. The cost of surgery was prohibitive and the prognosis not great but was fortunate enough to find a low cost option. It did require me to bring the ole girl home the day of surgery (scary!!!) but it all worked out and she has already outlived the estimated survival time (she’s 5 months post amp – front leg, osteosarcoma, discovered via a “pathological break”). I didn’t do chemo because of her age and the cost but she is happy and pain free.

That said, minus the incredible savings I was able to score and a little help from some angel donor, I would’ve had to put Izzy down. The reality is, even if that had been my path, I realize it would’ve been doing right by her. I couldn’t leave her in pain no matter how much heartbreak I would suffer by saying goodbye.

I know my time with her is running out, so I savor the sound of her snoring every day she’s with me. I know we are on borrowed time and I am so grateful to have it.

Tank is lucky to have you. You are clearly a good parent else you wouldn’t be agonizing over what to do. No matter which path you take, we are here for you and know you are making your decision out of love – Tank knows it, too!

Keep us posted and definitely ask the vet about an “outpatient surgery” option!

Amy & Izzy, too

Momma to the world's most beautiful American Bulldog, Izzy!! Lost her front leg to OSA 9/18/15. Diagnosed w MCT in June 2016. Celebrated her 1 year ampuversary with knee surgery on 9/18/16! MCT recurrence in Dec 2016. Happy & hungry til nearly 14, earning her wings on 7/31/17.

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23 January 2016 - 7:54 pm
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Thank you both for your feedback. This decision is very hard to make because they can’t tell you what’s going on like a human family member can and there are no facts to base your decisions on. Do either of you, or anyone else reading this, know how a big dog with bad back hips does when losing a leg? Since he was a puppy the vets have been worried about his back hips. We actually had to put him on a light diet to keep his weight below 100 lbs before the cancer because the vets were afraid his back hips would  give out if we didn’t. Does anyone have experience with a situation where the dog not only has cancer in their front leg but also bad back hips? I am sure losing that front leg will put more pressure and strain on the back hips. Any feedback is appreciated. 

Green Bay, WI

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23 January 2016 - 9:41 pm
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So sorry you are faced with this very scary, horrible situation. Our Dobe was 8 1/2 yrs old when we discovered cancer is his right front ankle. It was the most difficult decision we’ve ever had to make, but here we are, 19 months later and he’s doing great. Not everyone is as fortunate as us, but it does happen. We were told the life expectancy was about 1 year, too. Unfortunately no one but you can make this decision. I can’t speak to back hip issues, because Nitro doesn’t seem to be bothered by this.

The first week or so of recovery can be difficult – but again every dog is different; some sail through it just fine, others not so much. As far as price….have you heard of, or do you have Care Credit? It can be used for pets as well as humans, and is a credit card with no interest for varying amounts of time. We used it for Nitro’s surgery and it was a tremendous help.

One last thing….if you opt to do the surgery, commit to it whole-heartedly. It is a journey, sometimes difficult, oftentimes scary and stressful, but can also be very rewarding. We live in Wisconsin, where in Michigan are you?

Good luck, prayers coming your way that you figure out what is best for your whole family.

Paula and Nitro

Nitro 11 1/2  yr old Doberman; right front amp June 2014. Had 6 doses carboplatin, followed by metronomic therapy. Rocked it on 3 legs for over 3 years! My Warrior beat cancer, but couldn't beat old age. He crossed the Bridge peacefully on July 25, 2017, with dignity and on his terms.  Follow his blog entitled "Doberman's journey"

"Be good, mama loves you" free my beautiful Warrior

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23 January 2016 - 10:17 pm
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One other thing to consider before surgery is to have an x-ray done of Tank’s lungs.  Since it’s been 6 months since the initial diagnosis, there’s a possibility that the cancer has spread.  If it’s already in his lungs, then that may make the decision easier for you.

We also live in Michigan.  Murphy had his surgery done at MSU almost 3 years ago due to a different type of bone cancer.  He weighs about 50 lbs.  They charged us about $2500, which included the pain medications, the pathology, and his hospital stay.

The recovery is about 2 weeks, but is different for each dog, like everyone else has said.  It can be somewhat difficult, but others seem to sail right through. 


Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

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  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs



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24 January 2016 - 10:25 am
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Hey Russ!

Glad you decided to hop over here and start a topic for Tank!

Something you said in your first post, and you mentioned it over the phone, but I’m not sure we really addressed it specifically. Not sure what that first vet meant by saying “If you chose amputation and chemo he woukd be very sick for about a year.” That’s just NOT the case at all!! Sometimes the chemo can make a dog a bit nauseous for a day or two, but they give you pi@@s for that. On rare occasions it can make them feel badly and, if that’s the case, you discontinue the chemo and the dogs bounce back quickly.

As you can, the couple lf weeks of recovery can be tough at first (or not!), after that, dogs start enjoyi g life again without a painful leg!

Others will chime in who had dogs who had hip issues, or arthritis, or senuores, or their dogs were pretty chunky (ie my Happy Hannah!) and they did just fine. It’s clearly something you want to get checked out though with the Orthopedic Surgeon. From our conversation, I gather Tank isn’t on any meds for his hips at this point and has been maneuvering well on three legs for awhile now.

A Great Dane here, Atlas, had leg issues as well as Wobblers, an unsteady gait, etc. Two vets suggested euthanasia, the third said Atlas would do fine.. Atlas had the amputation and lived a full happy life for over two years!!

Continue your research, get him evaluated, xrays, etc. to ensure he’s a good candidate.

Is the Tramadol helping him be more comfortable with that leg?

I wish we all had a crustal ball. I wish there were guarantees. We gather as much data as we can. We do all the tests we can. It still is a crap shoot anyway you look at it! Ugh!

Again, there are NO right or wrong decisions! This piece of crap disease puts us in a position to make agonizing “forced choices”. Every person here has to evaluate their own personal circumstances. Every scenario is different, every dog is different.

Would LOVE to see a picture of Tank! Hint!

Stay connected and keep the questions coming. A whole lot of firsthand knowledge here!

Hugs to all!

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!

Norene, TN
Forum Posts: 1072
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27 January 2016 - 8:03 am
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Howdy and welcome!!

Well, I just want to chime in regarding Tank not showing he is in pain.

We forget that for animals, to show a handicap or pain in the wild was a sure fire way to be eliminated from the pack either by predators or other pack members. This is so instinctual for them that we have to remind ourselves just because their tail is wagging doesn’t mean they’re not suffering.

There are some signs for us furless mammals to acknowledge when they present themselves. You’ve hit on a few with the lack of appetite and personality changes. Also, panting and/or restlessness can be a sign. Our Melody becomes aloof when she’s not feeling well where Meesha is glued to us when she’s feeling poorly.

The key is to take any subtle changes seriously. I guarantee you, as small as they appear, they reflect huge maladies for our fur-babies.

Keep us updated!


Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.

"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."

- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey

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29 January 2016 - 6:44 pm
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at first read.. I started with so many opinions and of course jerry elegantly responded as usual. So Ill try to keep it simple.

I would agree “something” needs to be done. Its definitely painful.

Im sorry the vet originally stated hed be sick for a year on chemo.. that is soo so so untrue just for your future reference in case you face this again.. could a dog get sick.. yes.. but they have come a looong way with simple support counter acted meds given if needed where MOST dogs dont skip a beat, when properly monitored. 

Also agreeing to do xrays of lungs.. but  even if he had mets, sugery could still be an option. or if neither are an option for you even pallative radiation, where your goal would be comfort and not cure.  Cost will probably be about the same. TBH I cant believe your getting it that cheap, I paid quite a bit more, though mine was a specialist.(still paying it off on CC) I dont know if you guys have care credit out there, it allows financial assistance with often times 0 % or low % with payment plans. Each dog recovers differently some need more attention, other take off right away, but yes hell need some of your undivided attention for a couple weeks which is so short in the scheme of his time hes spent with your family.

I dont know if I was any help. but good luck.thoughts are with you.

Neka & steph

Angel Neka


2.5yr 3x cancer warrior survivor

Minneapolis, MN
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8 February 2016 - 4:01 pm
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Hi, I just wanted to share that I’m sorry you have to make this decision. It’s a really tough one. I hope you have peace with whatever you decide. The love of a dog is priceless, and I’m sure he feels the love you have for him. 

Anita - mom to two human kids and two dog kids. 

Chloe the white boxer - tripawd on 2/16/16 at age 6.

Here and Now

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8 February 2016 - 5:17 pm
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anitalynn said
Hi, I just wanted to share…

Welcome Anita, and thanks for your feedback!

Your future posts will not require moderation.

Shannon Knight
23 October 2019 - 12:42 am
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Hi everyone,

My name is Shannon, and I just went through having my little 14 lb dog getting his leg amputated.

Please feel free to visit my Tripawd dog Louie’s Facebook page, called Louies Logic. He is a Fawn colored 12-year old Italian Greyhound.  We both have been through cancer. He had his front left shoulder and leg amputated on October 4th, and I kept all his followers in the loop. He had everyone supporting him (and me) He is running, hopping and happy not even three weeks out. I am still in shock.  Cancer hurt him; it was hot and looked like it was going to explode 🙁 For Louie and me, it was the right decision not to put him down and worth every penny I spent.  Even the RX afterward, a couple of hundred dollars more.  

I don’t judge people, my first kneejerk reaction out of compassion was omg do I need to put my little buddy to sleep? Then I started watching videos and joined a facebook group and saw so many survivors happy and doing great. UCLA told me I was going to die in 2010 with stage 4 breast cancer. They gave me 3-12 months. Naaah, I went to CMN Hospital in Mexico for alternative medicine and never did chemotherapy.  So,  here I am celebrating October 15th, 2019, my eighth anniversary. 

Louie dog and I are BOTH celebrating.  You can see a video of Louie two weeks out after surgery running around to his favorite song with no pain killer only honest paws CBD oil

I wish you all the best!! 

Shannon Knight

The Rainbow Bridge

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23 October 2019 - 9:07 am
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Thank you for sharing your story Shannon, congratulations to you and Louie! Please feel free to register as a member and start a new topic since this one is over three years old. Keep on hoppin!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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