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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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A remarkable story - Holly, Black Lab, 6 and a half years young
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Claire Astle
16 March 2008 - 3:54 pm
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Happy Three Legged Lab HollyImage Enlarger

Having found your website, I felt I had to give hope to owners everywhere who have had a dog diagnosed with cancer at it's worst - an osteosarcomma.

In October 2004 our puppy (albeit 2 and a half years of age), Holly, started limping on our usual walk. We took her to the vets who advised that nothing appeared to be wrong and that it may be a strain and to rest her.

A few days later, still limping, we took Holly back to the vets. Our vet suggested we leave Holly in for an xray. I asked anxiously 'Do you think it is serious'. My vet replied 'No, not at such a young age, probably just a ligament injury'.

Later that day the phone range - it was our vet. 'I have some bad news' she said 'We're not 100% sure, but we think Holly has Cancer'. My heart sank. Surely not. Not Holly. She was only 2 and a half years old. Just a pup.

Myself, my partner and my mom collected Holly from the vets and were shown the xray. It was heart renching. The bone on top of her left hind leg was black, like there was no bone at all.

'There must be something you can do' I asked. My vet replied 'Yes, we can recommend a specialist in Castle Donnington and he should be able to see her fairly quickly'.

We eagerly agreed and 3 days later, Holly saw the specialist, Mr Robinson. As I walked her down the car park, having seen the x-rays, he was amazed that she even walk.

'It could be cancer or it could be a loss of blood supply to the leg' he stated. 'We cannot do a biopsy as the leg is likely to fracture, but we will keep Holly in for an MRI scan and we will go from there'.

That day, the MRI was completed and still inconclusive. Holly was put on Metacam and we were told to rest her. No going upstairs, up/down steps. Pure rest.

We followed his instructions emphatically. We even moved our bed downstairs so that Holly was not alone! We took Holly back in February for another MRI and noticed a marked improvement.

We nervously waited to collect Holly and for her results. As we sat in the waiting room, I had a million 'what ifs' running through my mind.

'Holly Astle' a voice shouted. We entered the waiting room. 'Good news - the bone appears to have rebuilt'. My partner and mom burst into tears. 'Thankyou, thankyou' we said as Mr Robinson put up the new xrays which showed the bone, totally reformed.

The relief was immense. We travelled home, our nightmare was over.

A week later, Holly was limping again.

I called Mr Robinson immediately. I remember it vividly. I was a Saturday morning. 'Hello Mr Robinson, this is Claire Astle, Holly Astle's owner. 'Holly appears to be in some discomfort again and is limping.'

'Unfortunately' came a voice down the other end of the phone 'I wont be able to see Holly today, as we are fully booked. I suggest you take her back to your vets' he said coldly.

Take here back to my vets? I had paid over £2,500 pounds to this man and he says 'too busy, take her back to your vets'. I was absolutely seething. How could he? How callas?

I took her to my vets and they believed it was athritis. Dissatified with the prognosis, I requested that Holly got a second opinion. My vet recommended Cambridge University where she had studied and made us an appointment.

We had an awful 3 hour journey there. Holly was terribly uncomfortable as we had had to stop the Metacam so the specialists at Cambridge could see her at her worst.

As the vet examined her I watched his every move. 'I am sorry' he said 'but I strongly believe Holly has a tumour'. Our world was shattered. How could this be? The bone had rebuilt? Surely it was athritis like we had been told.

Holly's first biopsy came back inconclusive. The second, confirmed our worst fears. 'We have had the results back and it's not good news I'm affraid. Holly has something called an Osteosarcoma, a rare bone tumour of either the periosteal or parosteal nature'. I felt tears streaming down my face.

'What are our options' I asked quietly. 'Well you can either leave Holly as she is on Metacam (which surprisingly seemed to be keeping the pain at bay), continue with the Metacam and have Chemotherapy or thirdly, remove the limb plus chemotherapy' said the specialist.

'What would you do' I asked, desperately seeking advice. 'If she were my dog, I would opt for option 3, as this would give Holly the best chance of survival'.

I knew in my heart of hearts that this was the right thing to do. Although the surgery would be terrible complicated (as Holly's tumour was around the femoral head at the top of her leg, and they would have to take part of the pelvis) we had to give her the best chance of survival. Holly was given a 60/40 chance of survival of the operation.

We took Holly to Cambridge University hospital on Tuesday 7th June 2005 for here operation on Wednesday 8th June. My mom still says to this day that she was amazed that I managed to drive home. It was one of the most awful moments of my life. Leaving her there. Not knowing if we would ever see her again.

The day of the operation came and I sat, eagerly awaiting news. I watched the clock, second by second go past, waiting for the phone to ring. Shortly after 1pm, the phone rang.

'Hi, is this Miss Astle' asked a young girl. 'Yes, it is' I gulped. 'This is X from cambridge veterinary hospital. Just to ket you know, Holly is out of theatre and doing well'.

'Thankyou, thankyou' I cried.

Holly continued to do well and on Saturday morning, we recieved a call from one of the leading specialists, Thomas.

'Hi Miss Astle, this is Thomas from the Veterinary Hospital. Just to let you know, there is absolutely no reason why Holly can't go home.'

We stopped the dinner, picked my mom up and went armed to the hospital with flowers and wine for the specialist. As Thomas bought Holly in my mom and partner, Nick, burst into tears as our half shaven, little girl hopped in, so happy to see us.

Holly continued to do well, went through her chemotherapy sessions and now almost three years later, continues to be the happy, bossy, much loved dog she always has been. We take each day as it comes hoping and praying that the cancer will never return.

Having three legs hasnt changed her in the slightest, it has just made her even more precious to us.

So please, don't loose hope or feel that a three legged dog would not have a good quality of life. Ask Holly - she has the best life any dog could wish for.

Claire Astle








On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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18 March 2008 - 10:32 pm
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Claire and Holly,

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful and inspiring story! Wow, three years out? That is awesome! Send us a photo so we can see what this lovely pup looks like. Meanwhile, what kind of chemo did Holly have? And what about her diet? If you can, feel free to share your secrets for your amazing longevity! Congratulations, and thanks again for sharing.


Jerry G. Dawg 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Claire Astle
20 March 2008 - 3:11 pm
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 Hi Jerry

Holly had a course of 6 carboplatin injections. Although the first session made her quite poorly sick, the follow sessions went well.

As for Holly's diet, she has James Wellbeloved Senior/Light Dog Food twice a day and then as many carrots as she like throughout the day (and belive me, she likes!).

I will send you a photo but I am still trying to work out how!!!!

Take care Jerry xxx


On The Road

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24 September 2009
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20 March 2008 - 11:06 pm
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Claire Astle said:

I will send you a photo but I am still trying to work out how!!!! 

Try to upload your photo here. Thanks for the update!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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20 March 2008 - 11:22 pm
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D'oh! You already did ... thanks! Holly is as beautiful as I expected!

I should have my people check their email before replying next time...


Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Manchester, UK
Member Since:
2 February 2008
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11 April 2008 - 5:15 pm
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Approaching 3 years?!  FANTASTIC!!!

*eyes leaking on the keyboard*

 Thanks for tellling us Holly's story Smile   Long may her happy times continue Laughing

Bev & Darcy (6 months post amp)

Oldham, UK

Darcy – tripawd since 16th October 2007.

***Darcy would love to be your friend on Facebook - just search for Darcy Deerhound***

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