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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Arya - Future Tripawd
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Member Since:
30 November 2022
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30 November 2022 - 12:02 pm
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Hello everyone! We have a 9yr old Australian Shepherd who, as of yesterday, has been diagnosed with bone cancer. The primary bone tumor is located in her R femur. In the beginning of October, I noticed she was doing a slight toe touch to the floor with her Right Hind. Seemed like it came out of nowhere. Our primary vet is so short-staffed and the soonest they could see her was early Dec. After waiting about a month with no cancellations occurring to fit her in, I took her to a vet that had availability an hr away from us. At the time, we just thought maybe she pulled a muscle as she is very active and full of energy. Early Nov we saw that new vet who thought she possibly had a CCL injury but recommended that we take her to an Orthopedic specialist for further exam and x-ray. About a week ago, Arya had a noticeable limp which really started to concern me so the Ortho vet was able to squeeze us in sooner for exam. After x-rays, the vet delivered the horrible news. He recommended amputating that rear leg as the x-ray showed no visible tumors in her lungs. It was a difficult decision for us to make but after thinking about it for a few hrs, we decided we will go through with the amputation as we know leaving it alone, the bone will eventually break and that will be excoriating. Will also do chemo for comfort/pain control after they run all the tests on the amputated leg. 

I found after doing a lot of research when trying to decide to amputate or not. My head is still struggling with "Is this the right thing to do?" but my heart and my gut is telling me it is. I am so overwhelmed by everything and absolutely heart broken to know our days are numbered. But it is a blessing that we were able to even have the option to amputate and have more days together. My husband is in the military and Arya has been with us since the beginning with every move. We have a big move coming up in February going from the East coast to the West coast and I am hopeful that we can have one last big adventure with Arya. She loves road trips. 

For anyone who has dealt with a rear-leg amputation - what harness do you recommend using post-op to help with going to the bathroom and going up 2-3 steps? I have been looking at the gear page but I just feel so overwhelmed by the options and worried I'll pick the wrong one. Thank you everyone  sp_hearticon2

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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30 November 2022 - 1:00 pm
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Hi Jenny and Arya, welcome. We are so sorry you are having to join our club, but glad you found us.

It's good you caught this pretty fast. Your original vet made a super smart decision to get her checked out by an ortho vet. Will the specialty clinic do the surgery or your primary vet?

I know it's hard to make this call. But you have articulated exactly why it's important to get rid of that bad leg if she's a candidate for surgery. Aussies are so resilient, she has everything on her side to bounce back and enjoy her life with you for however long she has left. Meanwhile try not to put a time stamp on her prognosis. We see many dogs live much longer than anyone expect, and now with new treatments like immunotherapy available, we are seeing even longer lifespans for dogs with osteosarcoma. We hope that Arya will be one of them too!

As for the harness, she can wear any of the ones in Tripawds Gear, but we love the Ruffwear Flagline best right now. It's easy to put on and off, and the top handle gives you the ability to help her when she needs it. She probably won't need help going potty, or even using a couple of stairs (longer staircases are the bigger problem). It's handy when you are traveling though, since the harness lets you lift her in and out of vehicles without placing unnecessary stress on her joints (the same concept applies to 4-legged dogs too!).

I hope this helps. If you have any questions just let us know, and your future posts won't need approval so post away!

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30 November 2022
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30 November 2022 - 1:25 pm
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Thank you for the encouragement and support, Jerry!  The specialty hospital (who gave us the diagnosis) will be performing the operation. They have a great orthopedic surgeon and surgical oncologist. The receptionist there shared her story with me about her GSD that had a rear leg amp due to cancer and I was surprised to learn how quickly dogs can adapt to being tripawd. She reminded me that dogs live in the moment, they don't live in the past and will just adjust to what is in the now. I am going to remind myself to do the same and live in the moment with hersp_hearticon2

So glad I found this amazing online resource and community, it has already been so incredibly helpful. Thank you for the harness recommendation as well! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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30 November 2022 - 8:49 pm
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You are so welcome. Sounds like you are all in great hands, what a great team! Feel free to give them a shout-out here:

Try not to worry (I know that's practically impossible). We are here to help so just holler with any questions or just to let us know how things are going.

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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30 November 2022 - 9:51 pm
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Hello and welcome.

I'm sorry you are dealing with cancer and amputation but glad you found us.  I will never forget when the vet told me my Pug Maggie would need a rear leg amputation- and that was back in 2006!  Maggie had mast cell cancer, the tumor around her knee could not be removed with adequate margins so I made the decision to amputate.

Maggie was not a dog who dealt well with change- she was really stubborn and set in her ways.  True to form she took about 6 weeks to decide she would be OK.  She was hopping on her own the day of surgery, there were no medical complications, no setbacks, just an obstinate Pug!  Once she decided she was OK with her new normal she hopped happily through life for almost 4 more years.  Most pups here take 2 to 3 weeks to get their sparkle back - Mag was definitely and outlier.

As far as the harness... I prefer the Webmaster.  I now have a Pug mix rear amp who lost her leg when she was 7 months old after being hit by a car. Elly is almost 8 years old now and wears her harness whenever we are out of the house.  I have tried the Frontline but it just doesn't fit her right. 

I live in a split-level house with several steps and Elly does them just fine, the longest run is 8 stairs.  Neither of my rear amps needed help with bathroom after surgery.

Where on the west coast are you moving?  I'm near San Francisco and we have a Tripawds group that gets together a couple times a year.

Do you have a surgery date set yet?

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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30 November 2022
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2 December 2022 - 9:19 am
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Karen- thank you for sharing Maggie's story, especially being that she was an outlier in terms of post-amp recovery. I am glad she did eventually adjust and adapt. It did bring a big smile to my face reading about her stubbornness as my SIL has a pug who is so set in her ways. If you move her carrier bag just one inch from it's dedicated spot, she throws a huge fit! One time, Arya made the huge mistake of just sniffing at her bag and got a barkful. She looked at me wide-eyed like, "Mom, help!" It was so funny!

Surgery date is scheduled for next week, December 7th. This morning I have been reading through more of the resources here as well as looking at pics people have shared post-op to mentally prepare myself. She is having the procedure done at M.A.S.H (Mid-Atlantic Animal Specialty Hospital). I never knew about AAHA accreditations until reading it on here this morning. This specialty hospital unfortunately is not AAHA accredited but I feel confident in the specialist/surgeon who saw her (hope I am not wrong). We were not able to talk face to face due to their strict COVID precautions, but his tone and communication to me over the phone really sat well with me. I was on the brink of hysteria and he really brought me a level of comfort I did not think would be possible upon hearing the dreaded 'C' word. Fingers crossed. 

We will be moving to San Diego; too bad it isn't a closer drive to San Fran! But thank you for bringing that up as that is something I would definitely be interested in seeking out. I am going to try to find a community in San Diego. I may need to rejoin facebook to expand my options, lol! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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2 December 2022 - 3:09 pm
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OK so big day coming up! I'm glad you've been preparing yourself so well. And yes, while AAHA-accreditation is the gold standard, it doesn't mean that your clinic is not awesome. In fact I looked them up and both surgeons are board-certified, which is another level of gold standard so YAY! Plus they have a terrific team doing rehab therapy, so if you're still there for at least a month or so after surgery, remember the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit

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