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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Elko's story: 10 year old Leonberger bounces back from osteosarcoma
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Forum Posts: 5
Member Since:
3 February 2009
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6 February 2009 - 9:03 pm
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Hello out there …

My husband and I are parents to a fantastic Leonberger guy named Elko. He's 10 years old this June and we've cherished every day we've had with him since he was an 8-week-old fuzzball. (Yes, even during the chewing stage that lasted two years..) We had Elko's half-brother, Rudy, for 8 years and lost him to osteosarcoma two years ago. His tumor was far advanced before it was found and an amputation was not possible. This case was, thankfully, different–we had a warning.

Elko broke his right rear tibia just lying down on his bed last Friday. Our vet told us, “Not good at all,” and sent us down to the oncology dept at the vet teaching hospital (Ft. Collins, CO) the following Monday morning. He was evaluated and his lungs and bloodwork looked good. We were given our options: comfort care (radiation, pain meds) followed in a few weeks or less by euthanasia; amputation and chemo, with the possibility of having him with us for another six months to a year. They do limb-sparing surgery there but Elko was not a good candidate due to his age and size. (He is 115 lbs nowadays and about 30″ at the shoulder.) The rate of complications even in young dogs is high.

My main question for them was about the quality of his life post-surgery. I thought that a giant breed would have a very bad time on three legs and that, at his age, his other legs would have a hard time supporting him. The oncologist admitted that these concerns were valid but she felt that Elko had some big pluses on his side: he is very lean and in very good physical shape. (He's never been a chow hound and he gets loads of exercise out in the boonies of WY with two active doggie siblings.) He has perfect hips–no dysplasia in sight (unlike his brother, Rudy, who had major dyplasia)- and very little signs of arthritis. She really thought it was worth giving him the chance. I was also feeling negative about chemo because we've currently got both a dear relative and a friend (humans) who are suffering through chemo and I didn't know if I wanted Elko to face the hell they are going through. I was told that chemo is generally much easier on dogs, because you are going for good quality of life rather than extending life as long as possible. So you don't hammer them with the most toxic drugs.

So we went with the amputation and it was done that afternoon. Elko came home the next day and we have been very lucky in how well he has done. Tuesday night and Wednesday were hairy because he needed lots of help with the sling to get around. But mostly he wanted to sleep and that really seemed to restore him more than any drugs. He been on Tramadol only and his incision was not bandaged. Yesterday (Thursday) and today he has steadily improved. He is able now to hop around the house on his own and to go out for potty breaks. (Thought we'd never a poop again but it finally happened this morning..) The most heartening thing of all is his cheery attitude. He smiles, wags his tail and bare butt, and generally seems to be his usual happy self. He still sleeps a lot but not like the first two days and we will slowly back off on the meds.

This is getting long–I can be terribly chatty when it comes to our dogs, I'm afraid….But that's our story and where our hero is now!

The Rainbow Bridge



Forum Posts: 28747
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6 February 2009 - 10:21 pm
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Hi there! Thank you for sharing Elko's story with us. You don't have to worry about being too lengthy, that's what this place is all about, sharing our stories!

What a coincidence, my pawrents just spent a week with a Leonberger. They are such beautiful dogs.

Wow, you have been through so much with Elko and Rudy. Elko's recovery sounds like it's going well. Don't you love his attitude? I wish humans were as courageous! As you can see, most tripawds recover beautifully, and their quality of life is great. Sure, there are ups and downs, and the road isn't easy all the time. But the thing to remember, is that it's all about quality, not quantity. Dogs don't give a hoot about how many months they've made it past diagnosis and amputations. For some funny reasons, humans like to put a number on it. But all we care about is living each day to the fullest. And as Tripawds, we are able to do that. So no matter if we have an extra couple of months or years, all we want is to keep living life with our pack.

What great hands you are in at Fort Collins. The BEST in the country as far as I'm concerned. My onocologist, Dr. Marie Mullins, is a graduate. She is amazing, and in Denver if you want another opinion sometime. So it sounds like you haven't decided on chemo?

There's a lot of people here with all sorts of experiences with chemo and their Tripawds. Most experiences are fine. Dogs handle it sooooo much better than humans. But it's a personal decision that only you can make. Take a look at the stories here, and see what you think. Then look into Elko's eyes, and ask him. He'll tell you what he wants.

Can't wait to see some photos of him. Thanks again for writing. We look forward to getting to know you all better!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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7 February 2009 - 8:47 am
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Welcome, Elko's mom.  I'd certainly prefer to not welcome new members of the cancer variety, but you've found a wonderful place to learn and share. There are lots of us who have been where you are and faced all the tough decisions around chemo, surgery, etc.  We made it and so will you.  I'm hoping for a long and happy life post surgery for Elko.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.


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7 February 2009 - 2:19 pm
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I am glad that Elko is doing well.  My Mastiff Tazzie has finished the carboplatin chemotherapy without any major problems and is now on metronomic chemotherapy (low-dose daily pill).  I am glad that you gave your giant breed dog a chance with amputation. They handle it much better than most people would realize.  Check out Pony on this site; he is a Mastiff even bigger than Tazzie!

Good luck with your treatments,

Pam and Tazzie

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8 February 2009 - 11:15 pm
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Hi jerrie, hugapitbull, tazziedog! 

Thanks so much for the kindest thoughts! It means so much. Elko's doing so well–Bob and I are just amazed. He is, as far as we can tell, happy and optimistic. He's quite able to get all over the house (all one floor) and crashes wherever there's a pack member to keep him company. He took a short walk in the meadow today and got to hear a lovely group of coyotes tuning up on the next ridge and to see a couple of bunnies going about their business up in the rocks. The incision is healing nicely!

Alison and Bob and Elko

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26 February 2009 - 7:33 am
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Hello Everyoone with a tripod,

Thank you so much to everyone who has thought about us and sent some words of wisdom and experience! Here's a quick update: Elko is in great shape. He's learned to negotiate life on three legs so much better than I would have dared to hope! He's out in the meadow and around the barn and off to greet the UPS guy with his original dedication. His incision has healed up nicely; we had quite a bit of fluid draining for a while but that has resolved and the whole area is pretty much as it should be. He's growing back his coat in funny patchy bits; I won't let him sit out in the sun too long because I'm afraid of him getting sunburned up here at 8,000+ feet.

Elko is a wonderful person to live with. I have arthritis and sometimes don't feel much like getting up each morning. But here comes this great guy hopping over on his three legs saying, “Well, I'm up for today and you're the one with the opposable thumbs so get with the meal plan please!!

Northern Indiana
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26 February 2009 - 10:29 am
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Great to hear that Elko is doing great. Will he be getting chemo? Must be grand to run in the meadow and greet the UPS guy!! Our 4 yr old lab, Paris is also doing well after surgery, although not much sun in northern Indiana. We are looking forward to spring.

Take care and we're sending Elko licks and hugs,

Gineej & Paris

Grateful for every moment we had with Paris…..no regrets!

Honoring her life by opening our hearts & home to Addy!

Here and Now


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26 February 2009 - 10:32 am
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What a great attitude … both both you and Elko! Glad to hear this wonderful update, thanks!

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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26 February 2009 - 8:07 pm
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Something about being a tripawd makes them love lazing around outdoors.  Trouble would beg me to take her out to soak up sun or bask in the cold, she enjoyed both equally well, crazy dog!   So glad to hear all is well for Elko.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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