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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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help i really need advice!
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Forum Posts: 9
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19 January 2009
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19 January 2009 - 9:34 pm
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my beautiful dog spaz was diagnosed today with os bone cancer in his left rear leg. the specialist said if we amputate his life expectancy is 6 months, if we do chemo after the amputation then he could have one -two years.

however ive been reading so many different forums and the after effects of surgery, infections, phantom pains, and reoccuring tumors, etc. im not sure i want to put my beautiful through all of that. for what ? so he can suffer even more for my selfish reasons on wanting him to live for me…. i feel so heartbroken.

he is such a gentle giant, he is bull mastiff pitbull mix . wonderful dog. can anyone tell me how long your dog lived after all of that and did his/her spirit change? he is such a peaceful animal, not a mean bone in his body. we got a puppy that was abused and he took her under his wing and treated her like a big daddy. so kind and sweet. he taught her the ropes and because of him she is less timid and they love each other.

we have 4 dogs – he was the only one who was willing to take her under his wing. she is two years old now and still gets timid but if he is with her she is ok. maybe because spaz was also a rescue, another abused dog. maybe it is because he is just a wonderful dog who has such a beautiful spirit. thats just him.

what if he gets mean after all of this? i read about this lady whos dog had an amputation and his best friend was a kitten and they would sleep together and when the kitten jumped up to sleep with him , he nearly bit her in half- the kitten got out of the way in time but that is pretty scary. all of mine sleep together. they lay all over each other.

i just dont know what to do. im at a loss. please i need advice.


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19 January 2009 - 9:53 pm
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I have an English Mastiff (Tazzie) and she had OSA of the right front leg and had amputation 8/26/08.  She just finished her chemo and is back to her spunky and playful self.  We have 2 other dogs (a French Mastiff and a Pitbull) and they all still get along great.  Amputation is the only way to adequately control the pain of this aggressive tumor.  Some dogs live for a few months after amputation and some live over 2 years.  Chemo can help increase the survival time and most dogs have minimal side effects.

I would make sure that your dog has an xray to rule out lung mets and then I would strongly suggest amputation if your vet recommends it!

Pam and Tazzie

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19 January 2009 - 9:59 pm
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yes he has had multiple x rays and bloodwork. im just beside myself. how long has you dog been alive now after surgery and what was your prognosis? did your mastiffs personality change? i am going to bed now, so hopefully you will leave me a message so i can read it in the morning. thankyou for replying . ive been desperate to hear from someone who knows what i m going through. goodnight


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19 January 2009 - 10:36 pm
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I diagnosed Tazzie the week before her amputation so she has lived 5 months since the diagnosis.  She is a very big dog (180#) and I know without amputation she would probably not be here right now (big dogs can often fracture the bone where the tumor is growing then need to be put down).  There is no drug to adequately control the pain for very long with this cancer.  You can see a video of Tazzie and other big dogs in the video and photo gallery sections of this website.

How old is your dog?  How long has the dog been limping?  The sooner you get the leg off the better, and cancer is usually more aggressive in younger dogs. If you want stats 50% of dogs are still alive after amp and chemo and another 25% live 2 or more years.  These are only averages so some dogs do better than expected but some don't even make it through chemo. There is no crystal ball so it is kind of a crap shoot but I really believe that the majority of dogs do well with the surgery and bounce back within 2 weeks.

Tazzie is still a big sweet dog and still is enjoying life.  She can walk and even run but only for short distances. A lot of less massive dogs on this site still do their daily walks and even go hiking and swimming.  Tazzie can take short walks but I haven't let her do large flights of stairs yet.  She had both of her ACL's repaired (knee surgery) a few years ago so that also limits her a little.

Take time to read the stories here.  Jerry, Darcy, Zeus and many others have done very well!

Pam and Tazzie

The Rainbow Bridge



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19 January 2009 - 10:44 pm
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Happynine, we are very sorry to hear about Spaz, and hope that we can help you cope with his diagnosis in the best way possible.

We are very familiar with the feelings you are having. That is exactly why my pawrents started this website. They felt alone, scared, and unsure they were doing the right thing. Was the surgery and treatment for me, or for them? It wasn't until we saw Moose's video that we understood that dogs can indeed have wonderful lives on three legs, with or without cancer.

If you can manage (we know it's hard), take a deep breath, look into Spaz' eyes, and ask him what he wants. If you feel that he still has lots of live and a will to live in him, then amputation is something you might want to go forward with. I don't know of any dogs here who became aggressive after the surgery. How could we, when we are so thrilled to be out of pain!

Keep in mind, there are no guarantees. There are risks with surgery, and the cancer can be very agressive and come back quickly, or take a while to return. With osteosarcoma, sadly, it will. There are many of us here who made it to the two-year mark after our amputaiton, and sadly, many who did not.

Finances are another concern, and one that can influence what you decide. We understand this, and nobody will condemn you if you cannot afford treatment. Whatever you to do try to help him through this is better than nothing at all. You obviously love him a lot, and we're sure he knows that.

But the important thing to remember is that dogs don't measure time, only humans do. All we care about is that each day is filled with love, play and fun. The most important thing we dogs teach our humans during the cancer ordeal, is to cherish every moment instead of counting the days. Be present, and stop thinking about the future. Believe it or not, this will help you two grow closer in your journey together.

Here is a link to the Top Five Questions about Amputation, Part 1 and Part 2. We hope this helps get rid of any doubts or fears you may have about amputation. And if you browse the forums here, you'll see lots of great inspirational stories about dogs that have had fulfilling lives on three legs, after a cancer diagnosis.

We send lots of love and hugs your way. Please let us know how else we can help OK? Keep us posted.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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20 January 2009 - 9:20 am
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Everyone here understands what a difficult decision you are struggling to make.  You have to weigh all the odds as they relate to you and Spaz.  The factor we started with was 'Are there any mets'?  We went from that to pain management .  Osteosarcoma is very painful, how will you control the pain, and is life on pain medication quality of life?  Unfortunately, money is also a factor.  The surgery can be from $1000 up depending on your location.

Trouble has done wonderfully post-op.  We are going into our third month the end of this week and she gets around amazingly well. She had a right front amputation.  She is off of all pain meds, and the only limitations are the ones we put on her.  For example, we don't allow her to jump out of the vehicle without assistance.  We don't want too much unnecessary pounding on her one remaining front leg. There has been no personality change, she is as loving as ever and spoiled beyond belief.

It is a horrible decision to have to make, and I wasn't certain I had made the right one until I picked her up from the vet and she had already adapted to getting around on three legs.  I know we made the right decision for us. 

My thoughts are with you as you make your choice, and my support will be with you once that choice is made.  Best of luck to the both of you.

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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20 January 2009 - 9:38 am
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Hello sweet boy – we are so sorry to hear about the diagnosis…it's a tough thing to swallow, sort through, accept and finally make a decision about. YOU ARE NOT ALONE here…this is a horrible and cruel disease and though I know you don't see it now, this journey you are about to embark on will bring you many gifts and precious life lessons…not to mention some incredible quality time with your baby.

Amputation is the only way to rid him of the pain…at first it seems horribly drastic and I remember when I was faced with the decision it made me sick – literally. Listen to Pam…

I have posted a lot of stories about our treatment and recovery – but let me quickly summarize for you so you have it here:

Zeus was 10 when diagnosed on April 3rd…(Golden Retriever – 75 pounds, GENTLE soul – I was very concerned that he would not adjust to this because of his sweet and gentle disposition). We amputated on April 9th. When I was unsure about what to do, I simply asked Zeus what to do – we were laying on the bed and I was explaining what was happening and he just looked at me intensely and I knew he understood…I asked him what he wanted me to do – he jumped off the bed and chased his tail, grabbed his favorite toy and shook it around a lot, went to the window and started barking and then looked back at me as if to say, “I want to live Mom”.

The first two weeks are tough – there is no way around that. Each dog has a slightly different reaction to the surgery and recovery. There is obviously a ton of information on here about that. Zeus had a relatively easy recovery in comparison to many…he panted A LOT while on the pain meds and the first night home was hell and I surely questioned what I had done. But I kept the faith and I had a lot of support from my best friend who is a Vet, my dad who came from Ohio to stay with us for 10 days and countless others. It is imperative for your ability to deal with these two weeks that you get some rest. Our babies are recovering from a major surgery and on a considerable amount of pain medicine – they are not themselves. Be prepared for that.

Once we got the stitches out and the bandage off – OMG – he was back to ZEUS…spunky, loving and very spoiled. It took him about a month to get back to a consistent exercise routine…he doesn't last on hour long walks anymore…but we do 20 minute intervals a few times a day…sometimes he can go for 30 minutes, sometimes he just doesn't feel like going and plops down on the grass and would rather chew sticks. I have just adjusted to what he feels like doing. He can run and play with Buddy (his brother – another golden) and he does great in the snow – yes snow…just loves playing in it like he used to. His dispostion is the same, yet he is more wiser and always seems like he has something to say.

We did 4 rounds of chemo – carboplatin – and there were no side effects. He was a little tired the afternoon of treatment, but that's about it. He had a slight infection on round 2 and 3 – treated with antibiotics, but nothing to worry about. We also did 2 pamidrinite treatments after the chemo – they are bone strengthening treatments for the remaining bones and though there is no scientific (at least at the time) proof that they prolong the life, my doc's patients that had these treatments did better with longevity than the patients that did not do these treatments.

Over 9 months later, we haven't seen any mets (knock on wood) and Zeus is still doing AMAZING. I do not regret one dime, one tear, one moment that I have spent on saving his life. I treasure each day with him and the gifts he has given me are just priceless, completely worth any heartache that is coming down the road.

I really hope this helps – only you and Spaz can make this decision – listen to your heart and listen to Spaz, you will know what to do.

One last thought…when I was struggling with my decision – my boyfriend said to me, “you will always regret it if you don't try…if Zeus doesn't adjust well to life on 3 legs, then you can let him go, but you have to try”. He said the same thing to me when I didn't know if I was going to do chemo…again – if he doesn't well with the chemo, you can always stop the treatment.

We are here for you – someone will always be here to answer a question or lend an ear. Please keep us posted.

Much love

Heather and Zeus

Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together

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20 January 2009 - 2:29 pm
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thankyou to all of you who have posted and tried to give me advice. you have no idea how much i appreciate this. i am still concidering my options…. m y beautiful spaz and i are gonna talk now. ill keep you posted. thank you again.

Forum Posts: 42
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20 January 2009 - 7:25 pm
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Trust the decision you make will be the right one, whichever road you take!

Ember took two weeks to recover from the surgery – two weeks marked with many ups and downs. The pain medicine took the edge off, but she really was not herself and needed a lot of loving care. She really did need to be kept away from other pets that might bump her. But after two weeks her recovery was remarkable and she is back to her old self, better than she had been for quite a while before her diagnosis actually.  Now she can get around just fine and is best buds with all the other pets again. Am I glad I did it? So far… yes! Ember's story is not over yet, but we have had quality time that we would not have otherwise had.

Jane and Ember

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20 January 2009 - 8:25 pm
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Cherry's dad here.

Above all we cannot over emphasise what all have said about trusting your decision. Only you truly know your spaz and what ever your decide it will be the best for your family. We opted for the amputation and chemo. In fact, the first chemo was administered just hours after the amputation. This left us with dealing both with the loss of the fore leg and those horrible chemicals throughout the body. It was felt that this treatment would provide the best possible outcome.

It has not been an easy journey with many complications. I first posted on the treatment forum and have continued with very positive interactions since then. I have also journaled this journey and posted on the Internet. My objective was to provide a real assessment of what was happening so that I could look back and measure progress/regress. You can find it at http://home.com…..ryjourney/

Tomorrow we face our fourth and last chemo treatment. I can tell you that the sparkle and mischief in the eye that had defined Cherry has returned. Every week we see more of it and we are looking forward to returning to as much as normal as possible. One thing I did learn is that you need to treat the spirit as well as the body. For Cherry, that is a nearly daily ride in the truck and no matter how short the trip, she loves it.

Best wishes and prayers.

Bob & Cherry

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20 January 2009 - 10:30 pm
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So sorry to hear that another great dog has been hit with bone cancer but nonetheless… welcome.  As you have probably already realized, you have definitely come to an incredibly supportive and informative place.  It sounds like you are very much in tune with Spaz and looking out for his best interest.  I can tell you that this has been the toughest but the most rewarding journey I have ever been on.  My Jake (12 year old yellow lab) was diagnosed with OS bone cancer on October 6th.  He had his back left leg amputated on Oct. 14th and started his chemo the second week of Nov.  He will be receiving his 4th and last chemo this Friday.  Jake is living a great life on three legs and I am so grateful for every single day that I have him in my life.  As you have probably read and witnessed from the videos on this site, our fur babies bounce back pretty quickly after amp surgery.  There are so many heroes here at Tripawds who are incredibly inspiring…  Jerry of course is and will always be the king of the Tripawds!  We love you Jerry!Smile

When I was faced with the shocking news and decision of whether or not to amputate, I spoke with my brother who is also a dog lover.  He asked me what I would do if I was in Jake's position.  Why would I treat my fur baby any differently?  I suddenly had a feeling of peace over me and knew I had made the right decision.  I called the doc and told him to schedule us in for the amputation.  The next day I found this blessed site. 

No one knows what the future holds.  There are no guarantees.  Of course there are risks but whatever you decide in the days, weeks and months ahead… know that you are doing it all out of your incredible love for Spaz.  You are not being selfish by wanting him to live.  Unconditional love knows no boundaries.       

Luv Spirit Jake, Smooch, Baby Gus & Mom (Sherri)

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22 January 2009 - 8:23 pm
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TO ALL WHO THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEIR DOGS AAND HAVE POSTED KIND ENCOURAGING WORDS TO ME AND CARE ABOUT MY BEAUTIFUL SPAZZY FIRST I WANTTO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. I HAVE BEEN SO DEPRESSED AND SADDENED.  I FEEL ITS ONLY RIGHT TO SHARE WITH YOU THE DECISION I HAVE TO MAKE BASED ON MANY FACTORS, TOMORROW I WILL HAVE TO SEND MY BABY BACK TO THE LORD. MY HEART IS BROKEN. I HAVE BEEN CRYING ALMOST NON STOP. I HAVE A REQUEST, IF ANY OF YOU BELIEVE IN GOD. COULD YOU PLEASE PRAY FOR MY DOG. HE IS SUCH A SWEET BOY. OUR APPOINTMENT IS AT 10:15. MY POOR LITTLE BABY. CryTHANK YOU EVERYONE.  ILL BE PRAYING FOR YOUR BABIES TOO.

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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22 January 2009 - 8:45 pm
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I am so sorry you've had to make such an incredibly difficult decision.  My thoughts and prayers will be with you and Spaz.

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.

Northern CA
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22 January 2009 - 9:45 pm
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You and your baby will be in our prayers.  I am so sorry – I know what a difficult decision you had to make. But trust in your love and belief.  Spaz will be out of the pain this disease so terribly inflicts on them. That is the greatest final gift you can give your loyal companion.

May God bless you and give you strength- and peace knowing you did what was right in your heart.

Seanne  and CA Wrigley

Seanne and Angel Wrigley

Here and Now


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22 January 2009 - 11:05 pm
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We just lit our Saint Jerry of Tripawds prayer candle – thanks Codie Ray – with prayers for little Spaz. There are no easy decisions here, and no wrong ones.

Please know that by sharing your Spazzy journey here, you have helped others immensely. Peace …

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