Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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Bella is a malamute/husky/lab mix who turns 8 y.o. this June. I adopted her 7 years ago from a woman on craigslist who got her from the SPCA. We've been best friends ever since. She was recently diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma in her toe, and after discussions with her vet, an oncologist, and a surgeon, we made the decision to amputate her left hind limb. We are so grateful we found this site - all of the discussions and articles on here have immensely increased my confidence that amputation was the right decision for Bella, and that we can handle the post-operative period.
The surgery was successful this Tuesday and Bella joined us back at home Wednesday afternoon. Here's her story thus far...
In mid-March, we first noticed a cyst-like bump between the third and fourth digit on Bella's left hind paw. Our vet also thought it was a cyst as it felt filled with fluid, but nothing came out when she tried to drain it. We were sent home with antibiotics and monitored for growth. The antibiotics didn't seem to do much and the lump got slightly bigger over the two-week period so we went back to the vet on March 31st. The vet made a larger incision and a mass of tissue protruded out, so the mass was marginally removed and sent out for pathology. The histopathology was consistent with an incompletely excised "spindle cell proliferation with chronic inflammation", mitotic count was 1/10 HPF; it was ultimately deemed an "inflamed fibrocollagenous and vascular proliferation compatible with localized exuberant fibroplasia". Within a week of the incomplete removal, the mass started to regrow on the opposite side of the same foot. With such quick regrowth, our vet suggested Bella's tumor may be a soft tissue sarcoma and referred us to an oncologist.
We visited the oncologist on 4/20/2022 who suggested Bella's tumor may be subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma or another form of soft tissue sarcoma. She first recommended metasistic screening (Chest x-rays, blood work, and ultrasound). Discussing treatment options, surgical removal was the gold standard choice of treatment. Because of the size, location, and invasiveness of the tumor, we were told amputation was our only option.
We were shocked and sad and went home to process the information over the next few days. Bella is an 87 pound dog who is extremely active, walking an average of 3-4 miles a day. We've done multiple 10 mile hile hikes and she loves nothing more than to be out on the trails. The thought of amputating her leg felt like the end of her world. However, both our vet and the oncologist thought Bella would do great on three legs given how strong she is physically and also mentally (very strong-willed, sassy lady). Across the next few days, Bella's tumor started growing exponentially on her toe and ulcerated. It was now clearly starting to bother her, whereas before she didn't even seem to notice it. The oncologist prescribed us gabapentin for potential pain. During this time, I stumbled upon a Reddit comment mentioning this website and I started doing a ton of reading here and in other places.
The mestatic screening process suggested Bella was very healthy. Her bloodwork looked great, and both her chest x-rays and ultrasound were unremarkable. And this point, a mass of tissue had started protruding out of the tumor on her foot. We were wrapping her foot up 2-3 times a day and she kept trying to bite at it, and she had a small limp. We were horrified at how aggressive the tumor on her foot seemed, but also incredibly grateful that there were no signs of metastasis or other health issues. It was obvious now that amputation was the best way to give Bella the best quality of life, which was reaffirmed by both the oncologist and the surgeon. I felt super prepared for our consult with the surgeon thanks to this website, which gave me a ton of great questions to ask about things like pain management , keeping her after the surgery, how to care for her at home, and more.
Bella's surgery was conducted late in the afternoon this Tuesday 05/10. The surgeon called me afterward and said it was a textbook amputation and that Bella handled the anesthesia very well. They send out many samples for pathology and we hope to get a more definitive diagnosis. She continued to recover well; she ate her dinner that night and was even able to pop up on her own to go out and pee. Everyone at the hospital was extremely impressed with her mobility. Bella was cleared to leave the next morning and I picked her up that afternoon. I had the ability to text the nurses taking care of her, and I asked to see a picture of her incision before I picked her up which I think really helped me mentally prepare!
Today is post-op day 2 and overall things are going very well. She's interested in eating and drinking and peeing I am so so proud of her! She's mostly just resting which is excellent. The biggest challenge is that we live on the second floor of an apartment building, and she's got three steps and a whole flight of stairs to tackle to get in and out of our apartment. Last night she indicated she wanted to go outside to pee; she was able to go down the stairs herself (we're helping support her body weight with the RuffWear Webmaster harness that we already owned) and hopped around our side yard a little to sniff and do her business. When we turned to go inside, she plopped down in the grass and refused to get up. We sat outside with her for about 15 minutes and tried to get her up again but she still refused, so my fiance carried her inside and up the stairs which she seemed incredibly pleased with. Our new plan is to gear up to spend a decent amount of time outside when we take her down the stairs to give her ample time to rest in the grass before she has to go back up the stairs. We put down carpets throughout our apartment because it's covered with hardwood floors, but she likes to sleep on the cold floor so she's been laying in the few spots that aren't carpeted and sometimes struggles to get up a little bit. She also struggles when she goes to lay down because I can tell she wants to lay on her side where the incision is but she is afraid to. She'll spin around in a circle a few times and eventually find a way to plop down on the non-incision side. The weirdest thing was that I found a little poop nugget by her butt this morning that I think she is unaware of LOL. Overall she's just adjusting to her new normal and we're so proud of our brave strong girl.
Pain med wise she's on 300mg of gabapentin every 8 hours (recommended for 3-5 days, then move to every 12 hours), rimadyl every 12 hours, and cefpodoxime every 24 hours.
If you've made it this far thanks for reading!!!! I wanted to share Bella's story and it felt good to write it all out in one place. I am super grateful for this community as its helped me so much already and I hope to continue sharing Bella's story with you all as we journey through this post op period, which I expect to have many ebbs and flows.
TLDR- we amputated the hind limb of our 8 y.o. malamute mix due to an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma on her toe, we're in post-op day two and she's got an appetite, a decent hop going, and getting lots of good rest.
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.
Sounds like things are going well so far- congratulations! I'm glad you decided to post and share Bella's story.
The only thing missing from your post are pictures of your warrior! Here is how you add photos in the forums.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
Awwww what a story! Thank you for sharing so many details about Bella's experience. It will help others in the future, we so appreciate the time you took to write it all down.
You made all the right moves to make sure it was the best path for her, and the vet team you selected sounds excellent. At first I was wondering why the whole leg was taken but given the aggressive nature of that tumor I can see why. Can I ask what clinic you went with?
Your living situation sounds a lot like ours when Jerry lost his leg. He was 75 pounds and we had to help him in and out of the house via 18 steps. Nice that you already had the Webmaster on hand! If she's having trouble with the floors (of course she lays on the hardwood!), consider Toe Grips, they make such a huge difference.
Oh and that's super cool you found us on Reddit. I've never been able to find the time to maintain a presence there so it's nice that we get mentioned.
Thanks Krun and Jerry!
Here are some photos of Bella post-op, you can appreciate how she has found the small patches of my apartment floor that I did not cover with carpets!
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In the beginning, I was hopeful they could just remove a toe or two, but the specialists told us there wouldn't be enough healthy tissue to close the wound given how deep and wide they would like to go.
Awww I'd love to see the photos. Sorry your pictures didn't show up. This is how adding images to the Forums works.
- Upload pics to a photo sharing site like imgur.com or your own Tripawds blog (https://tripawd...../supporter). Pictures and video have to be hosted (live) somewhere other than in the forums.
- Once the photo is uploaded somewhere, right click and copy the Image URL or just copy the image if you’re on a phone
- Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself) in your post. It should automatically appear.
If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know OK?
And I've heard tons of great things about that particular Blue Pearl, excellent choice!