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Kota’s Osteosarcoma Story
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Member Since:
30 May 2023
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23 June 2023 - 8:23 pm
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Kota is a 64lb 11 year old pittie. Mostly, we call him Bean, Beans, etc.. it evolved over time from Kota > Koko> Kokobean > bean. Plus, when he curls up he looks like a little bean.

How It Started

On April 1, 2023 Kota started limping suddenly on his front left leg. We went to two separate vets to try and figure out what was going on. Thinking it was a pulled muscle or something, they sent me home with Carprofen for him. Several weeks later, I’m back in the vet’s office with him doing X-rays because his limp had not improved. In fact, it was looking like his shoulder was out of place or enlarged and it was getting to where he wouldn’t place any weight on it and when he stood, he lifted that leg up. The vet did and X-ray and thought it was something wrong with his elbow and referred us to an orthopedic specialist about 2 hours away (only one in the state. 

Diagnosis

At the orthopedic surgeon, they did an exam and gave us the most unexpected, horrible news. They palpated a mass on his left scapula. A CT scan confirmed their suspicion that it was in the bone. X-ray of the lungs were clear, though. Our options were: Amputate the leg or go home and wait until it got worse then bring him back, or do nothing completely. I couldn’t live with the thought of him in any more pain and risking him fracturing his leg one day. Right then and there we made the tough call - we were going to amputate it. I spoke with the surgeon. She assured me that dogs adapt quite well to having a leg removed. “In fact, dogs are born with 3 legs and a spare .”, she said. She assured me that Kota would be able to have a great quality of life and would be happy. So, they brought us in to see him and I told Kota I loved him and that he was a strong boy and we would be back for him and to be strong. I cried hugging him telling him that I will see him again.

Surgery
We went home bean-less. I was so depressed and distraught. I didn’t eat. I cried and just didn’t feel like doing anything. I remember having to take an anxiety pill. Kota’s surgery was the next morning around 0900. I had done a little research and discovered an immunotherapy called Torigen. I called the facility and they were super helpful. Told me what all needed to be done. Basically, I had to get the vet to call them so they could be walked through on how to collect their own sample of Kota’s leg and ship it off. They called me before they started and explained what they were going to do. A few nerve-racking hours later, they called me back saying he did excellent. She said she thinks she got it all (the cancer) out when she took the leg. Kota had woken up from the anesthesia and was resting fine. They had him on a patch for pain. They were going to keep him in ICU. Overnight then give him a regular room the next day. This worked out because they would give him round the clock care. They called me later in the afternoon and told me he was already up and could walk and ate and drank a little. Relief!

Recovery

The next morning, they called and said he was doing great. Just doing a lot of resting and getting lots of loving from all the techs. They were taking him out periodically and said his pain score was low. That evening they called with a pupdate and said he was eating and doing well. She said she was surprised how quickly he took to getting around. The next day we drove to pick him up early in the morning. They brought him in bunny hopping and happy to see me. At this point, I’m still sad and feeling terrible about doing this to him. They sent me home with meds (Carprofen, Trazadone, and Tylenol with Codeine) and instructions. They said they would send a sample off for biopsy. We decided not to do chemo.

Kota basically dragged me out of the vet hopping so fast and pulling me along. They gave me a harness with a handle so I could help him around. We got him home and just loved on him. This was on a Sunday. I’m not going to lie; the next week was rough. On Monday, he walked around a little and did a few nibs on his toy. Went outside without harness for the first time and walked around to pee and poop. He ate ok but not great. Tuesday, he woke up and went outside and ventured further than he had gone before and peed and pooped. He’d been laying around my home office with me all day just sleeping. He didn’t want to eat a whole lot and he didn’t want his treat either. He loves his nightly treats. He hopped around a little in the house following us around and then he laid down in the living room with us. It just seemed like he can’t get comfortable and is panting a lot. We don’t push it on movement. If he wants to get up and walk, we let him but if he wants to just lay around that’s ok by me too. I decided I didn’t want him trying to get up on the couch or bed since he needs to take it easy. I made a huge futon pallet in the living room and that’s where I laid in the evenings with him and slept with him at night for the next week or so.

At this point, my wife and I are just feeling crappy like our boy is not the same. He doesn’t even really want to get up to do anything if we call him. He doesn’t have much of an appetite and he just seems sad and not himself. His incision is healing well though. My wife is always asking if we did the right thing. I just hated seeing him like this. However, when he does get up, he’s doing well getting up on his own and moving around. The next morning, I called the vet about him. She said since Kota is normally a chill dude that we could take him off the Trazadone. The wonderful community here suggest that I try and get him on Gabapentin for his pain management . Maybe I should call my regular vet and see if they recommend gabapentin.

Today is the first day he’s been off Trazadone (since this morning) and he had some times where he would Next day, he was still panting a little and doing some shivering as if he were cold. I can also watch him laying there or if he lays with his head up and you can literally see his heartbeat make his ears and body visibly moving in time with his heartbeat like it’s super strong or something. Not irregular or fast or anything. Turns out, these are pain signals . Makes sense since he doesn’t want to get up much or eat. He does drink water and go out to poop and pee. Only thing I could do for him was do his cold and heat therapy, light massage and massage his ears which seems to help some.

By this time, biopsy came back to confirm osteo. However, it showed no signs that it had spread at all and was not in the lymph nodes and they think they got all of it in surgery so I guess that’s a small win.

The next morning, I call the surgeon. I told her what all was going on with Kota and she told me it didn’t sound like it was pain related. (What? Really?) She recommended I take him to my vet for an exam and they could prescribe it. So I called my vet and explained the whole situation. I’m not loading him up in the car while he’s supposed to be taking it easy. They said sure let’s put him on it and so I had him on his first pill in the morning. The difference between yesterday and today have been night and day. He wasn’t shivering or panting in the afternoon and he ate very well. He is normally a picky eater and we have to change tactics regularly to add stuff to his food to eat. Not today. He ate all his kibble and some chicken breast I cooked for him! He’s also drinking lots of water. I tell him all the time all day that we are so proud of him and that he’s doing such a good job and such a strong boy. Sometimes I think he understands English lol. He’s way more of a daddy’s boy than he is momma. 

We started noting his little milestones. Thank goodness he’s been sleeping great.  In the morning, he did his usual walk around to the back corner to sniff and potty, which is farther than he’s been going the last few days. Before I could really stop him, he had a short burst of post-poop zoomies and he surprised me at how fast he could move. It was a very short distance though because I stopped him. His incision is looking great. No redness at all anymore. The only thing is that it’s still “twitching” often. 

When he’s done eating, he always slurps down a bunch of water before he walks away which is how we usually know he’s done eating (or if he’s trying to trick us into thinking he’s done. He’s super picky about food). This afternoon, he ate a full amount of food so quickly that I looked at my wife when I heard him drinking and said “ain’t no way..” and she went over there and was like omg he ate it all. He chowed down! Even beat his brother, who is a fast eater and super food-driven (he was an abused rescue so I guess that’s why - he never got much food)! 

This evening is the first time he’s not laid down panting after moving around a bunch so I feel we are progressing great. I’m doing Gabapentin x2 a day at 0800 and 8:00 and his Carprofen x2 a day as well. Although I can see his heartbeat in his body, I don’t think it’s “pounding” as it was a few days ago. I’m seeing more and more of him coming back day by day. He even did his little excited bark where he bounces his little front half up every bark when his momma got home from work. He tried to get up on the couch but we won’t let him yet. He’s been more waggy too. 

10 days post-op now. We had my parents and my sister come over and see him. My dad said it the best - he just seems super relaxed and tired. But he did get up to see them and was wagging and smiling and doing a little bit of the happy squeaky whine he does. You can tell he’s in there but the community said he just won’t have his spark back for another week or so. He’s not lethargic or anything though. Still eating great and going potty great. Getting around well; just not my boy all the way yet. Some of the people on the forums said we would have more guilt and sadness over the leg missing than Kota would. And right now we were still in the “omg what the hell did I do to my baby?” stage. I read side effects of the Gabapentin in dogs is mild sedation and slight loss of coordination so that fits what he’s going through. Before surgery, Kota was still a lazy boy. Normally slept all day except for random rough-housing with his brother and during dinner cooking, he’d occasionally chew on a toy once or twice. Now, he sleeps unless he’s getting water or re-positioning or fluffing his bed (which he does with one leg lol). But he doesn’t rough house or chew on toys. Most of the time he will follow me where I go but there are times where he doesn’t want to get up and you can tell he’s like “nah, too much work. I’ll just lay here”. I know he’s going through a lot and we are only barely over a week post op so we got a while to go. 

I wonder if he’s sad at all or just tired of the exertion it takes to move around right now. He does still eat and take his treats though. Not nearly as excited as his normal behavior but still wants them. He seems to have more energy in the mornings.

Fast forward a few days. Even just today I saw a little bit of improvement. A little more alertness and more wags and he even came begging for food by me when we were eating. He hasn’t done that since his surgery. Before surgery, he’d always come over to check and we tell him to go in the living room and play or lay down so I was happy I had to tell him that (we don’t let them be by us in the kitchen while we eat because Cameron, my rescue, resource guards and guards in general and I don’t want him being mean). 

My wife wants to take him back to work with her as he’s normally been going with her every day. He’s so cute though - he sits in front of me and I give him chest scritches and when I stop you can see him reach for my arm with his non-existent leg to do what he always did and grab it and pull it in towards his chest for more scritches. It’s just funny seeing the “invisible leg” move. He doesn’t even notice haha. 

A few days later and he is super waggy all day. Gave me a TON of kisses and snuggles. I went to my tattoo appointment and when I came home, he was so happy and excited. He gave me one of his big smiles (he scrunches up his nose and shows his teeth lol) and he even did his signature bounce up and down with each bark. He played tug with me (laying down) and was super attentive all day. He even ran after me bounding into the living room to grab his rubber toy playing with me and chewed on his bone a bunch (he's learning to do it with one arm now). He hasn't wanted to do any of the playing for a while now.. since his surgery. His normal behavior is showing. He gave us plenty of talking (we call it the "woos" cause he does a half growl/half bark to talk to us when he's happy). I can't believe he actually tried to go leaping and running to get his treat. He almost fell so he slowed down, but he's been doing so good. I finally feel like we are getting our boy back.

He still gets tired easily. After a short burst of hopping about, he lays down and pants. Or when he was done playing with me (I do the thing where I move my hand around underneath the blanket and he attacks it because he loves it) he was panting but it doesn't last long. I can tell he needs to build his stamina back up. I've been giving him a small amount of CBD oil from American Shaman since yesterday. It seems to be helping him relax and giving him his appetite. His sworn enemy is the handheld vacuum that we have. He goes crazy over it. I had to get it out to clean the dryer vent and he went crazy! He sprung up and was in the laundry room faster than I thought he could move. He actually jumped up on his hind legs and got air too. Biting and barking at it. Our household is once again safe from the vacuum! After that, he did a victory “trot” to the living room and pounced on a toy. He fell once but got back up and jumped on the toy again to pick it up and chew. I’m letting him fall just so he learns on his own. Now he’s chewing on one of those “indestructible” toys we get from a monthly Bark Box while laying down. My wife even commented that he seems like himself now. Here he is being a barky, alert boy!

14 day post-op checkup time! The vet said he looked excellent and all the vet techs commented on how cute he was bunny hopping around like he owned the place as if nothing ever happened. He was pulling me on the leash and everything. He got in and out of the car on his own (with me holding the handle of his harness just in case) just fine! They say he looks good for 11 years old :). He got his first injection of the Torigen vaccine today. He goes back once a week for two more shots and then he’s done. Vet said he’s cleared to go back to work and do his normal stuff! We will also do a lung scan once every 3 - 4 months going forward. Tonight he got on the bed all by himself. Now, he’s navigating up and down the couch and bed all on his own!

The next day, Kota got to go back to work today with his momma! He got to see all his favorite work people and got plenty of love. My wife said he did a lot of panting when walking around. I imagine it’s because right now it’s still exhausting to move like that until he gets used to it. Plus his stamina isn’t much right now. But he got plenty of snoozing done in between supervising. (He’s used to being a working boy.)

Bonus Footage: We used the ramp for the second time:) He was looking at me like “dad I know how to get on the bed why are you filming me?” The next day, we gave him his first bath since his surgery. He did so good standing in the shower the whole time. Now he is a soft, clean-smelling bean again! He was so frisky after the shower too! He’s did plenty of back wiggles and He’s figured out how to chew his bone by propping it against his one leg on the floor to chew the end. He played tug standing up for the first time (that’s his favorite thing to do is tug). All in all, his behavior is so much better and it makes me happy he wants to play all the time now. He’s able to walk around, jump up and down, and hop pretty fast around the house without panting now. He still lays down every time we stop but oh well. We are still working on his stamina. 

Today he played a little rough house with his brother for the first time since surgery.

Of course, when I start recording they stop. But the main thing is he is wanting to be himself again. My wife said this is the first time she has really felt like we did the right thing because he just seems so much happier now. More waggy and just more.. beany. Which is an adjective we made up for him when you can tell he’s full of his spark. 

I’m writing this on June 23; almost a full month since his surgery. He is doing so good. Back to being himself, full of spark and bark, playing with his brother, playing with toys, bouncing around and everything! It just seems like he is so much happier now than he was before. I know that seems hard to believe. How can he be happier with 3 legs when he had 4 before? It’s because we took away the thing that was hindering him/bothering him and causing him so much pain.

So I write all of this to mainly let people know that there are good days ahead. I was a basket case at first thinking he would never be the same. Worrying if I made the right decision. I have no doubts now. True, things are different. But, the most important thing is that he’s very happy and does everything normally. There is hope! If you’re where I was at the beginning of this wondering if amputation will be right for your baby and if they’ll ever be ok, take my word for it. There’s good days ahead. It takes time and you move at their pace. Hopefully I will have more videos to share soon. Thanks for reading about our journey! Remember, you are not alone! We are here for you!

Extra Videos

Here he is excited running for his nightly treat!

Here he is playing tug and doing back wiggles while playing. Look how happy he is!

The Rainbow Bridge



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25 June 2023 - 3:39 pm
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YAY!!! smiley_clap

Justin, thank you soooo much for sharing so many important details about Kota's recovery. It's incredibly helpful for others to see that there is life after recovery (you know that!). We are thrilled things are going great, and celebrate Kota's rebound with you all! smiley_clapsp_hearticon2

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26 June 2023 - 10:15 am
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Jerry, thank you so much for putting that video together! It was so awesome to see. I had the biggest smile on my face watching it!! Thank you to you and everyone here for supporting me and my boy through this!

Virginia







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26 June 2023 - 10:33 am
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Loooooving handsome Kota soooo ,much!🥰

The way you have chronicled Kota's journey and added the videos to support his progress is invaluable on so manh levels.  Newbies will be so encouraged as they navigate  through  the decision  to amputated and  the recovery.

Yes indeedy, hi's sparkle  is back!  Thanks so much for taking the time to share.  Smooches to Kota!

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too  

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 June 2023 - 11:41 am
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You are so welcome! You and Kota are so important to our community, we are grateful for your presence and participation!

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26 June 2023 - 8:31 pm
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Thanks for sharing all of that Justin!  It is so important to have these stories to read when you’re where i am (the night before amputation).  I just feel sick to my stomach and still can’t believe that I’m going to do this to/for her.  I hope that i can do the same some day soon. 

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26 June 2023 - 9:10 pm
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Michael, I hope your baby’s surgery goes well! When I got Kota back from the hospital, I made sure to tell him all the time how proud I was of him and told him he was doing such a good job. She’s going to be much better after this is over with. Just remember, as all the wonderful people here reminded me, it’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s going to seem sad at first and you’re going to feel guilty, but when you do, come back and read my post and just remember there are good days ahead and you guys will get there at her pace. I know how much you care for your baby so I know you will do an amazing job with her recovery and be strong for her. You and Ophelia got this! I’m here any time you want to chat about it. 

Oh, and P.S. - Don’t forget. You are not doing this to her. You are doing this FOR her. smiley2

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26 June 2023 - 9:14 pm
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Benny and Jerry, thank you for being an invaluable part of Kota’s journey and for helping me through it. This community is the best!

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10 August 2023 - 7:52 pm
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Thank you Justin for this story!  It made me smile and laugh. My greyhound was just diagnosed with Osteo and I am considering amputation.  Yours was the first story I have read and it was so helpful.  I hope Kota is still doing great!  

The Rainbow Bridge



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10 August 2023 - 10:04 pm
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Pam_2 said
Thank you Justin for this story!  It made me smile and laugh. My greyhound was just diagnosed with Osteo and I am considering amputation.  Yours was the first story I have read and it was so helpful.  I hope Kota is still doing great!  

  

Pam, it's good to see you here! I'm just so sorry it's under these circumstances.

Everyone, Pam is the awesome Scentsy rep who recently held a Tripawds Foundation fundraiser on Facebook. Ironically, her dog was diagnosed right after she started the fundraiser!

Please feel free to start an all new topic so that we can help you in whatever path you decide to take. We will support you no matter what you decide, there are no right or wrong choices. 

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11 August 2023 - 5:58 pm
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What an absolute CUTIEEEE Bean

Pola & Bury 

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25 September 2023 - 5:56 pm
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4 Month Post-Op Pupdate

Hi all! Hope you and your babies are all doing well. Life has been busy over here. I just wanted to give you an update on how Kota is doing. Kota is doing so good! 

He’s going to work every day with the wife, playing and pouncing on toys and chewing on bones every night, playing with his brother again, and running after his treats every night (he’s getting pretty fast). He finished his shots of Torigen and so far everything seems good. 

He still follows me around the house and gets up and down quickly. If he stands too long, he may start panting and lay down. He doesn’t like standing long. If he walks a large distance or does a lot of walking in one time period, he will start panting but he recovers quick. I just attribute that to his age. He is 11, after all. 

The only “issue” we have been dealing with still is the occasional phantom limb pain. It’s gotten better since we went to 400mg Gabapentin once a day. Every once in a while, randomly, he will just be laying there and suddenly yelp and spring up as if he got scared and then go to another spot and lay down. I can see the spot sort of twitch or do a big twitch like he got a shock of electricity and it either hurts for a brief second, startles him, or both. He just did one now and he yelped and jumped up from laying on the floor and got on the couch. After a few scritches and a short massage, he was fine. It’s usually one little jolt and it’s over. Sometimes he doesn’t even yelp. Other than that, so far so good. 

I’ve included a recent video and some pictures. In the video, he’s playing with his brother (kota is the one actually standing up and doing most of the moving and jumping around). He’s not a dominant boy, but he does like to occasionally hump his brother. I hadn’t seen him do that since the surgery. Well, the camera caught it. Never knew a three legged pup to still do a humping like that lol.  

Kota and his brother playing in my office

Bean (Kota) Pics

Colorado
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25 September 2023 - 8:16 pm
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What a fantastic update (minus the phantom pain )!! Aww Kota, he looks amazing! In the video you can't even tell he's a tripawd, haha. Thank you so much for sharing sp_hearticon2sp_hearticon2

Pennsylvania


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26 September 2023 - 12:49 pm
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Wow. What an awesome pupdate. He looks reeeaaally good. So strong!!

Btw - Perhaps you’ve already tried this, but I wonder if acupuncture might help with the phantom pain ? I was only recently introduced to it (for both me and my dog) and it continues to astound me what it can treat. 

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

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29 September 2023 - 12:40 pm
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Thank you so much for sharing your story. I cried as I read it but it gives me hope. Currently our Husky is recovering from amputation surgery. On Sept. 19th, Derry had his right front leg and shoulder blade removed. The surgeon said it was very good and clean surgery and he got good margins. We were feeling very hopeful until yesterday when we got the histopathology results. They are saying it is an osteosarcoma of the bone. The think is all summer they were treating what they thought was a soft tissue injury trauma. He had a large hard lump over his right shoulder. On August 3rd, the results of his sedation X-ray of the elbow area did show the swelling but they said his bones were remarkable and said no bone cancer. They had 3 good pictures from three different views. They took three samples from the tissue with needle aspiration. The cytology report thought also soft tissue injury. There were few spindle cells visible but they said lots of reasons why they could be there in the tissue and tumour was the less likely. When 2 weeks of medication - antibiotic and anti inflammatory, changed nothing, they referred us to the orthopaedic specialist at the hospital. They thought sarcoma either malignant or benign. They did an ultrasound to confirm it was a mass over top and wrapped around the elbow. Said to do amputation right away for best prognosis. They did do a chest X-ray immediately for sign of metastasis but it thankfully came back perfectly clear. The limb that was removed showed cancer cells in bone and mass. There was zero invasion of the lymph node that was removed and zero invasion of the blood vessels removed. We took this as good news. They have given us a grim prognosis that we can’t understand. How is it possible that a mass that big, him not using the leg at all, zero sign on bone X-ray done previously, a clear chest X-ray and no invasion to lymph nodes or blood vessels is so grim. We feel there are some positives to be taken into consideration. Once stitches are removed, he is having a heart ultrasound and going forwards with 5 chemo treatments, each one done every two weeks. Then a chest X-ray to see if it is all clear. Then it is a chest X-ray every 3 months to monitor for any sign of spread. Your story seems similar that there was no sign of spread. That must be good right?

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