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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My 11 year old black lab (Smokey) was just diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on his large paw pad, located on his front right leg. I can tell it’s pretty painful for him at times and the tumor seems to be getting worse in looks. We’ve spent many hours at our personal vet, met with an oncologist, and also met with a surgeon this week.
The cancer luckily has not spread so it’s located only in his paw pad, but then you never know if there’s any underlying issues… we’ve had numerous x-rays done over the past few months anyhow and all else seems to be fine.
The surgeon strongly recommends amputation. I don’t know if I have it in me to take my boy’s leg… I did talk to another owner this week had done it with her 10 yr old black lab and she doesn’t regret it for a second. But how do you know if you’re making the right decision? I’m leaning towards amputation – Smokey is a fighter for sure and besides the foot, is completely healthy. I know that I need to find a way to cope because it will take awhile to get used to and recovery will be a bear, but how do you make a decision like this? Does anyone have any advice or success stories?
I’m hoping to have the final decision by Monday so I can call the surgeon and schedule the surgery. I’m just worried – how is he going to get around on 3 legs?
I don’t know if I have it in me to take my boy’s leg…
Please, don’t be silly. Think about whether or not Smokey has it in him to live with the excruciating pain. Shame, regret, fear, uncertainty and doubt are just such human emotions.
Amputation is the best possible – if not only – way to alleviate his pain. If Smokey is otherwise healthy, he should recover fully and quickly. And will thank you for it.
These forums are full of success stories, and more good news about canine amputees just came out in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Please think about your feelings. And think about Smokey’s. And see what others have to say. We wish you the best in this difficult time and thank you for registering.
Thanks Jerry! I get to the point where I’m 100% positive we’ll go with the amputation and then I read or hear something else and that goes back to completely undecided. I’ve heard amazing success stories. The surgeon did say the hardest part was trying to distance myself from the physical and emotional side of it. I think I just need to keep hearing I’m doing the right thing. Smokey is a fighter and I know he’ll be fine, but then I read negative things that others have on the topic and I end up questioning it… I’ll just have to stay positive.
Amputation would be the easiest on him vs if we tried to do pad removal and then that wouldn’t guarantee everything was caught. His cancer hasn’t spread and this would remove it, and the pain, altogether. Now I’m right back up to 100% on the yes side!
Thanks for listening – I’m so glad I came across this site!
7 June 2008
My name is Max and I was facing the same decision about 7 weeks ago on my rear leg. I was worried about getting around because I am around 11 years old (like you) and have hip dysplasia. So far I am doing great and not having any trouble hopping about. It was a bit surreal for my pawrents the first time they saw me with only three legs, but they quickly got used to it and now know that this was absolutely the right decision for me. I am pain free and hoppy once again!
19 July 2008
I’m just worried – how is he going to get around on 3 legs?
Pretty much the same way he got around on 4. Minus one. We’re only 6 days out from Bella’s surgery, and she walks perfectly fine. Um, let me rephrase. She walks TOO well, and the vet didn’t like seeing her running in circles at the last visit (which was 3 days post-op). She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, and the only frustrating thing for us (everyone is different, but this is our biggie) is having to sedate her to KEEP her from running in circles. She’s calm this moment, but I promise you, if I stood up from the computer, grabbed her ball, and threw it….she would take off like a dart to retrieve it.
I’m new to all of this, and had to make the same decision. While Bella didn’t have cancer (she was injured by another dog), I had three options. a $7,000 surgery that wasn’t guaranteed and included months of painful rehab, amputation, or euthanizing. I didn’t have $7,000, and even if I did, that option didn’t seem appealing. Put her down? Are you kidding me? So…amputation was my choice. Not one second of regret. Pretty sure she’s happy with my decision, too. Keep us posted….finding this little corner of of the Internet has been a HUGE help for us.
2 February 2008
I understand your anxieties as I’m sure we all do. But as Jerry’s saying goes It’s better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.
With Darcy, I had literally minutes to make my decision (the other option was euthanasia) but this week, I’ve had to make it again for one of my other dogs…..but thankfully, his x-rays didn’t show cancer so amputation wasn’t necessary. But if it had been cancer, that leg would have been off like a shot (providing that his chest was clear etc). Yes, it’s a big decision in many ways but the bottom line really is that it’s better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.
And with cancer, every moment counts in your decision making.
Make your choice and then get on with the business of recovery (for both of you).
Best of luck
Darcy – tripawd since 16th October 2007.
***Darcy would love to be your friend on Facebook - just search for Darcy Deerhound***
22 July 2008
This is Sam. I had surgery to amputate by back leg on Friday 7/18 and came home on Saturday. Yesterday I was hopping around on my own. I was hopping around on three legs before my surgery, and now my leg doesn’t hurt (except for the incision). My mom says since we dogs pretty much live for the moment we accept change and move on much easier than humans. (Oh – I am a rottie mix but look like a really big black lab. I’m 8 and 115 pounds pre-surgery weight.)
This is Sam’s mom – I had to set the emotional part of the decision aside; it really came down to surgery or send Sam to the Rainbow bridge. While Sam didn’t have cancer, he did have a bone infection in his femur. The first 2-3 days were the toughest. He needed help getting around and because of his size it was an effort.
Today he is his cheerful self and I look forward to several more years of his companionship.
This is Sam … Today he is his cheerful self and I look forward to several more years of his companionship.
Hi Alanna – thank you for your note! I’m still waiting to talk to the surgeon a bit more with some questions I have, but 99.9% sure we’ll be moving forward with Smokey’s amputation. My concern is he’s 11 (but still acts like a puppy!) and is about 85 pounds. I’m so glad to hear Sam is getting around well! The emotional part is definitely the toughest but I’m surrounded by a lot of support….
13 June 2008
Our vet didn’t recognise cancer for a while and then something else came up too – for the full story read ‘Thanks from Max’ – in ‘Share your Story’. To cut a very long story short, after months of limping about Max was in a lot of pain – the spark had gone – he was dosed up on painkillers and was low. He is now several weeks post amputation. Back to his normal self – a total pain in the neck – racing around after his ball (his favourite thing ever) hopping up and down the stairs (My heart in my mouth) he is happy and pain free…
I don’t think there is another option – there wasn’t for us. I know what you’re going through – even the night before the op. I was ringing my vet asking for his opinion (the surgeon had said it was a nobrainer) You need to give your lad every chance. Your surgeon recommends it – Smokey will adapt very quickly and will have no more pain.
Hope this helps.
Love and best wishes,
Hi Maxwell – thank you for your post!! We did it… we made the decision to amputate… unfortunately we have to wait until August 20th but are on the wait list if something opens up earlier. Smokey and I will head to his "grandpawrents" house for two weeks to recover as we live in an apartment and really not the best area to recover in.
Smokey will stay in the hospital a few extra days to be kept an eye on, just in case. It’s just me and him and we need as many people around us as possible!
Now that I’ve made the decision, I do feel a bit relieved but know myself and how anxious, nervous, and scared I will be leading up to the surgery. But everyone is telling me I’m doing the right thing and after watching Smokey’s limping become a bit worse, I know I am as well. A friend of mine asked me over the weekend – would you rather have Smokey with three legs or not have him at all? And that really, really hit home.
Here we go towards a long road ahead of us… Smokey is a quick healer though and a fighter!
I can’t stop thanking everyone enough for their posts and advice and for sharing your stories!
30 March 2008
Hi Smokey, glad to hear that you made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. You will not regret it one bit. I am 11yrs old also (a lot of us on the site are up there too) but like a lot of us also I act like a youngun. It has been 3 months for me since I became a tripawd and my pawrents to begin with had the same uncertainty that you are going through…but when I looked at my Mom and she saw all the energy and life that I still have in me, there was no other option but to fight this and face it head on. So far, I am doing excellent. I just finished my chemo treatments and am enjoying life as much or even more than when I had my 4 legs. Good luck to you buddy and you and your family will do just fine! Lots of love Kellie
28 May 2008
Hi Smokey…you’re doing the right thing pal. I’m a golden retriever, 10 years old and 3 1/2 months post op – right front amputation because of cancer.
I’m a gentle soul and mom was very concerned about whether or not I would handle this well…boy did i surprise her and everyone else that told her not to go through with the amputation. Mom got to a point where she told anyone that wasn’t on board with it to please refrain from further comment or opinion…we had made our decision and we went through with it. I am still the happy, adorable, loyal, playful and fun loving boy she’s lived with for 10 years and I can do everything that I used to be able to do except take extra long walks. The first 2-3 days after surgery were tough…but each day got better and easier. Mom wrote a novel about my story and how everything played out under, "Share my story" if you want to read.
We have no regrets. Stay strong with your decision…listen to YOUR heart…you are doing the right thing. When we were making our decision, mom thought about how she would feel if she didn’t try amputation and recovery – she would have lived with a lot of what if’s and regrets…now she doesn’t have to.
Stay in touch…we are all here for you.
Zeus and Mom
Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together
13 May 2008