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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Max, osteosarcoma, nine days post-op
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2 May 2015
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2 May 2015 - 11:26 am
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My three-year-old Golden Retriever and the sweetest, most beautiful animal that ever was--Max--was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on April 8. We were very active together, hiking six to eight miles daily, playing lots of fetch, swimming in the river nearly every day, playing with other dogs once or twice a week at daycare... We've gone from sixty to zero, just like that. He suddenly started limping during a game of fetch just about a month ago, and I took him to the vet the very next day. I'd done research online and knew bone cancer was an outside possibility, but my vet didn't think it was likely because Max is so young. He suspected a ligament tear and ordered bed rest. After a week and no improvement, I asked for x-rays so we could move forward with any orthopedic referrals and necessary ligament surgery. Wouldn't you know? Osteosarcoma. Devastating. The tumor was in his tibia in the right-rear leg.

It's almost like I knew it would be that from the moment he started limping. I can't say why, but I was filled with dread from the get-go and not entirely surprised when my vet broke the news. Because I'd read so much about it, I knew that amputation was a standard procedure, so the suggestion that it might be necessary wasn't a shock. The initial x-rays didn't reveal any metastasis to Max's lungs, but my vet still seemed to lean toward "making him comfortable" more than pursuing treatment. He seemed tacitly resigned to the worst but offered a referral to the local internist.

I opted to pursue treatment at the Washington State University vet teaching hospital--an excellent decision, it turns out--but had to wait two agonizing weeks until our appointment. There were nights I wondered if we'd even make it. Max was totally lame and not bearing any weight on his affected leg. He was in pain but still wanting to play and swim and be fairly active. I spent a lot of time at the river with him, where he swam a bit and chewed on sticks. He was on pain medication, but nights were restless, and I knew he was hurting. It was miserable. But Max never complained. He never whined or cried but took it all like a champ. Everything he did and wanted to do pointed toward life and living; he never struck me as a dead dog walking. I was resolute in pursuing whatever treatment we could but promised myself I would act humanely if it were necessary.

Finally, the day of our appointment came. A more sensitive, 3D x-ray didn't detect anything in his lungs, and a biopsy confirmed cancer, either osteosarcoma (most likely) or chondrosarcoma (remote possibility). Amputation was scheduled for the next day, pending a clear CT scan. At home, Max staggered through the door (still rummy from his biopsy sedative) and brought me the first shoe he could find. He perked up a little later and wanted to play ball. It was like he was reminding me he's still very much here and will be for a while.

I was so anxious about that CT scan and cried with relief when they told me it was clear and we could proceed with the amputation. They sent me home (it's a two-hour drive to WSU from Spokane) and said I could pick him up in two or three days. They promised to be in touch twice daily. The next morning they were happy to report that he was doing exceptionally well and even wanted to chase bunny rabbits on his post-op walk. Another call a few hours later reported that he was progressing wonderfully but refusing to eat. Knowing that Max and I are inseparable, they guessed his appetite would pick up at home and invited me to get him that afternoon. He was only in the hospital for 24 hours after surgery. I was so heartened and encouraged by this.

He ate heartily at home. His appetite has never failed him in the eight days since. I haven't left his side and even sleep on the floor with him. His last day of pain meds was yesterday, and he's a little more awake and interactive now, but still sleeping a lot. When we go outside to sit in the grass and watch the world go by, he'll take a few steps and then lie down again. It's about a two-hour undertaking to get out and then back in. I let him take all the time he needs. His incision is healing marvelously, and he appears to be in excellent condition, but he does seem a little depressed. I'm keeping a positive, upbeat demeanor, but he does seem down. I suspect that once he's given the all-clear to get back into the water we'll start to see Max climb back to vigor and activity.

I have no regret. Amputation was absolutely the right thing to do. Chemo starts Tuesday. There's no point in lamenting the crap that befalls us--we just have to deal with it as best we can, and this was the course of action that had to be taken. When I think back five weeks ago when we were trotting happily along on the trail, oblivious to what lay ahead, I feel determined to do whatever I can to get us back to a happy, active life. But today? Today, honestly, I want to go hide in the bathroom and cry for a little bit. Actually, I want to weep my heart out. I love Max so much! I don't care if he's three-legged, I just want my joyful, happy baby back. A gloom is settling on me today, and I'm trying to fight it, but it's just really hard.

I'm told the amputation/chemo treatment generally buys another year of life. I'm counting on more than that. 

Livermore, CA




Member Since:
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2 May 2015 - 1:27 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm glad that Max is doing so well!  Keep an eye on his pain level- lots of us were on pain meds for two weeks.  Some pups do fine with less, hopefully Max is one of those!

I can't believe your vet was leaning toward 'make him comfortable', with such a young dog and no mets?!?!?!  Oh well, I hope Max shows him what can happen if you give a pup a chance.

This is the right place to come and vent with the gloom overcomes you...I think it happens to all of us who have been down the cancer path.  But take your cues from Max- once he is fully healed and gets his sparkle back you life will be full of happy!  And as close as you were before this sucky cancer trek creates an even stronger bond.

I made a mistake when my pug Maggie lost her left rear leg to mast cell cancer.  I spent time mourning the things she couldn't do anymore.  I finally realized that she wasn't missing things- she was busy living her happy, carefree (albeit stubborn) pug life!  And- she figured out how to do everything she needed to do, and she trained me to do the rest!

 

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Los Angeles, CA
Member Since:
13 June 2013
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2 May 2015 - 4:06 pm
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Wow... you are such a positive person and such an advocate for your sweet Max! He is so young but I am glad you found a vet to take care of the amputation and chemo. He WILL get his sparkle back.. those mellow, healing times are hard for us humans but definitely help the pooches get well. My girl did great the first 48 hours and then we had our challenges for a couple weeks ... but her sparkle DID come back. And she had a different cancer and was older but had 8 amazing extra months!

 

There is no time stamp... no magic ball to tell us how long they have ... dogs live in the day and the moment and every day is a complete gift!!! Keep close to us and we'll guide as best we can. 

Hugs and love! 

alison with spirit shelby fur-ever in her heart (and little jasper too)

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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2 May 2015 - 4:27 pm
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Max and family, welcome. Your story really touched my heart, I can relate completely to your experience, which was very similar to ours and Jerry's. If it's any comfort, our Jerry lived two amazing years post-amputation due to osteo, and we opted out of chemo so he really beat the odds. There are many other dogs who have too. Check out Bart the Vizsla's story. He was about 3 when diagnosed as well, and lived five more incredible years after osteo!

I too am always shocked and horrified when a vet writes off a dog just like that. It's troubling any time but especially when they are young. Tomorrow we are having Dr. Sarah Boston, a vet oncologist and author of the book "Lucky Dog" on Tripawd Talk Radio. One of our favorite passages in her book is:

Sometimes the barriers to a diagnosis and treatment are too great and our patients lose before they even have the chance to fight. Sometimes just the word cancer, and not the disease itself, is enough to bring the dog’s life to an end, even if it is a suggestion and not a firm diagnosis. A dog’s life is only as important as we think it is, and it is only worth as much as we can afford, or choose, to pay. A dog’s death is only as sad as it makes the owners who loved him, and a dog’s recovery from cancer or fake cancer is only as happy as it makes the people who are cheering him on.”

Be sure to tune in if you can, it'll be a great show!

Thanks for joining, we look forward to being there for you on this journey, and watching Max kick butt!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Member Since:
2 May 2015
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2 May 2015 - 5:46 pm
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Thank you all so much for your kind words and encouragement. It's great to be among fellow fighters! 

Orrtanna Pa.
Member Since:
25 January 2014
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3 May 2015 - 9:51 pm
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I am glad you listened to your gut instead of your vet! As soon as I read the words, " he brought me a shoe." I became a huge Max fan. My Ty was a shoe man also. He will get his spunk back. The pain meds combined with the effects of anesthesia take a bit to get out of their system. He will surprise you with what he can do. It is ok to need a cry at times. It is stressful and you worry. I think it is probably a good thing we remain oblivious right up until diagnosis. This disease tries to steal so much from us,it is good that we did not give it that additional time. Max seems like a strong, young pup. We would love to see pictures of him. Thinking of you both, Lori,Ty & the Gang

TY GUY, Best Black Lab ever! Diagnosed  and had amp in January, 2014. Kicked MRSA's butt. Earned his angel wings on April 16, 2014. Run Free my boy and don't forget a shoe. Ty is a proud member of the " April Angels". Ty sent us Daryl, a Tripawd rescue in Sept. of 2016. Daryl is 5 +or -. We are also Pawrents to Chandler, a Border Collie mix who is 15 and 1/2, Lucy, a Corgi who is 7, 2 minis, 2 horses, and a feisty cat named Zoe. Zoe had a non skeletal Osteosarcoma removed in July 2015. No Chemo, she was at least 16. She is going strong although she is now completely blind. She is now close to 20 and her hobbies are eating and sleeping in front of her personal heater. 

Oakland, CA
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20 December 2008
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4 May 2015 - 5:49 pm
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Hey to you and Max! It is early days and there are bound to be some ups and downs (both for Max and you) at this stage in recovery. Maybe he is depressed or down because he is still hurting? Perhaps you could run that by your vet as many pups around here are on pain meds up to two weeks post-surgery.

Once he recovers and gets his go back all will be well, its just gonna take a little while. You might be interested in taking a look at some resources for post-surgery rehab to keep your mind off feeling blue and plan for next stepssmiley. This is a good place to start.

Hoping to hear much more from you and Max!

Martha, Codie Rae, and the Oaktown Pack

Woohoo! Tripawds Rule!

Regulator of the Oaktown Pack, Sheriff of the Oaktown Pawsse, Founding member and President of the Tripawd Girldogs With 2 Names ROCK Club, and ... Tripawd Girldog Extraordinaire!

Visit Codie Rae's Blog!

Michigan
Member Since:
2 April 2013
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5 May 2015 - 11:04 pm
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Our Murphy had his right front leg removed for histiocytic sarcoma 2 years ago.  I worried for awhile with him because diagnosis took a lot longer for him - he started limping in October, tentative diagnosis in February, surgery in April (mostly due to the misdiagnosis from the initial x-rays).  Sometimes it seemed like it was taking Murphy forever to feel better!  But let me tell you...he cracks us up all the time now!  He runs all over the place, chases squirrels, rabbits, etc., can dig for mice, jump on the bed, into the car, sits pretty, rolls around moaning & groaning and is just plain goofy big-grin We were told that if we were lucky we might get 12-18 months after his surgery, but it's been just over 2 years and his lungs are still clear and he's doing great!  He just turned 9 years old in January.  Sometimes I think they just need time to process everything.  Max's world has changed - all of a sudden he had pain, then surgery, then all that medicine that made him feel funny.  He'll be back to himself before you know it!

Donna

Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs

Donna.png

Virginia







Member Since:
22 February 2013
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6 May 2015 - 9:24 am
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Just catching up on you and Max! Lpve his avatar picture and can't wait to see more!

You've gotten great feedback already. And goodness knows, no one on the planet understands the emotions this roller coaster journey bestows upon us all! Vent, cry here with us...we all get it!

You have a very empowering attitude towards this and that will help Max heal. You are a strong advocate for Max and you know him better than anybody! Once that sparkle of his comes back he will be swimming and chasing sticks like crazy! And we want pictures!!!

It ks still VERY early in recovery so taking it slowly right now is very important. IF he shows any signa of pain, be sure and check with the vet about putting him back on pain meds on a consistent basis for a few more days. Many dogs here, especially larger ones, need to be on pain meds for close to two weeks. My Happy Hannah, a "plus sized model Bull Mastiff, needed them in a reduced form for almost three weeks.

Keep us posted! We care! You are not alone, okay?

Hugs and love!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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!

Member Since:
2 May 2015
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6 May 2015 - 5:55 pm
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I love you guys! Sometimes people make me feel a little nutty because I love Max so much. Nice to know I'm not alone.
Max had his first round of chemo yesterday and took it like a champ. The oncologist put him back on rimadyl, and I think that's made a huge difference. He's much more agile and fluid and energetic today. Makes me happy.
I took him him to the park today, and he was giddy about it. We both needed the outing. He ran beautifully after the ball and visited with every passerby he could persuade to stop and say hello. Except for stamina, he seemed like himself again. 

Trying to figure out how to add photos...

Virginia







Member Since:
22 February 2013
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7 May 2015 - 9:20 am
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This post makes me so happy! YAAAAAAAAAY FOR MAX!!clap

Okay, I'm gonna try and post a link for pictures..I'm not savvy at this computer stuff at all...here goes....http://tripawds.....-photos-1/

Keep on keeping on Max! You're doing great! Don't overdo though!

Looking forward to pictures and more great updates!

Hugs!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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!

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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7 May 2015 - 9:38 am
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susanna said
Trying to figure out how to add photos...

Here are detailed instructions for adding photos to forum posts .

You can upload the photos to Max's blog, and copy the image file location (URL) to use here in the forums. If you need help, check out the tutorial videos in your dashboard, post in the Tech Support forum , or we can meet in the Tripawds Chat some time to help walk you through it...

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Michigan
Member Since:
2 April 2013
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10 May 2015 - 7:38 pm
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Oh, I know people get tired of hearing me talk about Murphy sometimes.  Although sometimes it surprises me when someone from work asks me out of the blue how he's doing...I think because they all know that he's surpassed everyone's expectations and everyone loves an underdog!  I love sharing his story, he amazes us everyday!

Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs

Donna.png

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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10 May 2015 - 8:04 pm
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Share all you want. We love hearing it! 🙂

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Member Since:
11 May 2015
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19 May 2015 - 7:58 pm
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Our 2 year old Ada had her right front leg amputated 5 days ago due to osteosarcoma. I completely relate to how you are feeling. It is such an emotional roller coaster. We were in shock to hear the diagnosis in such a young dog. Angry because we lost our golden retriever, Morgan, to hemangiosarcoma just 2 years ago and Ada was a puppy that gave us new life after losing him. How is it possible that we could have 2 dogs with cancer in 2 years.

It was 2 weeks from Ada's first vet visit for limping till she had her amputation. We have been blessed with excellent vets who have helped us with this journey. We pray every day that Ada will surpass all the statistics.

Max is a lucky dog to be loved so much!

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