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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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New member Diego looking for advice on amputation
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Member Since:
28 July 2012
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28 July 2012 - 12:19 pm
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Hi Jon-- so sorry that Odin was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his front leg just like my boy Diego who is long-haired GSD turned 10yrs old 7/19/12 and was diagnosed the next day. I am trying very hard to make the correct decision too! Nicknamed “Wookie” b/c he looked like a Chewbacca when I adopted him 6yrs ago -- I got his papers after adoption and his fulll name is Aniken Diego --no kidding!

I am really struggling with what the right plan for him should be. Our primary vet said amputation and chemo would not be fair to him but speciality vet said this past Monday that is exactly what he thinks we should do. A friend in Memphis, Tennessee Ginger Morgan who is with 2Dogs 2000Miles ( now 2 Millions Dogs movement on canine cancer) referred me to tripawds web site and the specialty vet encouraged us to look at YouTube videos of 3 legged dogs. A after looking at this web site, watching a few videos and more reading, I am leaning towards amputation for pain mamagement but my husband doesn’t agree. I pray that we do the right thing for our very good boy and not heroics for ouselves… This is tearing me up!

Diego weighs 101 lbs and is being successfully treated for 2 different autoimmune diseases. He first got SLO which is symmetrical lupoid onchydystrophy where all claws became mangled and then fissured and split off leaving raw exposed nail beds but this is under control with several daily medications taken for the past 5 years. Then last July, he developed masicatory myeocitis which presented as lockjaw but now with 20mg predinose every other day, this is also under control. Probably due to the predinsone, he is quite interested in food and always wants to eat. Chest xrays do not yet show nodules although the specialty vet said that osteosarcoma almost always metastisizes and for Diego he probably has metastisized cancer but at micro level not visible on xray at this time.

I have read that amputation recovery can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months–is that right for those with experience?? If it could be months and not weeks, I then wonder if that is the best course –IF we can keep pain managed with Tramadol?? I am now reading about an IV treatment that can possibly provide relief for 2-3 weeks at a time.  Palliative raditation does not seem like a good option for pain management  for us since we would have to travel ~2 hours each way to Indy. I have been crying so much but I truly do want the best pain management to be our first goal for Diego.. The specialty vet said that Carboplatin is usually well tolerated but I have not even begun to read on that yet. pain management first..BTW, limping started ~ July 10th and vet said leg tumor size was "middle of the road"..sad


Cheri Hildreth

Lanesvillle, Indiana

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28 July 2012 - 12:48 pm
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Hi Cheri and Diego,
Welcome to Tripawds. Your future posts will not require moderation.I hope you don't mind that I moved Diego's story to a new thread, I didn't want his story to get mixed up with Odin's.
This is a hard decision to make, there are so many factors to consider.
My pug had mast cell cancer, not OSA so my decision process was a bit different. I chose amputation because the tumor could not be removed and the cancer would spread if the tumor was left. That part is the same as OSA, but I did not have to consider pain in my decision. From what I have learned here, and from tripawds I have met in person, pain from OSA is really bad, and even with drugs the pain never goes away.
I hope with more research and seeing some of the videos here you and your husband can come to agreement. The most important thing is that you make the best decision for Diego.
We are here to help in what ever way we can.

Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
28 July 2012
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28 July 2012 - 1:04 pm
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Karen-- thank you SO much for giving us our own thread!  I am really worried about whether we will be able to successfully manage Diego's pain on meds without amputation. That's why I am going to learn more about the drugs as the specialty vet said he would support whatever deciision we make.


I understand why my husband is opposed to amputation because of the primary vet's comments and it doesn't seem natural to amputate a front leg. BUT, after reading that amputation is the standard treatment for pain management and seeing how well even front leg amputees do, I have been suprised.  And seeing Jon's post yesterday about his Leonberger who weighs 154 lbs with osteosarcoma in front leg and other large breeds that have gone through amputation, I am hoping that my husband will at least look at some of the videos and read some of these posts.  That said, he is the one that will have to stay home to take care of our good boy, Diego, so I think it will have to be his decision...

This is so very stressful!sad

San Diego, CA
Member Since:
29 October 2010
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28 July 2012 - 2:12 pm
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Sorry you had to find us here. We've had many older/bigger dogs do well post-amp. (There's a 'size & age matters' section on the site if you want to look around in there for examples.)

I don't have experience with that personally as our dog was young (15 months) and light (47lbs) but she did have OSA.

I would seriously consider going through with the amp. Most dogs are pretty much back to their old selves at about 2 weeks - some older dogs do take longer, usually 3 or 4 weeks.

You could always figure out the chemo part later. If you do just the amp, at least the time you have left with him will be pain free. Many folks here talk about how as soon as they picked their dog up post-amp, that pained expression was gone from their eyes. Some of those folks who "only" had a few more months with their dogs said it was still worth it/no regrets as that time was pain free and very precious extra time with their beloved pup.

Hang in there and keep us posted.

Jackie, Angel Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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29 July 2012 - 5:59 am
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Hi Cheri.  Our Zeus was 11 at the time of diagnosis (osteosarcoma) and had his front right leg removed on 12/1/11.  I do think that age plays a part in recovery time.  Zeus took about a month to really start getting back to normal.

We have had eight fabulous months with him (with a few bumps here and there).  We do not regret amputation at all.

One thing that I will stress is that each dog is so different with their fight.  Some dogs have chemo and do great and some dogs do not do chemo and still live long lives. Definitely check out the 'size and age matters' forum section.  I would discuss with the specialist in detail the pre-existing conditions and make sure they will not complicate recovery and future ambulatory ability.

For us, it was also a difficult decision because Zeus had a lung met and a small spot on his liver at the time of diagnosis.  Visible spread at the time of diagnosis provides for very poor prognosis, but we decided we had to at least try.  We weren't given hope for much more than six weeks, but as I said above we are approaching our eight month ampuversary.  You just never know.

I know this is a terrible decision to make.  Each family must consider their own dog and how he copes with adversity, your financial abilities, your ability to help with recovery, etc.  We have all been there and we understand.  Best of luck to you!


Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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29 July 2012 - 7:35 am
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Cheri, I'm so glad that Karen moved your post here so we could see it (thanks Karen!). Diego is just darling, what a sweetie and he sounds like a real fighter. If he's a Shepherd, I'm sure he's got a determination and drive to get through this. But it's also up to you and your husband to meet halfway and be strong together, since Diego's recovery will only be as good as his pack's strength.

Keep in mind that we are not veterinarians, but when I hear about a vet saying things like yours did, I can't help but wonder if this is an old-school vet who was trained long ago? Most vets in this era are educated about amputation's benefits to preserve quality of life, especially when it comes to osteosarcoma. You will find lots of them interviewed in our Tripawds News blog (or here, in our interview about canine and feline tripawds, with Good Morning America's Dr. Marty Becker). Not all dogs are candidates for amputation but even large breed dogs can live great lives on three legs as long as they aren't over-weight and are in otherwise good health. If you decide to proceed I highly recommend asking your specialty vet for a referral to a new primary care general veterinarian, someone who is more up-to-date and can give you and your husband a fair assessment of Diego's candidacy.

First off, osteosarcoma is a horribly painful disease that even the strongest pain medications cannot control after a while. Tramadol will not do anything for it, you would need to consider stronger drugs that a vet who is well-versed in pain-management protocols can tell you about. Bisphosphonates are another option.

I highly recommend both of you read our "Required Reading List" and our ebook, "Three Legs & a Spare" so you know what to expect and what kind of questions to ask your vets. Take one step at a time: first consider if you want to proceed with amputation, then deal with chemo afteward if you go through with it. Diego has dealt with a lot in his life, I know you'll make a decision based on his best interests in mind.  We'll be here to support you either way.

OH, and please thank Ginger for referring you to us next time you talk to her! She's terrific.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Scottsburg, IN
Member Since:
5 February 2010
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29 July 2012 - 7:39 am
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Cheri, I can do you so much better than videos. My boxer, Roxy, is a front leg amputee and August 2nd will be 29 months since her amputation. The reason I say I can do you so much better than videos is because I live in Scottsburg, about 40 minutes from you. If your husband would be willing to meet Roxy maybe we could come visit you or meet somewhere. I don't know where any dog parks are that's why I was thinking maybe your house...or mine. Let me know. You can send me a PM and we can exchange contact info if you'd like. Either way, I wish you the best.


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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29 July 2012 - 9:16 am
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Oh cool Leslie, what a pawesome offer to Diego! Thanks. If you meet up, we'd love to see pics. Keep us posted.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Garden City, New York
Member Since:
26 July 2012
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29 July 2012 - 3:41 pm
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Hi Cheri....just to let you know Odin is home. He took his first steps last night and this morning walked to his bowl and ate standing up!!!!! I hope you and your husband can come together and do what's best for Diego. Odin and I, and his two brothers Thor (10) and Loki (2), also Leonbergers, will proceed with cautious optimism, but so far so good. Hang in there!!!!!

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