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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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New member facing amputation on Great Dane
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Forum Posts: 303
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24 April 2013 - 3:53 pm
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Hi Everybody, I'm so glad I found tripawds although I wish I never had to search for it.  I can't tell you all how grateful I am to have found this resource to help us handle this terrible news and give us so much priceless information.  I have cried over and over reading Nova's blog and I'm so grateful her mom shared all her stories for us other giant breed moms.

Our beloved Dane Atlas was diagnosed with bone cancer this past Friday and as I'm sure you all know, our heads have been spinning since then.  We live in Georgia and have been back and forth to UGA hospital for the past few days for exams and consults.  When presented with our options: amputation and hopefully give our buddy another year or two or three.  Radiation which is basically just to help with pain and only gives him a few months.  Limb sparing which has so much pain in recovery and has a high failure rate which ends up in amputation.  After watching so many videos and reading so many blogs we were decided....amputation followed by chemo is the only chance for Atlas to be cancer free and live a pain free quality life....we made our decision.

As if that wasn't hard enough, the neurologist told us yesterday that he would not recommend amputation for Atlas because he has mild wobblers disease.  They say there is a chance that Atlas will not recover from surgery and be able to carry his large (150 lb) body on an already compromised frame.  That he may collapse and we would have to put him to sleep right then.  Aghhh.... sorry.... so many tears I can barely type.

Atlas never showed signs of his wobblers disease until about 6 months ago when we noticed he is not as steady as he used to be in the hind end, however, he has not been affected by it the way most are.  It was very hard, but we had to step outside of the neurologist and make the decision we thought best for Atlas.  We are just making our number one priority to stop the pain our baby is in and removing the leg is the best way to do that.  Our vet who has known Atlas his entire 7 years said he would do the amputation if it were him and the Oncologist thought so too.  We believe if anyone can win this battle - Atlas can!  We know he is exceptional and we know he has the best mom and dad to facilitate his recovery.  And I know him, he has not given up.  I've had to put a few other dogs to sleep in my life and they all let me know it was time.  Atlas has not shown me that.

It's his front left leg, Atlas is 7 years 4 months old and other wise in perfect health.  They said his heart, lungs, liver, eyes, everything is in excellent health.  Ortho said his bones were good, no signs of arthritis or any problems in his joints or hips.  Its just that d#%n neck/spine issue.  He is a totally indoor couch potato spoiled beloved boy just as all dogs should be.  He is Canine Good Citizen certified angel of a boy and he is my heart.

We feed ultra premium dog food - Merrick - pretty much his whole life but I am going to look into supplements to help with his recovery.  I'm sure I can find plenty to read about that on here too. I also want to find the best helping harness for a dog his size and would love any input from you all.

Thanks again for being here, I can't tell you how much it has helped.

Patricia

 

krun15
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24 April 2013 - 5:29 pm
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Hi Patricia, welcome to you and Atlas (and pack).  Your future posts will not require moderation.

I'm sorry you are dealing with OSA in your boy- he looks like he has a ton of personality!

Since you have been reading here you know we have many giant breed dogs do well, and some like Spirit Nova have defied the OSA odds.  I have a local friend, Cemil, a 150 pound Anatolian Shepard who is 4 years out from his front amp for OSA and so far is cancer free!

It sounds to me like you have talked through all your options and made the best decision possible for your boy.  That is what all of us have done.  We have members who's dog's have some existing mobility issues and have done well with the amp.

The first days and weeks after amputation can be hard as our pups deal with meds and their new 'normal'. Don't get discouraged!!  If you haven't already you might want to read through Jerry's Required Reading List or download the ebook Three Legs and a Spare.  Both have info from this site on what to expect with amputation, recovery and treatment.

I know how hard all of this is to take in, we have been there and can help.

 

Karen

In your heart, where I belong.
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24 April 2013 - 7:36 pm
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Hi Patricia,

Welcome aboard! Do you have a surgery date scheduled? I know you'll have lots of questions but try to read through what you can here and let it sink in. The immediate concern is controlling pain till amputation day. Go ahead and start to make a plan for recovery--where Atlas will be during the day, where he will sleep, if you want to make any changes to sleeping arrangements, floor surfaces, stairs. 

I also encourage you to stop by the chat room . There is someone there every evening and sometimes it's a pretty full house. You can ask questions and get immediate answers (or opinions!) and find some friendly shoulders.

Whenever surgery day is, make sure to check in as soon as Atlas is in recovery so we'll know all is well. It's a big deal and we all wait for the good word.

Shari

From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at http://shari.tr.....pawds.com/

The Rainbow Bridge



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24 April 2013 - 9:24 pm
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Patricia, thank you for joining us. This is the club nobody wants to join, indeed. But as you can see there is HOPE here, from Nova to every single Tripawd who has hopped over here to share their story.

You sound like you know Atlas very, very well. We always tell folks, talk to your dog, speak through your hearts, and ask them what they want. Atlas has clearly given you his answer. And as you embark on this journey, we will be with you every step of the way.

One of our earliest inspawrations here was Moose, a Tripawd Dane who also had a condition that mimicked Wobblers. You might enjoy the following story his dad wrote. If you'd like, I can put you in touch with him, I know he would be happy to share his experience with you if you'd like.

Inspawrational Great Dane Moose Leads the Big Dog Parade

Please let us know whatever questions you have, we are here to help.

 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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24 April 2013 - 10:09 pm
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Welcome Patricia and Atlas. What abeautiful boy he is! From reading your post it sounds like you have given yourseld all the info you needed to make a decision. We will all be here to cheer Atlas on and give you a shoulder to lean on and cry on and also find some humor along the way to help you through this.

I highly suggest getting an elevated dish if you don't already have one. It really helped Shooter out and he is much shorter than Atlas.

Hang in there.

Spirit Shooter was a Miniature Australian Shepherd who was diagnosed with a MCT and had a LF amp 1/28/13 at 13-1/2 years old. 

Shooter crossed the Bridge on 8/28/13, his 7 month ampuversary and two weeks from his 14th birthday.

http://shooter......ipawds.com

Virginia




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24 April 2013 - 11:38 pm
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What a handsome YOUNG man you are!

Patricia, you are doing every single thing possible for Atlas and, most importantly, your decision is coming from a place of love,
. THAT is always the right decision!

I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare, and endless, frightening nightmare from which I could not wake up, when trying to decide to amputate. It was a forced choice......her pain was getting worse and her life would be over sooner rather than later...OR...re move the leg, remove the pain and give her a quality life of love and joy every second of everyday for however long she may have. She's nine weeks after surgery, three chemos under her belt and everyday is a treasured gift. For the first three weeks almost I thought I'd made a horrible mistake. She was having a slower recovery than some and it took quite awhile (or so it all seemed) before her pain was gone. The caring people on this site held me up with encouragement and promises of a successful recovery.. They empowered me with their knowledge and help me fight through the fears and uncertainty.

The bizarre "gift" of this situation is you will learn to live in the moment and your whole focus will be based on immersing Atlas with more love, more joy, more pure bliss and more treats than you ever thought possible:-) :-) Atlas will experience a lifetime of being loved at a depth most dogs never get to experience. Your no d will be unbroken and eternal.

We are all here for you, holding you up should you need it, walking with you if you want, being your strength when you feel scared and eating ice cream to celebrate Atlas's first pee and poop after surgery:-) :-) Atlas is a big dog-----I'm getting a lot of ice cream!!:-)

Atlas will be free from pain and on the road to some incredible victories! After all Atlas can carry them weight of the world on his shoulders without even blinking an eye! Cancer is already screaming "Uncle"!

You are not alone. We are sending you strength, peace and calm....and we have plenty more to pass out when yo need it!

Sally and Happy Hannah

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!

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25 April 2013 - 12:18 pm
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Wow, I'm overwhelmed by the compassion and understanding.  Thank you all so much.  It's been difficult dealing with some of the stupid senseless things some family members and friends have said to us so to come here and find such kindness is so very comforting.  Atlas is scheduled for surgery tomorrow, we take him in at 7 am.  He was supposed to go today, but it's a teaching hospital and they called us last night and cancelled as they had two open heart surgery emergencies. 

I'm so scared.  Not because of the amputation, but that because of his wobblers he won't make it. I've been reading and trying to prepare myself.  I was just reading Mooses website and from what I know about wobblers, it was probably the change of his spinal alignment with the amputation that brought on his wobblers and he only survived a couple months after that.  If Atlas already has wobblers... what am I doing to him??? I don't want to cause him more pain.  I'm so confused, I'm so scared. I only want to do the right thing for our boy. Atlas has taught us so much already- true pure love, benevolence, forgiveness, living in the moment.  If we were just facing the cancer I would be sure about our decision, but with the wobblers, I'm just so scared. In trying to eliminate one pain what if I bring about a bigger pain in his neck. 

Oh boy, I'm 50 years old and this is definitely the hardest thing I've ever faced in my life and I  typically live in a place of love and light but this whole thing has me in a place I'm not comfortable.  I know I have to be a strong leader for Atlas and typically I am and I will surely put on my strength jacket when it comes to helping Atlas through recovery, but for now, I have never cried so much in my life.

Patricia

In your heart, where I belong.
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25 April 2013 - 12:44 pm
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Hi Patricia, and congratulations! You've decided to give Atlas a chance and that's to be celebrated, not mourned. You aren't taking anything from him that he needs. You are getting rid of something that will kill him. He isn't interested in anything but feeling well again. Many people say they didn't realize their dog was in pain until the leg was gone and they saw new life and energy that had been missing. Cancer hurts.

We have a lot of threads here devoted to the tactless and rude comments of friends, family and strangers. My go-to has always been "Mother (dad, grandma, Aunt Lulabelle, whoever), I promise I won't euthanize you if you get cancer. I hope you won't euthanize me, either." 

Right now just focus on what you need to do to get the house ready for Atlas. Have a plan for getting him into the house, where his bed will be, how you'll get him out to potty, etc. Ask questions here. For instant help, try chat. And let us know tomorrow when surgery is over so we can be happy with you!

Shari

From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at http://shari.tr.....pawds.com/

New York, NY
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25 April 2013 - 12:55 pm
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Patricia,

 

I'm a little late jumping in here, but I just wanted to say welcome and offer my support.  This journey can indeed be "head spinning", but you've definitely come to the right place!  Make sure to stop into the chat room if you'd like, there are always a few of us in there (at least one, usually me ;) ) at one time or another.  I have a 10 pound kitty tripawd, so I may not be the best to offer support in ways of a harness or other things, but we are currently going through the osteosarcoma battle as well and hope I can offer any support I can!

 

Wishing you the best,

Erica & Kitty Tripawd Jill

Jill is a 9-year-old tuxedo kitty. She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in June 2012 on her toe in her right hind leg. Her leg was amputated on 12/12/12 and she completed four rounds of chemo (2 of Carbo, 2 of Doxy) in April 2013. "Like" Jill's facebook page: https://www.fac.....tty?ref=hl Proud member of the WINTER WARRIORS!!!! Her blog can be read at http://jillsjou.....ipawds.com. xoxo

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25 April 2013 - 1:57 pm
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Thanks, but I'm not worried about the amputation, it's the wobblers on top of the amputation that is our hurdle now.  Especially after everything I've read today.  I fear mine is an uncommon situation and most folks listen to the Neurologist and elect not to put their wobbler dog through amputation so there is not a lot of research on wobblers getting amputated and what I did fine was very dire. crying

Patricia

In your heart, where I belong.
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25 April 2013 - 2:09 pm
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I get that, Patricia. I am focusing more on what the vet and onco said to you. They said they'd amputate if it were their dog, right? It seems to me that doing nothing at all or amputating and having it turn out poorly are not much different. If you choose to amputate, you are at least taking a chance. I realize the neurologist knows more about Wobblers, but the other 2 are smart people, too. If someone's opinion has to be wrong, perhaps it will be the neurologist's.

Shari

From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at http://shari.tr.....pawds.com/

The Rainbow Bridge



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25 April 2013 - 2:35 pm
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Hey Patricia,

Just so you know it was never confirmed that Moose officially had wobblers, he had symptoms that appeared to be wobblers but it was never 100% diagnosed. Please try not to worry. If the much smarter docs that you're working with think he is a good candidate, run with that.

The thing about cancer is it makes you take life one day at a time. Which is the way we should be living it all the time anyways, right? I know you have it in there to do that. So does Atlas. 

{{{{hugs}}}}}

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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25 April 2013 - 3:53 pm
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You are all right.  I'm so sorry if I was snarky.  I just hate all my choices and I guess am just processing my anger.  Again, apologies, you all have been so wonderfully supportive and I'm so grateful I found this group.  Thanks so much for the hug Jerry, I really needed that.  Hubs is away at work today and I needed that hug. I just spoke to hubs and he reminded me, we know our chances are slimmer than a normal amputee, but it is the only thing that allows Atlas a chance, so we have to take it and if he doesn't do well, at least we know we made our decision out of love for Atlas and wanting to stop his pain and give him a chance. Pretty much everything you guys said.

AND now, I'm snapping out of it, I'm going to focus on the moment and one day at a time.  I've got our friend building a ramp on the 4 stairs that go outside. He's making it 14 ft. long so its a very gradual incline and 4 ft wide so it's plenty of room for both he and his human to walk together.  I moved the master bedroom to the downstairs guest room so that we all still get to sleep together.  I'm removing the bed frame and putting the mattresses on the floor and moved Atlas's ortho bed to that room.  I'm digging out the baby gate to block off the hall and limit his space. Luckily, its the room that he has claimed as his own throughout his whole life, he loves the view from the windows, so it will be easy for him to rest there, not a drastic change from the normal routine.  He already has a raised food bowl so that's good. Now to find some sticky area rugs to cover the hard woods.

Last thing, I'm wondering what kind of harness is best when he comes home with the wound.  I know after the wound heals the RuffWear is good, but what about before that? Patricia

Here and Now


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25 April 2013 - 4:06 pm
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atlasmom said
what kind of harness is best when he comes home with the wound.

If you believe a harness is needed immediately when Atlas comes home, consider the Zuport as it was designed for therapeutic purposes and has no straps that may interfere with the incision site. It is available for the front rear, or both together. The Virtua is another new harness that offers better rear end support for giant breed dogs, that you might consider in addition to the Ruff Wear Harness .

While we do recommend not using a harness until the surgery has completely healed and stitches or staples are removed we have never heard of specific cases where any harness has hampered healing. We just like to play it safe and believe direct pressure from the straps may irritate the wound. Please consult your veterinarian with any concerns.

We suggest using a soft towel slung under the belly if additional support is required in the meantime. A reusable canvas shopping bag slit down the sides also makes a handy temporary sling.

Hope this helps!

Fort Wayne, IN
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25 April 2013 - 5:34 pm
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Welcome Patricia & Atlas!   

I can't offer much more than the others' awesome advice but a couple of things come to mind. Instead of using a harness right away, we took some advice from the posts here and cut a reusable shopping bag up the sides and used it as a sling...built in handles! Honestly, she only used it for the first day and a half or so and then she found her own footing. Second, when Libby came home from her surgery, she was bandaged.  On the third day the bandage was removed and we put hubby's t-shirt on her to keep the incision area clean.  We cut the shirt to fit and pinned any parts  that might drag and catch her foot (Libby is a right front amp from OSA and is 10 years old).

When we got her diagnosis we had xrays taken of her lungs and hip joints.  We wanted to see how her lungs looked and if she could support 3 legs.  The vet cautioned us that her back left hip had moderate to severe arthritis, even though she showed no outward signs.  We went ahead with the surgery because I never want to have any regrets or ask myself "what if?"  I couldn't live with that.  She has done beautifully and we have never looked back.

I wish you much luck and am looking forward to your updates.  You are doing your best for Atlas.  I can feel the passion in your writing and I know Atlas feels the love.  

 

Liberty (Libby) was diagnosed with OSA on 1-22-13.  Right front amputation on 1-31-13. No IV Chemo. Metronomic Therapy started 2-19-13 along with supplements and some home cooking. Lungs clear until 1-06-14.  She's still her happy, hoppy, bossy self.  Living the dog life to the fullest and a proud Winter Warrior. :) RIP my Libby 4-21-03 to 3-19-14

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