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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Our MAXimum Dog’s Life and Cancer Story
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Forum Posts: 12
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26 December 2020 - 1:25 pm
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I thought it might be best to start our journey on these forums with an introduction. Sorry it’s so long!

The Hart Family consists of John and Sara (me) and our fur babies Max (10) and Beau (3). (FYI: We linked our dog’s Instagram in our profile, which is “doglifecubed” because we also had a 3rd dog, Joey, who passed a year ago last April from epilepsy.) 

Beau is a big, goofy, 90lb golden retriever. 

and we have Max.

Max was given his name because everything about his life has always been lived “to the Max.” He is the maximum dog, in a 45lb package.  

We adopted Max at 6 months old because our first dog, Joey, was getting increasingly anxious and wanted a companion to help keep him company when we were at work. 

Max was rescued from Eastern Washington State, whose foster said that he was running and hunting with his pack of 10 terriers on his property. 

Max has never lost his puppy look, nor his puppy enthusiasm for hunting, running and jumping, wallowing in mud puddles, and generally rolling in anything stinky and/or dead. (Gross!)

When he’s inside Max is calm and snuggly and so incredibly attentive to the needs of the family, he’s the smartest dog I know, and truly points that intelligence towards taking care of the rest of the family. He and Joey were the best of friends. They snuggled and played together, Max would even “brush” Joey’s teeth and “clean” his ears. (Gross!)

When Joey started having seizures, Max was there for him. He would lay at his side once he was done seizing and lick up the froth/blood (if he bit his lip/tongue) around his mouth.

Max was the perfect companion for Joey, and probably added many more years onto his life because of that companionship. (The day we lost Joey was a day that we left him home alone to take Max to the vet for his cancer treatment…he started having a seizure and it lasted for so long his body just couldn’t recover.)

When one of us is having a bad day Max is always at our side with his head in our lap. And now? It’s our turn to be there for him. 

We went to the doctor after Max started limping slightly, thinking his latest “mole hunt at grandmas” tore a ligament or something. That’s when the X-ray showed a tumor in his upper left leg. 

When the vet contacted us with the news (after she sent the X-ray off for a specialist’s opinion) she said that the only thing we could do is amputate his leg and hope for the best, but that it was likely that Max would only have about 6 months before the cancer spread and took over his lungs. 

So we did what we always do, we did some research. We found out that there was a trial for a “vaccine” for osteosarcoma, and that Max might be a good candidate for it, but we would have to amputate his leg and put him on chemo in order to participate. 

This vaccine puts a cancer cell in with a listeria bacteria, and as his body fights the infection, it will learn how to also fight the cancer in the blood.

We decided that we would try to maximize his quality of life as much as possible, which meant at that point, to pay the big $$ and just pay for the vaccine treatment outside of the trial, and keep his leg as long as we could. 

The vaccine was hard on him, he felt so sick. He wouldn’t eat, unless I hand fed him. Even then I honestly think he would eat simply to make me happy, because he knew that was what I wanted. 

Once this 3 months of vaccine injections were done, his 6 months turned into 2 years, and he has lived a relatively normal life until about the last 2-3 months.

We had been keeping him on painkillers, (rimadyl, gabapentin, and cannabis) and he would get a monthly injection of Zelidronate (not sure on spelling) that would strengthen the bone around the tumor and help with pain and prevent breakage.

Last month was the worst, Max went in for treatment and it didn’t seem to do anything at all. He started choosing to stay downstairs at night instead of in our bedroom, and would physically get in our laps and stare in our faces panting when it was close to time for his pain medications (which we have maxed out on now…)

So last Wednesday, we talked with the surgeon, who had an opening this Monday to amputate his leg. They did all of the pre-operation X-rays and bloodwork, and…sadly they found a small nodule on his lungs.

They said it isn’t big enough to cause problems with anesthesia, but to set “realistic” expectations that this was a more palliative procedure now, and that chances are the cancer will continue to spread even with the leg removed. 

One positive, they said, is that they have a DIFFERENT vaccine, that they can customize using the tissue of the tumor from his removed leg, (which they couldn’t do previously because of how fragile the bone was) that could help his body fight his specific strain of cancer, and continue to slow the spread. They said that this, along with chemotherapy could help extend his life even more (and it isn’t nearly as expensive as the first vaccine).

Over the last year I have been buying items that will help him, like switching out his big squishy dog beds for orthopedic beds/mats.

A few weeks ago I bought the harness that this website recommended for amputees (the RuffWear one with the handle on the back…) and have been using that on our walks and helping him in and out of the car etc. 

He is mostly a tripod now, he doesn’t put weight on that leg, and struggles to get comfortable when he’s laying down. I’m hoping that experience will make the transition less difficult for him. 

So here we are. I’m here to learn about people’s experiences, things that might help our boy continue to live his best life, even with 3 legs. 

Some questions I have and will be reading about:

1) How other dogs (like Beau, our Golden, but also at dog parks etc.) treat amputees. Beau is NOT as gentle and caring as Joey or Max, and he often just body-checks Max out of the way, or runs right over him… If he wants to play (which he does all the time) he can play very rough with Max, and Max isn’t the type to back down, which means I worry about him getting hurt…

2) What to expect as far as what activities Max will need the most help with at first, (getting up from laying down? Peeing and pooping? Max hates to poop on a leash! Lol) or if front amputees really need a cone of shame post surgery? I doubt they can even reach the incision to lick it, can they?

3) Experiences from other pet owners whose dogs have had cancer as well, what their dog’s experiences are on Chemo, etc. 

thanks for reading this long post, I will post some pictures once this post is approved from our admin. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 December 2020 - 5:10 pm
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Hi Sara, Max and furmily, welcome! Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away. 

Well what a journey you guys have been on! Clearly you love your fur kids more than anything and put careful thought into all aspects of their lives. They are very lucky to have you for parents. When it comes to dealing with amputation and cancer, it’s never an easy thing as you know, but we are here to help try to make the journey less confusing and scary.

It does sound like Max is already an honorary Tripawd and you’re well-acquainted with the ins and outs of caring for a three-legger. So that’s the physical part of caring for him. He sounds like a spunky dude who wants that bad leg gone, and will very likely bounce back pretty quickly. Have you checked out Jerry’s Required Reading List and the Tripawds e-books for answers to common questions about recovery, Tripawd-proofing your home and things like that?

His vet team sounds remarkable. Where are you taking him for surgery and oncology? We are very familiar with the immunotherapy vaccines, and many members have been through those treatments. One of the most long-lived was Dexter, who had the listeria vaccine but not the second one from Eliaas.  Here are some immunotherapy stories you might want to check out:

https://tripawd…..unotherapy

To answer your immediate questions:

1) How other dogs (like Beau, our Golden, but also at dog parks etc.) treat amputees. Beau is NOT as gentle and caring as Joey or Max, and he often just body-checks Max out of the way, or runs right over him… If he wants to play (which he does all the time) he can play very rough with Max, and Max isn’t the type to back down, which means I worry about him getting hurt…

Most times, dogs know how to give each other space. In fact they often just want to stay away from the dog who just got back from the vet clinic. But sometimes their personalities can clash during recovery, so not being a multi-dog family i’m not the expert but this is just what I’ve heard others say. You want to watch them carefully and if there is any way to keep Max and Beau separate during recovery (a baby gate or x-pen?) that would be ideal. 

2) What to expect as far as what activities Max will need the most help with at first, (getting up from laying down? Peeing and pooping? Max hates to poop on a leash! Lol) or if front amputees really need a cone of shame post surgery? I doubt they can even reach the incision to lick it, can they?

Yes, all new Tripawds need the cone of shame . You wouldn’t believe how quickly they can destroy stitches when their humans aren’t looking. We’ve seen a lot of damage done to fresh incisions (which can lead to infection) so please use it. As for assistance, most will need a little bit of help during the first few days when the pain medication is new to their system and they’re high as a kite. Your vet won’t let Max come home until he can stand to eat and eliminate though, and if he won’t poop on a leash don’t expect him to but you also don’t want him to free roam outside until stitches are out. He should only go outside to potty and that’s it, during the first two wees.

3) Experiences from other pet owners whose dogs have had cancer as well, what their dog’s experiences are on Chemo, etc. 

Well I would say this: don’t get hung up on the projections because Max is his own dog. Many dogs with cancer, and with mets, will outlive their prognosis. Many will not. You just never know. But when it comes down to it, life is exactly like that too! You do the best you can with the information you have at the time and hope for the best. Cancer’s like that. As a wise member once said, dogs don’t come with an expiration date stamped on their butt so if your vet feels like you can enjoy more quality time together, then why not? Check out our Tripawds Quality of Life Survey results for more from members.

I hope this helps! Please keep us posted and let us know how things are going. Oh and here are instructions for adding images to the Forums.

  1. Upload pics to a photo sharing site like imgur.com or your own Tripawds blog!
  2. Right click and copy the Image URL or just copy the image if you’re on a phone
  3. Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself) in your post. It should automatically appear.

If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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26 December 2020 - 7:37 pm
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Thanks for the info and welcome Jerry! 
 
We currently have our Golden’s big kennel set up with a nice comfy pad on it, which we will cover with pee pads etc. when he is back from surgery. I have some rugs for our wood floors on order so that he can at least get from his crate to outside without too much slipping. 

We see both surgeon and veterinary oncologist at Bridge Animal Referral Center in Edmonds, WA. They have really been the best. Max is always happy to go in there and see them, even though they stick him with needles! 

the surgeon will be giving him a local anesthetic that will let him come home that day and should last for 3 days while Max is learning to become an “official” tripawd. 

thank you for the links, I will check out all of the reading material! sp_hearticon2

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 December 2020 - 11:19 am
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Oh that’s great, sounds like Max will get Nocita. We love that drug! His clinic looks amazing, I looked them up (BARC)https://www.bar…..attle.com/. I LOVE all the different chemotherapy and cancer care options they provide. You are a very lucky dawg to be able to have them on Max’s team. Be sure to put a shout out in our Vet Specialists Referrals Forum topic

Hope you guys are having a nice restful weekend together. Bark with any questions you’ve got, we are here for team Max!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Virginia




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27 December 2020 - 1:08 pm
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Thank you for sharing Max’s story so far, as well as including all the protocols  he jas been on, he is on and will be on.  Very informative.

And to parrot Jerry, No one, no one, non one knows how much ti e our dogs have and Max cer doesn not jave a timeframe  stamped on his butt.  What we DO know, and what you have already mastered, is to make each day the best day evvvver!   As will have a pain free quaility  lofe full of loving and spoiling beyond belief!  It is impossible  not to spoul a tripawd!  They are so darn cute!-

STAY CONNECTED  and update as you can.  Recovery  is nompicnic at first, but we are all here to help you navigate through  that and onto celebrating  all of Max’s milestones.

(((((((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!

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29 December 2020 - 12:21 am
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Thanks Benny!

right now I’m sitting here with an uncomfortable boy trying to encourage him to lay on his good side… he’s twisted in a figure 8 leaning on his right shoulder and trying to still lay on a left hip… poor boy. 

they sent him home with some localized anesthesia, so he is more uncomfortable with the different muscles he has to use I think than with the actual incision. 

love this boy so much. He had to walk out of the vets office today after his surgery… wagging his tail the whole time. Some of the staff even stayed after-hours to see him off and cheer him on… he’s been in his kennel staring at me, I know he’s not feeling well now, but he will be so much better off once he’s healed… 

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29 December 2020 - 12:55 am
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Jerry, thanks for the books! I bought them and am finding a lot of great information. 

The pharmaceutical company that we are doing the immunotherapy with is called Torigen. I’m assuming it is similar to what you mentioned. 

I will continue to read through your books and maybe try to navigate my way through your forums on my computer, it is a bit difficult on a phone. 

I will put in a good word in the forums about BARC… they recommended I come here after all! 😉

The Rainbow Bridge



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29 December 2020 - 12:33 pm
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Hey how’s Max doing this morning? Did you guys get any rest last night? I hope so! And yeah, moving around with one less leg takes practice, strength and stamina, but he will get there. 

I’m so glad you found the books helpful and thanks for the scoop on Torigen. I keep hearing about it, need to add it to my research for articles. 

That’s pretty cool about BARC, please thank them from us and if you’d like to give them free Tripawds Outreach Brochures just let us know.

If you ever need any help with the Forums or the site, just let us know. We totally get that it can be tricky to use our resources on the phone.

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29 December 2020 - 5:40 pm
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He was like 800% better this morning.
When I got up at 2am to give him his codeine, he was still laying in the same exact spot I left him a few hours earlier, and I worried. 
I took him out for a potty break, and gave him his meds and sat with him for a bit, then went to bed. 
When I got up in the morning, I could hear his tail thumping from upstairs. 🙂 

I know it isn’t permanent, as the local anesthesia wears out tomorrow, but at least he is able to get himself up from laying down, and seems to be more comfortable laying down in his crate. 

Last night we gave him a half-portion of his usual kibble and freeze-dried Turkey, but he wouldn’t eat it until I added bacon. 😉 

This morning he didn’t finish a full portion of his breakfast, but he’s getting quite a few treats, so I’m not too worried about it. 

Some of my (new) questions that I haven’t found answers to yet…  

1) is laying on the “good side” the best way for him to sleep?
2) Are “pillows” or bolsters on the dog bed preferred? I’ve made some makeshift ones by rolling towels and dog blankets etc.

3) Can tripawds chew on bones? If so, how? He loves to chew on bones when he wants to get extra energy out, but neither of us have figured out how to get to that point yet. 

4) made one of the DIY support slings out of a canvas bag, but I’m really hesitant to support him with it so recently after his surgery. Will using it to help him go potty etc. damage the incision through his doggy T-shirt? 
5) should I be tracking his water consumption or anything? He has it readily available, and he seems to pee frequently, just want to be sure that I’m doing everything right. 🙂 

thanks for the support!!! 

The Rainbow Bridge



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29 December 2020 - 7:05 pm
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EIGHT HUNDRED PERCENT IS PAWESOME! That’s so cool! And who knows he could be one of the lucky dawgs who really does stay perky and doesn’t have too many appetite issues the next few days. We’ll keep our paws crossed.

Some of my (new) questions that I haven’t found answers to yet…

1) is laying on the “good side” the best way for him to sleep?

Each dog is different. Leave it up to him, it really makes no difference.

2) Are “pillows” or bolsters on the dog bed preferred? I’ve made some makeshift ones by rolling towels and dog blankets etc.

As long as it’s comfy for him and doesn’t make it hard for him to stand up and turn around, then I don’t see why not. But you just want to make sure he doesn’t trip on whatever you put around him.

3) Can tripawds chew on bones? If so, how? He loves to chew on bones when he wants to get extra energy out, but neither of us have figured out how to get to that point yet.

Oh yeah they can! They figure it out! Here’s one of my all-time old-timey videos of our Jerry chomping down:

There’s also the Bumi Tug Toy which is pretty cool.

facebook-bumi-1.jpgImage Enlarger

4) made one of the DIY support slings out of a canvas bag, but I’m really hesitant to support him with it so recently after his surgery. Will using it to help him go potty etc. damage the incision through his doggy T-shirt?

It shouldn’t. As long as you don’t pull up too hard and just kinda spot him with it, should be just fine.

5) should I be tracking his water consumption or anything? He has it readily available, and he seems to pee frequently, just want to be sure that I’m doing everything right.

Yeah make sure he’s drinking, that will really keep him hydrated and make constipation less of an issue. Glad to hear he’s peeing like a pro again!

You are definitely doing everything right, good job! I hope tomorrow he’s 1600 percent better! Keep us posted.

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29 December 2020 - 11:17 pm
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thanks for the video! I’m sure Max will figure it out just like he did! 🙂

Also, finally got on my computer, so here’s your new member of the TriPawd Community: Max!

Edit: Ugh. I tried 2 different photo sharing websites, and using the link on my google drive, and nothing seems to be working. So just click here to see the picture. lol

The Rainbow Bridge



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30 December 2020 - 10:18 pm
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Oh my DOG what a cutie! 

For some reason Google Drive won’t let you embed photos onto 3rd party sites. Dropbox is like that too. They just want folks to store things there.

But I got around that so everyone can see how adorable Max is! I’m digging the t-shirt 😉

MaxPostOp.jpgImage Enlarger

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Virginia




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31 December 2020 - 11:05 am
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OMD!!  Max is ADORAVLE!!!!    I do believe he knows how to show off his cutest pose😘 

 Thanks for the photo…made. my day😊😊

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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1 January 2021 - 11:47 am
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Thank you for the kind words, and for embedding the photo, if I create a blog, will that allow me to host pictures there? I just don’t want to pay money for photo bucket etc. and the free stuff doesn’t seem to let me embed. Frustrating!

As for the pose: He is so smart! All you have to say is “dog” (or treat, or car ride, or dog park, or walk, etc) and he cocks his head to the side and looks like a brand new pup again! 

Update: Max pooped on Wednesday evening! Yay! Though he hasn’t done it again now that his anesthetic has worn off. He is pretty uncomfortable but not whining or anything, just panting and staring at me a lot. 

Still learning how to chew, and it has me wondering: he is laying on the outside of his good front leg, and I’m wondering if that is also painful for him? 

He almost started chewing on a yak stick and did a great job of stopping it from sliding with his leg, but then stopped and started licking his leg. I’m wondering if the poor guy is just using so many muscles in different ways and it’s adding to his discomfort. 

He’s started to be unhappy about his kennel, and will lay on the outdoor furniture pads we have on the floor by the back door in protest, so we put some in his crate thinking they may be a bit more firm and comfortable than what we had. He was happy to hide there last night because he hates fireworks, but he wants to be out where the action is and not stuck in the front hall of our house. 

He isn’t eating very much right now, just when I hand feed him some bacon and kibble mixed together. Which, if he’s in more pain now I’m sure that’s part of the reason why he isn’t eating as much… 

grateful to be here! 

The Rainbow Bridge



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1 January 2021 - 12:45 pm
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Awww we are grateful to have you here! All of us learn from each other.

First, yay for poopiconsmiley_clap!!!!

Thank you for the kind words, and for embedding the photo, if I create a blog, will that allow me to host pictures there? I just don’t want to pay money for photo bucket etc. and the free stuff doesn’t seem to let me embed. Frustrating!

Yes you can. Free Tripawds blogs have limited storage space so resizing your images is wise. Otherwise, Tripawds Supporter bloggers get lots more storage space for photos. Personally I think we are WAY better than putting something on Photobucket (they held a ton of member photos for ransom several years ago and we lost a bunch of valuable photos that were hosted there and shared here in our community!).

Still learning how to chew, and it has me wondering: he is laying on the outside of his good front leg, and I’m wondering if that is also painful for him? 

I think he’s just developing a comfortable, new way to position himself. However the other things you mention, like the lack of appetite, leg licking and the panting and staring at you, have me concerned that he is giving pain signals .  Talk to your vet about that after making some notes about the frequency and intensity/duration of those signs OK? 

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