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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Member Since:
10 May 2024
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24 May 2024 - 10:12 pm
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There's so much information on this site, it's a bit overwhelming, but it's nice to have so many stories from others who are going through similar things with their pets.  Thank you for sharing you stories.

My story is long and upsetting, so if anyone is considering amputation, and you need to know what ask about beforehand, please use our experience for your benefit.

Two weeks ago, our beautiful 8 year old female greyhound/wolfhound mix was running in the back yard when she suddenly started yelping out in pain.  She came to the back door hopping, not putting any weight on her hind left leg.  My daughter is actually a vet up in Denver (about an hour from us), and we sent her a picture of the leg, which was starting to swell.  She said it was most likely broken.  Ripley is accident prone, so we just figured it would just be a quick ER visit with a cast and a cone and we'd be home for a late dinner...we were wrong.

The x-rays revealed that she had developed an osteosarcoma in her ankle and the bone has just crumpled in that area.  There was no chance it could heal, so we were faced with the decision to either amputate or euthanize.  Knowing that it was cancer, and with the doctor saying that she sees this a lot and most dogs only live 3 or 4 months after the amputation, my husband and I were leaning toward euthanizing. However, we got our daughter on the phone after sending her the x-rays, and she was really hopeful that the cancer would be treatable and she could potentially live a long time with an amputation.  She had us go online and watch videos of greyhounds that were living a full life with an amputation.  We decided to do a chest x-ray to see if any tumors were iin her lungs yet, but they were clear, so we went forward with the amputation.

This was an emergency hospital, and I don't think they do a lot of amputations there.  The doctor who gave us the news about the osteosarcoma told us that their board certified surgeon was off the next day, but she could handle it herself because she had done "so many amputations she couldn't remember the number".  Unfortunately, our daughter was headed out of town on a flight to North Carolina the next day, or we might have had more options through some of her network of friends.  However, this would have required Ripley to go a whole night and an hour car drive with a broken leg.  We didn't want to make her wait in pain for any longer, so we decided to go ahead with them and signed all the forms.

We got regular updates from the hospital doctors on staff.  Ripley came through the surgery fine, but they were having trouble keeping her pain under control.  They put her on a fentanyl drip, which caused her to not want to eat much at all.  I was relieved that the hospital was taking care of that, because we didn't feel equipped to take care of a 60 pound dog in pain on our own.  However, I was anxious to get her home as soon as they could get her onto oral pain meds.

We were all set to pick her up on Saturday evening when we got the go ahead from the doctor.  However, after we arrived, we were quickly ushered into a private room and the doctor came in to tell us that they didn't think she should come home with us yet because Ripley's incision had just started leaking lots of fluids in the last 30 mins.  We got our daughter on the phone again, and she asked if they had given her aminocapoic acid at the beginning of the surgery to prevent this.  She said they hadn't, but they were giving it to her now.  She apologized that they hadn't thought of it before.  We were so sad to be leaving her for another night at the hospital, but we felt like we had no choice.

The next day was Mother's Day, and I wanted to go get Ripley first thing in the morning, but the doctor said that Ripley was not doing very well.  She was still leaking a lot of fluid and she had extensive bruising that they needed to keep an eye on.  Then they suggested that she should stay with them for another 2 days and sent us a huge estimate for what this would cost...about double what we had already agreed to pay!  We wouldn't agree to it, but they said they would at least start her on a protein infusion that would probably help slow the leakage.  Our daughter said this was what Ripley needed and what would actually help now.  She told us to go get her and start feeding her LOTS OF PROTEIN, as much chicken and eggs as she wanted.  When she was on the fentanyl drip, she had no appetite and nobody was making her eat, so her body had no protien to start repairing itself with.

That afternoon, we told the doctors to get Ripley ready because we were coming to get her right away.  When we arrived, they made us sign an "Against Medical Advisory" form, which scared me so much, but our daughter kept reassuring us that she would be better off at home.  They brought Ripley out to us and she was SO happy, but she looked terrible!  Her chest was completely red from bruising and the incision was dripping pink fluid non-stop.  Her other hind leg was badly swollen with edema. 

It was really scary taking her home, especially after they made us sign the AMA, but we got her settled and gave her as much water as she wanted and lots of cooked chicken.  Like magic, the fluid completely stopped leaking the next morning!!  She was eating well and drinking lots of water, going outside for the bathroom with no accidents.  She was so glad to be back home and she was getting the attention she needed.

The quantity of pills I had to shove into her throat every 8 -12 hours was overwhelming. We put cold compresses on her 3 times a day to help relieve the redness and edema.  The swelling around the stitches was quite alarming to me.  It looked like big fleshy bubbles around each stitch.  My daughter said not to worry about it, but we are at two weeks today, and I was ready for my daughter to come remove the stitches for us.  However, now there is a lot of black tissue (scabbing) all around the stitches.  My daughter said that it's due to the sutures being pulled too tight and the skin around the incision started dying.  She is coming down tomorrow to "debride" the incision and clean all that dead tissue off.  Ripley will have to keep them on longer (about a week).

Honestly, I think the hospital did the best they could do, but with all the activity going on there (with it being an ER), they were not able to give Ripley the attention she really needed while she was recovering.  They should have started the aminocapoic acid before the surgery began, they should have made sure she ate food high in protein regularly, and they should have gotten her up and moving more often.  She had terrible sores on her elbow and side from rubbing against the kennel she was recuperating in.  Those still aren't completely healed.

I'm so impressed that Ripley is moving about so well.  We got her the Ruffwear harness that Jerry and Renee recommended, and it has been a LIFESAVER.  We help her get up, if she needs, and it's so nice to have a handle on her when she goes up and down steps to go outside.  She is doing great.  I can tell she wants to go on her daily walk again, and it's so hard to tell her no.  There's just no way she could go that far yet, but I know she'll get there.  Tonight, we feel comfortable letting her sleep upstairs in our room with us, so we can all be together again...no more sleeping on the couch (we were taking turns, and it was brutal).

By the way, we did call CSU Fort Collins (my daughter's alma mater) because they have some clinical trials that we might have qualified for, but it turned out that they require that their teaching hospital does the amputation in house.  That was disappointing.  Even if we had known that, it would not have been easy for Ripley...we would have had to take her for a 3 hour drive with a broken leg, and I don't know if they could have even done it that day or if it would have included overnight hospitalization. It would definitely be a great option for folks who live closer to that area.

I'll keep posting after the stitches are finally removed...hopefully in another week.  The physical therapy can't begin until then, and we are waiting on the histology from the amputated leg before our oncology appointment on June 10th.  I'm very curious to hear what the oncologist has to stay about her prospects.

I'm sorry this was so long, but I hope it is helpful to someone.

Chandra

The Rainbow Bridge



Member Since:
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26 May 2024 - 2:35 pm
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Ohhh Chandra! I'm shocked that this happened, and so very sorry you and Ripley had to go through this. Thank DOG your daughter is amazing and Ripley has pulled through!!

Veterinary ERs tend to do a lot of amputations because of car accidents and occasional pathologic fractures because of cancer. Unfortunately, Greyhounds are a small part of that population of dogs who gets amputations in ER clinics, and if a vet doesn't have the experience with Greys in particular, they may not realize that Amicar (aminocaproic acid) before surgery is vital. In fact we recently had one member who lost her greyhound because of this very preventable situation. It's tragic that so many vets still don't know about why it's so critical when doing an amputation on a greyhound! This medication has been around a few decades now.smiley7

I'm really sorry but thank DOG your daughter is so dang smart (Go CSU!). And you, being so brave to take Ripley home and nurse her back to health! smiley_clap It's paying off! She is getting there! The debriding / incision situation is not uncommon, and it sounds like your daughter is on it. Ripley is going to get back to enjoying life again real soon.

I'm glad you shared with us. Yes, it WILL help others, because this is yet another reminder to tell folks to ask their vets about amniocapoic acid before surgery.

Please keep us posted OK?

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10 May 2024
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1 June 2024 - 10:33 am
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Time for an update on Ripley

My daughter, the vet, came to see Ripley about 14 days post op and decided it was time to remove the stitches after doing an thorough debriding of all the scabbing.  There was a lot of yellow pus under the scabs and she was appalled at the way the sutures were done.  Some of the subcutaneous ones were accidentally pulled up through the top skin layer...  At the end of the incision near her ribs, it looks like she has an "outie" bellybutton now...SMH

Ripley was so calm and sweet, allowing her to work on cleaning the incision for over an hour with no sedation.  She is such a sweetheart.  My daughter said that if we hadn't removed the stitches that day, there would have been significant necrosis of the skin around the incision, and the infection from the skin folds would have been out of control, possibly requiring another surgery to remove the necrotic tissue and re-stitch everything with fresh skin. 

She started her on another antibiotic and decided to take her home with her, so she and her husband (he is her assistant with her mobile vet clinic) could clean the folds around the incision each day and keep a close eye on it, while I was away on a business trip.  I am so thankful to them both.

While I was gone, Ripley improved a lot.  She is now going up and down the stairs at their house, and the skin infection is clearing up with a topical ointment and daily cleaning.  Unfortunately, the way the incision healed produced what seems to be permanent folds, like a bulldog's skin.  It may continue to require daily cleaning for the rest of her life.  I'm tempted to take her back to the ER to show the doctor what the outcome of her surgery looks like now.  I have talked a bit with the medical director there, but I don't know what to ask her for, except for a partial refund for all the extra heartache and hassle her on staff doctor's lack of suturing skill has caused us.

The histology of the leg came back, and it showed definite osteosarcoma with a 4-6 months average life expectancy.  We have an appointment on Monday morning with an oncologist that my daughter knew from her days at CSU.  She will be joining us for the appointment.  At this point, since our pet insurance is completely used up from the surgery, I'm not sure we will move ahead with the chemo, but I would like to know what the oncologist has to say about what stage Ripley is at now.

I want to give her a great last summer, at least.  I'm hoping she will be up to some long walks.  My daughter wants to celebrate Christmas with her every weekend.  Ripley absolutely LOVES Christmas.  She would help people open presents if they asked her to, and she got so excited when she was given her own to open.  We would always dress her in a special Christmas outfit with a sparkly silver skirt.  She is like one of our children, and it's very hard to even think about this next Christmas potentially without her.  I'm sure it doesn't really need to be said here, but cancer sucks.

Chandra

The Rainbow Bridge



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1 June 2024 - 2:37 pm
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Chandra, thank you for updating.

First, your daughter and her husband are amazing. What a gift to have them available to care for Ripley! I'm stunned at what happened with her, and so glad that everything is working out. Her fur should cover up the funky folds a little bit, real soon, which will hopefully not bother her too much or at all in time.

You did right by talking to the medical director. It's the best we can do for our animals when it comes to veterinary care situations like this. No doubt the vet who did the surgery will be made aware of how things turned out, and hopefully change how they do suturing. 

Good job getting the consult with onco. And if you opt out, it's totally OK, because it still can't guarantee longevity. One thing to remember is that 4-6 month prognosis is standard for ALL dogs without chemo, but it is NOT a crystal ball. Every dog is different, every cancer will behave differently. You never know what will happen. We've seen dogs beat the odds, both with and without chemo. I told you about our Jerry, right? He lived two years without, and many dogs have too. 

One thing we say around here is Be More Dog . Live in this day, this moment, not in the future, because that's really what our dogs do, and what they are trying to teach us. This moment is all we have, and no future is guaranteed with or without cancer. Focusing on the future just robs you of this time today, and that is the only way cancer "wins." Don't let it. Follow Ripley's lead, and she will show you that cancer is not going to stop her from enjoying her new, pain-free life on three.

Please let us know how the oncology visit goes.

Virginia







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2 June 2024 - 3:40 pm
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Can only do every single thing Jerry said! Ripley is surrounded by the best home and family a pupper could have! So glad your daughter and husband were able to help her get through all the hurdles and be such a great advocate for her.  You can feel so much more confident  and reassured with these two,in your corner.

I love, love, love, the idea of celebrating Christmas every weekend! I have so many fun visuals going through my mind.😉 I can picture her in a different outfit for Christmas every week and I can even picture a little Christmas tree all lit up with some ornaments that stays up all year round. It can be Ripley's tree and every weekend she'll have some presents put under there for her to open.😎 We really should do this for our dogs regardless of whether they have a disease or not. Hope to get some videos and pictures of this!

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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6 June 2024 - 8:48 am
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Thank you, Jerry and Virginia, for the reminder to live each day to the fullest without focusing on the future.  I have a hard time with that, but it would really help in this situation to practice it now.

We had the meeting with the oncologist, and my husband and daughter were "all in" for the plan to pursue the chemo.  It was more affordable than we imagined it would be, and our insurance will kick renew again next month and should cover the last 2/3 of the treatments.  Our daughter will be doing some of the CBC checks for us, which will save us $200 each time!  Of course, we have to wait for the last infection to go away, in one of the areas with the skin folds.  My daughter took a culture of it, so we can hit it with the correct course of antibiotics.  We are trying to keep her from licking it, so she is still having to wear a cone when we are sleeping or she's unsupervised.  It's very sad that this has caused a delay in the start of her treatment, but the oncologist doesn't think it will make that much of a difference.  I sure hope not.

We are taking Ripley on walks each day for about 1/2 mile now.  She LOVES it, but you can tell she's quite tired at the end.  Additionally, we may have created a monster....she is getting spoiled with scrambled eggs and chicken mixed into her kibble, so that she turns her nose up unless she has those goodies mixed in now.  Oh boy...

Thank you for the encouragement!

Chandra

The Rainbow Bridge



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6 June 2024 - 11:56 am
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Oh yay for things moving along relatively smoothly! smiley_clapThis is all good progress. Ripley has an incredible team looking out for her.

Curious what the chemo combo will be, do you recall?

When it comes to walks, you want her to come home before she is showing signs of being tired. Don't think in terms of distance, but time. Shorter, more frequent walks are always better than one or two long ones. And don't forget that interactive brain games also play a big role in tiring out a dog mentally, which is more valuable and equally as exhausting as physically (and without the joint stress). She's a smart girl, I'll bet she would love some brain games each day!

Virginia







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6 June 2024 - 8:52 pm
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I tell ,ya' what. if  this "had to happen", Ripley could not have better care from her hooman family!  She is surrounded by her own little team of professionals and that is auch a plus!!! 

So glad things are starting to settle down now and the new normal...well...looks more normal now!

Spoi a tripawd is so much fun!  Chicken and eggs added to the kibble.....she's training you so well in the art pf tripawd spoiling!

Thanks for the update.  You now have a path forward and hopefully,  with no more bumps kn the road

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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10 June 2024 - 11:27 am
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Hi Jerry,

She is going to be receiving Carboplatin 300mg/m2 by IV for the first round next week, then every 3-4 weeks afterwards.  That's all that they show on the paperwork.  It's going to be adjusted depending on how she's tolerating it.  They will be doing chest x-rays at the beginning and middle of the treatment.

Thanks for the idea about the mental stimulation.  I think I'll get a couple of those games for her.  It may be hard to keep her brother Pippin away from it though. He's such a stinker when there are treats around.  We'll probably have to keep him out of the room.

Chandra

The Rainbow Bridge



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11 June 2024 - 12:03 pm
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Hey Chandra,

That's pretty standard treatment so yay! I hope she tolerates it well (most dogs really do).

Yeah brain games are awesome. For sure a bit more challenging to do when you have two dogs but isn't life in general when you've got twice the fun? Pippin can use them too if you can have help working with both at the same time.

I hope this week goes Greyt for you!

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