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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Stuggling with decision to amputate or not for osteosarcoma
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Member Since:
8 July 2011
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10 July 2011 - 6:43 am
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Our 7 year old lab/shepard mix, Callie, is scheduled to have her right hind leg amputated this coming Thursday for osteosarcoma that was diagnosed last Sunday.  Xrays did not show any metastasis' in her lungs yet.  However, according to my research since meeting with the vet, I have learned there is a 90% chance it is there and just not showing up yet.  Our vet did not give us a real life expectancy estimate…"could be 6 months, could be 6 years".  We were very hopeful after meeting with the vet and scheduling the surgery, but after doing research online, I am realizing she most likely will only live a few months after surgery.  

 

We are planning to do surgery only, no chemo.  I hate seeing her in pain, but I am struggling with the decision to amputate if she may only live a couple of months afterwards.  Unfortunately, it comes down to spending so much $$ for a possibility of only having her for another 4 or 5 months.  I realize there is no way to know and the quality of life is more important, but statistics are not on her side…

 

Please share your stories (good or bad) of during surgery only with no chemo to help us make our decision.  If it did spread to your dog's lungs, how quickly did it appear and how long did they live afterwards?  Do they suffer alot once its in the lungs?   

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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10 July 2011 - 7:17 am
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I can't share the story you are looking for because we chose to do chemo, but I will share this from our vet. His recommendation with no mets present is surgery. Surgery is the only way to stop the pain, and osteosarcoma is extremely painful. He consulted with us on a Tuesday evening, made the recommendation for surgery, gave us all the options, and told us we didn't have to decide that minute, but he would clear his calendar the next morning to be available for surgery.

I took her in at 7AM on my way to work, still not sure we were doing the right thing. It wasn't until we picked her up on Friday, and I saw she was happy and mobile, that I knew we had made the right choice.  She lived 27 1/2 months cancer free.  We had to let her go due to complications of arthritis.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

Winnipeg
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10 July 2011 - 8:10 am
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Hi Callie and family

Welcome and sorry you too are having to face these decisions. There is an enormous amount of information to sift through. You can find heaps of info and opinions on this website if you know where to search in the archives. You are not the only person who had to consider the costs when making these decisions.

Statistically, I have heard that surgery plus chemo gives an average of 7 mos until mets are diagnosed, something like 12 mos survival. Without chemo, the average is supposed to be something closer to 4 months although I might have that number wrong. (However, when they say 'with chemo', I think they mean dogs that successfully completed chemo, and some of our dogs don't get that far - they might get mets during chemo and then stop the chemo.)

Amputation is primarily to relieve the pain, not just to get rid of the primary tumour. Without the amp, the dog will likely have a fracture within a couple of months and that will force a decision to amputate or euthanize at that time. One other option to amputation is bisphosphonates (see the video link that Jerry posted), which is a drug that helps strengthen the bone and so helps prevent a fracture. Dogs that are not candidates for amputation, such as dogs with tumours in two legs, have used that treatment and it seems to have worked well. Bisphosphonates can be used in combo with radiation, but again we are talking money for any of these treatments. The bisphosphonate that Jerry made a video of costs lots of money - not sure about other drugs.

As for lung mets, my dog ended up having another kind of met (subcutaneous, lumpy mets). But I have read about lots of lung met dogs on this website. The amazing thing about our dogs is that they take life one day or one step at a time. They live with great quality until the time when they are no longer ready to live. We fear their condition eroding and the idea they might end up in pain. But it is amazing how well they do, pretty much until the moment they are no longer ready to continue. Of course, for dogs we have the option to intervene on their behalf. Lung met dogs seem to have ups and downs (you can find some gross and often entertaining stories on this website about dogs with a clot that end up needed to cough it up before they get back to rabbit-chasing form).

 

Back to how long a dog might have: despite the averages, you will see enormous variation in survival for dogs on this website, both for dogs that had chemo and those that did not. I believe Eisen is featured prominently now, facing his 3rd year ampuversary and he had no chemo! Clearly that is exceptional, but he is certainly not the only case of a non-chemo dog who is doing really really well. On the other side, many of us had mets within a month or two of surgery even though we had started chemo. No-one can tell you where you will fall on this scale.

Is it worth it? Well, you don't know if your dog will have 1 month or 4 months or 4 years (probably something closer to 4 to 12 months is more realistic). Was it worthwhile for me to have Tazzie for four months after amputation even though he ended up getting mets? Definitely. He was a healthy lively full of life dog - how could I have euthanized him just because his leg was in pain? And how would I know whether he would live 2 months or two years?

When it comes to these decisions, some people try to picture what they will regret more. Treating the dog and having her pass early? Or not treating and never knowing how long or well she might have lived?

It might only have been four months, but we tripawds definitely figure out how to live for the moment - those months will probably be the best ones of your life in many ways.

Hope this helps!

Susan of Tazzie 2

littlemanjake
4
10 July 2011 - 9:25 am
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Hi,

My Shepard-Boxer-Ridgeback X, Isabelle was probably a little over 12, with severe L-S spine arthritis, when she was diagnosed w/OSA in her L rear leg last August. Her leg was amputated almost immediately. I chose to treat her holistically...not a big change from the path she'd been on for some time, just a few more homeopathics, supplements and herbs to those that already supported her raw diet. She gets acupuncture, massage therapy and various other physical therapy modalities which keep her active. She is also on an NSAID, which may be beneficial as an angiogenesis inhibitor. I used arteminisin for about 3 months, but stopped because it gave her reflux & it wasn't worth any discomfort to her.

She had a second cancer, a mast cell tumor in her other leg in January. The mass was resected & it's removal considered complete.

At almost eleven months and over 13 years old she is free of visible mets. I made my choices fully expecting her to only survive four to six months. I wanted those months to be extraordinary for her...She really never had a bad day from the moment she came home 24 hours post op. I was not willing to exchange a moment of her happiness for the stress of multiple, day long visits to the oncologist. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but every day past my self imposed deadline has been a gift and a joy.

Veterinary medicine from both a technical and humane perspective simply cannot support the curative chemotherapeutic options necessary to successfully treat most malignancies in animals. There is really no definitive indicator as to which tumor is more aggressive and which is not, including pathologic exams. You will find dogs on both ends of the treatment spectrum who outlive statistics, as well as those, who sadly do not.

You are the only one who can make the best decision for your dog and individual circumstances. Just know that you have options.

Here's a short clip of Isabelle 11 months post OSA diagnosis and amputation.

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10 July 2011 - 9:53 am
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Hi Callie and Family,

Bo is a 6 year old lab and he is about 6 weeks post amputation of his left front leg. He also had osteosarcoma and we have chosen not to do chemo. We changed his diet to a grain-free diet and added some good supplements (Dasiquin and Catalyst) to it as well. Financially, this is the best we can do for our pup.

The decision to amputate was hard, but it came down to the fact that he was suffering. The day before surgery he was in such pain that he could barely walk out to the car. He came home the day after surgery and ran out of the vet's office, dragging her behind him. Surgery recovery had some ups and downs, but he is doing great now! He is swimming, rolling in the grass, barking at squirrels, maiming squeaky toys...same 'ole Bo! He gets tired a lot faster than he used to and we have to limit is activity a little bit (dogs know no limits!), but the important thing is that he is pain-free

I hope every day that we have many more months and years with Bo, but I know no matter how long it is that we made the right decision for our family. It is hard not to wonder what the long term outcome will be, but I am trying to live life through Bo's eyes and simply enjoy the moments that we are in.

Best wishes to you all and keep us posted!

Meghan, Bo & Fam

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10 July 2011 - 10:54 am
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Dizzy had her fore leg amputated due to osteosarcoma we are doing chemo.

She came through the surgery and recovery fine off pain meds and stitches out in 10 days. She was able to get upstairs in 3 days down in about 5 and run around happily after about a week. She does get tired more easily but she wants to go for a walk therefore she goes for a walk. To be honest when she was diagnosed I had 2 minutes to make the decision to amputate or not so I didn't know the full facts and life expectancy averages, but I did know dogs do so well with 3 legs

If I had known life expectancy would I have made the same decision, ABSOLUTELY,

I fully understand the financial implications we have borrowed money from family to pay for chemo for her is it the right thing for her and us yes. I needed to do everything we could. If (god forbid) she went tomorrow she would have had some amazing pain free weeks.

I cry every day knowing that she probably doesn't have too long and I find it hard to be positive but it is quality not quantity for Dizzy now and as has already been said dogs live for the here and now and the now for her is pain free and being spoilt rotten and having us at her beckon call.

All that being said you should do what feels right in your heart good luck with your decision. welcome to tripawds there is so much info on here that you can read.

Gillian and Dizzy

Dizzy diagnosed with osteosarcoma 24 may 2011 amputated same day doing fine hopping around on three legs giving the neighbourhood cats what for

Madison, WI
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10 July 2011 - 12:16 pm
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I did do chemo with my Yoda, but he only had about four months after his amputation and the impression I got from the vet at the time (though that could have been my misunderstanding) was that that chemo drug just didn't take for Yoda's osteosarcoma for whatever reason.  

He was on the short side survival-wise but it was very high in quality for the vast majority of that time.  The first two weeks after the amputation were very difficult, as they generally are.  Medications he was on for his pain made him whine a lot for the first couple days (that's typical of the medications and can be mistaken for pain from the amputation - especially if your vet forgets to warn you of that side effect).  And for a few more days after that he was still a little loopy (turning in circles for no apparent reason) and constipated.  But it was well worth it, because I learned soon after that how much osteosarcoma had been affecting his life and for a lot longer than I had realized.  I took his last four months as an opportunity to make up for the hard time he had been having even before he had started limping.

Months before Yoda started limping, he started refusing to get in the car.  I had to nag him for a long time or pick him up, or act like I was going to pick him up (because he didn't like that) for him to get in.  For the two years or so I had had him prior, he had never been hesitant about getting in the car.  I told his vet at his next vaccination appointment, but she found nothing wrong when she examined him and felt it must be something behavioral.  Now and then he'd get better about getting in the car and I just tried not to worry about it.  From the first day I brought him home from his amputation, he was back to his old self of not hesitating to hop in the car.

Yoda loved to play fetch with the tennis ball.  He rarely if ever caught a ball on the fly though.  I never suspected that could be a symptom of anything, but after his amputation, when we played ball, he'd catch it on the fly lots!

In hindsight, there had been other random brief limping incidents before it became continual, which after months of assuming it was tendonitis, finally got diagnosed as osteosarcoma.  It also explained to me a scuffle that Yoda had had with one of his best dog friends for seemingly no reason.  That dog friend did like to play by mouthing Yoda's legs and I know believe he touched the tumor at that time.

About a month after Yoda's amputation, I took him back to the dog park (results vary - that  may be too soon for some) and he played chase and had a grand time.  He would tire out quicker than before, but he did great and was soooo happy.  We probably went twice a week on average until he became too sick - and when he got that sick there was very little time left anyway.  There was the time he nearly gave me a heart attack because he tried to get himself included in a chase-wrestle game with two Great Danes.  I never would have expected him to do that before.  Park trips were pretty safe for him, because he was not into rough-and-tumble play with other dogs - he just liked to chase and be chased.  He seemed as fast as ever when he ran full out.  Don't know how - that's just the magic of the tripawd.  And I kid you not, he caught a rabbit in the yard less than a week before he had to be euthanized.  He had lung mets by then and was even having issues with loss of appetite, but he was so proud as he prance-hopped around the yard with his dead rabbit (as I tried to get it away from him).  He figured out how to do everything he had done before his amputation - going up and down stairs, chewing a rawhide with only one front paw to hold it down, even chase his tail (though that took the longest).

Anyway, that's my two cents.  I had a great final 4 months with Yoda.  I think I remember even writing a post after 2 months that was all we were going to have, it was worth it.  Because 2 - 4 months was what his regular vet had predicted for him.  But you have a lot of factors to weigh such as finances to consider that you'll just do the best you can with.  I took a pretty big risk opting for chemo with Yoda and just got lucky that I got a new, better paying job just in the nick of time.  If not for that, a couple months later I would have faced being laid off with almost no savings, because of what I spent on vet bills.  By the way, with my second tripawd (due to injury), Gerry, when he needed some major dentistry work done, Care Credit was a lifesaver.  You might want to look into that.  It's really helpful if you just can't pay the whole chunk at once.  It gave me 6 months interest-free (as long as I made monthly payments) to pay off Gerry's dental work.

Good luck!

Oh, and you also asked about how long it took for mets to show up.  Well, for Yoda I think it was around the third month post amputation.  But, there are several tripawds whose people have posted on this site who have done very well for months, even more than a year, I think, even after getting mets.  Though possibly all of them were getting treatments of some kind once mets started, if not before.

Hang in there!  I highly recommend that you keep digging around this site for more info and keep posting if you have more questions.

Yoda&Mom united: 9/5/06 …….… Yoda&Leg separated: 6/5/09……… Yoda&Leg reunited: 10/14/09 ……… ……………….………….………….……. Yoda&Mom NEVER separated! …………………….….……....….…… Though Spirit Yoda currently free-lances as a rabbit hunting instructor for tripawds nationwide

Madison, WI
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10 July 2011 - 12:20 pm
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Oh yeah, one other thing that changed with Yoda post-amputation that I wanted to mention - he became markedly more social.  He always liked attention from people, but he never did much to seek it out.  When I started walking him around the neighborhood after those first two weeks, when he saw neighbors out and about he started dragging me over to greet them and get petted!  So unlike him and he seemed so much happier!

Yoda&Mom united: 9/5/06 …….… Yoda&Leg separated: 6/5/09……… Yoda&Leg reunited: 10/14/09 ……… ……………….………….………….……. Yoda&Mom NEVER separated! …………………….….……....….…… Though Spirit Yoda currently free-lances as a rabbit hunting instructor for tripawds nationwide

On The Road


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10 July 2011 - 1:10 pm
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Hi Callie and Family,

Welcome. As you can see we have a GREAT community here who all have different stories about how cancer affected their pup but the one thing everyone seems to have in common here is that they don't have regrets about deciding to proceed with amputation, despite the life expectancy prognosis. Yes, there are some dogs who do not live nearly as long as anyone hopes, but like Yoda's Mom says, those dogs still had very pawesome, pain-free lives.

My pawrents started Tripawds after I was diagnosed in 2006. I didn't have IV chemo but when the cancer got into my lungs 17 months later, we tried another type of chemo, metronomic therapy, that helped give me another 7 months of quality time. I lived two years, well beyond anyone's expectations and I'm not the only one who has beat the odds.

One thing that you need to remember is that statistics are just numbers. They don't take into account your individual dog or what kind of life she has. I like to say "Nine out of 10 statistics are wrong!" We all heard the same horrible prognosis, but those numbers really are just to prepare us for what might be ahead.

Nopawdy knows how long we have with or without cancer and if there's one thing that this disease teaches you is to treasure each moment that you have NOW. Do not focus on the negative "What Ifs?" but rather the beauty that is in this moment at hand.

We have put together a Required Reading List that shares the basics of dealing with amputation, and our eBook, "Three Legs & A Spare" is also a compilation of everything that is on this website if you don't want to go digging for it. Check out our videos and member blogs too, they will show you that dogs do live happy, fulfilling lives on three legs.

I hope this helps. Please let us know what you decide to do, we will be there to support you either way.

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

Chicago, IL
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5 March 2011
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10 July 2011 - 6:24 pm
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Oh this decision is always so blasted difficult.  There are some great stories shared here so I'll just add my two cents:

1.  As Jerry said, forget statistics.  You just never know.  When I was in your shoes, I wanted assurance that Tate would live a long time but the truth is, you just never know. 

2.  When I was researching this site trying to make a decision I ran across this forum post, asking people if they regretted their decision (http://tripawds.....lue=regret amputation&type=2&include=1&search=7&ret=all ) Many people answered and I saw only one person that said "Yes, I regret it.  Because my dog died 2 weeks post-amp."  Well, that would be pretty hard to take but the replies were ovewhelmingly "No regrets."

So why so little regret?  The part that you don't understand yet (because you haven't been there) is that every day after is a precious gift and the concept of "time" changes.  It's not 2 months or 6 months or 6 years.  It is today.  I have my wonderful dog here with me today and we are enjoying each other and dang, he's so cute!  You can't put a price on that.

Having said that, I know a lot of people that simply can't afford it, this isn't even in the realm of possibility for them.  Doesn't mean they love their dogs any less.  It just means they get to enjoy them and love them for less time.

There is no wrong decision here, and only you know what's best.

http://tate.tripawds.com/
August 16, 2006 to November 28, 2011
TATE ~ Forever in our hearts.

shelbysmom
11
10 July 2011 - 7:07 pm
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I lost my beautiful labbie boy, Carson, to OSA.  Sadly, it was in his pelvis and let's face it.......you can't amputate a pelvis.  I will tell you that if his situation had been different and amputation had been an option, I would have gone for it.

 

My 7 year old golden retriever, Shelby, just celebrated her 1 year ampawversary.  We took her right front leg last July 2 due to a non-specific sarcoma that kept returning on her elbow.  There was no evidence of mets either in her chest or lymph nodes when she lost the leg and subsequent radiographs have not shown any evidence of cancer.  Shelby will go in for her 1 year post-op xrays Tuesday and I am hopeful that all will be fine as it has been.

 

While I realize each cancer presents it's own challenges, I can only tell you that this wonderful girl has had a year of running fast, playing XTREME Bitey Face with her fur *siblings*, jumping over 2 foot walls, chasing lizards, ruining my mexican petunias going after said lizards, etc.  She runs faster than my other golden and lab.  She is loving life.  I realize that each moment is a blessing and for her to have had the chance of being cancer free and more importantly pain-free was SO worth it.  The first two weeks, as the family here will tell you, are tough.  But once the stitches come out.....GAME ON!

 

Sending good thoughts and prayers your way..........

Plainfield, Illinois
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11 July 2011 - 1:21 pm
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Hi Callie & Family,

Chili Dawg is a 9.5 year old Golden Retriever who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in May.  Today is his 2 month ampuversary.  We are not doing chemo, because we can't afford it.  We have changed his diet and he is on supplements.  The decision to amputate was hard, but he was in so much pain, he could barely get up and you could see in his eyes how much he hurt.  Now he is back to his old self.  He gets tired a bit sooner, but he runs in the backyard, wrestles with our other dog, rolls around, and continues to "be beautiful" (he sits with his head in the wind so that it blows his ears back).

 

I hope that we have him longer than what we were told, but we take it one day at a time and enjoy it to its fullest.  The important thing is that he doesn't hurt anymore.

Good luck to you and I hope you keep us posted!

 

Jenna and Chili Dawg

Diagnosed with OSA: 5/2/2011 Ampuversary: 5/11/2011 OSA returned in hip: 8/26/2011
Chili Dawg crossed the Rainbow Bridge on 8/30/2011 & is now pain free. He was my heart dog, and I miss him every day.

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12 July 2011 - 8:19 am
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Thanks to all for replying.  We have decided to go ahead with the amputation.  Callie is doing well...acting the same as normal, despite the limp and now severly swollen leg.   Other than that, you would not know anything is wrong with her!  She is such a sweet girl, we want to give her a chance at a good, pain free life.  My brother had a golden retriever whose back leg was amputated when she was 4 years old for the same cancer, and she lived for 7 more years afterwards (and without chemo)!  We are hoping & praying for a similar outcome!  Now I'm trying to figure out how to explain to my 2 1/2 year old son what happened to her leg when we she comes from her hospital stay  smiley   

On The Road


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12 July 2011 - 9:14 am
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lparr818 said:

Now I'm trying to figure out how to explain to my 2 1/2 year old son what happened to her leg...

Don't miss these books to help kids cope with dog amputation that we've reviewed for the Tripawds Amazon blog . Our first review suggests a few books and movies for teaching children about three legged dogs.

And you can always use the old standby... "She's still got one more leg than you!" laugh

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

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15 July 2011 - 2:41 pm
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Callie had her surgery yesterday and came home earlier today.  She is doing great so far...she is walking around like a champ and is very glad to be home.  We are trying to make sure she gets rest because she doesn't seem to even realize anything is different!  Hoping the rest of recovery is this easy...

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