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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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10 year old Newfie dx with osteosarcoma RFL. Arthritis back legs. Advice?
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18 July 2013
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18 July 2013 - 5:49 am
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Our 10 year old Newfie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of her right front leg about 3 weeks ago. Our local vet discouraged amputation because of her arthritis, so we've been focusing on pain management with a combination of Tramadol, Mobic, and Gabapentin. Then I found this site and so many stories and we are starting to reconsider. Right now, she is still able to bear weight on the affected leg, which helps relieve some of the pressure on her rear, arthritic legs, so I am worried about how she will do after the surgery. Has anyone out there had a similar situation and how did your dog recover? She is such a sweet girl....still eating and wagging her tail, but I'm concerned about her pain levels escalating before too much longer. Any advice or experiences would be greatly appreciated

On The Road


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18 July 2013 - 6:44 am
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Welcome, we're sorry to hear about her diagnosis, but glad you found us. Your future forum posts will not require moderation.

Every dog is different, but you will find plenty of success stories by searching these forums and the blogs. In cases like yours, we often suggest getting a second opinion and consulting with a certified rehab vet. If your girl is indeed a poor candidate for amputation, ask your vet about bisphosphonates . What's her name?

Below are a few Tripawds News blog posts you may find helpful. Consider downloading Tripawds e-books for many more links to helpful blog posts, forum topics and videos.

Bone Cancer Tumors and Treatment Options for Dogs

When Is Amputation The Right Choice For My Dog or Cat?

Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option

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

Twin Cities, Minnesota
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18 July 2013 - 9:02 am
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Hello!

I will say, my dog is not a giant breed, only a large breed, so I can't help you with that angle (although there are quite a few giant pawrents here)... But he does have OA and dysplasia in his rear legs. We elected to do a front amp in March.

Has it put increased stress on his back legs? Yes, a bit. But not enough to make the tradeoff (euthanasia) a better option. He has a bit of a goofy gait (even more than a normal tripod)--but he had that beforehand. It's just goofiER now. :D I don't think it is diminishing his quality of life--in fact, most of the slowing down and activity modification we've had to do probably would have happened eventually, as he is 13, so no spring chicken. He still goes for (short) walks, utilizes stairs, runs around ("run" is sort of a misleading word :p), etc.

To mitigate things, we did PT, and continue to acupuncture and laser therapy, and we are on tramadol (a low dose) and prednisone (also a low dose) daily. We also take K9 immunity and a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement.

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

"May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment."
-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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18 July 2013 - 10:29 am
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TJ was 93 lbs before right front amp, been stable at 84 for two months.. he had ACL surgery at 1 year old and now, at 10 with a leg gone his right rear is showing wear due to arthritis.

He's a pretty happy pup, gets along fine, you just gotta dial in the pain meds and DON'T BE AFRAID TO TALK TO THE VET if you don't see the pain management working.

Arthritis can be managed, mostly, you just have to find the best combination or treatments.

Virginia




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18 July 2013 - 11:36 am
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Gosh, I kow our head is spinnng right nw! Just know ou are NOT alone and we re jere for you, regardless of what route you take!

Yes, you have a couple of valid concerns..age, size..arthritis....and a lot of good thngs going...#1 is he's still got a great attitude and enjoying life!
Check out the suggestins above and make as an k formed deciskon as ossible. Knw that any decision made outof love is the right decision! And clery he's a very loved pup!

This whole journeis about being present n te moment.. being mre like a dog...lt worying about anything not the past, nor furture....just enjohing being loved and spoiled. He doesn't knlw he's "sick" and ne doesn't care about an stupid dagnosis!...being more dog!. We've all tried to let go of tkme frames nere and must focus on quality.

P.ease check back withus when you can and let us know how we can help. There are sooo many options available to help with quality for whichever decisinyou ake for your pup.

Surrou ding yoj with serenity, calm and claruty,

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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18 July 2013 - 4:51 pm
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Thank you all for your responses. My girl's name is Lily. When she was 2 years old she ruptured her left cruciate ligament (surgically repaired) and now she has arthritis in both that leg and her right. When she started favoring her right front leg, we were expecting more arthritis, so this diagnosis blindsided us. We live in a small town and our local vet does not recommend amputation because of her arthritis....I'll have to do some research on where I can find a rehab vet for a second opinion. Maybe Michigan State? So far her pain seems to be managed with the Tramadol/Gabapentin/Mobic combo, but the biophosphinate therapy sounds promising, so I'll ask our vet.
This has just been so hard on us. She seems fine except for that stupid bump on her arm. Her chest x-ray was clear. She is so sweet and stoic...I'm worried that she is experiencing more pain than she is letting on. How long did it take your dogs to recover after amputation? We have already built a ramp for her because I was worried about a pathological fracture occurring when she stepped down the stairs. Did you have to get any special medical equipment?

On The Road


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18 July 2013 - 7:49 pm
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I'm so sorry, I know how scary this is. Have you seen Jerry's Required Reading List or checked out our ebook library? You'll find most answers to your questions there and of course our pawesome members will provide lots of helpful input too.

Definitely get a second opinion from another vet, preferably in a clinic with other vets, not a solo practice. Vets who have other colleagues to bounce ideas off of tend to be more helpful in the long run.

We have seen many, many dogs go on to live great lives after their people got another opinion. Vets who don't see a lot of bone cancer tend to think the worst when it comes to big dogs and pre-existing conditions like arthritis, while others who operate in busier settings tend to see more cases and provide better insight. If you are anywhere near Michigan State, go there. We've had many members come out of there with great experiences.

Please keep us posted. We are here to help.

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

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18 July 2013 - 7:54 pm
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TJ is in the exact same boat as your pup.  Dogs will be up and about the day after surgery if you let them.  I would say that you hound well be as good as they can get three+ weeks after amp as long as the meds are working and pain is under control.  It will just really depend on how fast they can figure out the new balancing act and how to get around on three legs.  You will want to 'baby' them for the first two weeks, and don't push them, or allow them to push to hard.... all they will do is end up getting hurt. 

As for arthritis TJ also had an ACL repaired (with a wire) and has what most call moderate to severe arthritis (leg intermittently bears weight) but after dialing in his meds and cold laser he's as good as pre-amp.... but I still 'baby' him... let him rest on long walks, I carry him down stairs, he uses a ramp to get off the porch... all in an effort to not force TJ to overexert and cause another injury.

I did add in post walk rub downs of his good shoulder... he seems to like that alot. 

Twin Cities, Minnesota
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18 July 2013 - 8:17 pm
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furlichk said
Thank you all for your responses. My girl's name is Lily. When she was 2 years old she ruptured her left cruciate ligament (surgically repaired) and now she has arthritis in both that leg and her right. When she started favoring her right front leg, we were expecting more arthritis, so this diagnosis blindsided us. We live in a small town and our local vet does not recommend amputation because of her arthritis....I'll have to do some research on where I can find a rehab vet for a second opinion. Maybe Michigan State? So far her pain seems to be managed with the Tramadol/Gabapentin/Mobic combo, but the biophosphinate therapy sounds promising, so I'll ask our vet.
This has just been so hard on us. She seems fine except for that stupid bump on her arm. Her chest x-ray was clear. She is so sweet and stoic...I'm worried that she is experiencing more pain than she is letting on. How long did it take your dogs to recover after amputation? We have already built a ramp for her because I was worried about a pathological fracture occurring when she stepped down the stairs. Did you have to get any special medical equipment?

Oh, that sounds like a rough journey for your girl. :( I am sorry you had to end up here, but I hope you find some answers and support.

We built a ramp for Sampson the night we got his diagnosis (Wednesday), and took him in for the amp the following AM (thursday). He came home on Friday. He had zero interest in the ramp to get on and off the deck, and did those stairs (in the two feet of snow and ice, no less) from day 1. We managed to keep him confined to the first floor for about a week or 10 days, and then he had enough and started knocking down the barricades and going up and down as he pleased.

We never really noticed Sam being in any abnormal pain--he always had a hitchy gait b/c of the arthritis. And he was lumpy b/c he has infiltrative lipomas. So when I noticed the wrist bump, I didn't think much other than "watch it and see". When I finally took him in, the xrays showed there was pretty much nothing left of the bone. I am sure he must have been in tremendous pain...but I didn't realize it.

Honestly, after the first few weeks--which take some adjustment for everyone (actually, probably more for us than him :p)...I think he was so happy to not have the pain in his leg, he was like a new dog. :D He must have de-aged two years.

Is it all rosy--no...the arthritis does affect him, for sure. But that pain is manageable through meds, PT, acupuncture, and whatnot. His activity level is low, and he has a very odd gait (he usually uses his back legs as a single leg, esp. if he's moving "quickly", more or less...despite all the PT work to get him not to :p), but he is still himself and enjoys life.

It's an individual thing though, for sure, and every case is different. Sampson earned the nickname "philodendron with fur" early on in life. :D He has NEVER been particularly overeager to exert himself. So not being able to go for long walks or go hiking or sprint around is not a huge loss for him. He's a pretty reserved, stoic guy in general. Everyone's "normal" is different.

Only you can decide what is right for Lily, because you know her best. <3 <3

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

"May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment."
-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Twin Cities, Minnesota
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18 July 2013 - 8:22 pm
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I'd also add, I'm totally not a dog, but I HAVE lived with severe OA for most of my life (enough to have had numerous orthopedic surgeries, including a leg realignment)...and I know that it can be managed. My own experiences actually helped a lot in making my decison.

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

"May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment."
-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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18 July 2013 - 9:55 pm
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I've never been on a blog before and I don't know if I'm in the "correct area" but I'm also wondering what to do for my boy-Oscar.  He just turned 6 in march-he's an english mastiff and about 170 lbs.  He was diagnosed in April with hip dysplasia and significant arthritis in both hips.  Started limping a couple of weeks ago and was x-rayed etc.  Got the official diagnosis on tuesday and saw the vets today at the University of wisconsin vet school.  I had initially said,  "no way--I am not amputating his leg"--his tumor is in his right front leg--near the joint.  I thought it was cruel etc.  Last night I couldn't sleep so was on "You Tube" and watching people's stories of how well their dogs were doing after amputation and started to reconsider.  The vets repeated that most dogs do very well and gave me some statistic's (which may help you-furlichk). She said "amputation removes significant pain and once your companion recovers from surgery pain control is usually 100%."  If the limb is amputated, they recommend following up with chemotherapy to "provide the best prognosis".  the drug they give is "carboplatin and it's given 4 to 6 times with three weeks in between.  there can be side effects but typically 20-25 % of animals suffer from them.  this combo can buy (average) 10-14 months.

 

If the limb is not amputated they would give radiation with one dose per week x 4 weeks; can help with pain control-does not treat the tumor and the disease continues to progress--this buys 4-6 months.  if only treating the tumor with pain medication; survival averages 1-3 months.  

 

I think I'm going to go ahead with the amputation-basically for pain control.  today when we got home, it had been about 7 hours since his last tramadol and he was miserable.  I don't want his pain to increase and wait for that leg to fracture.  hope this helps you furlichk.  if you are close to minneapolis-you may want to consider ;the vet school at the university.  i think while i was writing this; I convinced myself.  oh-also the cost of amputation here is generally 3 to 4 thousand dollars.  then there is blood work prior to and 10 days after chemo-need to monitor bone marrow suppression and platelet counts.  I don't know what the cost of the chemo is.

Someone also told me "remember that the dog isn't going through all the emotional baggage-they live in the moment and just deal with what is."

Again, hope this helps you- I hope you make your decision and are at peace with it.   

 

 

On The Road


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19 July 2013 - 6:36 am
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oscarsmom1 said
I've never been on a blog before and I don't know if I'm in the "correct area" but I'm also wondering what to do for my boy-Oscar.

Thank you for the feedback and best wishes for Oscar's speedy recovery. Please consider starting a new forum topic or blog to give his story the attention it deserves. Your future forum posts will not require moderation.

FYI: If you are seeking additional tips and help with Oscar's amputation recovery and care, much of what you describe is covered in great detail in the Tripawds e-books .

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

Twin Cities, Minnesota
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19 July 2013 - 7:57 am
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Furlichk--are you in Minnesota? If you are near the Twin Cities area, I'd be happy to meet up with you and talk in person. Not a medical professional at all, but I am happy to share our story and any other support I can.

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

"May I recommend serenity to you? A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment. Learn to be one with the joy of the moment."
-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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20 July 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Hi Lily and Lily's mom! Im so sorry you are going through this. I just saw your post and wanted to chime in as a fellow giant breed with disability. My Atlas is a big 133lb Great Dane (155 lb pre amp) and the main thing I can share with you is that a lot of vets, especially rural areas, hold on to old statistics and outdated information on giant breeds surviving amputation. Atlas doesn't have arthritis but he has wobblers disease which is a neurological disorder that compromises his hind end mobility. The Osteosarcoma was in his front left leg. If you can find a teaching hospital close enough you can get several specialist involved at a modicum price. Atlas has seen at least two dozen vets and a couple including the neurologist said he would NOT amputate Atlas. It was a scary time for us but we knew we had to move fast as OSA is a very aggressive cancer. We took him for xrays about three weeks past his limping and it was unbelievable how deteriorated his bone was.....completely "moth eaten". Dogs are very stoic by nature and do not show pain if they can help it. (pain in the wild signals weakness which signals to predators .....you are dinner). Atlas never let us know he was in pain and used his leg until the day it was removed.

Personally, i couldn't live with 'what if' so We had to go with our hearts and the only thing that gave him a chance at a pain free life.....amputation followed by 4 rounds of chemo. Today we are three months past amputation and finished with chemo and he is doing fantastic. Absolutely no regrets! Like Sampson, we have a wobbly funny gate, but we don't care as long as our buddy is pain free. And he manages to get around just fine, some days better than others, usually depending on how hot and humid it is. He can only expend about a quarter of the energy he used to before needing to rest, but he was a couch potato before cancer so not much change in his quality of life. and We can clearly see in his eyes that he is happy and pain free.

Lastly, our favorite vet said "as long as a dog is eating and drinking they have a will to live". He also recommended acupuncture to help with mobility .... Maybe that would be a successful physical therapy for Lily's arthritis down the road.

Keep us posted and we'd love to see a pic of that beautiful Newfie girl if you get a chance.

Patricia & Mighty Atlas

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20 July 2013 - 5:43 pm
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Hi Lily's Mum,

Mighty Atlas is such an inspiring story, if you get a chance have a look at some of the video on Tripawds of Atlas enjoying life.

 

Here is another link http://tripawds.....do-it-too/ I found this when I first joined Tripawds and was looking for giant breed Tripawd inspiration. Its of a newfie called Oslo, you can get an idea of how a newfie can cope on three legs.

 

Then there is my Porthos who had OS in his front right leg. He had TPLO surgery on both knees and arthritis. We were not going to amputate and try to manage his pain but the pain came quick and even though he was on the highest dose of Tramol I could see he was suffering. We decided to amputate against our vets wishes, he walked the same day as his surgery! we put carpet down everywhere so he wouldn't slip over and bought a Help em up harness, this has front and back support, great for giving him a hand to get up (you can literally lift them right of the floor if needed) but he didn't need it that much.

We completely changed his diet to the cancer diet and gave him lots of fish oil and glucosamin chondroitin. We also gave him Boswellia which is suppose to be a great anti inflammatory and pain relief herb. He wasnt on any other pain relief until his last two weeks. 

 

My boy in action!  He was a giant breed Pyrenean Mastiff, and was seven years old.

 

When we decided to amputate I said to myself that I need to be able to accept the worse case scenario, which would be that Porthos would not walk again, if that happened then we would euthanize. Or that he may need lots of help getting around and that as long as he was still happy and enjoying life I would be there to help him. He did better than I could have ever imagined. I even would forget he had cancer!

 

I know you have the extra concern of Lilys age. She may need some extra help getting around and may take a little longer to recover from amputation, or she may bounce right back. Its so hard to know how each dog will be.

Whatever you decide we will be here for you and will offer support where we can.

 

Thinking of you and Lily,

Amanda & Angel Porthos x

Angel Porthos, Pyrenean Mastiff, 7 years old Os front right leg, DX 18 May 2012, Amputation 14 June 2012, Hip Dysplasia, Two TPLO surgeries. Is now somewhere over the rainbow, 21 November 2013.

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