Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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Hi. I just joined the group today. My Italian Spinone, Gunner, started limping last week. He is 11 and a half (turns 12 in November). He is 92 pounds and in pretty decent shape. He has a little “brother” Spinone, named Aldo, who is 4. Gunner has always been pretty sedentary, but Aldo really keeps him moving, which has been good for him as he’s gotten older. Anyway, I thought he had a muscle issue, or was just sore since he has done this in the past a few times. But, it had been a week, so I took him to our local vet here in Atlanta just to see what was going on. I had no idea what I was about to find out. The vet was feeling around on his left front leg and Gunner yelped loudly. The doc suggested we get an x-ray. After awhile, and some deliberation with the other docs, our doc came back and said he had bad news: Gunner has osteosarcoma. The x-ray was really pretty obvious. He has not been coughing though, which I am told could be a good sign.
We are taking him to get x-rays tomorrow on his chest. And then likely getting surgery to remove the leg next week. This has all been a whirlwind for us. Gunner is such a HUGE part of our family. He has literally been with my wife and I since we started dating nearly 12 years ago. My twin girls (who turn 3 in July) just love Gunner to death. And he’s the sweetest dog in the world. I want to do what is right for him and certainly don’t want him to be in pain. After reading a ton last night and today this seems like the best decision for Gunner.
My main concerns are his age and the fact that his back legs have minor arthritis. We have an older home with all hardwood floors (some area rugs in different places). And over the last several months we have noticed it is a little bit of an effort to get up off the hardwoods. Not a bad deal, but just more challenging that normal. We have some rugs and a bed for him as well to help him. I do worry that this surgery will be hard for him, but our doctor feels like he is still a really good candidate for the surgery and subsequent chemotherapy.
It sounds like folks here have a ton of experience on the subject, so any advice or thoughts are certainly welcome. I’ll keep you guys posted about Gunner’s progress.
Jason, Gunner and family, welcome. We’re sorry you got the diagnosis but we’ll be here for you no matter what you decide.
As you can see in this topic, most older dogs will do well on three. Once you remove that painful leg, every day is icing on the cake. Osteosarcoma sucks, but it’s also a way for us to really learn how to treasure every single moment. It’s a teacher, in an unexpected way.
That’s awesome your vet thinks he’s a good candidate. Age is just a number and with many dogs, if they are in already good health, there’s no reason why they can’t do well. Of course the arthritis is a concern but if you want to get a second opinion from an orthopedic vet, that could really put your mind at ease. Here’s an article I shared just today about the value of a second opinion.
18 October 2009
Hi and welcome, although I am sorry you had to find us because of cancer.
We will need pictures of your boys- I had to look up Spinone and they look like quite handsome dogs! I know you have a lot on your mind but when you have a chance here are directions for adding images to your posts.
Traction is a huge issue with Tripawds, especially new ones. You will need to get some throw rugs or yoga mats for the areas of the house that Gunner hangs out.
It is great that your vet feels Gunner is a good amp candidate. There are lots of things you can do to help with the arthritis as well. There are lots of meds and some people use chiropractic and/or acupuncture. I had a quad-pug who had terrible arthritis in her back and all four legs, she was first diagnosed when she was only 6 years old. We did supplements, then added meds to keep her moving and comfortable. We also did chiropractic which really helped her. She passed at almost 15 years old!
The first couple weeks after surgery can be tough- enough sometimes that you doubt your decision to amputate. But it is much harder on us two leggers because we get to carry the burden of worry, while our pups are just trying to figure out their new normal. Stay positive and don’t get discouraged. You are taking away a painful leg that will only get worse and you are giving Gunner the gift of more quality, pain free time with your pack.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
14 February 2016
Otis is a lab/Dane mix, 106 pre-amputation (front leg). So, here are my thoughts – Otis also has mild arthritis in his hips (takes Dasaquin and Fish Oil), and it hasn’t really been a huge problem. Sometimes, he forgets himself and starts jumping up (like when I am getting his harness for a walk) and has a yip of pain, and he can’t walk very far, but overall, there hasn’t been a problem. He loves his Big Barker beds – I bought the first one when his arthritis was first diagnosed. A harness (we love the Ruffwear Webmaster Plus which is referenced in the gear blog) is really helpful for walks – not only does it help you lift but also keeps the lead out from around his feet. With a front amp, you won’t be able to use it until the staples come out, but really helpful to have after. Put area rugs or floor mats down on your hard wood or tile floors – Home Depot or Menards or stores like that tend to have them (make sure they are non-slip). Raised food and water bowls if you don’t have them already. He won’t be able (or at least, shouldn’t) jump up on bed or furniture for the first few weeks – I slept on a mattress with Otis on the first floor, with the second floor blocked off with a baby gate . Otis can now go up and down the stairs like a pro, but it took him until close to month 3. I also kept a log book so that I knew when I had given meds and which meds, when he peed and poo’d, when he ate, etc. The first 5 – 6 days he didn’t want to move around much, and I needed to know when he really needed to go outside just based on time. We did chemo too, but we can save that for another day.
In summary, would I do it again for Otis? Absolutely. I am so glad that I have had him with me still for the past three months, and hopefully there will be many more to come.
Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016. Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016. Lung mets August 25, 2016. Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016. Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.
Wherever they are, they are together.
So, as I mentioned, it is my first day here and I already feel so welcomed! I know everyone here has a sad story, so I am glad I can lean on you guys since you’ve been in this position before. I feel like we are very optimistic and I really want Gunner to have the best quality of life for however long he is with us. I know he will be fine without the leg; and I would imagine much happier since he is limping so badly now.
Does anyone here have any experience with drug trials? I went to the University of Georgia, which is about an hour and 15 minutes from where I live in Decatur. The vet school is very good there. They are doing this: http://vet.uga……21_022.pdf
Auburn University is also doing the same thing: http://www.vetm…..eosarcoma/
I emailed both of them and they are still taking dogs for the study. I like the idea that Gunner could help other dogs in the future. Obviously the down side is that this is not a “proven” drug yet since there isn’t enough data. It would also be a good distance to go for checkups, etc. But, I would certainly be willing to do it.
2 April 2013
Oh my goodness, he’s adorable! Many of us started out the same way – thinking they injured their leg then getting that horrible news, so we can relate to how you’re feeling. Besides rugs, people have used yoga mats on their floors for traction . The first 2-3 weeks are the roughest as far as recovery goes. Make sure that you keep up with giving his pain medications to him around the clock for good coverage. Murphy came home on Tramadol, Gabapentin & Rimadyl. He also gave us a hard time about eating, which isn’t uncommon. I cooked up some rice and poured chicken broth over it, then added some chunks of chicken to it.
Donna, Glenn & Murphy
Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs
Jason I’m so glad you figured out how to add photos, what a sweet picture! Gunner is clearly in charge of the pack 🙂
We say “YAY!” for clinical trials. Just posted about them in another topic:
Update: So, we heard from the University of Georgia’s Vet School yesterday. We have been “accepted” into the study: http://vet.uga……21_022.pdf. Gunner has an appointment in Athens this Friday at 10am where he will get his chest x-rays and a biopsy of the affected area on his left front leg.
12 May 2016
8 May 2016
Welcome! We are also in Atlanta. Our dog who is just over 13 had his back left leg amputated on the 11th at BluePearl in Sandy Springs. I have a friend who has had their dog up to UGA and has had nothing but good things to say. We also debated going up there for a trial study, however our dogs cancer (soft tissue sarcoma) could be completely cured by the removal of the limb so we decided to go that route as opposed to having to do radiation following surgery. Although what they are doing with a new technique sound really cool. Unfortunately for our dog the vets knew they could not get clean margins due to the location on the top of his paw.
I would also really recommend GA Veterinary Rehabilitation, Fitness & Pain Management (GVR) post amputation to help get you dog back on track. They practice both western and eastern medicine and we have been really impressed. We took a previous dog there following his back surgery and it was amazing the difference it made in his recovery. Our tripawd Sunny just went last week for his post surgery appointment. We are doing several exercises at home, they put him on some homeopathic pain medications and once he is healed he will be doing some swimming their to help build his core strength. At any rate it may be worth looking into due to his arthritis.
21 May 2016
Hi gunner, welcome to our pack, you are such a sweetie, absolutely love the picture!
My girl also had her leg amputated recently but she is not five yet so was in super good form before we found out about osteosarcoma.
Amputation is much worst to digest for us humans (emotionally) than our dogs, they get on with their lives on three legs as if they were born like that. Plus your boy is not too heavy and that helps a lot ! And he has a loving family including your gorgeous little girls who will no doubt give him tons and tons of cuddles!
What I would suggest is that you consider doing water physiotherapy with him as that builds up muscle and gets their balance right, effortless, and they generally adore it too !
And place carpets in all areas he walks in, as it is crucial for their confidence that they don’t slide!
I bought a couple of rolls of carpet and cut it to measure and also placed rubber underlay for extra adherence.
Sending you and Gunner a big hug and cuddles
Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-)
Hey gang, just wanted to give everyone an update who was kind enough to reply here.
We did two biopsies and they still couldn’t determine if Gunner had Osteosarcoma. And, to be included in the study, they had to prove this was the case. I talked to the UGA Vet School folks last week and we decided to do one last, non-invasive, biopsy. Since Gunner’s affected area was so large they reasoned that it might have too many dead cells to get a conclusive result. Unfortunately the pharma company doing the study wouldn’t allow him to be part of the study if we couldn’t determine a diagnosis pre-surgery.
So, we did the third biopsy on Thursday of last week and I left Gunner at the Vet School knowing we would do the surgery Friday, no matter what. I got a call early Friday and I was told the third, and final biopsy, produced no results again. So, we had to forego the study. Frustrating for sure, since 99.9% of the doctors agreed Gunner has Osteosarcoma.
No matter, we moved forward with the surgery on Friday and, overall, it went well. I talked to the docs Friday afternoon and I was told he did quite well and the surgery went as well as they could have expected. We continued to talk to the docs all weekend. Since Athens is about 1.5 hours from our house, we couldn’t really “run up the road” and check on him. We were told we might be able to pick him up on Sunday. That wasn’t the case. The docs said he was still struggling to walk down the hallway on his own so they kept him until Monday. And then when I called this morning I was told they really wanted to keep him one more day because they felt it would be really hard on us to take him home since he was still not super eager to walk much.
Gunner has always been stubborn. He is the sweetest, most lovable dog. But, he does things on his own terms. Anyway, I am planning on going over to Athens from Atlanta tomorrow morning to bring him home. I know this will be a long road, but we just can’t wait to have our big boy back with us tomorrow. It has been agonizing without him.
If you guys have any more words of wisdom, I’m all ears.
22 February 2013
How in the world I’ve missed this e tire thread….ugh!
Gunner is absolutely adorable! And the picture of Genner with his two human babies…PRICELESS!
Anyway, yes, some dogs, especially bigger dogs, take a few days longer to get their “sea legs”, even if they were limping for awhile before surgery. I’m sure he’s fairly heavily medicated too. Some vets use a fentanyl patch and thst can make them woozy and unsteady, as can the other meds too.
Having him home will do wonders for Gunner AND you! Use a lot.of gentle massage up and down his spine and back, as well as gentle stretching of his legs before he tries to stand. You may have to use a towel as a sling to help him go potty. Although some dogs, like my Happy Hannah, would pretty much freeze if I tried to use the sling.
Try not to worry about the mobility challenges. He needs rest right now anyway. He’ll get things worked out at his own pace.
When you pick him yp tomorrow, greet him with aapplause and kisses and telling himmwhat a good boy he is. Don’t even look at is incision, he won’t! You may be forced to look a little bit though because they shave soooo much fur! They get clipper happu!
Cannot wait for your update on his homecoming tomorrow!
Stay connected! Recovery is no picnic for a couple of weeks.
Hugs to all
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!
13 August 2015
Your Gunner sounds a lot like our big guy Max was with mobility issues. We did pick up Max the next day and we really, really thought we had made a huge mistake. But after he was home a couple of days he must have figured out we didn’t take both back legs and up he got up on his own and away he went. He didn’t want us to help him he wanted to do it on his own so he fought us those early days when we tried to use the sling. We did end up getting him a Ruff Wear harness from here, but he was a rear legged amp and it didn’t come near his incision. Although I know Paula did use one for her front amp Nitro too with a t shirt under. Sounds like he’s getting outstanding care where he is but I’m sure it’ll do yours and his heart good to be back home where he belongs. Staying calm and positive will be important. We learned early on Max was taking his cues from us. If we panicked so did he and when we stayed calm he too did. Good luck and keep us posted, we’ll be right here for support as you need us. Stay strong your handsome boy and you have got this!
Linda, Riley & Spirits Mighty Max and Ollie