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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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12.5 YEAR OLD CHOCO LAB, Front Left Leg Amputated June 11TH , 102 POUNDS, Not really able to walk yet
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15 June 2020 - 7:29 am
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Hi,

Our chocolate lab, Lady, had her front left leg amputated on Thursday (June 11th) of last week. She is 12 1/2 years old & weighs about 102 pounds. She was limping a bit at the beginning of last week, and then Wednesday night when she went out late for a bathroom break, she yelped and collapsed. We took her to the emergency vet the next day, since our regular vet was not available. This being our first family dog, we had no clue the decision that was about to be put in front of us: amputate her front left leg or put her down the next day.

My family all had different opinions, being that she’s so old, but the vet told us there was no wrong decision. She said it was very promising that Lady was already hopping around with just 3 legs and that they wouldn’t recommend it if they didn’t think she would be a good candidate for it. I also will add that Lady has a bit of trouble with her hind legs; she stopped going upstairs to the second floor about 2 years ago. The emergency vet said that dogs have overcome worse and it didn’t change the outcome. We spoke to another vet at our regular vet’s office (not her actual vet), and she also said the same thing: there is no wrong decision.

After the chest X-ray, they said they saw small nodules in her lungs but that this could just be normal in an older dog. They still said we could choose to amputate. We debated over the course of the evening. Lady is a VERY happy, spirited dog. Even with her broken leg that day, she still was hopping around, eating, and drinking and just her normal, happy-go-lucky self. There was no sign of her wanting to slow down. We also researched a lot on here and found that most dogs, even older dogs, will adapt to the amputation. So the decision was made to amputate.

The next day, after she went into surgery, Lady’s actual vet called. I explained the situation to him, and he said that it’s a completely personal decision but he probably won’t have put her through all of the pain, knowing all of her history and her age. That was a bit of a low blow, but he said only we know our dog and again, there is no wrong decision. We took Lady home Saturday. She came out on a big cart and we scooped her into the back of the car. When we got home, we carried her out into the backyard. She didn’t even try to stand. As the day went on, she stood up with a lot of support from us, and even took a few steps (all assisted). 

Yesterday was a bit more active, she walked a little around the house, but she cannot walk without support & guidance. We also have to carry her outside, as we have about 6 steps into the backyard that she definitely cannot do at this point. Something interesting that she does that I haven’t seen mentioned here: when she does try to walk, she backs up like she’s in reverse before she goes forward. She has been eating and drinking water. Food seems to be her biggest motivator; however, we are monitoring her intake very closely due to her size and not wanting her to gain any weight. She has not gone #2 yet. She seems very happy; wagging her tail often and very smiley. I’ve been reading so much of the forums on here and know that these are all really positive signs. 

I am hoping to find some support from older, heavier front leg amputees. A lot of dogs seem to be walking right away, and this is just not the case for our girl. We’re hoping to get one of the harnesses on here to use once her stitches come out, which should make it easier. Is it unrealistic to think she will be able to do those 6 back stairs again? Did we make the wrong decision? Is it okay to carry her outside? Or should we just let her go in the house on pee pads? I’m sorry I have so many questions!!! Any and all feedback would be so appreciated, since this is all completely new territory. Until then, I’ll be scouring every article, forum, and blog I can find on here… this is truly such a wonderful resource.

Thank you,

Erin (and Lady)

The Rainbow Bridge



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15 June 2020 - 10:03 am
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Erin I’m in the Tripawds Chat right now if you want to talk. Welcome to the community, your future posts won’t need approval so post away. I hope you don’t mind I moved your post here, but since you were asking about older, larger dogs, this is a Forum good place to share and read about those stories. For now, I’ll give you my best suggestions so I hope they help you feel better:

You had two out of three vets say she’s a good candidate for amputation. That’s awesome! Majority rules! 😉 I’m sorry you don’t have your vet’s support but don’t let it get you down. Here’s my take: I don’t know your family vet at all, but I can tell you that your scenario isn’t unusual. Vets who practice in specialty/ER clinics and see Tripawds day in and day out have a broader perspective on this situation than many GP vets. My guess is that your vet hasn’t seen many Tripawds in their practice, which limits one’s point of view. Also, newer thinking in veterinary medicine says that neither size nor age should rule out a dog’s candidacy for amputation. And as far as arthritis, that’s also something that can be managed when it’s mild. We have seen this time and time again, where a family vet rules out amputation and a specialist doesn’t, then the dog goes on to live a great, happy life on three legs. Yours can too. And personally it makes me smiley7mad that your vet would even say such a thing when the amputation has already happened. The appropriate, kinder and more compassionate response should have been “come on in and let’s see how we can help her get her mojo back.” That response would make me look for a new vet with better client relations and more current thinking. Something to consider.

Now, try to put yourself in her situation. If you had your leg amputated, would you even be out of bed yet? Probably not. I know most humans wouldn’t. We tend to expect more of our dogs than ourselves in these situations. She just had major surgery, and she needs time to heal. She is medicated and woozy, and very unsteady and that is normal for many older, larger dogs. Patience, grasshopper! 😉

Next, don’t compare. It’s the worst thing you can do for your mental health. Lady is her own dog, and on her on timeline. With your help, and your patience, she will get her mobility back. But it’s gonna take time. Older dogs especially take a little longer to recuperate. How long depends on the dog but she will get there!

Yes, keep helping her outside and encourage her to walk. Try to get things back to normal, but don’t push too hard. Just an outdoor potty break a couple of times a day (and yes, poopicon happens eventually!). Get a Flagline harness now and put a t-shirt on underneath so you can use it without irritating the incision. You may want to consider the Pet Support Suit or Get-a-Grip harness, which offers more leverage for dogs with less mobility.

What are those stairs like? Are they slippery? Can you put traction tape down on them to make it easier for her?

Also, what medication is she on? Does she have adequate pain management ? I’m wondering if her meds are making her too woozy to walk?

Finally, it’s great you are conscious of her food intake. I don’t know if she is overweight but if she is, losing weight will make a tremendous difference in her mobility. Work with a rehab vet to get her on a safe program (see below).

Oh and I want to share one of our all-time best stories about someone who thought their Mastiff would never bounce back. When Sally joined us, she was certain she made a horrible decision. Read her first few posts and then the last ones and you’ll see that Hannah proved her wrong. Your girl will too.

Hang in there and OH, before I forget, please make an appointment for a canine rehabilitation therapist as soon as you can. This will also be a huge help and the best part is the Tripawds Foundation may pay for your first rehab visit . Click the link for details.

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




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15 June 2020 - 2:13 pm
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Just catching up and can only say DITTO to all the great jnput from Jerry.

Recovery  is no picni for a couple of weeks, especially  for larger “mature” gals.  She just got out of MAJOR surgery, is on good pain meds (hopefully), all while trying to adjust to three!  She’ll get her gait worked out.  Eight now she just needs to recover at her own pace in her own way.  And no stairs for a while….good job of carrying her and supporting  her.

And eating and drinking  is a good sign!!  Not all dogs do that at first!

We know it’s so ha4d to be patient.  She WILL be glad that bum leg is gone!!  And more and more Bets are on board with amputation  even with mets for the sole purpose of getting  rid of the pain.  No dog jas a timeframe  stamped on their butt.  You did the right thing for Sadie!!

Update when you can, okay?

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!

Virginia




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15 June 2020 - 2:15 pm
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PS. Yes, Jerry referenced my Happy Hann when I joined iphere on day six.  I was PETRIFIED that I had made a HORRIBLE decision!!   This community pulled me back from the edge, loaded me up with solid information and gave me the reassurance I needed so badly!  It DOES get better!!.

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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15 June 2020 - 2:47 pm
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Hi! thank you for all the feedback 😊 and a special thank you to Jerry who pointed out that her pain meds were wearing off today (day 3). We noticed her pain level was getting out of control (shaking, panting, restless) so we called the vet and they prescribed Amantadine. After about an hour, she started sitting up and moving like she wanted to go out so we carried her out and she did a lot bit of walking to go the bathroom!! We used the grocery sling… much better than the towel idea. She is back resting now but it was so heartwarming to see her moving a bit faster today. One day at a time!! Thank you so much for all of your advice and kind words. This site really is an absolute god send

The Rainbow Bridge



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15 June 2020 - 3:17 pm
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OH yaaaaaaay! This is wonderful news, I’m so happy things are looking up!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Virginia




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15 June 2020 - 10:13 pm
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Thanks for the update! We know you are relieved! Continue to celebrate any little Improvement because, during recovery, any little Improvement is a huge Improvement!

Be sure and get some rest yourself. Getting to this point is exhausting mentally and physically.

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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16 June 2020 - 2:57 pm
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Hi again… today has been a really good day mobility wise for Lady. She actually has been getting up on her own and walking a few feet at a time. Unfortunately, the vet called. The tumor was osteosarcoma and the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. He said to make an appointment with oncology to talk about options like chemotherapy 😢 originally they had said with this amputation it could extend her life 4-6 months. Does that timeline change now? Is chemo too much to put her through at this stage? I’m going to hop back down the rabbit hole with this new information but any advice would be so helpful… this definitely wasn’t the news we wanted to hear 💔

The Rainbow Bridge



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16 June 2020 - 3:12 pm
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Erin I am so happy Lady is doing better! Oh my gosh I know you got the news you didn’t want but for a moment or two, focus on how far she has come in just a few days. This is pretty amazing! smiley_clap

Now about the news. I’m sorry. I know it sucks to find out that it was osteosarcoma. It’s not a nice disease. But first, don’t jump to any conclusions until you talk to the oncologist OK? Yes, treatment depends on the cancer’s stage, but there are many options for treating osteosarcoma and many dogs outlive even the worst prognosis. Our Jerry lived two amazing years after his diagnosis and we only amputated! Many dogs have gone much longer. Lady just might too, you don’t know. Even without cancer, nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Stay away from that rabbit hole. Be patient. Be More Dog . Live as she does and don’t focus on those numbers and deadlines. She sure isn’t focused on them! She is here, right now, and she’s getting better. Focus on that OK?

Here’s a list of Questions to Ask Your Oncologistthat will come in handy. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

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16 June 2020 - 10:03 pm
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Wow! We have so much in common. My choc lab, Brownie had front left leg amputated due to OST. He was 10 days before his 12th birthday. Brownie was 90 lbs at time of surgery. Brownie did well thru recovery, but it took about three weeks for him to get his personality back. I think it was the meds. Brownie was on meds for three weeks, and we started tapering off on week three. 

My first post was two weeks after amputation, and I posted “I want me dog back “. The best advise I got was to be patient, he will get his mojo back. And he did, bigger then ever. He actually seemed happier after recovery then before surgery. It made me think how much pain was he in before the limp? I knew he was acting funny, but I just thought it was age. Brownie went on a diet and dropped to 75 lbs. Once he lost the weight he got around much better.

So I will give you the same advise I got. Be patient, Lady will get her mojo back.

Labs Rock! I would love to see pictures…

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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16 June 2020 - 10:11 pm
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By the way, all dogs are different. Brownie was given three to five weeks without amputation. Max of three months with no chemo, and 10 months with chemo

We didn’t do chemo. Brownie hated the vet so I did not want to stress him out not knowing how much time he had left.

Brownie lived an additional one year and eight days from time of being diagnosed. So with this disheartening disease you just never know. There are no right or wrong answers. 

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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17 June 2020 - 8:25 am
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Hi! Wow, our stories are very similar!! Thank you both for the positive words & encouragement. I’ve been looking up questions and stuff for the oncologist, as Jerry suggested. Her appointment to get the staples out is next Wednesday, so hopefully we can get the oncologist appointment then too because just like Brownie, Lady HATES THE VET!!! Especially with all the Covid rules, it’s torture not to be able to go in with her.

I’ve also been looking up diets… like I mentioned she’s 102 pounds (maybe a little less now) and I really want her to lose weight to make mobility easier, but she is crazzzzzy about food. Whenever we cook, she goes crazy trying to get herself into the kitchen for some scraps. Just curious–What diet did you put Brownie on?

I am going to try and figure out how to upload photos! Do you have a blog for Brownie? I’d love to show my family. I’ve been reading them a lot of the stories on here to give them some hope 🙂

The Rainbow Bridge



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17 June 2020 - 8:33 am
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Yes, helping her drop the extra weight will be soooo good for her!

Look up diets in our Tripawds Nutrition blog for some ideas while you wait for Nancy to get back to you. Meanwhile here’s a post about adding images to the Forums. Let me know if you would like help!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

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17 June 2020 - 9:37 am
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