Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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Sad to be here but so thankful for the support. I spent hours per day perusing all of your stories and resources earlier this month. Unfortunately I have been sidetracked as I lost my brother on December 9th, to an aggressive cancer. This is relevant because I've been away from my girl for two weeks now, and my husband was away from her for 6 days during the services for my brother. Switch's surgery is scheduled for 12/23, and my husband called me today saying he has concerns about her ability to tolerate the surgery and recovery. It's so hard not being there! I'm heading home to CO tomorrow and was able to schedule a recheck appointment with the orthopedic surgeon on Thursday but I need some advice and insight...
Switch is a 12 yo Aussie, who is otherwise healthy and fit, but was diagnosed with a nerve sheath tumor on 12/1/22. We have chosen not to put her through the MRI process to locate the tumor as we agreed we would not seek radiation treatment regardless of the outcome. This is due to a number of factors including the distance to get treatment from where we live, the amount of time they think it would buy her, and the fact that her other joints all have some sort of deterioration (tenosynovitis in both shoulders, mild arthritis in her hips/knees). All that said, there is a chance that we will remove the full tumor with amputation, or there is a chance it is closer to the spine and will just continue to grow, albeit slowly.
I'm now wondering if amputation is the right move for Switch at all. I am in such a fragile state after the sudden loss of my brother (7 weeks from diagnosis to passing) and I simply cannot lose Switch this close to his death. What I can't decide though, is what is more selfish of me? Doing the surgery and putting her at risk, as well as through pain, just to gain another 6-18 months, or not doing the surgery and letting her live in pain and discomfort, dragging the "dead" leg around because I'm afraid of her not making it through? If we do nothing, the vet said we have maybe another 6 months. My husband says she is still eating and potty-ing, and she still goes to work with him every day where she visits her buddies and sniffs lots of butts, but he has noticed that she is moving slower, and seemed to be in pain today. She did run out of her gabapentin while staying with our friends, and while I'm annoyed about that, I know they were just trying to let us be with family and not bother us. My husband picks up her refill today and hopefully she can get over the pain hump quickly and start to show signs of her old self again.
Anyone have any thoughts?
Meghan, I wish I had something to lessen the pain you and your family are experiencing. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your brother. The unbelievable shock of having to say goodbye so suddenly is unimaginable. My heart hurts for you.
And of course this situation on top of it...unreal. I'm so sorry.
So, it sounds like your vets believe Switch is a good candidate for surgery, right? If so, then it's mainly you and your husband who are hesitating (and nobody can blame you for that). My guess is that without the Gabapentin right now, she is showing pain signals that are making him question the surgery. Hopefully the medication will help her get some sparkle back while you decide. She is also probably pretty tired from being with new people and visiting a new place.
As we say around here, animals don't have an expiration date stamped on their butt, even with a cancer diagnosis. You never know if that six months will be longer, or shorter. You sometimes have to take a leap of faith and go with your gut. But at times like this with all that you are coping with, I know that must feel impossible.
So when it comes to these situations, a second and even third opinion can help tremendously. Remind me, did you say you were considering CSU for treatment? Either way, CSU's Argus Institute is an incredible resource that helps with tough medical decisions. I would give them a call to discuss your situation. Their trained counselors can help you decide. I can't recommend them enough. Will you or your husband call them tomorrow?
First I wanted to say that my heart hurts for your loss. I lost my only brother after an accident 27 years ago. I walked around in a daze for months after that.... be kind to yourself.
As far as Switch- in addition to being out of pain meds could she be more painful because of the tumor itself? She may also not be herself because her routine has been disrupted, I know my dog is very sensitive to any changes around the house.
When I chose amputation for my Pug Maggie I thought the surgery would be curative but tests done on the removed leg showed the cancer was in the lymph system and her prognosis was downgraded to poor with 6 to 9 months survival time (mast cell cancer). If I had known that before the surgery I would not have done it (at the time). But Maggie beat her prognosis and lived almost 4 more years and did not pass from the mast cell cancer. In hindsight I realized that I had given her a chance with the surgery...a lesson I try to incorporate in my decision making now. There are no guarantees of course, cancer is such a crap shoot.
I hope the consult with the surgeon on Thursday can bring you some clarity.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy
Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.
1999 to 2010
Thank you both for the kind words and replies. I love reading the success stories! Jerry, I was not aware of the CSU advice line and love that I can call them! I think that's a great idea, especially after we have our second assessment tomorrow morning at the orthopedics. We are using CO Canine Orthopedics in CO Springs; they were recommended by my local vet and I have a former coworker who used them for her dog's TPLO surgery and absolutely loved them. They have been great with all of my questions and concerns so far and I'm appreciative that they were able to squeeze me in for another evaluation tomorrow morning rather than just brushing me off and saying they'd decide Friday morning. I just feel like I need a little extra hand holding in this moment.
My husband says Switch is moving around better this morning after getting full doses of her pain meds. Thankful for small miracles, that was the news I needed to hear! He said she still seems tired, and has lost some weight. I was able to talk to my friends who watched her while my husband was gone and they said she was a little stressed and anxious the first day, and didn't eat well. I'll have to work on fattening her up just a little since I've always kept her thin.
krun15, I'm sorry for your loss. Losing a sibling at a young age just seems so unfair... he was only 41 (I'm 38), and he was supposed to be my longest relationship in life so now I feel robbed of that. I know things will ease with time though and I hope you have only fond memories of your brother
I think it is totally possible that some of the pain she is experiencing is from the tumor itself, and she gets visibly annoyed at the leg that she can no longer control. Her tarsal joint is fully tucked under (knuckled) and I worry daily that she will lose her balance and fall on this joint, doing more damage and causing her more pain. This is what drove us to decide to amputate in the first place. We live in the mountains in a very snowy environment and while we use a harness and booties and she's no longer off leash for long, I worry she will slip or fall over in the snow while going to the bathroom.
Thank you both again for the insight. I will update after our appointment tomorrow, please keep fingers crossed! I am just hoping for a clear path on what to do, and that it's the option that buys us more (pain free) time with Switch.
Just catching up on your thread here. CO Canine Orthopedics is AWESOME. You are in fabulous hands with them! I hope you get some good news from them today. And I also hope Switch is doing better and more stable with the additional meds in her system.
Stay warm out there and keep us posted!
Hi everyone, and Merry Christmas! I want to start this by saying that Switch is home, and though it was a VERY bumpy road to get here, she is recovering really well and she is my Christmas miracle
Wednesday night my flight to Denver got redirected to Albuquerque, NM. I missed our consultation appointment on Thursday morning, but CCO sent me a very kind email letting me know they would spend extra time with Switch on Friday morning assessing her. On Friday, I spoke with her surgeon, Dr. Michael DeTora, who said he thought she was still stable and healthy enough for surgery, but that he could now feel the mass under her armpit, where before he could not. It clearly had grown quickly in the past 3 weeks. We agreed to stick to the plan and move forward with amputation.
Dr. DeTora called me at 4:30pm, 90 minutes into surgery, telling me the tumor had grown into her chest wall, and was completely hiding her arteries in the brachial plexus. He said that he would keep going if I wanted, but warned that there was a very good risk that he would nick an artery during the surgery and she would bleed out on the table. He wanted me to know, and he wanted to give me the option to euthanize while she was under anesthesia. That was never an option for me, and I said so. She deserves the chance to fight, and the thought of her final day being spent in a cage hungry, in pain, and thinking I abandoned her absolutely tormented me.
Let me tell you... Dr. DeTora is a saint!! He was so meticulous and he was able to get 99% of the tumor, albeit with dirty margins, without nicking any arteries. She did great through surgery and her first night in the hospital, and that night I dreamt of my brother for the first time since his passing. I know he was there with her.
We will know more once the biopsy comes back, but I know that our time together will be shorter than we hoped for. We are taking comfort now in the fact that she is recovering well (eating and drinking normally, resting comfortably, has gone pee a few times since being home all outside, etc.).
I have plenty of questions that I will share tomorrow, but for now, we are spending a quiet day at home with Switch, and I just wanted to update everyone and wish you a Merry Christmas!
22 February 2013
I wrote a reply.the other day, or thought I had, but it's not here.
You have been thro so much stress, loss, good news, bad news, and then the holidays on top of everything else.
I love that your brother came to you in a dream. Be sure and write it down, how it made you feel, because clearly he was connecting with you. He's your Angel now, as well as Switch's too.
So glad she is home and surgery is done. She's a fighter, that's for sure! Eating and drinking already, pottying..all good signs.
You have a Christmas miracle going on and let's keep it continuing, okay?
Recovery is no picnic at first, but it does last furever. Let us know if you have a y questions and how we can help you navigate thro recovery. We're all joined the Switch Fan Club and will be cheer for her.
Be sure and get some rest yourself, okay?
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!
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Holidays are tough when you are missing family members, even more so when the loss is so new. Even though Switch didn't make it easy I'm glad that you have a Christmas Miracle of sorts to hang on to. No matter how much time Switch has the fact that she made it through and is home with you for Christmas shows you made the right decision.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy
Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.
1999 to 2010
Happy to report things are still going well. I think her Nocita is starting to wear off as she's sleepier today, but still bright eyed and eating/drinking/pottying well. I am upping her Gabapentin to every 8 hrs to try to get ahead of the increased pain that may be coming. I know we may have a slight regression in the next couple days and am trying to prepare myself mentally for that. She did faceplant while trying to shake, because she was standing on the hardwood floor... more on that below.
Tomorrow is my first day back to work, and it will be a BUSY day for me after having been gone for 3 weeks and with it being the holidays (I work in a hospitality setting in a tourist town). She normally goes with one of us; with my husband she usually is riding around in a truck and then spends a few hours in his office. Because I will be super busy, Switch will go to work with my husband tomorrow. I'm tempted to have him leave her in his office with his coworkers so that she's not being jostled around in a truck during the day. At the same time, I think being left in the office without dad might make her a little anxious? She seems even more concerned with our whereabouts than usual. Remember, I left her for two weeks, he left her for one, and then I came home and immediately left her at the hospital. I want to balance what's best for her physically and mentally!
Also, I have some questions about Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips vs. booties. Switch has been a backcountry dog for years, often skiing and mountain biking with us, and is very accustomed to wearing booties. She does well with her winter booties in the snow and in our offices, but I don't want to leave them on her all the time. My husband and I are building a house (okay, he is building a house, I pick things out online) and we are weeks away from our certificate of occupancy. We live in a tiny house while building and I don't think Switch can really recover in that space because it's too small for her to comfortably and easily navigate. So we are posted up in the "big house" but I am unable to purchase any throw or scatter rugs, because they can't be here when we call in inspections. Do you guys think I'm crazy yet?!
Anyway. I have a bunch of yoga mats creating pathways through the house, and I bought a few mesh non-skid rug pads to create larger areas of traction around her bed & food bowls, etc. But now I am considering Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips so she can just navigate all spaces more easily. My main question though, is can I still use her winter booties with the toe grips, or will the nail grips take up too much room and make the booties uncomfortable for her? We live in a high alpine environment and our road where we walk will be packed snow until April/May. Are we more likely to lose the toe grips in snowy conditions?
Lastly, she has been laying on her amputation side a bit and I'm wondering if we should allow that or try to discourage it? I assume if she's doing it now, it's because she's not in pain, but as the Nocita wears off that may change. Thoughts there?
Woah! I just had a chance to catch up on things. What a ride you've all been on lately. It must feel so good to have the pack back together. I'm soooooo glad she made it through surgery and is on the mend. YAY! And I love that your brother came to visit you in that dream. What a gift of reassurance that everything will be OK.
Congrats on getting the house done, that's awesome. Can we come visit lol?! It sounds lovely! Meanwhile, good idea not to leave booties on her all day. Her paws need to breathe. So the Toe Grips might take up more space in her boots. You could call Dr. B's team just to be sure. But my gut feeling is that you might want to go up 1/2 size in booties. As for using the Grips, remember to ask Dr. B's for their crazy glue (or you can just go buy some). You'll want to use a dot on each Grip to ensure they don't pop off, which they can do on Tripawds because of their odd gait.
Laying on the amputation side is a good thing, it means she's comfortable. I don't think any dog has had complications from doing so in our community.
And great idea staying ahead of the pain. We often see people bump up Gabapentin from every 12 to every 8 hours, depending on whether or not the dog is super sensitive (groggy) to it.
Tomorrow I have a feeling that she'll be better off in the bouncy truck than home alone. Between the pain meds and reassurance that Dad is by her side, I would probably go for that arrangement if she were my dog.
Best wishes for a calm return to work tomorrow! keep us posted when you can and give Switch a big ol smooch from us!
11 January 2022
I tried Toe Grips on my tripawd about a year ago. They were pretty low profile - I don't think they would be an issue under boots. I think I'd put the boots on before trying the toe grips and feel around the front edge of the boot to get a sense for how they fit and how much space there is around your dogs' nails. Then do the same thing after putting on the toe grips. If the boots feel really tight/crowded with the toe grips, it might be worth buying another set of boots in the next size up.
I ended up returning the toe grips because Loki was obsessed with chewing/pulling on them until they came off. She's now on Prozac for anxiety (and doing so well on it!) and I'm thinking about trying them again. Boots became a HUGE anxiety trigger for her. I haven't used them since starting the anxiety meds - I'm going to have to reintroduce them slowly. Luckily we have pretty good traction in my house - it's just when we're out and about traction can become an issue.