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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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14 Year Old Mix Breed
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Forum Posts: 8
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10 September 2012
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10 September 2012 - 9:11 am
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Hi everyone,

My 14 year old mix breed was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last Thursday. Our family is devastated. He is an otherwise happy, healthy boy who acts more like an 8 year old than a 14 year old. Initially, we felt that amputation would diminish his quality of life. However, after researching amputation and spending endless hours lurking on tripawds, I feel like it may be a viable option.

  I’m really struggling with this decision, though. Am I just being selfish putting my 14 dog through the surgery? It seems like most dogs have no problem with the amputation and feel so much better after the recovery.

I don’t really want to put him through chemo, so we are exploring other options for suppressing the cancer from spreading, including Artemisinin , change in diet and acupuncture.  Has anyone else opted for the natural products/ holistic approach over chemo? If so, how did it go?

Thank you all so much for your help.

The Rainbow Bridge

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10 September 2012 - 10:58 am
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Hi Duke and family, we’re glad you posted. Your future posts won’t require moderation.

Amputation is such a tough decision, especially for a senior dog. But whether a dog is 4 or 14, the decision to proceed really depends on the individual dogs. Even some 4 year olds might not be able to handle it because of pre-existing conditions or emotional challenges, etc. It sounds like your dog will do fine, but of course there are no guarantees. As I’m sure you’ve seen in this discussion topic, we see lots of senior pups do great on three legs. There aren’t many who are 14 when they have the surgery, but there are many who live to be 14 or 15 on three legs without an issue. However, only you know your pup better than anyone else, and can make that decision of course. 

A good place to begin assessing thigns is, what does your vet say about his candidacy for being a Tripawd? Will a second opinion by an ortho vet help you feel more comfortable? I know for lots of people it does, so it’s something you might want to consider. 

As for nutrition and diet suggestions, check our Nutrition Blog and Eating Healthy Discussion topic, where you’ll find lots of tips about anti-cancer diets, including the use of Artemisinin.

Good luck, and let us us know how we can support you and your pup OK? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Brenda N.
10 September 2012 - 12:11 pm
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I chose to have my 13 year old dog Chino’s leg taken.  She lived for 6 more months.  She did very well with the amputation… but the cancer had spread to another leg. 

10 September 2012 - 12:18 pm
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Hi and welcome to Tripawds.  I’m sorry you are dealing with cancer- in Duke? (or is that you?).

I know I wondered about putting Maggie through amputation- some of my friends thought I was doing it just for me.  I guess in a way I was- because I wasn’t ready to part with her- and other than her mast cell tumor she was healthy.  She was only 7.5 at the time of diagnosis.  I know I wouldn’t have made the same decision if she was not healthy enough to handle the surgery. 

You know your pup the best so you have to decide.  But I would have his joints checked and obviously look for any cancer spread before choosing surgery.  Bone cancer is very painful- so one thing to consider is with amputation you take away the pain. 

Chemo is a very personal choice, and sometimes seems like kind of a crap shoot. My local pal Cemil is more than 3 years out from his amp for OSA and never did chemo.  Some do chemo and still have only a few months.  I chose chemo for Maggie after her amp for mast cell cancer because we were surprised to find lymph node involvement after surgery (pre-tests showed all clean).  She handled it pretty well, and actually blew away her prognosis of 6 to 9 months (that was with chemo) and lived almost 4 years.  But I also chose not to do any treatment with her second cancer.  And Mag’s little sis Tani also has mast cell cancer and I am not doing any chemo with her.

Which leg is the OSA in?

Good luck with your decision.  No matter what you decide to do you are welcome here for information and support.  Cancer sucks no matter how many legs you have.


Karen and the pugapalooza

Raleigh, NC
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10 September 2012 - 12:21 pm
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Hi Duke and Family,

I’m so sorry to hear about what you have been going through with Duke.  It’s great to see you found Tripawds because I know how wonderful a resource they are. 

A little over 2 years ago, I was in a similar situation.  Our 11 year old Shepherd mix, Eloise, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on her right front “shoulder”.  Being a large dog, I immediately dismissed the amputation option that the vet had suggested.  What changed our mind was looking at this procedure purely for pain management purposes.  A dog that size at 11 was already an accomplishment!  Plus, it had already begun to spread to the lungs so at that point we were not in a position to be able to remove the cancer with the amputation. 

Luckily, we live right near North Carolina State University which has a very established vet school and hospital.  My suggestion to you would be to have the Ortho check out the other limbs thoroughly.  See if they are in good enough shape to take on the extra weight.  At those advanced ages, they are going to look for arthritis and things like that to determine whether or not Duke will be able to maintain a decent lifestyle at his age on 3 legs.  From your description, he sounds like he is in good shape and still pretty active so amputation really might be a viable option. 

Again, the biggest thing for me and my family was that this procedure was going to relieve Eloise’s pain.  It wasn’t as if her lungs and other organs were riddled with masses and nodes and that what was making her uncomfortable.  We knew that at 11, she was not going to be with us much longer so it wasn’t even the goal to try and squeeze another 5 years of life out of her.  We knew she was getting older, slowing down, etc.  But up until she was having problems with her leg, she was content and fairly active and, most importantly, happy!

I think you have to ask yourself honestly what your family’s goal is in all of this.  Does this procedure have good chances of removing all or a majority of the cancer?  Or will this simply relieve his pain and allow him to continue, for the most part, with his current lifestyle? 

In our case, Eloise did beautifully with the surgery.  Recovered quickly and adapted extremely well to being on 3 legs.  Unfortunately, as I said, it had already begun to spread so about 2 years later, she began to show signs of the cancer advancing and greatly imposing on her quality of life.  We had to say goodbye about 5 months ago.  After the surgery, we opted out of chemo or any other treatment (only pain management ) because of her age.  Quite honestly, the information we got from the vets and researched, didn’t really show promising results in going through chemo or radiation for someone in her situation.  We knew we were in the final stages of her lifetime, so why spend it carting her back and forth for treatments and all that?  That’s strictly my personal opinion though and I’m sure there are many, many people on here that have chosen to take that route and I find nothing wrong with that. 

If I knew 2 years ago how things would turn out, I would 100% have done the same thing all over again.  We definitely do not regret our decision and feel confident it was the right choice made for Eloise.  We felt so lucky to be able to have her around for another 2 years.  To be able to take away her pain and make her just a little more comfortable for that period of time is what comforts us and makes us feel we did the right thing for our family in our situation. 

Best of luck to Duke and I wish the very best for you an your family!

Darlinda Alexander
10 September 2012 - 12:24 pm
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I chose amputation for my 12-yr-old lab with osteosarcoma whom we had adopted less than two years prior. I had such an immediate heart connection with her that I couldn’t bear to lose her after so little time together. I, too, did not go the chemo route but did use supplements and recommended nutrition. We got to enjoy her for 2 1/2 more months before the quality of life deteriorated due to the cancer spreading. Since 12 yrs. is a common life span for a lab, in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have done it, but as I said, I just didn’t have enough time with her. My thinking now would be, what is the dog’s life expectancy based on the breed? I would base my decision on that. By the way, I now have a 15-mo.-old lab that I got at 8 weeks. I still miss Daisy, but I’m enjoying the heck out of this one, so it helps. Whatever decision you make, don’t look back. I did what seemed right at the time, and you will too.

10 September 2012 - 12:27 pm
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Earlier this year we amputated our 13 year old’s left front leg after she broke it where she had an osteosarcoma tumor (She’s now 14).  A year prior to that we had her eye removed because she could no longer blink due to a brain tumor.  So now we have a 3-legged one-eyed dog!  We had to make a relatively quick decision because she was casted, and a leg with a tumor doesn’t heal.  We decided to go for it, and are glad we did.  She has had to make a number of adaptations, but she does remarkably well.  For example, she now pees while laying down, and somehow does it where she doesn’t even get pee on herself!  She hops around pretty well, and can make it up a long flight of stairs (and can fall down them too unfortunately…).  We got her this harness http://gear.tri…..r-harness/ which she wears all day, even when we’re at work.  I think having it on gives her a little confidence.  We take it off at night and give her a good scratching/massage, which she loves!  She is still pretty peppy, and will growl and play a little bit with our younger dog.  But now she just likes to be around us, begging for food all the time.  She can still eat, go potty outside, and she seems basically happy.  I’m glad we made the decision to remove her leg.  Good luck with your decision; I know it’s not an easy one, and let us know how it goes. 


Hudson's Mom
10 September 2012 - 12:27 pm
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Hi Duke’s Family,


My 7 yr old Great Dane was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in June 2011.  Danes live 8-10 yrs, so we were facing the same decision.  We chose to amputate and treat with chemo.  About a week and a half after amputation, we were AMAZED at the difference in our dog’s personality and happiness.  He was playful and full of energy again.  We had attributed his “slowing down” and “being tired” to age and were shocked at the difference.  It wasn’t his age that had caused him to start acting like an old man, it was pain!  It was like having a 2 yr old again. :)

Keep in mind that an osteosarcoma tumor is literally causing the bone to explode from within in slow motion.  It is the most painful condition that a dog can have and drugs only dull the pain.  Our ortho surgeon told us that our dog was in more pain the day before the surgery, than the day after.  Regardless of whether you choose to go through chemo, I highly recommend amputation.  They feel so much better and they have the chance to truly enjoy the time they have left pain-free.

Good luck to you all!


Stas's Mom
10 September 2012 - 12:28 pm
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Hello Duke’s family.  Man do we know what it’s like to be in your position. But I want to share our experiences….from your potential future!


Stas’ 3 year ampuversery will be Ocotober 26th this year.  He lost his front, driver’s side leg.  We and the vets were unsure about his exact age…the best guess (at that time) was between 9 to 12 years old.  Let me say it again, 3 years!

He had the nerve bundle tumor in the lower part of his leg. They did the biopsy, then we decided to lose the extra leg. No chemo.

His recovery was slow. He didn’t react well to the pain killers. (He was super groggy and hallucinated.)  But no infections.  I would say that it was a hard 3 weeks, post surgery.  I slept in the living room with him to, help re-assure him that his pack was with him.  We had to do some carrying up/down the few stairs for piddling/pooing. But within a week he was sick of being babied and was working on stairs on his own.


Now that we’re 3 years past the surgery, Stas is very much himself. He’s an old-man dog.  Some of that is our fault; we’re guilty of babying and spoiling him.  The “Chicken/Carrot/Rice/Greens” dinner recommended here for recovery works great; he loves it. Notice I used the present tense….once our old guy realized that Mom was cooking dinner for him…well he was Not going to ever let that go!

His stamina is much reduced. He went from being a 3 mile a day dude, to about a 3 block a day dude.  But he really loves checking his pee-mail in the neighborhood. We’re really careful about keeping the sidewalk/cement walking to a minimum…because of the pressure on the joints. So again, spoiling, I take him and his little dog sister to the dog run nearly everyday.  He loves riding in the van and getting his 15 minutes of digging and chasing in.

Many times, people won’t initially realize that the black dog tearing around is a tripawd. Which is a testimony to him.

We are seeing him slow down now…but again, he’s an old man…the range now is 12 to 15 years old..we just don’t know.  He has developed some “old man” tendencies.  He eats when He wants too!  Did he just hop into bed? Yes, and who are we to kick the old dog out of bed.  He was always skittish around loud noises, now more so.

He loves meeting puppies; but really big dogs are not his thing (He’s a big Rottweiler/Boucheron/Shepard Mix).  Our theory is that he’s feeling his weakness and age more and doesn’t feel able to defend his pack and territory.  But what’s funny is that he hasn’t become fearful, but more aggro.  Pre-surgery he was the happiest butt-sniffer in the hood; but now there are regular dogs that pass by the house that he’s taken an intense dislike to.  He has a special nemesis in a boxer named Buddy who lives down the block; Stas actually tried to charge him when he was sitting on the porch with me!  Again, this is different than before the surgery.

Overall, we are convinced we made the absolute right choice in going with the amputation surgery for our older dude.  He has a happy, interesting and pain free life. And that to us is better than any prolonged suffering he may have experienced in dying from a cruel disease.  


I really hope this helps!


Christina in Milwaukee

10 September 2012 - 12:37 pm
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And a little bit more on the above post…  We did do 3 sessions of Chemo, with no side effects except one tiny bout of diarrhea.  Who knows if it will really help…  So far it hasn’t spead to her lungs, which I guess is pretty common.  She is doing GREAT 6 months post-amputation and forsee her living for a long time still!

Boston, MA
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10 September 2012 - 12:39 pm
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I am SO sorry to hear about your sweet boy’s diagnosis.  Lupe was 14 (just about 15) when she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her front leg (ended up being histiocytic cell sarcoma, which from what I was told and researched is a nasty and invasive form of soft tissue sarcoma).  She was otherwise pretty healthy, nothing major just the normal getting older issues.  The week I took to decide if I should perform the surgery was tough and she went through a lot of ups and downs.  In the end, I decided (along with input from her 2 vets and the wonderful people here) to amputate to remove the painful limb and hopefully give her a chance to live out her lifespan as pain and cancer free as possible.  Lupe’s x-rays were clear and she did wonderfully after the surgery.  Unfortunately, her cancer was extremely aggressive and had already invaded her bone marrow and lymphatic system so I had to make the final decision to let her go.

Do I regret the decision to amputate?  Not at all…it was her best shot at living without the pain from the tumor.  She was up and walking around that night and I got to spend some more precious time with her.  Was it enough time?  No, but it never is with our furry loves.  I was given no guarantee of time but I did the surgery to give her the chance.

Your decision needs to be what is right for you, your family and most importantly your Duke.  And know that either way, you will have done all that you could and Duke will be thankful that you have done so.

Best of luck and please know that you have found a place of supportive and understanding people and tripawds.

-Kori & Angel Lupe

Diagnosed with possible synovial cell sarcoma of right front elbow 5/31/12. Amputation surgery performed 6/7/12. Final diagnosis of histiocytic cell sarcoma 6/11/12. Her soul and spirit were strong, her body was little girl earned her wings 6/14/12. "If there are labradoodles and goldendoodles, why can't I be a cockadoodle?"-Angel Lupe (June 28, 1997-June14, 2012)

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10 September 2012 - 2:42 pm
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I’ve had a quick skim over all the replies.  Please forgive me if I am redundant. 


1) As has been said, amputation will have the very important benefit of ending the bone pain and should be strongly considered even though Duke is 14 and especially because he is spunky.  There is very likely no other way to relieve his pain than to remove that leg.  Like you, we spent a lot of time wondering if we should amputate, but looking back it is a no-brainer.  The only reason for our reluctance was our ignorance. 


2) When thinking about whether or not to follow the amputation with chemo, you should consider the stage (1,2, or 3) of the cancer.  In case you aren’t familiar, the stage is measured by the rate of mitosis of the cancer cells.  The faster the cells divide, the faster the cancer grows.  Stage 3 is much faster growth than 2 which in turn is faster than 1.  


3) When thinking about chemo, also consider the prognosis for the cancer spreading.  Your oncologist can discuss the likely spread of the cancer, trouble spots, as well as the stage and probably lots more.  Factor all that into chemo decisions also.


Gabby had a stage 3 nerve sheath tumor with no sign of metastasis, and she is now 3.5 years post-amuptation and 3 years post-chemo.  Chemo was tough but she got through it.  No matter what happens, the thing that matters most is lots of love and cuddling.  Best of luck to Duke and to you!!

Long Pond, PA
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11 December 2010
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10 September 2012 - 3:53 pm
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Hi Duke and Family.


Our Shelby was 9 when she was diagnosed with Chondroscaroma in her right front leg.  When amputation was mentioned we were concerned about her age (she was in excellent health other that the leg).  The vets (both the orthopedist and oncologist) assured us she would do fine.  It was also the only way to relieve her pain completely.

We opted for amputation and the night of the surgery she was standing in her cage wagging her tail!  She was running in a matter of weeks and enjoyed 12 months of pain free life before the cancer returned in her lungs and we had to say goodbye.

While we struggled with the decision it was one that we never, ever regretted.  With her type of cancer chemo was not an option so it was something we never had to consider.

Any decision you make will be the right one for Duke.  He knows he is loved.

Best of luck to you and Duke.

Rock Hill, SC
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10 September 2012 - 4:38 pm
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duke5779 said
I don’t really want to put him through chemo, so we are exploring other options for suppressing the cancer from spreading, including Artemisinin , change in diet and acupuncture.  Has anyone else opted for the natural products/ holistic approach over chemo? If so, how did it go?

Thank you all so much for your help.

Hi and welcome.  Zeus is our husky mix who was 11 yrs old and 45 lbs when diagnosed with Osteosarcoma and he did very well with the amputation.  He did strain his back a week after surgery, so we had to keep him on pain meds longer and his total recovery took about a month.  The deciding factor for us was the ‘otherwise completely healthy’ issue.  With this being the only thing wrong with him we just couldn’t imagine not at least giving it a shot.  Every family is different, but I think you have to consider what will give you peace with no regrets.

Most dogs do very well with the amp.  I think the cancer aspect is more of the toss-up.  Some dogs do great with chemo, and some survive well past the standard prognosis even without chemo.  As to your question above, we did a half and half approach.  We opted for six rounds of chemo, but we also changed his diet to the dog cancer diet recommended by Dr. Dressler.  Zeus is 9.5 months past amputation (AND he had a lung met and a liver met at the time of diagnosis, so his prognosis was poor – estimated at six weeks!)  I sincerely believe that the diet played a huge part in his beating the odds.

Good luck with making a decision!


Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

10 September 2012 - 5:21 pm
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I recently had to go through the same decision with my very spunky 12 year old peanut. I couldn’t bare putting him to sleep knowing he was still so full of energy. I went ahead with my decision to amputate his back hind leg due to an inoperable tumor. I can tell you the morning of his surgery had to be the longest morning just waiting to hear if he even survived the surgery alone. I’m very very happy to tell you that my peanut not only survived but he is doing so good and adapting  so well after only one month of being an official tripawd. I’m so happy and thankful of my decision. I hope my words of my experience helps you in you’re decision with you’re duke.

Best wishes,


Beth and peanut

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