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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Hello, everyone. This site has been very helpful, so far, as are the ebooks here.
Freeway, our 14 yr Australian Cattle Dog, developed a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor in 2011. In May 2011, we had the tumor removed, knowing full well it would most likely recur. At the time, it was about the size of an orange, on his left foreleg. At the time, we were told that amputation would be the only option to prevent recurrence.
The tumor has returned, with a vengeance, in the same location and same size. However, about a week ago it ruptured and infection is now a concern. I can’t imagine the resultant wound will heal, so it looks like we have three options: amputation of the foreleg, euthanasia, or do nothing.
Freeway is usually the most enthusiastic and loving dog, but since the tumor ruptured, he has been, at times, lethargic. Could be due to the pain medicine (100 mg Rimadyl daily).
We are moving into the country near Cornell into a small cottage in a very dog-friendly community. There’s a fenced dog area and lots of grass to walk around on. I’m thinking of consulting with the vet school at Cornell as far as doing the amputation. Further surgery is not an option – there’s just not enough skin to close the wound and the tumor is just too large. Plus, the previous surgery was difficult for him (and us).
So, my question really has to do with how well he would adapt to losing a limb at his age. Although there are stairs in the house, our living space is really on the first floor (kitchen, sitting area, master bedroom and bath) so the only reason Freeway would have to climb the stairs is because he likes to lie on the floor of my office or studio (usually right in front of the door so I have to step over him – he’s very trusting).
I’d appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. We’ve had Freeway since we adopted him at about 8 weeks and he’s been a great friend, companion, etc. We’ll be sad to lose him (and we know that’s inevitable).
Hi Seamus, welcome! Your future posts won’t need approval.
Yes do consult with Cornell, vet schools are great to work with, have the best technologies and relatively affordably priced. We’ve had great experiences with 3 different schools.
As for the lethargy it’s likely from the tumor not the Rimadyl, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t cause those symptoms. You may want to ask for something stronger in the meantime.
Stairs usually aren’t a problem for most dogs after recovery, search the forums for stairs and you’ll see some great examples.
We’re glad you found this community helpful, thanks for the kind words.
We just met with our local vet and I discussed our options with him. He confirmed the three options I wrote about earlier. Obviously, I’m not eager to euthanize Freeway and I’m leaning toward amputation. Clearly, doing nothing is not really an option – the rupture is not going to heal and so there will always be a danger of him picking up an infection, especially in the country.
Our local vet’s reaction to the idea of amputation was that, at his age, Freeway might not survive the surgery, but surgery to remove the tumor again would also be tough on him. So, if the only real options are amputation or euthanizing him, it might be worth it to take a chance on amputation. He might survive amputation, whereas the survivability of euthanation is zero.
Glad to hear that vet schools are great to work with. We’ll definitely arrange a consult with Cornell when we get up there. One of my new neighbors is a third year veterinary student there so we’ll talk to her.
22 February 2013
Seamus and Freeway, — You are a very handsome boy and I love your name:-)
Just want you to know I’m thinking of you and know the “options” you are dealing with are pretty tough! It is a major surgery and it can be a difficult recovery for a dog of any age! It sounds like previous surgery was rough on him so I know that’s a concern. He sounds like a “young” senior though
It sounds like you will really get some great info. from Cornell and they may even have more up to date cutting g edge solutions. I’m sire they’ll check Freeway over thoroughly and make sure they’ve eliminated any potential challenges he may have regardless of which solution you decide.
You have a wonderful loving relatio ship with Freeway and you will make a decision out of love…..and that’s always a good decision
As you get more evaluation information, please keep us posted and maybe some on this site would be able to offer more specific experiences related to age, etc.
What a wonderfully rich life Mr. Freeway is living:-) 14 years and counring—that’s a cause for a celebration right there:-)
Try not to worry (and share your secret if you know how to do that) but do be present with him and enjoy the fact that he is enjoying being loved and spoiled by you and that makes him a happy boy:-)
Surrou ding you with support and give Freeway some extra treats for us!!
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!
6 March 2013
If the only real options are amputation or euthanizing him, it might be worth it to take a chance on amputation. He might survive amputation, whereas the survivability of euthanation is zero.
That’s exactly the thought we had when we chose amputation–our dog was senior, with a heart murmur, autoimmune condition, and other fun stuff…so yes, there was a risk of him not surviving surgery. But like you said, he MIGHT not survive the amputation surgery. He DEFINITELY would not survive euthanasia.
If his life is otherwise kool and the gang, why not give him the shot at the extra few weeks/months/years?
"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
As Megan (Sampson’s mom) experienced, it often seems the odds are stacked up against a senior dog and many vets easily discount them as amputation candidates, but we see them thrive more times than not after surgery. Scroll through this forum and you’ll find lots of great stories. I agree wholeheartedly that a consult with another vet is a great idea, especially at somewhere like Cornell. By the way you will need a referral (most likely) so call your vet asap to get one. And if they schedule your appointment too far out be sure to explain the urgency of the tumor growth, they will usually bump up more critical appointments. That’s just based on what we’ve experienced with other vet schools.
Good luck and please keep us posted. And give Freeway a big ol hug from us.
30 July 2010
Hi Seamus & Freeway,
You are on point with the idea that if you go down the euthanasia path, it is a guarantee he will never recover (so aka last resort!). Is Freeway in otherwise good health? Usually before undergoing an anesthetic procedure the vet does bloodwork to make sure the pup is healthy on the inside. My dog Chloe had her amputation at the age of 9, but has had to go under a couple times in the last couple years for other things (including getting a lump removed today!). If Freeway has good bloodwork and is still his normal self for his age, then consulting the second vet is definitely a good option. Good luck and we hope to hear another tripawd success story from you and Freeway!
Chloe became a rear amp tripawd on 7-29-10. Another tumor was removed on front leg 2-20-14. Found 3rd tumor on neck 2-2015, but she's still kicking cancer's butt at age 14. Chloe's blog
1 February 2013
Hi Freeway and family-
Shooter was 12-1/2 at his amp almost 4 months ago and he has more energy now than he had prior to the amp. If Freeway is healthy and active he will adapte very well with just a few bumps in the road (those are inevitable). Sampson is our best role model for sr dogs around here and does pretty darn good. Sending thoughts your way and whatever decision you make will be he right one.
Spirit Shooter was a Miniature Australian Shepherd who was diagnosed with a MCT and had a LF amp 1/28/13 at 13-1/2 years old.
Shooter crossed the Bridge on 8/28/13, his 7 month ampuversary and two weeks from his 14th birthday.
Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and encouragement.
One of our new neighbors is a student at the Vet school at Cornell and she gave us the name of a vet who does hospice and palliative care for pets, Dr. Katherine Goldberg (www.wholeanimalvet.com).
We’re going to consult with Dr. Goldberg once we’re moved. She’s already had some great suggestions, and she’ll set up a consult with an oncologist at Cornell who can help us make treatment decisions, including amputation.
Thanks, again, everyone. Your thoughts, good wishes, etc., are welcome and encouraging.
You know, everyone’s dog is special, but Freeway has the sweetest disposition. There is an elderly lady living across the street who is terrified of dogs, but she really likes Freeway, and he is very gentle with her. And a cousin from Ireland was visiting a few years back. When she first arrived, she was so scared of dogs, she was afraid to come into the house. By the time she left, she was sitting on the couch with Freeway’s head on her lap, and she’s since told her husband she’d like to get a dog (he was shocked.)
That is so wonderful to hear! It seems the universe put you in exactly the right location you need to be in right now to help Freeway. Obviously he has more work to be done on this earth and he has all the right people there to help him continue.
Let us know how the consult with Dr. Goldberg goes, I think I’m going to drop her a line to interview her for Tripawds. She seems like an amazing doctor.
10 May 2013
Hi freeway! We just celebrated 7 weeks post ampuversary! Bingo is a blue cattledog who is nearly 15! He had osteosarcoma in his right hind leg. He also has arthritis in his right elbow and left hip. It was such a HARD decision! i started researching hospice and home euthanasia and would just start bawling! he just looked at us like he wasnt ready to go yet, wanted to race around with his cast (he had a pathological fracture 2 days after the osteo diagnosis) We opted not to do the chemo treatments because of his age, but we are still considering metronomics just trying to price it. Obviously his age was a huge factor but we are so happy we did the amputation. His sweet personality is still there and he is no longer in pain! (Well except for the aches,stiffness in the mornings from the arthritis but so do we! ) what did you decide to do?