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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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7.5 year old Great Dane with osteosaroma in front leg- SAD UPDATE
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Member Since:
18 January 2011
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18 January 2011 - 4:47 pm
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Hi there,


I am new to the forum. Two weeks ago we found out our beautiful 7.5 year old Great Dane, Sterling, has osteosarcoma in his front left leg. His lungs are clear so far so we are struggling with the decision to amputate. He is still actiing like himself except for the slight limp. Last week he had one horrible night of pain and we thought we'd have to put him down but the vet gave him an opiate and did some more tests to make sure the cancer hasn't spread and he has been doing fine since then. We are leaning toward ampuation and chemo but have a few concerns. He is already terrified of our hardwood floors and we are worried how he will do when he has three legs. He weighs 130 lbs so I'm not sure how we will get him in and out of our car - a Ford Flex. How much pain will he be in from the amputation? He also has a mast cell tumor in his other front leg so we are concerned about that as well. Does anybody have any thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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18 January 2011 - 5:16 pm
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Welcome and thanks for joining. We're sorry to hear about Sterling, but glad you found us. You'll find lots of recovery and care tips in Jerry's Required Reading List, and for immediate answers to the most common dog amputation questions download the new Tripawds e-book Three Legs and A Spare.

Be sure to check out Nova's blog for a true three legged, blind Great Dane success story.

Josie, the Great Dane with osteosarcoma also just celebrated her 10 month ampuversary.

Xancer is another three legged Great Dane, who was only recently diagnosed with lung metastsis nearly eight months after his amputation.

Regarding slick floors, non-slip area rugs are highly recommended. Be sure to check the Tripawds Gear blog for the best traction solutions for three legged dogs.

Regarding the pain, it will only get worse without amputation. Removing the limb is the only way to get rid of the tumor pain. But we are not vets. And with an MST on the other leg, only you and your vet will be able to determine what is best for Sterling. Based on our own experiences and those of others here, however, the pain of amputation recovery is nothing compared to the inevitible tumor induced fracture.

Good luck. Please keep us posted!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
14 April 2010
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18 January 2011 - 7:20 pm
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Welcome to the family. Sounds like you might have a little more to think about than most of us have with issues in both legs. I'm not very familiar with the mast cell stuff so I would be inclined to rely on your vet for advice, but concerning pain of amp vs. cancer pain, do the surgery, if he is only limping now, it won't be long until he won't be using that leg at all because of the pain, and cancer pain is terrible. Now thats not to say your troubles will be over just because you did the surgery, you will have about a 2 week period after surgery that will have some ups and downs, probably more downs, but MOST of the time once these guys get past that first 2 weeks they recover extremely well, it's us humans that have the real anxiety issues. But since you have issues with the other leg, I am going to assume if your vet advises against surgery you are going to be controling pain with meds, and it might take some pretty good stuff to  take away his pain as the cancer progresses, which might have some side effects also. Concerning the floors, rugs or carpet runners would help tremendously. We brought Gus home the next day after surgery and he was climbing the stairs that night, and he never missed a night, and by the third week he was climbing up in hay mows and by 4 weeks pickup trucks, but he was also an extremely strong dog, so having 3 legs didn't slow him down much. There are harnesses you can buy that have handles on them to help dogs with things like stairs or getting into cars. I didn't do chemo with Gus, we thought we caught the cancer early, but ended up losing him 3 1/2 months later, his lungs were clear when we did the first x-ray, would I do chemo if I had to do it again, not sure, chemo isn't cheap and some dogs have side effects that aren't very pleasant, some don't have much at all, and some dogs live quite long once they have gone through everything. My main concern from day one when we started this journey was quality of life, and hopefully you consider that when weighing all your options. I'm not trying to be sound negative, but there will be more stress on his remaining front if you amputate, and hopefully your vet will guide you on what he feels is the best way to handle this. Remember, Sterling doesn't know he has cancer,so what ever you do, act just the same as you always have around him, if things get tough for you, go to another room to settle down, they will pick up your tension. Bottom line, if your vet says he thinks his remaining leg would stand the added stress if you amputate, I wouldn't even think twice about surgery, the sooner you get it done the faster he will heal and be himself again. Good luck, Paws up, Spirit Gus and Dan 

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

Mount Pleasant, Ia
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27 October 2010
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18 January 2011 - 10:00 pm
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welcome... we are sorry to hear about the news of Sterling having cancer. You have found a good group for support and help. I guess as others have stated , you have a little bit of a different situation since there are issues with both front legs. Not being a vet I wont even try to elaborate on that. If your vet reccomends amputation of the osteosarcoma leg, and you proceed - I do know that the relief from pain for the dogs is almost immediate after the surgery and the pain of the surgery seemed non existent to Cooper compared to the pain he had with the bad leg. I cant offer you alot of advice on this - other than letting you know there are lots of big dogs here that have had an amputation and are getting along just fine. Cooper has always had trouble with hard slick surfaces too - even on four legs, he would be standing on our wood floor and just all of a sudden all 4 legs would fly out from under , this really became an issue after amp, but as admin said non slip carpet runners are wonderful and really not too expensive and there are a number of non slip boots and socks for dogs as well. we are sending lots of good thoughts and prayers Sterlings way, please keep us updated!



Coopsdad/ Kenneth Blackburn

the monkeydogs only THINK they have invaded the tripawd state

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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18 January 2011 - 10:44 pm
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Sterling and family, thanks for joining us here. We're so sorry you had to, but we'll do what we can to help you through this rough time.

My very first Tripawd hero was a Great Dane named Moose. Until I saw him digging for gophers, I never knew that dogs could live a good life on three legs. Moose inspired me, and that's when we started this community. Once I saw him loving life, I thought that if he could do it, so could I!

The hardwood floors will be tricky if Sterling is phobic about slippery surfaces. I would approach that carefully with a trainer, but until you can, putting down non-slip rugs, runners or new concrete tile is mandatory. While many dogs find boots to be a good option, they aren't for everyone.

You'll be so surprised at how well dogs can adapt after surgery, even big dogs. If your vet feels he is a good candidate for surgery, that's fabulous. Get a second opinion from another vet if it will make you feel better. But always remember that no matter what, Sterling won't care that he's missing a leg, all he would know is that he is out of pain and feeling sooo much better again.

Good luck to you. Keep us posted OK?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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18 January 2011 - 11:05 pm
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Welcome Sterling and family.

I'm very sorry about the diagnoses and everything is so scary seeming right now.  But everyone here will help you since most have gone through cancer.  It's so frightening and we understand.  However, you will find that there is still a lot of life for Sterling and having one less leg is no big deal once he gets healed.


Bone cancer is the most excruiating pain in humans so you can imagine how much pain he is in.  The amputation will eliminate his pain.  There will be healing pain but that is a far cry from bone cancer pain. 


And try not to think about the small issues right now.  (floors, getting out of the car, ect...)  I've had a three legged dog for 12 years and these small details of being three legged will work out.  Just concentrate on getting him out of pain. 


We are here and we'll help every step of the way.  Again, we know it's scary but amputation is something that has to be done and done rather quicklly as you've seen with his severe pain. 

Warm wishes,

Comet's mom

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Greater Western Washington area
Member Since:
25 August 2010
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19 January 2011 - 4:59 am
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Hi Sterling's family,

I can tell you while we were waiting for our surgery date my newfoundland mix (115 lbs) fractured his leg at the cancer site.  It happened while he was outside to use the restroom.  It was horrible, he was in intensive pain.  They said that could and would happen but I didn't expect it so quickly after diagnosis.  He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and within a few days had his site fracture.

I am all for the amputation process now, I know it seems incredibly scary and my heart was in my throat on his day of surgery.  By that evening he was walking on 3 legs and wanting to come home with me!

I don't have any advice as far as your situation with his other leg, but Tazziedog is a wonderful vet and I bet she would have ideas.

I wish you much luck and hope it goes well for Sterling.

Elizabeth and Sammy

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,

leg fractured 8/27/10,

leg amputated 8/30/10


I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us.  Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.

Golden Girls
19 January 2011 - 7:54 am
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Welcome Sterling & Family,

So sorry to hear about the bone cancer and MST. Do you know yet what stage the MST is? Skyler also had MST, but it was stage lll. We amputated, and also did chemo. She had great quality of life, albiet for 3 months after surgery. Each dog is different, so don't be discouraged by what you may read here. We're all here to support you, and know that whatever decision you make for Sterling, it will be made out of love.

Please keep us posted! Sending you golden hugs!

Cathy/Jane/Spirit Skyler/Chloe

19 January 2011 - 9:41 am
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Welcome to Tripawds-

I'm sorry to hear about your boy Sterling- and two cancers at once makes your decisions tougher.

My pug Maggie lost her left rear leg to a Mast Cell Tumor- she had a previous cutaneous MCT removed, and after her amp she had recurrence of the cutaneous tumors.  If you want to read about her treatment for MCT you can go to THIS PAGE in her blog.  Because it appeared after amputation that the cancer was in the lymph system we did chemo.  Mag was given 6 to 9 months at that point with chemo.  She lived 3 years and 9 months, I lost her last year to a second, unrelated cancer. 

What does  your vet say about the MCT?  Is it cutaneous or in the tissues or in a joint?  Some dogs do fine with cutaneous MCTs even if they are left in place.  In my experience with Mag the tumor in her knee was not as painful as the pain from bone cancer I've read about here.  She never limped on it, and her knee function was only slightly compromised.  The tumor was embedded in the tissues of the leg, but the bones were not involved.  Maggie was very demonstrative and let me know when she didn't feel good, so I don't think she was hiding too much pain. We had to do the amputation because the tumor was getting very large and would have further impaired her knee function, and most likely would have ulcerated into a wound that would never heal.  We also thought we had caught it before it had meted to the lymph system so amputation was the best choice.  

Depending on how the MCT is acting I would say the bone cancer is your immediate concern.

And you will probably  have to sacrifice the hardwood floor look.  Many if us use a mish-mash of throw rugs to help with traction .


Member Since:
18 January 2011
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22 January 2011 - 4:03 pm
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Thanks so much everyone for your help and sharing your experiences. Carpet runners would work great in our house. I'd never thought of that.

Sterling went to the vet on Thursday to have his leg amputated but his right paw (on good leg) has been really bothering him and a lump came out of nowhere on his third toe. We decided to do a biopsy of the lump to make sure it is not cancer before proceeding with the amputation of his left leg. Poor Sterling is just a mess. The lump on his paw seems to bother him more than the osteosarcoma. He licks and worries it almost every minute he is awake. We will get the results back on Monday and if it is all good then he will have the amputation on Wednesday. He is on Derramax, Tramadol and Gabapentin so he is not in much pain from the osteosarcoma right now. The bad part is that he wants to go for walks and run up and down the stairs etc because he feels good. He is only allowed out to go to the bathroom or to go for a car ride right now and he is just bursting.


The mast cell tumor is cutaneous and the vet said it should come off really easily so they will take care of that during the amputation if it is a go. I don't know what stage it is but they will find out when they take it off.


I've read a lot about holistic remedies and diet. Does anyone have recommendations on diet? I switched him from Canidae to Go! Endurance Formula which is a high protein, grain-free food and he seems to be doing well on it. I also got Wholly Immune but I can't get him to take it for the life of me. Usually he eats ANYTHING and he won't touch this stuff no matter what I try to disguise it in.


Thanks again everyone and I will keep you updated!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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22 January 2011 - 4:17 pm
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jasonmary said:

Carpet runners would work great in our house.

Does anyone have recommendations on diet?

Don't miss the selection of large low profile rugs in the Tripawds Gear blog .

You''ll find loads of healthy diet, homeopathic and holistic remedy suggestions by searching the Tripawds Nutrition blog .

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

22 January 2011 - 7:09 pm
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Poor Sterling!  I hope the toe lump turns out to be nothing.

Also good that the MCT is cutaneous-  hopefully after removal it won't cause further problems.


I'll be watching for your update on the toe.


Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
20 May 2009
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23 January 2011 - 5:14 pm
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Wow!  I am so sorry to hear of Sterling's health concerns.  Please know that I am praying for positive results tomorrow.


Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Member Since:
12 December 2010
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23 January 2011 - 6:18 pm
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Hi Sterling's family,

My 4 1/2 yr old Dane had a rear leg amp 6 weeks ago (histiocytic sarcoma in knee joint). He has wobblers syndrome and some nerve deficits in a front leg but despite this, he is doing amazingly well.

Target and Walmart are great palces to buy inexpensive carpet runners. Yoga mats also work well. They have a bit of stickiness that helps amputees grip better.

Some holistic options to consider for the MCT- neoplasene (there is a yahoo group for it) and for both cancers- artemisinin (yahoo groups as well). We are using artesimin since we chose not to go the chemo route.

Hope the toe issue turns out to be ok. Hang in there- we know how heartbreaking this is.

Jenny & the Z Pack in NC   

Amazing Zane the Dane

wobblers syndrome - 4 spinal & 3 acl surgeres         

amp 12/8/10

                            The wonderful thing about Tiggers ~ Is Tiggers are wonderful things

                        Their tops are made out of rubber ~ Their bottoms are made out of springs!                                                                                

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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23 January 2011 - 8:42 pm
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Sorry to hear about the toe lump!  Let us know what you find out!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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