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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Linus and I are looking for advice. I have searched the forums here but couldn’t find info directly related to a couple of questions. (links to existing info so very welcome as well !)
Linus is a 160 pound great dane with a spindle cell tumor growing on his right rear hock. Linus is between 8 and 10 but we don’t know for certain. I’m Linus’ mom, best friend, chauffeur, trust fund keeper, fan club manager and biscuit dispenser. Linus came to us from the Great Dane rescue after his prior owners abandoned him, tied to a tree, when they moved. The monsters didn’t let anyone else know they had done this and when we got him, he was a body score 1. Because of the severe malnutrition early in his life, Linus is more than a bit cow hocked. He does however get around great and can run approximately 25 mph…up hill (clocked by a friend who drives a truck Linus loves to chase — Linus inside the fence, truck on road outside that parallels fence 🙂
We have had substantial diagnostic work done at the University California Davis veterinary oncology division and unfortunately the tumor is all entangled in the joint so surgery to remove with subsequent radiation therapy doesn’t look like an option that would offer good long term prospects. In conversation with the oncologist, he thought our better option might be to wait until the tumor became compromised, then amputate. The doc seemed very open to my input though.
We have been told that this type of tumor doesn’t generally metastasize and so far all the diagnostic work would seem to indicate it has not done so. I am concerned that it will, so wonder if amputation earlier might be better. Linus also sure seems like that joint hurts him. I know the amputation surgery will be traumatic, but would it be better longer term than the sore leg ? We have Rimadyl but I worry about organ damage from it’s long term use.
Our immediate concerns about amputation:
Our home is all on the second story (garage on first floor). Does anyone have a giant dog with a rear amputation who makes regular trips up and down a story’s worth of stairs unaided after recovery? Has anyone had any luck convincing their dog to use a portable potty somewhere other than the yard ? We have a large wrap around deck upstairs and I wondered if I could teach Linus to potty some place special on the deck so he would not HAVE to go up and down the stairs. If anyone has had good luck, I’d love to know how you taught this and what you designed !
Does anyone have a dog who is cow hocked who has had a rear amputation ? Linus has had a load of “pictures” taken of his hips and other leg…all looks lovely, no changes or arthritis of note.
Any older dogs out there who have done really well long term following amputation of a leg to remove a spindle cell tumor ?
Any other ideas for us ???
With so much appreciation in advance for all thoughts and suggestions,
Linus and his mom
28 November 2008
Welcome to our little elite club. None of us wanted to be here, but what a wonderful, supportive group we've found to help us through the hard times. Nova is our resident Great Dane and may be able to help with some of your concerns.
Cancer is a journey, you never know how it will turn out. You never know when the end will come. You learn to take each day one at a time, and be thankful for the time you have. The one given is that this group of 'friends' will be here to support each decision you make and never judge you.
Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul. Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.
We were originally inspired to proceed with Jerry's amputation because of Moose, a three legged Harlequin Great Dane who survived more than two years after his amputation from osteosarcoma.
Amputation is indeed the best way to completely eliminate the tumor pain, and while we have always suggested “the sooner the better” a recent Ask A Vet chat with veterinary oncologist Dr. Michael Lucroy revealed some insight about reasons to wait to amputate – aparently cancer (osteosarcoma) tends to spread more aggressively once the primary tumor is gone. If you ask me, I still believe it's better to remove any tumor quickly. But I am no vet.
Be sure to review Jerry's top ten cancer amputation cancer questiona and answers.
Also see: Forum search results for “spindle cell”
Finally, thank you for joining the Tripawds community. We are sorry to hear about Linus but glad you found us.
13 September 2009
Hi Linus's Mom,
Welcome to our Tripawds family… I'm sorry to hear about Linus's cancer… You will see here that we have many large breed dogs that have gone through the amputation surgery and have done quite well for a long time.
Regarding training Linus to do his business on the patio, well they sell indoor doggie restrooms/pottys and that might do the trick. I don't have any experience with any of them… and found these two links on the internet… but I know there must be many more. I guess you'd need the largest size for your Linus… I know that they sell some sort of drops for puppy toilet training, that you put onto a pee-pee pad (or portable potty) and the smell is supposed to help them 'go' where you put it…
Hopefully another Tripawds member has some good suggestions for you… Definitely get a harness and that will help with stairs and everything else…
Good luck with everything and keep us posted on Linus!
Angel Jake's Mom
Jake, 10yr old golden retriever (fractured his front right leg on 9/1, bone biopsy revealed osteosarcoma on 9/10, amputation on 9/17) and his family Marguerite, Jacques and Wolfie, 5yr old german shepherd and the newest addition to the family, Nala, a 7mth old Bengal mix kittie. Jake lost his battle on 11/9/2009, almost 8 weeks after his surgery. We will never forget our sweet golden angel… http://jakesjou.....ipawds.com ….. CANCER SUCKS!
20 May 2009
Hi Linus's Mom,
Welcome to tripawds. I, too, would suggest using a harness to help Linus on the stairs. Emily was a rear leg amputee but she only weighed 65 pounds so I don't have any experience with a large dog. I wonder if you put a “garden box” with holes for drainage on one corner of the deck and planted grass seed in it he might be able to be trained to go there. I think you'll have to gate the steps though 'cus he will probably want to go down stairs when he feels better. You can also use puppy pads, they have something in them to encourage dogs to go to the bathroom on them but I'm not sure I'd want to clean up a puppy pad for a 160 pound dog!
Good luck. Sorry I don't have any advice for you. I'm sure you will hear from people who have big dogs I will add Linus to my prayers. Oh, in my opinion the pain from cancer is so bad that amputation is a relief. If you haven't already done so start Linus on a joint supplement like glucosomine.
Debra & Angel Emily
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.
My Mastiff Tazzie was a front leg amputee (185 # post-amputation). She did very well with a few stairs but I would not let her do a full flight since I was afraid she would tumble forward. We were lucky enough to have our bedroom, den and outdoor access on the bottom floor so that is where she stayed.
It is true that spindle cell sarcoma rarely metastasizes so I would make your decision based on pain level. I gave Tazzie meloxicam 7.5 mg once daily. It is an NSAID like Rimadyl but pretty safe and you can get it pretty cheaply from a human pharmacy (your vet needs to write a script for it). Always make sure your dog has baseline bloodwork to check liver and kidneys before starting a long-term NSAID. Tramadol is also an option.
How fast is the tumor growing? Some of these do not grow that fast so if pain is controlled you may still have quite some time before amputation is needed. I am a veterinarian and I have had many patients with these joint tumors where we manage the pain and “debulk” the tumor as needed. This means taking out the major part of it but leaving a small amount in the joint. Did the biopsy report give a grade or level of malignancy?
If your dog is in otherwise good health then amputation is certainly an option and many giant dogs have done very well!
Again, our sincere thanks for all the suggestions and support ! Two years ago we lost our first Great Dane, Xeauie, at 12 to lymphoma. I spent many, many hours online researching treatment protocols and ways to improve her quality of life. In hindsight, as emotionally painful as the research was, I wish I had looked deeper, earlier, to be able to anticipate things that might occur and prepare, rather than have to react. We all miss her more than words could ever adequately convey.
Linus’ tumor is about the size of a golf ball mostly on the inside of the hock and, based on our weekly measurements, still appears to be growing relatively slowly. I am noticing more growth of it around the joint not just on the inside. His pain level has picked up this past week and because of that I have just started giving him Rimydal (100mg/day). Afterward he really appears to be much more relaxed and sleeps deeply. Perhaps coincidental or my emotional extrapolation?
He appears in pain generally when he has been sleeping for a while and first gets up to walk. He also holds it up slightly when he eats (he has a chest level feeder of course.) My hubbie believes he’s always lifted it when he eats though. Other than when he gets up from laying down, he still is doing okay. He moves with a regular gait, still bears weight on it (appears all weight when running) and if he has been up and about for a while, you would not notice a problem from a distance.
He has had baseline blood work done as recently as a month ago and all was good. Would you suggest having a panel done regularly to keep an eye on the liver and kidneys ? How often would be best ? Have you found meloxicam to be less impactful on the organs than Rimadyl ? Any suggestion on a dosage of Tramadol that I might discuss with my vet that wouldn’t make him dopey ? Could I give him Tramadol at night that might taper into the day but not impact his lucidity during the day ? Any other pain management ideas ? A crazy thought I’m sure, but I wonder is there a way to “shut off” the receptors just in the joint area but still have him feel his paw ? I will do whatever I can to avoid amputation, but if that would be what will provide him with the best quality of life for the longest period of time, that’s the way we’ll go.
Regarding the debulking, doesn’t it grow back much more quickly afterward ? How do you decide when to debulk ? What issues have you had with debulking ? Any problems with the skin healing back around the tumor ? Is there a particular procedure that you’ve found that is better generally than another?
One more question: How in the world do I ever thank you all? Seriously, just having you all respond has meant the world to us. Thank you for caring for others. I am certain you all have more than enough to care for on your own.
All my best wishes to everyone here and thank you for your prayers. You are all most definitely in ours.
Staying pawsitive (I love that !),
Linus and his family
Rimadyl is generally a pretty safe NSAID but is seems to be harder on the liver than others. My dog Tazzie had chronic hepatitis so I used meloxicam for her and her liver values stayed in the normal range the entire time she was on it. Usually I would repeat bloodwork every 6-12 months to check organ function, although I checked Tazzie every 3 months due to her liver condition. I have many dogs in our practice that stay on Rimadyl or other NSAIDS long-term without issues but some dogs do get vomiting or diarrhea with or without blood. These side effects are reduced by giving the meds with food and by using the lowest effective dose.
Tramadol has a wide safety range and the main side effects seem to be sedation or nausea but most dogs take this long-term without any issues. A good dose for your dog would be 100-200 mg orally 2-3 times daily. My dog Kona has terrible arthritis and she is best managed with a small dose in the am and a larger dose at night to help her sleep.
As far as pain receptors I often add gabapentin and/or amantadine to prevent pain wind-up and to lower the NSAID dose and this seems to work best for nerve root pain. There are certainly nerves involved in the hock joint so these drugs may help if needed.
Usually I will debulk the tumor if it is larger than the whole joint or if the skin is getting too stretched out. I am usually able to conserve enough skin to cover everything but sometimes a small area is left open to reduce tension and then heals with repeat bandaging. I remember a shepherd mix who had 3 surgeries (about 1 per year) and never needed amputation but later passed away of other causes when she was 12 years old.
It sounds to me like you have some time to wait and see how your dog does with pain meds before you need to consider amputation. I'm sure that your vet can help guide you if and when that time may come. Good luck!
3 February 2010
I just found this post and am sorry to hear about Linus.
I am very curious how he is doing? I have a 9 year old Shepard Mix, Kona 60 lbs, who has a melon size spindle cell tumor in the hip area. They say it is too large to debulk at this point without using a “skin flap” to close and that recovery wouldn’t be easy.
They really want me to amputate but I am not sure. Money is definitely an issue. I too live on a 2nd floor (apt) and have steep stairs. I also have a 3 year old and another large dog.
I have been trying to research and am just overwhelmed at what I’m finding out. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain at all, except that the tumor is large and makes it difficult to lay down and stand up. Otherise she is fine.
So sorry about Kona. So far so good with Linus. The tumor is spreading and growing in the hock joint area but still is not bothering him too much. He’s on Rimadyl and his liver values are just ever so slightly above the normal range, but steady. Do you have an elevator at your apartment ? (Of course we don’t at our house.) I really don’t know what we are going to do if we get to the point where he will need amputation. I’ve looked everywhere for good ideas on how to get a 160 pound dog up and down a full flight of stairs if he’s not fully ambulatory. I also worry that if we amputate he may never be able to get up and down the stairs on his own — and that make me scared and very sad.
I have to say that I would not be so worried if he only weighed 60 pounds. There are great harnesses (think it is the AST Get a Grip one) that allow one person to really easily help the smaller dogs. There is a thread mentioned on an earlier post here that showed a great design of an assistance harness.
I’ll keep you and Kona in my thoughts and prayers ! If you hear anything that might be helpful, please post and I will certainly do the same.
I've looked everywhere for good ideas on how to get a 160 pound dog up and down a full flight of stairs…
Have you seen our new product review and demo video for the AST Get A Grip harness designed specifically for large, heavy and less mobile dogs? Check out the AST Pet Support Suit website for more information and details about their custom sizes.
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18 August 2010
i would look into getting an outdoor elevator, made out of a 4wheeler winch, with something like a crate at the bottom so he cant jump out of it, build it with 4 solid corners so that the crate wont rotate or rock…. something maybe like a dumbwaiter system thats not too expencive but will work for the dog and maybe help you with some in home chores as well such as getting the groceries out of the car….. i know they sell things like that for a couple thousand but if you know a decent contractor he could probly build you one alot cheaper…. my dad made one a few years back out of left over steal (2ftx3ft) with a truck winch so he could move the firewood back and forth to the basement…..
Upon getting the call to go to work
MY dog sits proud as I stand at attention
I salute my director
Place my hand back to my side
Then I say in a PROUD and STRONG voice
"Mr.Squishy, reporting for duty, Sir."