TRIPAWDS: Home to 22437 Members and 2120 Blogs.

Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

Tripawds is your home 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.


Join The Tripawds Community

Learn how to help three legged dogs and cats in the forums below. Browse and search as a guest or register for free and get full member benefits:

Instant post approval.

Private messages to members.

Subscribe to favorite topics.

Live Chat and much more!

Please consider registering
Forum Scope


Forum Options

Minimum search word length is 3 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters
Register Lost password?
sp_Feed sp_PrintTopic sp_TopicIcon-c
amputate or put to sleep?
sp_NewTopic Add Topic
4 March 2012 - 3:00 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost


I am new to this forum. I have a 12 year old German shepherd, named Rocky. He has bone cancer in his left from leg. We've been treating his pain with oral medication for some time now but his disease has been progressively geting worse. His vet tells us that the only option is to amputate his arm or put him down. I am not sure what to do here...Rocky is part of the family and it is extremely difficult seeing him this way. He used to be such an energetic dog but ever since the cancer, all he does is sleep and be uncomfortable. I dont have the strength to take him to the vet and put him down. Ever since he was a puppy he hated to go to the vet and its always a dramatic event. Also, every time i take him in my car, he associates it with fun times like going to the dog park....i cannot put him in the car and take him to the vet and put him to sleep...i dont want that to be his last memory.

I want people's opinion who have had amputations performed on their dogs. Is it a good idea to go through with this extensive surgery in a 12 year old dog?? What about post operation pain, infection, etc? How long is the recovery period?


Any input is appreciated.


thank you.


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 3:56 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Welcome! Sorry we kept missing you in the chat room . Your future posts will not require moderation, and we moved your topic here from the tech Support forum where you first posted so many more members will see it.

Rocky is beautiful! You will find plenty of success stories here in the forums and blogs. Age should not be an issue if Rocky is otherwise fit and healthy. Have you done scans to see if the cancer has significantly spread?

Be sure to review the story of  Eisen, a senior GSD Tripawd who has been cancer free for four years now. You will find many more links to helpful blog posts and forum topics in Jerry's Required Reading List.

Good luck and best wishes in the decisions you face.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

San Diego, CA
Member Since:
29 October 2010
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 5:49 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Hi Shah and Rocky, I'm so sorry you had to find us here, but you won't be sorry you did.

We've had many older dogs on the site do well with amp, so I wouldn't worry too much about his age. I would make my decision based on his will to live and general health, otherwise. If he's in good shape (except for the cancer!) than he should do well. You might "only" buy a few months with Rocky, but those months would be pain free and happy. On the other hand, who knows - you might get a year or even more with him.

In general, there is a two week recovery period that is pretty rough to get through. Some dogs do take a little longer, especially if they are older or very set in their ways, but the pain of the recovery is much easier on the dog than the pain of the bone cancer.

As I just said earlier to another new member, we've had lots of folks who were worried about how their dog would deal with the amp, but in all the time I've been on this site (over a year), I only remember one person saying they regretted the decision to amp.

Most vets recommend a lung xray before proceeding with an amp, to see if the cancer has spread. You might want to consider that, and it might help inform your decision.

If you do decide that amp is not the best option for Rocky, there are people who will come to your house to euthanize the dog. Hopefully you can find one in your area if/when it's time. We did that with our first dog. She was terrified of the vet's office, I hated the thought that her last moments would be frightening to her, so we found someone who came to our house. It was very peaceful. It cost more than doing it at the vet's office, but it was worth it to have that final peaceful memory.

Hang in there. I know it's so hard trying to know what to do - especially when our pups can't talk. But remember that amp will take the pain away.

Jackie, Angel Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 6:15 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Hi and welcome.  Our dog, Zeus, is a 45 pound Husky mix who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at 11 years old.  We had his leg amputated on 12/1/11 and just passed his three month ampuversary.  We also struggled with whether it was fair to an older dog.  Zeus had already been slowing down quite a bit in the last year, but he was extremely happy and still had very good quality of life.  He really is like a child to us and we finally decided to amputate and give him a chance.  I can say that I would absolutely, without a doubt, do it all again.

His recovery was a little longer than some of the younger dogs, but that was partly because he tweaked his back one week after the amp, which caused him to be a bit uncomfortable.  It was about one month after the amp that we finally got him off the pain meds and he really returned to normal.  He gets around on three legs almost as well as he did on four.  We started chemo two weeks after the amp and he just completed his fourth treatment (out of six).  Unfortunately, he had a "suspicious" spot on the CT scan of his lungs at the time of diagnosis.  It was too small to be labeled a metastasis, but the vet figured that's what it was.  We decided to go forward with the amp and chemo and buy as much time as possible.  At two months after amp (at the second chemo treatment) we did follow up x-rays which showed that the spot had grown and is in fact a met.  It is unusual to have only one met, so we hope that the chemo is keeping it in check for now and will buy us some more time.

Every dog is different and every owner's situation is different, so you will have to make the decision that is right for you and your family financially, emotionally, etc.  I can only speak for our situation but we have NO regrets.  Hope this helps.  Good luck to you!!


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...

Member Since:
20 August 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 6:23 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

I agree with having the lung x-rays done to see if the cancer is in his lungs yet.  Knowing what I now know, I can't say for sure that I would have done the amputation had the lung been showing in Spencer's leg before amputation (it wasn't).  But... I don't regret the amputation for a second.  We had 6 months and 2 days with Spencer post amputation and every one of those days was good quality.  He had about 2 days that were hard after the amputation; but then each day after that he was more and more on his own.  Amputation was on Wednesday and by Sunday we had to tell him he couldn't run.  

I know that had we not done the amputation we probably would have lost Spencer months before we did.  I don't know that all of the chemo did anything to buy us time; but there is no doubt in my mind that the amputation bought us months.

Jac and Angel Spencer.  Spencer was 5.25 years old. He fought a grade 3 fibrosarcoma, started on his shoulder.  Left front leg amputated in August 2011.  15 weeks of chemo finished 12/22/11 (mytox and adria).  Lung mets found on x-rays 12/28/11.  Started carboplatin 1/6/12. Went to Heaven on 2/27/12. I miss him like crazy every day.  See his blog here:

Member Since:
14 April 2010
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 6:23 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Welcome to the family. I'm sure you will get input from others who's dogs were in that age group, but I have seen good results with others on here. I think if it's been a few months I would try to see if the cancer has spread and have a good serious talk with your vet about options after that has been determined. You will find some dogs live for quite awhile after surgery, some aren't so fortunate, but believe us when we say, the pain of the surgery will be minimal compared to the pain from cancer, so I wouldn't let that be my determining factor. Recovery for an older dog might be a little longer, but if he is in otherwise good health, you might be surprised at how well he does. These guys are just like us, they al heal different, but i will say this, once you make your decision, don't second guess yourself, that will tear you up. make your decision based on the facts and know you are choosing which road to take for the quality of life for rocky. Some do the surgery and start regretting it a few days or a week after, which is usually some of the most stressful time, since by that time most people are sleep deprived and need to take a deep breath and regenerate to think rational again. It's not an easy time those first couple weeks but once the healing has started, they usually come along really good.As far as adjustment, they will surprise you, if you have hard or slippery floors, you may need some runners, but as long as they have good footing, they adjust pretty quick. Don't be afraid to ask anything, experience gives the best answers, Paws Up and good luck, 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

4 March 2012 - 6:26 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

I would vote for the amputation if Rocky is in good health and physical condition other than his leg with cancer. And clear lung xrays of course. With the extra time that you would get with Rocky it would be unlikely that you would regret doing the amputation. There are definitely some struggles at first but after the healing is complete things can be wonderful again. My Great Dane Valentina lived 7 months after her amputation and I feel that it was a true blessing to have her for those extra months. I was worried about doing the amputation because she was such a big Dog (150lbs) but she actually did much better at the walking than I thought she would. Although she did have some complications that took her longer than average to heal but after she was healed we had absolutely wonderful times and I was able to completely focus on her happiness and the joy of just being with her. At the time of diagnosis I totally did not want to do the amputation but when her pain was no longer controlled by the pain meds I was faced with putting her to sleep. She was in terrible pain and could hardly walk. I was not ready to let her go and I don't think she was either so I chose to do the amputation. I am very happy with my decision and I think Valentina was glad too that I gave her another chance. I hope you can make a decision that you feel good about. Sending prayers for you and Rocky.

Buffalo, NY
Member Since:
25 November 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 7:07 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

All these previous posts are right, if Rocky is healthy besides cancer, don't worry about the age and I would definitely say amputate. My dog was only a year and a half when she had her amputation and it was not due to cancer but she did incredibly well with her surgery. I am very grateful for that. I hope you and Rocky are doing well, and keep us posted on your decision!

Member Since:
16 July 2009
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 7:16 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost



The Oaktown Pack + 1 currently has three tripawd German Shepherd dogs in residence, and they all get around without any problems. The most common response we get is "the dog only has three legs!" The dawgs do not care. None of them became tripawds due to cancer, but they all get along well and are happy. All the previous posts do a good job of explaining the things you need to consider and evaluate before you make your decision. The final thought I would add is do not worry about a dog that has "only three legs." Dawgs don't care. They continue to live their lives, no matter how many legs they have.The dawgs biggest concern is the pain. And if you can add more good days to the time you get to share with them, it can be worth the journey through the amputation process.



4 March 2012 - 7:30 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

I appreciate everyone's response. Its good to know that there are other people who have gone or are going through what I have been. Rocky had an entire body x-ray done a couple of months ago and it did not show any metastasis. Its just hard to judge his will to live. He sleeps most of the day because he knows he cant walk around. On the other side, he still has good appetite and carries on his normal bowel movements. There is some disagreement between my family on the path to take but reading all your responses has given me some comfort and hope.

I will provide an update as soon as we come to a definite decision.


thank you all again.

Edmond, Oklahoma
Member Since:
7 January 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 7:36 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Crystal is the oldest dog I can think of who underwent amputation, although I am sure the "old timers" can think of others - she's 13 and a GSD like your Rocky, I believe.  She is almost two months post amp now, and I think she's doing really well.  You may want to PM her people to get their perspective.  If a cancerous arm is Rocky's only issue, I'd say amputate and give him a chance to enjoy whatever time he has left.  I can tell you are not ready to let him go, and he will amaze you.

Scout: January 31, 2002 to November 7, 2011

Scout's diagnosis was "poorly differentiated sarcoma"; amputation 1/11/2011.  Scout enjoyed 9 fantastic years on 4 legs and 9 glorious months on 3 legs.  If love alone could have saved you…

Member Since:
8 January 2012
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 8:54 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Hi Shah,

I saw your post and I'm so sorry about Rocky.  I have a 13 year old GSD, Crystal and I thought my experience might be useful for you.

Crystal was diagnosed with OSA in early January and had her front right leg amputated on January 11th.  When she was diagnosed, I felt that putting her down was not the right option since she still seemed to have so much life left in her.  Despite all the pain coming from her leg, she would still perk up when there was any chance of a car ride or a trip to somewhere fun and I could see it in her eyes that it just wasn't the right time for her.  So we went to see a oncologist and consulted an orthopedic surgeon.  I actually went into the appointment thinking that there was no way that she would be a good candidate for an amputation.  But they examined her and took x-rays of her hips and they deemed her a good candidate for surgery.   I can tell you that her recovery period was different from what others have described.  She spent 2 nights at the vets office after her surgery to recover and from what I've read, most younger dogs come home the next day.  Also, others have said that the first 2 weeks are the hardest and for us, the first 2 weeks were actually pretty easy.  During this time, I bought runners and put them on the hardwood floor and confined her to one room.  From what I remember, she recovered pretty easily and was soon trying to escape her confinement and move around to other parts of the house.  I think next weeks were actually harder but that's because she was moving around on the hardwood floor and would often slip.  If you have hardwood floors, I highly recommend trying Musher's Wax or buying Power Paws socks or permanent runners.  So in terms of the recovery period from the surgery,  older dogs can do great.

Crystal did have some other issues though that has made a full recovery more difficult though.  First, she had some complications from chemo that really set us back.  She was doing fine after her first round of chemo until about 2 weeks after the administration.  One day, I noticed that her back leg seemed weak and she would be nearly sitting when she was trying to stand up.  She completely lost function in her back legs the next day and needless to say, I panicked.  After rushing her to the oncologist, they determined that her weakness was caused by hypertension and low white blood cell count.  Luckily the problem wasn't cancer related but she was walking around the block before this happened and for a little while after this setback, she couldn't walk more than 2 houses down the street.  I should say though that I don't regret trying the chemo at all because there was no way to predict that she would react in this way.  Most dogs do fine with chemo but unfortunately, Crystal just couldn't handle it.  I'm not sure how related this is to her age though.

Her second setback happened just a week ago.  Crystal has had arthritis for years now and because of the arthritis, there are bone/cartilage growths down her spine and these growths have bridged some of her vertebrae.  A week ago, she was chasing some geese and I think she forgot she was missing a leg when she was running so she fell.  A day or so later, she again lost function in her back legs.  We went to a different vet this time (the oncologist is about 1 1/2 hrs away) and x-rays showed that she fractured some of these bone growths on her spine.  The fractures were causing inflammation which was making her legs weak.  She has since been on Prednisone and although she is improving, she still has difficulty getting up and walking by herself.  The vet said that these fractures will heal and once the inflammation is fully controlled, she will be back to her normal self again.  But needless to say, it is disheartening to see her like this.  Again though, this problem is more related to her arthritis than her age so if Rocky doesn't have arthritis, this isn't something you even have to consider.

All in all, I think there is no reason to assume that Rocky won't do great just because of his age.  In between Crystal's setbacks, she has had so many great moments.  She has ran up her dog ramp to the car all by herself, played with some dogs at the dog park, chased rabbits and geese, and even walked over a mile!  Hopefully she will be doing these things again soon but I really think that age is no reason to automatically discount amputation.

All that being said, if you decide to euthanize, there are vets that will do house visits.  We did this for our other dog, Star, and not having to put her in the car to take her to a place that she hated really helped the process.   Others have said this but I will say it again: there is no right or wrong decision.  Every dog is different and you know Rocky the best and will make the decision that is best for him and your family.  Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or want to know more about our experience.



Caledonia MI
Member Since:
13 October 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 9:21 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

My dog Levi was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma July 7, 2011. He is 6 years old....long story short, we originally decided not to amputate and just do pain meds until "it was time". So we made it to October and the pain meds weren't cutting it anymore...I panicked and couldn't put him down so we went ahead with the amputation. The first week to 10 days I was still unsure if I had done the right thing. But then out of nowhere Levi returned to his old self. We are running 2-5 miles together still nearly everyday. Looking back I wish I would have amputated immediately in July. Those days of the pain meds and watching him limp around was some of the worst days of my life. Now he is pain free and we have more time together !! His cancer has spread to his lungs but it's still not affecting him. Even if I would have only had a few extra months it was worth it for me. Please let me know if you have other questions.

Erica and Levi

Levi was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma 7-7-11
Ampuversary 10-14-11
Lung Mets Discovered 1-4-12. Chemo seemed to not be working so we switched to Artemisinin and other supplements. In May, Levi developed a sinus infection and started having seizures. The cancer had moved to his brain. We let him go 6-26-12.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 9:33 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

I'm so sorry you find yourself here.  As you have seen others have given you wonderful examples!

The only thing I would like to add is - if you don't do the amputation, please consider putting him down without hesitation.  The reason is, bone cancer is the most unbearable, excruiating pain and it can't be lived with.  This is why he isn't moving.  In humans, there is no pain medication strong enough for bone cancer pain without overdosing them.

In addition, the leg with cancer will most likely break or shatter because it has been weakened.  And then you wil be forced to make a decision and that's not even mentioning how much pain he will suffer.

So, please don't sit on the fence with your decision.  If the cancer hasn't spread, and you can handle his amputation recovery  - then amputation is the best option. He is three legged at this point anyway.  If not, please consider saying goodbye since he is in tremendous pain now.  Dogs are very stoic and won't show it.


Lots of good wishes coming your way!

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.

Caledonia MI
Member Since:
13 October 2011
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline
4 March 2012 - 9:37 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost

Totally agree Cometdog. I didn't realize just how miserable Levi was until I saw him pain free after the amp...I still feel guilty for letting it go as long as we did...:(

Levi was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma 7-7-11
Ampuversary 10-14-11
Lung Mets Discovered 1-4-12. Chemo seemed to not be working so we switched to Artemisinin and other supplements. In May, Levi developed a sinus infection and started having seizures. The cancer had moved to his brain. We let him go 6-26-12.

Forum Timezone: America/Denver
Most Users Ever Online: 946
Currently Online:
Guest(s) 147
Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)
Member Stats:
Guest Posters: 1254
Members: 17254
Moderators: 5
Admins: 3
Forum Stats:
Groups: 4
Forums: 24
Topics: 18416
Posts: 254071
Administrators: admin, jerry, Tripawds
Tripawds is brought to you by Tripawds.