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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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Amputation older/arthritic dogs
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Forum Posts: 2
Member Since:
4 January 2011
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4 January 2011 - 10:57 am
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This is my first post.  I learned yesterday that my 88 lb lab Joey (who turned 13 the day of the bad news) has a tumor on his left hind femur bone.  The vet is recommending amputation followed by chemo as the best approach.  of course i'd rather have a 3-legged Joey than none (!), but I'm worried about the surgery due to his age and the fact that he has arthritis in both hind hips and some amount of neuropathy in what would be his remaining hind leg.  Has anyone had experience doing amputation on an older dog with arthritis????

Thanks for your help.

Here and Now


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4 January 2011 - 11:29 am
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Welcome and thanks for joining the club nobody wants to join. We're sorry to hear about Joey, but glad you found us! Hopefully you'll hear from some of our senior tripawd members. Are you speaking with a veterinary specialist/surgeon, or your “regular” vet?

Nova is a senior three legged Great Dane, and Trouble is an older arthritic tripawd. Both are doing well two years after bone cancer amputation. Cooper is also a big old boy who offers lots of inspawration. See Cooper's blog for details.

Other members have shared their three-legged senior dog experiences in the new Tripawds e-book, Three Legs and a Spare.

Hope this helps, please keep us posted!

Mount Pleasant, Ia
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4 January 2011 - 5:46 pm
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Welcome to the tripawds group. We are all sorry for your bad news that has brought you here, but this is the place for support and encouragement. Cooper was not looked at as a good candidate for amputation as he is large and will be 10 on the 12th of January. His back legs are not the strongest in the world. But when we made the decision t do the amputation it was based on Coopers spirit and the amount of life that still courses through his veins. Cooper celebrated his 2 month ampuversary on December 26th and we do not regret for one second the choice we made. He is stronger now than he ever has been, he enjoys life to the fullest. The first two weeks of recovery were difficult and included a second surgery due to a hole and an infection, but with the great strides he showed just days after the first surgery I didnt hesitate a bit to do the second surgery. As to worries about mobility – I highly recommend the Ruffwear harness . It is easy to use and durable and gives the animal that extra bit of confidence they need in moving around. If you look through the site – you will see many large breed older dogs, and most of them have done well. God luck to you amd we look forward to hearing updates!

 

Cooper and pack

Coopsdad/ Kenneth Blackburn

http://cooper.t.....ipawds.com

the monkeydogs only THINK they have invaded the tripawd state

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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4 January 2011 - 6:23 pm
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Trouble turned 12 in September and celebrated her 25th month ampuversary in December.  She is becoming increasingly arthritic and has good days and not so good days.  Since we've learned the trick to keeping her lean, she doesn't have so much extra stress on the old joints.  She is a front amputee and they tend to take more of a beating on the remaining leg and shoulder than the rear amps.  We made the decision to amputate to give her the best chance at a longer life.  Without the surgery, they gave her two months.  We have never regretted the surgery, or the chemo, but it does make for a challenge as the arthritis progresses.  Make sure to get Joey on good supplements – glucosamine and fish oil for sure.  I can tell a difference when Trouble doesn't take her supplements.  She also gets Missing Link because she is on a home cooked diet.

We have a wonderful vet.  Make sure you and your vet are in sync.  It helps tremendously to know that person who is truly 'in it' with you is guiding you to make the best choice for Joey. 

 

Best of luck to you and Joey!

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.

Forum Posts: 59
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4 January 2011 - 7:10 pm
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Well,,I had a 10  year old golden retriever that had his front leg amputated cos of osteosarcoma,and I litteraly had 2 minutes to make a decision to amputate or put to sleep,cos he was on operation table,and my biggest concern about his amputation was,how will he adjust on 3 legs,as he had severe arthritis specialy in his other front leg and he would be left on it. But as I didnt want to lose him just like that,went with amputation and feared what will happend when we comes home. But on my big suprise he recoverd really well – took him maybe a few days longer then it would to other younger healthier dogs,but in the end he did just fine. But as I feared very much that his front remaning leg (mind you that hind amputets are a bit easier for them then front,cos most of weight is on front legs so there is advantage for your pup there at least), I tryed to find some brace that would give extra support to remaning leg,and found such device here http://www.orthopets.com, after consultuing with them,and got ruffwear harness of course,is sort of a “must have” 🙂 It really helps a lot….

So well,wish your dog all the luck there,hope he will do just fine – they are more tougher then we think 🙂 but of course,older age is an extra burden always. I was as well very sceptical about recovery but before damn thing has spread my old boy did just fine.

Hope I helped with my experiance and forgive my grammar mistakes,am not native english speaker but hope you got the point 🙂

Wishing you both all the best…keep us posted 🙂

Daniela,

     Angel Dons Mum

littlemanjake
6
4 January 2011 - 9:41 pm
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Hi, I'm sorry to hear about Joey. Isabelle is probably very near 13 (if not there already) & had her L rear leg amputated in August. She is smaller than Joey (54lbs).  While she doesn't have any arthritis in her hips or legs, she has severe L-S spine disease. Last year at this time she was barely able to walk. She tolerated surgery fine & had an uneventful recovery. She's happily running around on three legs. Like Trouble, she has some days that are worse than others, but she would have had them anyway. I don't believe they are exacerbated because she is a tripawd. Isabelle has always been lean & that makes a difference. She has been in extensive rehab for the past year, which maximizes her function.

I think it's very important to look at a combination of diet, supplements, medication, exercise, and alternative therapies if they are an option for you. It takes a little juggling to find the right combo, but is well worth it. Some type of traction sock or boot was & sometimes still is very helpful.

Isabelle has a 110lb tripawd friend at rehab,(front leg) who despite her parents best efforts to prevent her independence, is also doing just fine. She has arthritis in her hips and is working on losing a few pounds, but is a very happy girl.

Wishing you & Joey the best,

Cynthia

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5 January 2011 - 12:56 pm
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Thank you all so much for your input.  It at least makes me feel that amputation may be an option if the doctor's recommend it as the best way to make him comfortable.  I did go with a biopsy yesterday (I know this isn't typical) because 4 DVM's who read the x-ray felt the tumor was in a 'funny' spot and didn't look 'typical.'  They're still thinking it's bone cancer but want to wait to make a final recommendation on surgery til they see the results.  The supplement info is good as well.  I switched Joey to a raw food diet about 4 months ago due to severe skin allergies and he is thriving on it (a combination of Primal and Bravo).  he gets glucosamine and fish oil supplements as well.  Of course now he is on the serious pain narcotics to manage the pain in his leg while we await the test results.  It's frustrating to feel I can't do anything right this minute and that he is suffering.

How much pain did your older dogs suffer with the amputation?  And how many days before they were walking reliably well on a level surface?

Forum Posts: 24
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5 January 2011 - 2:28 pm
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I'm so sorry to hear about Joey.  Our tripawd, Hunter, is 12 1/2 and was just diagnosed with a fracture in an osteosarcoma in her right rear leg a couple days before Christmas.  She is also a large dog – 80lbs pre-amputation.  After thorough exams by an oncologist and orthopedic surgeon it was recommended to us that she was a good candidate for amputation and treatment (this was in contrast to our general vet who recommended euthanasia).  She had her leg amputated a week ago.  Ultimately I think you know Joey best and, once you have all the medical facts necessary to make a decision, you can factor in Joey's attitude and spirit.

I also highly recommend glucosamine supplements, fish and flax seed oil and a good diet for Joey's arthritis.  Years ago I had a senior Lab girl who was diagnosed with significant arthritis in her spine and joints at the age of 11.  We switched her to a raw diet, added glucosamine and other supplements and she did extremely well for years.  Around the age of 15 we started her on Adequan injections (essentially injectable glucosamine) that really seemed to help and threw in a few chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture for good measure (also seemed to help).  She lived comfortably until she was almost 17.

Back to the older dog amputation questions… Hunter was in less pain immediately after her surgery than she was the days before the surgery.  Within minutes of waking up from anesthesia she took the tech for a walk (a drag according to the tech) outside smiley and has been hopping along ever since.  We've been using a towel under her abdomen/hind end for support in case she loses her balance but she doesn't need it.  The first couple of days she was a bit wobbly but that was more due to the pain meds than anything else.

Hunter's Journey

Hunter – 12 yo female Rottie/Lab mix

Diagnosed with a fracture in an osteosarcoma on 12/23/10 (right rear leg)

Amputation on 12/29/10

7-Month Ampuversary on 07/29/11 – clean bill of health, great blood work and clear chest x-rays

Hunter gained her wings and flew free on 08/19/11

littlemanjake
9
5 January 2011 - 2:53 pm
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I think it's so important to know that all dogs respond as individuals. There is so much valuable information on this site and this is just my experience.

We had a very good post operative recovery, despite preexisting arthritis. I did approach things slightly differently, but a few things we did seemed to make a difference. I did not use tramadol. It's a personal decision, I don't like the side effects in humans or dogs, luckily  both my regular vet & surgeon agreed. It doesn't seem to be as routine in my area to use it. Isabelle had a fentanyl patch & I started her back on metacam POD#3. She had acupuncture at 24 & 48 hours post op, then 1-2x/week. I have to believe, for her, this made a huge difference. She always responds well to acupuncture.

One thing we did, which is now fairly routine at our integrative vets (they, and the other rebab centers in they area, are now getting referrals from the surgeons), is aggressive cold laser on her incision & surrounding stump.  She had it daily x 4 days, than 2x/week. That was probably overkill, but she gets a lot of extras at our rehab center, but I would have paid for it, to avoid having her experience pain. It seems this makes a difference in the occurrence of nerve related pain. Isabelle never had any. In talking to other owners, techs & the vet, it doesn't seem any of the dogs who had early intervention w/laser did either. This is purely anecdotal & I don't know what, if any, science is available (although, my intent is to discuss some research with my vet & some human rehab specialists). Isabelle did take prophylactic neurontin (gabapentin) for 3 days. The laser also seems to promote wound healing. She had quite a bit of drainage when I brought her home, which ceased completely after the laser. Her incision healed remarkably fast. I don't see a lot mentioned & I know it's controversial, but it's being used more frequently in human rehab/wound care also.

I was very proactive in early rehab & tried to promote Isabelle's independence. These clips are about 36h & 48h post op. The traction socks were key in her ability to walk & get up with confidence.

Best of luck making the difficult decisions that are right for you and Joey. You have to do what works in your situation and know they are made out of your love for him.

 

 


 

Here and Now


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5 January 2011 - 3:48 pm
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cwatkins said:

How much pain did your older dogs suffer with the amputation?  And how many days before they were walking reliably well on a level surface?

Dogs are incredibly resilient creatures, most cope woith pain better than they do with side effects from pain meds. And amputation is the only way to get rid of the tumor pin, which will only get worse, while recovery pain will last a few days.

If by “level surfaces” you mean slick floors, be sure to consider some of the best traction solutions for dogs recommended in the Tripawds Gear blog !

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5 January 2011 - 7:07 pm
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I can tell you that moment we came home with Don from operation I thought – oh,how happy he looks. And he really did,he was in such a good mood,like got finaly rid of tremendus pain. And it was true. Pain from osteosarcoma is one of worse there is,and amputation seems like really only way to get them rid of it.

First few days arnt easy – first night specialy,be prepared for sleepless one. But I am sure you will be amazed how good he will progress every day. At start need to avoid any slippery surface as much as possible,there will be slipps and falling down – it was heartbreaking to watch,but it got better every day,so for my old boy it took him lets say 10 days to be able to walk,get up,reliably. And as admin said,they are really very resilient and very adaptive – they dont make a big deal out of things,they just take them as they are,adapt and move on 🙂

I am sure this waiting for results is awful,seems like ages,and I really wish Joey isnt having bone cancer. Wish him all the luck and long healthy painless life 🙂

 

Daniela,

   Angle Dons Mum

Mount Pleasant, Ia
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5 January 2011 - 9:02 pm
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We were fortunate with Cooper and he didnt seem to have a lot of pain after either of his surguries. If he did , he hid it extremely well, he fell several times right on his incision and never let out so much as a whimper. When you say walked reliably , thats kind of a tugh one to pinpoint, Cooper began to walk with help about 3 days after post op, and Im going to say it was probably 5 to 7 days before he walked on his own much

( except for his excercise sessions all night long in his pen) he never did well on slick surfaces even with 4 legs , which is one of the reasons that they didnt consider him a good candidate for amputation, they saw him slip and fall on the marble slick floors at the vet and struggle to get up again , which was normal for him, it wasnt until after he became a tripawd that I learned they had any kind of traction boots for dogs , which he now has a set for when we go out where there will be hard slick surfaces.

By two to three weeks post op he was walking pretty reliably on his own although he tired out easily. At 2 months post op, it is difficult to tell a difference in how he gets around with the exception of taking stairs a lot slower, but he goes up down completely on his own. Harnesses are rarely used anymore at all. We were also fortunate that Cooper never experienced any phantom pain. As littlemanjake said, all dogs are individuals and no two probably respond exactly the same.

The main thing to bear in mind is that after the amputatin you probably have a minimum of two weeks that are going to be really tiring, discouraging and tough, times when you sit on the ground and look at your fur pup and wonder what you have done. But stand fast because that time goes by faster than you can imagine and all of a sudden you are wondering why you ever worried. Our vet also said that Coopers mass didnt present itself like cancer, and that it was in a funny place, after the x ray he felt it probably was cancer, and we opted to do the amputation, even if it wasnt cancer, Cooper is so much healthier now than he has been. Hopefully this helps you in some way.

Coopsdad

Coopsdad/ Kenneth Blackburn

http://cooper.t.....ipawds.com

the monkeydogs only THINK they have invaded the tripawd state

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