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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 on BIG DOG!!! What to do?
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Member Since:
23 May 2022
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23 May 2022 - 4:12 pm
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Hello - First Post and not sure we're approaching this correctly.  My name is "Cookie" and I am a 7 and a half year old female Great Dane in pretty good health, until recently. I started limping at the start of this year, 2022. We saw the vet in February and decided to "wait and see". 

In April I stopped putting weight on it and the swelling got worse.  We got some pain killers and anti inflammatory medication, which allowed us to put weight on it, but we finally went in and expensed the xray process.  The mass is at my wrist and it's definitely in the bone.  The cancer word was tossed out to us as well as the amputation word. 

Mom can't afford specialist for chemo and radiation, so we're thinking amputation, but I'm no small potatoes kind of gal.  I'm 158 lbs.  A little overweight - I could stand to lose 10-15 lbs, but that's about it.  Mom is at her wits end.  Vet #1 says over $3K for amputation. Vet #2 says about $2K for amputation but doesn't deal with prosthetics . Mom is talking about a prosthesis, and if she can find a vet to do amputation for $2k, she can afford the prosthetic - but then what? 

I'm 7.5 yrs old.  Can I just limp for a year and keep my leg and if the cancer spreads over that time......? I've lead a full life for my breed.

Dr says it doesn't look like cancer is anywhere else.  Did full body xrays.  Vet #2 called today and wants mom to strap my bad leg and force me to try to limp on one. We looked at each other with big question mark, but mom's gonna give it a try. 

I don't walk any more than I have to.  My brothers go out more often than me.  I go eat, I stretch and I go potty, but otherwise, I've been sticking to couch potatoe position.  We just don't know what to do.  Wait? Amputate?

Both vet #1 and #2 have concerns about my size, but mom found dane's online that have done it, but they were all younger than me. We're in Southern California and are going to go see the Vet Teaching Hospital in Pomona in 2 weeks. 

My paw hurts more.  I don't cry, but even with the medication, I don't put weight on it any more than I have to.  It's growing and the paw below is painful. 

We'd love suggestions, especially from the large breeds. I have skinny legs for my size.  My brothers both have larger girth on their legs than I do. 

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 May 2022 - 11:03 pm
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Hi and welcome! So sorry you are facing these decisions and diagnosis but really glad you found us and posted. Your future posts won't need approval so post away. 

I do have a lot of thoughts for you I will share in the AM. Just wanted to get your post approved so others can chime in too! Back tomorrow!

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
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24 May 2022 - 12:16 pm
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Hi Cookie & Furmily, I've been thinking about you and am back to share some thoughts.

First, I'm sorry you got the diagnosis. It's not uncommon in Danes, unfortunately. The good news is that Danes can do really well on three legs! We found out when we were trying to decide if our Jerry could do well on 3, waaay back in 2006. That's when we discovered Moose the Harlequin Dane! He was HUGE! And he was very, very happy. He ended up beating the osteosarcoma odds and lived past his prognosis! We knew if he could be happy on 3, so could our 75 pound Jerry. And he was!

There have been many Danes who joined us through the years. Some were your age, some were younger, some were even older than you. And like your vets, their vets also had concerns. Atlas' story is probably one of the most interesting situations you might want to read about. Currently, Jessee is a very large girl Dane who is kicking cancer's butt, and she is, get this, 9.5 years young!

The best vet surgeons have told us that neither size nor age should exclude a dog from being an amputation candidate. However, there are some things to consider, based on what we've seen here.

- Bigger and older dogs can take longer to recover. Generally speaking they need a couple more weeks to get their mojo back than an average size/younger pup.

- Overweight dogs can do well on three, but it's going to take time. When you consider that rehab therapists say one pound of extra weight on a dog = 5 pounds of extra weight on a human, that means you've got to lose the equivalent of 75 pounds to get around better. Overweight dogs start out in recovery with more challenges, and it will be hard but we see dogs lose weight all the time. As long as they are in touch with their vet and getting guidance that way, it can be done. Recovery is one of the best times to start too, because pain medications really dull the appetite.

- Speaking of rehab therapy, we strongly encourage all Tripawds to get evaluated by a therapist. The Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit , that is how much of a difference it can make, especially for older and larger dogs. A therapist can also evaluate you for a prosthesis, which may or may not even be a possibility based on the location of your tumor and where you leg needs to be amputated. Please tell your mom not to buy any kind of device until she gets you to a therapist OK? It could be a total waste of money.

- Chemo is optional, never forget that. Statistically it improves a dog's odds of beating cancer, but we see it go all sorts of ways. Treatment isn't a guarantee it will get rid of the cancer. Some people do it, some don't. It's a personal decision and we don't judge anyone for their choice to do it or not. Don't forget there is also immunotherapy. Roscoe the Dane had the ELIAS treatment and he beat the odds.

- If you decide that amputation isn't the way to go, that's OK too. Hazel the Great Dane (Moose's successor) had palliative care. She lived out the rest of her natural life pain-free and happy. We will support you if you go that route too.

- It's good you have a consult at Cal Poly. I'm from SoCal originally and have family there. Vet schools are great places to receive treatment! I think CalPoly partners with a big surgical center, don't they? They should be able to give you a good perspective on your situation.

- Personally I'm not a fan of asking your mom to tie up your opposite limb. I've heard of a few vets suggesting this. And honestly I think that if a dog is already in pain, why force them to do something that is awkward and uncomfortable? I'm not a vet, FWIW, but that's my gut feeling. The best way to evaluate how you might do on 3 is to have a specialist orthopedic surgeon review your case, which I'm guessing you are doing by going to Cal Poly (great move!).

- Are you on any pain management ? If so, what are you taking? If not, you need to be. Osteosarcoma is horribly painful and I'm guessing that you are doing a good job hiding how much you hurt, like all dogs and cats do at a time like this.

- Please tell your mom not to focus on the lowest possible price for the surgery. There is a reason why it's so much cheaper. Usually, pain management is iffy, and there is no overnight care. For you, your mom really wants overnight care. The prices you were quoted are incredibly cheap for California. That makes me nervous based on what I've seen here. Amputation prices tend to hover at the $5k mark in most specialty centers in SoCal. You are a big dog, and have extra big needs. I would ask those vets these important questions

I hope this helps! Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing OK? Ask any questions, we are here to help.

Member Since:
23 May 2022
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24 May 2022 - 5:08 pm
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VERY HELPFUL!!! and thank you! Mom didn't want to torture me with tying up my leg and was just about to muster up the courage to do it and then read your reply.  We both are grateful there. We will wait the 2 weeks for the other consult and see how it goes. We also reached out to a friend who runs a non-profit rescue and she is working her resources to get us some more guidance on all this. We are on Carpofen and Gabopentin.  We take it twice a day tucked away in a jumbo hot dog.  Mom doesn't let me put my head down when I'm chewing.  I'm pretty gifted at separating the good hot dog from the yucky pills and even tho mom can pretty much reach down into my throat, I got skills to not swallow like she wants me to.  The hot dogs work.  Mom gives me less food than the boys, but I sneak their leftovers and I hate to eat alone.  It's a process. I've been on the medication since getting xrays in April.  ITs good to know that mom's not crazy and her emotions and anxieties over decision making are justified.  Thank you so much - we're gonna keep checking this page and the resources shown here.   Mom has a 1 legged son (army veteran), so why not a 3 legged dog?  Amputation humor - HAHAHA. He does better with prosthetic so I know she thinks I will too, but we'll wait for that other consult. 

We are going to look up the stories of the references you made and will send updates as we get them.  THANK YOU SO MUCH! 

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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24 May 2022 - 6:18 pm
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Paw shucks you are so welcome! We are here to help any way we can.

Oh my gosh your mom is not cray cray at all. We've been there and totally get it.

Glad your friend is helping you out too, it makes this journey so much easier when you've got lots of cheerleaders. And oh my gosh your mom's hooman son is going to fall in love with you all over again!

Keep on top of the pain control and take it easy OK? You don't want that leg to break because you are getting too much fun in right now. You'll get on the path that works for you, real soon!

Keep in touch.

Sacramento
Member Since:
21 October 2021
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26 May 2022 - 1:06 pm
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Hi Cookie's mom. I'm the mom of an almost 10 year old Great Pyrenees named Lacey that was diagnosed with osteosarcoma 8 months ago (front left leg at ankle). We had the amputation immediately because of the pain and risk of breakage, and while the recovery was intense and emotional, we made it through and life is good again. I can even hear her barking in the yard as I type this protecting her house. This forum was an immense support and I cannot thank them enough for providing it. We're even friends with Jessee's mom, who's celebrating 17 months since her surgery, see Jerry's link above).

Our surgery was at UCD (norcal) and we did end up doing immunotherapy and chemo. Our surgery was in the $4k area. We were lucky enough to qualify for a clinical trial so the chemo and immuno were covered. After about a month post surgery, Lacey was back to herself and getting used to her 3 legs. It took her longer because of her large size, she was 105lbs before surgery, now she's about 95lbs. 

I have been wanting to update her story that I started on this board so will get back to that shortly. I've just been so enjoying the time with her (plus my other dogs)!

I know how difficult this moment is but am glad you found this resource and community. Best to you and Cookie.

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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26 May 2022 - 10:29 pm
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@amypred thank you for being so supportive and sharing your experience. It's priceless!

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23 May 2022
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16 June 2022 - 10:47 am
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Well, I guess I'm a little too awkward for an amputation.  Mom and I went to the oncology specialist and got their recommendations and were able to get a short evaluation from the surgeon.  They want to do an involved xray protocol of my hips, but basically are saying that my gate is off and that I'm not likely the best candidate for amputation.  The additional xray would give them more information to make a more informed diagnosis, but it's not looking good.  Mom cant see spending the crazy $$ to make that determination - so.... right now, we're on additional meds but the doctor is recommending 2 doses radiation plus follow up with chemo.  Mom is having a hard time justifying costs with life expectancy, which hurts her so much.  She cries with me nightly and isn't sure what to do.  Nothing has guarantees and costs are so much.  Are there facilities that can help with the costs? 

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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16 June 2022 - 11:59 am
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Hi Cookie and your hokman. One thing that stands out very clearly is that you and your mom have a wonderful loving bond. 

Yes, your mom is worried about everything going on. Of course, you being a dog who lives in the moment have  no worries about the tomorrows continuing to flow effortlessly from one moment to the next. Days on the calendar mean nothing to you. All that matters is that you were with your mom being spoiled and loved and sneaking treats and getting tummy rubs.

Couple of questions for your mom. What specifically  did they say was wrong with Cookie's gait?. Is it  arthritis, hip dysplasia, knee issues  , etc

One  Great Dane comes to mind his name Atlas. 2 veterinarians  told them they needed to put Atlas down because he had wobblers and would not do well on three legs. She went to a third specialist who said Atlas would do well on three. She proceeded with amputation and was so glad she did. Atlas lived large for another two years on three.

Guess the whole point of telling you about Atlas was to see if you wanted to get yet a third opinion.  It sounds like you need more specifics  as to why Cookie's gait is an issue.  

Many of us understand all too well the restrictions limited finances place on us. Some cannot proceed with amputation due to finances and continue with pain management , love, care, and maybe some holistic alternatives too.  Just to do more xrays may be out of reach.  Perhaps you could have this additional  consult with so sone at least to look at the xrays that have already been done.

I think Jerry will probably  ask you if there a teaching school near you anywhere?  Where do you live?

Tell your Mom to try and keep things chunked down for now.  Focus on good pain management for you, , not letting your run around doing zoomies, continue her research to get more answers.  In the meantime continue  sneaking more treats.  

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

PS. Also ask about.

bisphosphonate administration on canine osteosarcoma

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!

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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16 June 2022 - 4:47 pm
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Thanks for the update. Be sure to check out our growing list of veterinary financial aid resources, including the Tripawds ASAP fund.

Crying is perfectly normal, but being strong around Cookie is very important because she will follow your lead. It's why we say Be More Dog, and that's not just some silly saying

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