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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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Golden that is 6.5
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Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
4 December 2016
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4 December 2016 - 10:05 pm
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Hi everyone – I am really struggling here.  My dog is only 6.5 and a very, very tall golden retriever.  He has a giant osteocarcoma tumor on his front right leg.  $5,000 surgery cost and I’m not sure I’m convincing the husband (or myself) it’ll add anything to his life. 

I think he’s young but I don’t want him to spend the rest of his life recovering.



The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 27271
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4 December 2016 - 11:03 pm
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Hi Susanne, welcome. Thanks for registering as a member, your future posts won’t need approval so post away.

I’m really sorry that you got the bad news. I know it’s devastating and difficult to imagine your dog on three legs. We all felt that way and understand your feelings. Rest assured though, that you’re in a good community that can help you decide if it’s right for your dog.

It sounds like your vet (a specialist is my guess, thus the $5k quote?) feels he is a good candidate for amputation surgery? If so, that’s great. Six and a half years old is definitely young, and your dog is very likely to recover and bounce back without any issues. Most dogs do. Sure, there can be issues, but in general, most dogs do well. Osteo does have a grim prognosis but all dogs are different. We’ve seen some blow those statistics out of the water and live out their normal lifespan after diagnosis, and we’ve seen some not llive up to the minimum prognosis. Every dog is different and nobody can predict the future. But remember, dogs don’t have calendars or keep track of “time,” they live in the moment. All they want is to feel good today, and amputation is the only thing that can get rid of the pain and help your dog feel better for however much time he has left.

I know you’re unsure and who can blame you? Not us! We get it. So to help you decide, be sure to hop over to the Tripawds Start Page for a guide to finding information here, and also Jerry’s Required Reading List will help too.

Let us know what specific questions you have, we’re here to help.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 2010
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5 December 2016 - 5:03 am
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The recovery really isn’t that long.  The first two weeks are intense, but then most dogs really perk up.  Ultimately, they get back to doing pretty much what they had been doing before, just perhaps shorter walks.  My Otis also had osteo – we only had about 7 months post amp., but they were great in terms of his quality of life.

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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5 December 2016 - 5:25 am
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Hi Suzanne.  So sorry to hear about your Golden’s diagnostics.

My Golden ( Johnnie Walker ) was diagnosed also at the same age, and we decided to give it a try.  Johnnie was 100 lbs when diagnosed, and now weighs 90 lbs.  He is a very large male.   My husband was also very skeptical that things would work out for Johnnie because he is a big boy.   

Each medical case is different, and each family has to reach a decision.  In our case, since we have 3 young adult children, we decided to make a family decision and it was a 4-1 vote for surgery and chemo, although the prognosis – based on statistics – was around 9 months survival time even with chemo because of the risks of lung mets.  

Testimonials from other families, and videos showing three-legged Goldens, helped me a lot with the decision, but it wasn’t an easy one.  

Fortunately for us, Johnnie surprised everyone, especially the vets.  We are now 2 1/2 years post-op and 2 years post-chemo.  He leads a normal doggie life – enjoys walks, loves swimming.  His personality didn’t change – except he became more “vocal” than before, showing more affection.  He is still very self-confident and totally adapted to his new routine on 3 legs.

Things are never smooth in this journey.  There have been bumps in the road, scary moments, and we all have put in extra hours of dog care and paid big medical bills.  My husband nowadays concedes that we made the right decision.  We celebrated this year his third Thanksgiving as a tripawd and are all very grateful for the extra time we have received with him.   He is now 8 1/2, and becoming a mature boy.   My daughter got married in September and Johnnie was there to celebrate with us.  

This is the most recent photo – father and son – taken in November, where the missing leg can be noticed.  


I have shared other photos in the forums – you can browse through my topics to read about Johnnie.

This community is an invaluable source of information and support.  I am confident that you will be able to reach the best decision for your family and your furry boy.

Daniela & Johnnie (& Pepa)


Our awesome Golden Boy was diagnosed for OSA in April 2014 in the proximal humerus, front-leg amp on 05/20/2014. Finished chemo (Carbo6) on 07/10/2014. Ongoing treatment: acupuncture + K-9 Immunity Plus ( 3chews) and home-cooked no-grain diet.   Stopped Apocaps because of liver issues.   Liver issues: controlling altered enzymes with SAM-e and Milk Thistle.  October 17:  started having seizures.  Taking fenobarbital for seizures.  April 18: started prednisone.

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5 December 2016 - 8:11 pm
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Hi Susanne and welcome to the Tripawds site! I am sad to hear of another golden with osteo. My boy Fionn is 7, too fat at 85lbs and 2 months post op today. He is currently napping after a lively round of “chase me and sniff my butt” at the dog park smiley.Size does not seem to matter much with tripawds. There are LOTS of big dogs who are successfully navigating on 3 legs. Fionn is my 4th golden and all have had different cancers. The others were older so this diagnosis was a surprise, especially since I rescued him only last year when he was 6. I spent a few weeks before surgery making the decision, largely because I was hoping for an opening on the vet student schedule at UC Davis. Are you near any vet schools? There is a current clinical trial for this cancer that will help pay for surgery and all of the chemo. I think some larger vet hospitals are part of this trial too. Here is the link to UC Davis. If nothing else, you can call them to see if there’s any place participating that is close to you http://www.vetm…..cology.cfm

The surgery was MUCH more expensive at the regular vet hospitals that offered it here in Sacramento. UCD had 2 prices (both less than the local prices). $3000-$3500 for a specialist and $1200 for a student to do it (supervised of course). I am a single parent with 2 daughters in college and no pet insurance. Basically, this was a financially devastating diagnosis, but I just couldn’t face euthanizing and otherwise healthy dog who was still smiling his typical golden smile! We lucked out and got a spot on the student schedule and they did a great job! My other goldens all had cancers that I could do nothing about and the choice to euthanize was, not necessarily easier, but more obvious. I can’t tell you what decision to make. I know people who think I was crazy, but both my girls were willing to give up Christmas so Fionn could be given some more time. Unfortunately Fionn did not qualify for the trial and I am paying for everything including chemo. The chemo gives them a chance for a longer survival time and I decided I wasn’t going to do the surgery if I wasn’t also willing to pay for the chemo. That is $300-500 per dose for 4-6 doses. Lots of people have chosen NOT to do chemo so, again, the choice is yours.

Spend some time on the site and reading the forum posts and blogs. Please read my blog (link in my signature below). I documented every day of the first 2 weeks post op so others on this journey could have an idea of what to expect. Not that Fionn’s recovery was exactly like any other’s, but it gives you an idea. Some of it was pretty funny actually Warning, there are graphic incision pictures every day. Not for the squeamish, but necessary to look at and be prepared for. Being a golden, your dog’s incision will be covered with hair in a heartbeat!

Best of luck with your decision. The “right” decision is the one YOU make. Do not beat yourselves up if you choose not to go down this road. We are all here to support you no matter what you decide.

Hugs and golden smiles from Fionn and Nancyheart

Nancy- mom to the FABULOUS Fionn. He rescued me in 2015 when he was 6. 

Right front leg amputation at age 7 for osteosarcoma 10/6/16. Taken too soon 6/12/17. Read about our journey here:

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5 December 2016 - 10:48 pm
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Hi Susanne ~

Murphy is a retriever mix and was 7 when diagnosed, though he had been limping for about 5 months by that time, so really, he was about the same age as your guy.  I remember well how devastated we were when we heard the word “cancer.”  But Murphy was perfectly healthy, other than his painful leg, so my husband and I felt that we owed him a chance to live his life.

Like Christine said, recovery takes about 2-3 weeks for most dogs.  And statistics are just numbers.  There are no guarantees for any of our babies, but we all hope for the best.  Our goal is to relieve their pain and give them some quality time.

Murphy had a different type of cancer, though we went into surgery with the suspicion of osteosarcoma, his final diagnosis was histiocytic sarcoma.  His prognosis with surgery & chemo was 12-18 months “if we were lucky.”  It’s been over 3 1/2 years since his surgery and he’s still doing very well.  We’ve been incredibly blessed to have so much extra time with our boy.


Donna, Glenn & Murphy

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old.  He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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6 December 2016 - 10:24 am
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A p.s. on my already long post:  recovery means 2-3 weeks to back to normal life, and six weeks after surgery Johnnie was swimming as if nothing had happened.  Johnnie´s journey was similar to Murphy`s and so many others: he limped for many months until we finally had the diagnosis. 


Our awesome Golden Boy was diagnosed for OSA in April 2014 in the proximal humerus, front-leg amp on 05/20/2014. Finished chemo (Carbo6) on 07/10/2014. Ongoing treatment: acupuncture + K-9 Immunity Plus ( 3chews) and home-cooked no-grain diet.   Stopped Apocaps because of liver issues.   Liver issues: controlling altered enzymes with SAM-e and Milk Thistle.  October 17:  started having seizures.  Taking fenobarbital for seizures.  April 18: started prednisone.

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