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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Great Pyrenees amputation 3.5.12
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11 March 2012 - 2:56 pm
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On Monday March 5th Abner, my 88 pound Pyr gave up his right rear leg to what is tentatively diagnosed as osteosarcoma in his femur. This decision came after weeks of x-rays, blood tests, fungal titers tests, abdominal ultrasound, and finally a bone biopsy with three samples taken and no confirmed cancer cells. The biopsy exhibited reactive bone cells that are consistent with osteosarcoma but no cancer cells were located. Nonetheless, the three vets we were consulting, an oncologist, Abner’s primary care vet, and the surgeon who performed the biopsy all agreed on the most likely diagnosis so I went ahead with the surgery.

Abner stayed at the vet hospital for two days and two nights but was pretty unhappy and I didn’t feel that he would do well trying to recover in that environment. In his whole life of almost 10 years he had never been boarded and every night he had ever spent away from home was with me. Suddenly he found himself in pain, in a cage, in a strange place with strange people and other dogs who were also wounded and unhappy. I decided that he needed to come home even though he wasn’t very ambulatory at only two days out.

I brougnt him home the afternoon of the 7th and the first night was very hard. He was very happy to be home but maneuvering him around with a sling was awkward and difficult and he showed no interest in food. When I did take him out he was able to urinate but did not move his bowels and hadn’t since the day before surgery.

On Thursday he started showing signs of coming to life again. He ate a little and passed a hard small stool on one of our walks. He also had some human visitors who excited him greatly. Late in the day when friends came over he got up on his own and managed to walk about 8 to 10 feet unsupported. This was very encouraging.

By Friday he was starting to understand the rhythm of 3 legged walking and was able to walk about 20 feet on his own before I supported him with the sling. He also managed another hard small bowel movement and by Friday night pooped normally. He, however, had developed a pattern of obsessively licking his remaining hind foot, has a slight cough or need to clear his throat, and has a small pink sore on his upper lip. Tomorrow we are scheduled to see a surgeon from the specialty group that did the amputation for a 1-week check up and these side issues will be addressed and checked out.

In general what I would love to hear is what kind of time frame is reasonable for him to progress to eventually walking with no support. He is light for a Pyr but is long and tall and at more than 9-1/2 years old might have issues that other younger and smaller dogs wouldn’t have. If there are any others in this group who have been through this with a giant breed dog I would love to hear from them about how their dogs recovery progressed.

Of course the other lingering issue for us is a firm diagnosis. His femur was sent to a pathology lab where they will look for concrete evidence of what was attacking his bone. If it is Osteosarcoma we are scheduled to begin a course of chemotherapy that was recommended by the oncologist I consulted. If not I am not certain where we will be, but that is a bridge I will cross when the time comes.

Any help, info, anecdotes and/or suggestions would be a big help.

Thanks in advance.

Here and Now

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11 March 2012 - 3:02 pm
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Welcome and thank you for sharing Abner's story. Your future forum post will not require moderation.

Most people see vast improvements in mobility after their dogs are off all the pain meds at anywhere from 10-14 days post-op. We learned with Wyatt that rear leggers tend to take longer to build up strength. It is most important to ensure Abner doesn't overdo it. Take it slowly and after he is all healed up start taking more frequent much shorter walks. Be sure to focus on strengthening exercises since walks don't build strength, only endurance. Our video interviews with the rehab vets at CARE should be helpful.

San Diego, CA
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11 March 2012 - 3:29 pm
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Welcome to you and Abner. Sorry you had to find us here, but you won’t be sorry you did.

We had a younger, smaller pup w/ OSA, so I don’t have any advice per se, but we’ve seen many large breed dogs on here do well after the recovery period, which is generally about 2 weeks, but can sometimes be up to a month or so for older or heavier dogs. Since Abner is a good weight he will hopefully recover in about the usual time.

Our Abby was the same – she would really only perk up for visitors! She seemed to want nothing to do with us and seemed depressed and standoffish from the pain of the recovery and the brain-addling pain meds. It’s pretty normal for Abner to not be himself just yet. Once he’s off the meds and has his stitches out he should seem a lot more like his old self.

Would love to see some pics of him when you get a chance! Welcome and all the best to Abner for his recovery,
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!

knoxville, tn
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11 March 2012 - 5:10 pm
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welcome to you and abner.  our gayle was 10 years old and about 70# at the time of her front amp.  she did well, after the pain meds were out of her system and she found her new normal (about 10 days or so).  we also did chemo, acupuncture, laser treatments and took k9 immunity.  but, you can take it a day at a time, and figure out what's best for your famiily.  get rest, enjoy each moment with abner….oh, and we LOVE pictures, so how about some pictures of this handsome tripawd brother???


charon & spirit gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


11 March 2012 - 7:09 pm
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This is a picture I took of Abner when we were on vacation last June.  He was a month short of his 9th birthday at the time.  He seems to be doing quite well today.  For the first time since the surgery he is following me around the house.  If I am in the kitchen/dining room end of the house he makes himself comfortable on the bed in the dining room and keeps an eye on me, and if I go to the end of the house where the Master Bedroom and my office are, he waits to see if I am sort of settled and then moves to a bed in a spare room located between the office and my bedroom.  It is about a 45-50' walk and he is doing it completely unassisted.  I am amazed.


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11 March 2012 - 7:43 pm
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Hi and welcome.  Abner is beautiful.

Our pups do amaze!  My tri-pug was a rear amp, but only 17.5 pounds so I can’t help you directly with the size questions.  I hope you have found Jerry’s YouTube channel– tons of videos there to watch and be inspired.

He sounds like he is doing pretty well so far.

If you haven’t already you might read through Jerry’s Required Reading list– lots of good info there on amputation, recovery, chemo (if you go that route) and mobility.  Some things you might think about are raised food bowls, non-skid rugs on slippery floors, a harness for help on stairs and in/out of vehicles (if needed).  There are lots of suggestions on all of that in the Gear Blog.

Every dog is different in their needs for raised food stations, harnesses and some other gear.  But the slippery floors seem to be a problem for just about all of them.  Maggie would not use a raised food bowl and hated her harness.  But she would not go up the stairs on the trex deck in my backyard without the non-skid mats in place.  And she navigated my kitchen and dining area’s tile floors by going rug to rug.

I hope Abner continues to heal uneventfully, and that he continues to amaze you!

Karen and the pugapalooza

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11 March 2012 - 10:41 pm
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Abner – what a beautiful boy you are!  I had a pyr. and can really appreciate what wonderful companions they are.  Welcome Abner's Dad.  You sound like a terrific pawrent.  You are really in tune with Abner's needs.  Isn't it funny how we all start watching for poop just like when kids are little?  It's so exciting when everything starts working again.  We used a little ground beef on Baby's food to get her eating again.  It worked, but she still wants the ground beef.  We don't mind.  I just love to see her happy at this point.

Baby's a rear leg amp and a big girl-155lbs- .  She's taking a little longer to get stronger that her lighter front amps.  I guess that's normal so we have to be patient. 

Abner will find his way to a new 'normal'.  He'll have days of new amazing feats (3 feets at least -ha ha ) and days of overdone tired.  Just stay positive and enjoy your


Wags and Slobbers

Judy and Baby

Edmond, Oklahoma
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12 March 2012 - 8:24 am
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Wow, Abner is absolutely gorgeous.  I am so happy to hear he's following you around the house.  The others has given great advice, and I didn't have anything to add; just wanted to welcome you and Abner and offer any help you might need.

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…

The Rainbow Bridge

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12 March 2012 - 9:53 am
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Welcome! We're so glad you came over here from the Tripawds HubPage! Abner is really, really gorgeous. I hope you don't mind but I moved your post here, to the Size and Age matters discussion, because since you're looking for stories about Giant Breed Tripawds, this is the place (and future members will see Abner's story here too).

This Size And Age discussion is filled with anecdotes and stories about giant breed Tripawds. Also this search of keyword tags for “giant breed” also has a lot of experiences for you to review.

The most important thing you can do right now is, don't compare Abner's recovery to others. All dogs are different. In general some giant breed dogs do take longer to fully bounce back but they do get there! We've had dogs much larger than Abner (165 pounds!) do great on three legs. Just be patient and take things one day at a time. Also, if you haven't already read our book, “Three Legs & a Spare” I recommend checking it out. It can bring you a lot of peace of mind.

I'll bet that this week will bring some progress. Hang in there and keep us posted OK? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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The Rainbow Bridge

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12 March 2012 - 10:10 am
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Abner, I also wanted to point you to Lincoln's story. Today his his TWO YEAR ampuversary! He's no lightweight either, at 115 pounds, this boy has shown the world that big dawgs can get around just fine on three legs!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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12 March 2012 - 1:46 pm
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Today was Abner's one-week checkup and it went fine.  His incision is very clean and healing nicely.  The discoloration on his belly is diminishing and to the surgeon who looked him over everything seemed normal for this point in his recovery.  We are starting to pull back on meds.  He suggested cutting Tramadol to half the dose but on the same frequency and then after 5 days or so reducing the frequency if Abner continues to show no sign of discomfort. 

His ability to walk unassisted seems to improve almost daily and I have noticed that he is doing more of the work and I do less in the walks with the sling.  I would like to invest in one of the harnesses that are made for assisting tripedal dogs but it seems like most require a stump of some kind where the rear leg was removed in order to secure them in a position that won't rotate or slip.  Since his amputation was total and very clean he will have a nice round hip like before but no portion of the leg will remain at all to loop around.  Has anyone found a device that works well in this situation?  He is so eager to get back to normal life that it is clear to me that sooner than later this will be needed.


Of course we are waiting the pathology report on his femur and will do nothing further until a firm diagnosis of Osteosarcoma can be established.  If not, then I will have to consult with the oncologist to determine if there is any sense in following the chemo protocol he suggested.  My nerves are considerably less shattered than they were when I brought Abner home but it still is unnerving to not know what we are dealing with.  I find myself conflicted between hoping that it was something far less aggressive but then if it isn't Osteo, we probably shouldn't have done the amputation.  I have always been better at dealing with a known problem than with the unknown.  We'll see how this one turns out.

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12 March 2012 - 7:38 pm
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Abner is gorgeous.  I just lost my 5 yr old 140 Pyr boy 2/29/12 to osteosarcoma.  I chose not to amputate as he had some early arthritis issues.  I miss him everyday.  I have 3 other Pyrs that I also love dearly.  Pyrs are amazing, loyal, and very stoic.  It can be tricky to read their pain levels.  I will keep my fingers crossed it is not osteosarcoma.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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12 March 2012 - 7:48 pm
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Welcome!  So sorry you find yourself with us but it sounds like it seems to be going well.

Abner is simply a gorgeous furbaby!  I hope you have a uneventful recovery!  And we'll keep our paws crossed on the pathology report.

Tons and tons of good wishes!

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.

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12 March 2012 - 10:08 pm
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Yes, Abner is gorgeous, but then I am a bit partial to pyres since my Tazzie was a pyre cross (with collie). I really miss the pyre size, leans and his protective but incredibly gentle love for everything (rabbits, squirrels, cats, dogs and humans). It sounds as though Abner is coming along quite quickly with his recovery. Tazzie was as tall as a pyre but also thin (75 lbs after amp), but was definitely in the slow end of the tripawd recovery class. He perked up each week after about 2 weeks and was probably at his best around 5-6 weeks post-amp. The first two weeks – well he did a fantastic imitation of cement.


Most diagoses of OSA are based on an x-ray of the leg, so I really would not sweat the lack of that before the amputation. The x-rays are usually very telling for this disease. Most of us make the decision from that x-ray (given that is what vets recommend) rather than do additional testing. Of course, now you do want to wait for a firm diagnosis before starting chemo. Be glad if it turns out to be a less virulent form of cancer, which sometimes happens. Usually amputation is still warranted in those cases but the prognosis can be better. OSA tends to be the most common of course, and pyrenees around the age of our dogs (my Tazzie was 8.5 yr when diagnosed) are common targets for that blasted disease.

Keep us posted.

13 March 2012 - 10:32 am
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In Abner’s case the x-rays were inconclusive in that no tumor was found in either of the x-rays taken 3 weeks apart.  Today, however, the pathology report came back positive for Osteosarcoma so unfortunately this diagnosis was correct all along.  The surgeon who performed the amputation has said that if Abner’s healing is good enough next Monday when he goes in for his two-week checkup and to have the staples removed, we will start chemo therapy on Tuesday.

Meanwhile his abilities to get around and his desire to do so seem to improve a bit every day.  This morning our first outing of the day probably took us a total of 800 feet from door to door.  He only had to rest once for a few minutes in one of his favorite stopping spots.  His appetite is pretty good since I sweetened the pot with canned dog food.  I guess things are going as well as they can at this point.  I know I am in for a tough (and costly) road for awhile and will have to constantly be on the lookout for signs of spread but for now we seem to be doing OK.

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