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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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Hard decision for front leg 90 lb Pitt
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Forum Posts: 5
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11 August 2012
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11 August 2012 - 10:49 am
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I have a 7 year old, 94 lb Pitt just preliminarily diagnosed with bone cancer; a bone test will be performed next week for confirmation, but noone is too hopeful. My only option is amputation. I am devistated, naturally, but I am most concerned about his quality of life after surgery. He is such a large dog, and could only be trimmed down maybe 5-10 lbs (not much fat on him at all), leaving over 80 lbs to carry on 3 legs. Plus it is his front leg, which I understand is even more difficult. I am really struggling with this decision. Can anyone give me any information, or share experiences with me? Buster is in pain everyday, and it is breaking my heart watching him struggle to do anything. I am desperate for advice. Thank you to anyone who responds.

Luannecrying

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11 August 2012 - 1:45 pm
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I’m so sorry to hear this. We do not have nearly the experience of a lot of folks on this board, but I can share our story…our 11-year-old 80+ pound lab Loa was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in June, also a front leg tumor. We had her amputation done July 2 and I am so glad we made this choice. The first couple of weeks were a little hard, but frankly not as rough as I thought they would be. She was up the day after surgery and we were able to manage her pain well. Once she got her sutures out (about 2.5-3 weeks post-op), it was clear she was feeling great.

 

We’re a bit more than a month out, and she’s doing almost everything she used to, with the exception that she needs help going down the stairs (I can just hold her collar and she’s fine). She goes for walks, sometimes she even takes me for a run ;) She is clearly so much happier and in much less pain than she was when she had the tumor.

 

I know it’s a tough decision. The amp worked out really well for us. Best of luck to you and Buster!

krun15
3
11 August 2012 - 2:00 pm
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Hello and welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not require moderation.

I am so sorry you are dealing with bone cancer in Buster, but you have come to the right place for information and support.

If he is otherwise healthy and your vet thinks he can handle it then Buster should do just fine as a front amp tripawd.  Don’t let anyone tell you that just because he is big he can’t do it.  It is much more about the rest of his body being healthy.  And Buster is only about 2/3 the size of my local pal Cemil.  Cemil is a front amp Anatolian Shepard who weighs 150 pounds and is more than 3 YEARS past his amp for OSA.  We have many big breeds and giant breeds here who do just fine. 

Go to the Tripawds YouTube Channel and look through the videos.  You will see mostly big dogs there.

You can also look through Jerry’s Required Reading List or download the ebook Three Legs and a Spare.  Both are compilations of information from this site on what to expect with amputation, recovery, and treatment.

Is Buster on pain meds now?  Hopefully the vet gave you something to help with the pain.  And just a question on the bone test- I assume you mean a bone biopsy?  I have heard that those are very painful, and some members regret putting their pups through that when they were pretty sure they were dealing with bone cancer.  Just something to discuss with your vet.  If you think it is necessary then of course do it.

Amputation is a big surgery and the first couple weeks of recovery can be rough. But once past that most pups just go on with their lives.

The picture is of a friend of mine with Cemil and my little pug Maggie.  Maggie was a rear amp who lost a leg to mast cell cancer.  She lived almost 4 years after her amp, and as I said above Cemil is still going strong!

Karen and the pugapalooza

Mag and Cemil and AdamImage Enlarger

dukez
4
11 August 2012 - 3:41 pm
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Sorry to hear you got the diagnosis many of us have also gotten. I passed on the biopsy and went straight to amp as krun says. Based on the x-ray the docs were 95%+ sure that is was OSA so I skipped the biopsy before surgery. Biopsy of the bone after the amp verified it was OSA.

As krun has said, and others will tell you, big dogs do well even with front leg amps. My dog was 85 pre-amp, lost about 10 lbs with the amp (long leg, lotta weight) and is currently around 77 which is a good lean weight for him. The thing that I can see would be more difficult for a Pit is that they are so big-chested and stocky. Duke is a greyhound so lots of long leg to shift to the center to become a tripod. A Pit has less leg to move. But, if that is part of your concern, stocky dogs do well too. Hopefully others with stocky breeds will provide you with some reassurance. The other thing which I think worked in Duke’s favor was all the muscle he had. Your guy has a lot of muscle too which I’m sure will help.

It is amazing how well Duke does. And others are amazed by him also. Just yesterday when he hopped right into the back of my SUV some guy across the parking lot commented on how easily he just loped right in. Yep. That’s my Duke! :) I was worried about that but he handles it just fine. So, lots of those things we think about do not come to pass.

Good luck on your decision.

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11 August 2012 - 4:47 pm
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I thought I would add my two cents worth. Our Great Pyrenees, Logan was 140lbs at the time of his amputation on June 11, also a front leg amp. We had the same concerns…how would such a big dog manage. It hasn’t been easy but he is getting around fine now. The surgical pain seemed to be well managed by medication. Our biggest challenge since the amputation has been a pressure sore on his remaining front leg’s elbow. This developed the first week after the surgery when he was not moving around much – even getting him outside to pee was a challenge. We were returning to the vet every few days for them to monitor the sore and change the dressing but it really was not healing. They recommended having an orthotic made that would redistribute the weight taking the pressure off his elbow and now it is finally healing. Logan is a very laid back dog which I think contributed to the sore developing more than his size did. Of course it’s hard to say for sure, but I think if it weren’t for this pressure sore, he’d be back to his normal self.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck. Try not to second guess yourself. Someone else on this board said any decision you make out of love is the right decision. 

Kathy and Logan

Caledonia MI
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11 August 2012 - 5:35 pm
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My Doberman Levi was 85 pounds. He was so athletic that I really struggled with the decision. But after 6 weeks or so he was jogging 3-5 miles off leash with me! No problem :)

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.

San Diego, CA
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11 August 2012 - 11:53 pm
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Sorry you had to find us here. Our dog was pretty tall and thin, so we didn’t have the same concerns about her being a front leg amp, so i can’t really weigh in on our experience from that aspect, but as others have mentioned we have seen many large dogs do well on 3 legs.

I would also second Karen’s comment – you might want to discuss the bone biopsy again with your vet. From what I’ve heard, it is something like 90+% of OSA cases are diagnosed based on the xray, and confirmed with a biopsy after the amputation. The bone biopsy is usually not needed – and would save you some money and your pup some pain. If you go straight to the amp, you’ll get rid of that painful leg that much sooner.

Many here have mentioned seeing the pain gone from their dog’s eyes once they have the amp done.

As Kathy said above, whatever decision you make will be made with the love of your pup in mind, so it will be the right decision for him.

Hang in there,
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!

Sydney, Australia
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12 August 2012 - 2:58 am
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Hi, sorry to hear that you found yourself here but also glad that you did. There is lot of collective knowledge and information that will help you make your decision.

 

Magnum was a 40kg rottie before amputation (that’s a bit more tha 80 lb??).  She was a rear leg amp and was fantastic on 3 legs.  For us the amputation was the easy part of her journey. It took away her pain and within 3 to 4 weeks she was firing on all cylinders again.  It was so beautiful to see her happily getting around on 3 legs. Just seeing her so happy again was priceless!

 

Good luck with your decision.  All I can say is based on everything I’ve seen on this website, most dogs cope with 3 legs really well.

 

Karen and Spirit Magnum

Magnum: 30th May 2002 to 5th May 2012. Lost her back left leg to osteosarcoma on 5th Sep 2011. Lung mets found on 20th Mar 2012 but it was bone mets in the hip that ended her brave battle. Magnum's motto - "Dream as if you'll live for ever, live as if you'll die today" (James Dean). Loyal, loving, courageous and spirited to the end. My beloved heart dog, see her memoirs from Rainbow Bridge ...... http://princess.....pawds.com/

The Rainbow Bridge



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12 August 2012 - 7:16 am
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Hi Luanne, I missed your post yesterday and I’m so sorry to hear about your pup. What does your vet say about his candidacy for amputation?

I see you’ve gotten some pawesome insight into life on three legs from our members, so all I will add to this is when it comes to osteosarcoma, remember that statistics are just numbers, and while many times they are right, we have seen many times when they are wrong. Try not to let the stats influence your decision whether or not to amputate; they sound scary and hopeless, but you just never know what will happen when it comes to cancer.

Buster is young and strong, and chances are he will do great on three legs. While recovery can be stressful, and sometimes there are complications (rarely, but they happen), you’ll find that being able to give him more quality time is worth it.  A few adjustments will need to be made (i.e., he wont’ have the endurance that he used to have, and you’ll need to slip-proof floors in your house), it’s all so worth it to know that they are living a pain-free life.

That being said, many folks also choose not to amputate because it’s not right for them or their dog, and that’s fine too. Unfortunately a dog’s lifespan will often be shorter when amputation isn’t done, and they’ll usually spend their time left on heavy pain medication, which eventually will not control the pain.

Oh, I want to concur that bone biopsies are really painful. Typically they are used when the type of cancer is in question, or if a fungal disease is suspected, but if you and your doc are pretty certain it’s osteo and you’ll amputate anyways, you may want to re-consider putting himself (and your wallet) through this surgery. We’re not vets, but it’s just something to consider. Always weigh the pros and cons with your vet.

Many thanks for joining us here, we’ll be here to help whatever you decide to do.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 5
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12 August 2012 - 9:43 am
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I want to thank everyone so much for the responses. I cannot tell you how much you help my heartache! I will answer some of your questions, and give a bit more info concerning my special, special Buster. Back in March of 2005 we found Buster tossed away in the open desert. (I live in Palm Springs, CA) Buster was very young, but already large for his size. We figured him to be 6 mo. old, but doctor said more like 12 weeks, due to him still having baby teeth. Anyway, we found him in dire straights. He had been attacked by coyotes and on his last breath. He had puncture wounds all over his belly and testicles. (Very sad, I know!) His eyes were rolling back, and clearly on his way out, but very scared to come out from under a bush. Eventually, after bringing a blanket out, and me lying on it in front of the bush, this little dog stumbled out and laid on my chest, and collapsed.  

 

We gave him to the local shelter for medical care, and went back to check on him 1 month later. The hospital aids all fell in love with him and dubbed him “Tilt” because of the fact that his head was tilted over toward his right shoulder, and he was unable to hold it upright. (Due to neurological problems from his coyote attack). Anyway, when he saw us walking through the hospital, he jumped up and ran straight to me! I was hooked, and knew that noone was going to adopt a Pitt Bull with what appeard to be a physical deformity with his head, so I did what I had to do. I adopted him myself. A true rescue dog.

 

He gained 10 lbs. per month, topping the scale at 98 lbs. He has had other problems since then: He had been diagnosed with degenerative spinal disease at 2 years, and we were given pain meds and told he would be on them the rest of his life, which the vet predicted 3-5 years max. He was off the meds within 3-6 months and up and running again. Then 6 months later he suffered a knee injury putting him back on Rymadol for another 6 months. Since then, Buster has been a lot less active, but very excited to see any human, jumping and licking anyone who will let him. He gets tired quickly, and then sleeps a lot.

 

Fast forward to 1 month ago, when we noticed Buster limping. We and the vet thought he had just re injured his knee and put him back on meds, but the limping got increasingly worse, and he began to cry through the night 1 week ago. We took him to a second vet immediately, who did some xrays that looked like he had some inflamation around his shoulder joint, but no apparent bone spotting or decay. The vet said it was either an infection, or possibly cancer. We put him on antibiotics, and Tramidol that day, which was Friday, and made an appointment for a bone test next Friday. Meanwhile, the hospital called on Saturday, with the bad news. The radiologist suspects cancer but could not be sure without the test.

 

My concern is that with all the problems he has had with his skelital system, he will be unable to handle the stress of the surgery. We will talk to the vet again and see wat he thinks, but I just want my baby to be out of pain, NOW! I cant stand it. I cry all day and night watching him suffer, and coax him outside to do his duty by luring him with his leash. He is hesitant to get up, unless he sees his leash, and then jumps up, and pulls me toward the car (which is odd since the only place he goes in the car is the vet)

 

Thank you so much for listening to me. This has been the only source of confort for me right now. My heart is heavy with pain and grief, and I am just lost right now. I think I may have to just release him from his pain, and not make him endure further, much greater pain.

 

I will keep this post updated. I am new to the blog world, and am not even sure if this is going to post correctly.  

 

Thank you again, and God Bless You All! 

dukez
11
12 August 2012 - 10:24 am
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Oh dear. What an awesome person you are! You clearly saved your dog’s life not once, but twice – in the desert and at the shelter!

You also have a lot of complicating factors and I hope the surgeon, taking all of those into consideration, can give you some good advice. Duke has a bad disc in his back and I was concerned about that if I did the amp, but the surgeon didn’t see that it would cause any issues and so far no problems because of it. But your Buster has a lot more complicating issues so I can certainly understand you thinking it may be best for him to release him from his pain. Good luck with your exceedingly difficult decision.

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12 August 2012 - 12:07 pm
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dukez said
Oh dear. What an awesome person you are! You clearly saved your dog’s life not once, but twice – in the desert and at the shelter!

You also have a lot of complicating factors and I hope the surgeon, taking all of those into consideration, can give you some good advice. Duke has a bad disc in his back and I was concerned about that if I did the amp, but the surgeon didn’t see that it would cause any issues and so far no problems because of it. But your Buster has a lot more complicating issues so I can certainly understand you thinking it may be best for him to release him from his pain. Good luck with your exceedingly difficult decision.

Thank you for your posts! I dont feel so awesome right now though. What you said about Buster’s chest is so true. I had purchased a nice leather harness for Buster, cost of $85, but had to have it custom made because of his chest size. That is my concern, as you said, the balance of weight seems like a barrier. What I am hoping for right now, and maybe its a long shot but I want to believe in miracles, is that the antibotics start to work, meaning that it is truley just infected, rather than cancer. Putting the test off a week is giving us that window with a ray of hope left for some slight improvement in his mobility and discomfort. That would be very welcomed news right now. 

 

Thanks again for your nice words. Please know that you have lifted my spirits a bit, in what I feel is one of my darkest moments!

The Rainbow Bridge



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12 August 2012 - 12:28 pm
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Oh wow, what a story, it brought tears to my eyes to read about his strength and your devotion to giving him a good life. You are both very special and were destined to find eachother.

Buster does have a lot of other issues to take into consideration. I think that if you are at all in doubt or unsure, a second opinion by a vet is worth its weight in gold. You’ll also find a lot of comfort know that you did everything you could before proceeding with any kind of decision. 

If you are located in the Palm Springs area, we have a member in Sun City, Rusty, who is an amazing miracle dog that’s beaten the osteosarcoma odds. Although he’s a smaller dog, you may want to contact his folks to get their insight about finding a vet for a second opinion.

While you are in this holding pattern, I know it’s hard but try to be strong. Buster needs you to be a pack leader in control, he needs you to believe that no matter what happens, things will be OK, so that he can believe it too. It’s the hardest thing to do sometimes but it’s one of the best ways to make the most of every minute together.

I checked the chat room right now because I saw that you were in there, but I see I’ve missed you. We are going out for a bit but will be back here this evening after 7pm your time, so do stop by and remember to say something in the chat so we hear my bark, and know you’re there.

Many hugs coming your way….

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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krun15
14
12 August 2012 - 9:46 pm
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Wow, Buster is quite a survivor.  And with his other issues I see why your decision is more complicated. I think an honest talk with you vet is the best thing you can do now.  Go over all the options- the pros and cons of each decision.

You have to be strong and positive for Buster now, no matter how hard it is. Get all the information you can, then follow your heart- you will know the right decision to make.

No matter what you decide to do we are here to help any way we can. 

 

Karen and the pugapalooza

Sydney, Australia
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12 August 2012 - 10:40 pm
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Oh boy.  Buster has certainly been through the wringer. That is such a sad story.  He has been so lucky to have found you.  

It does sound like a really good talk with your vet is needed so that you can make the best decision for Buster and if you are left uncertain then a second opinion would be worth it.

You’ve still got several more days before Friday.  If the pain is really worrying you then you may want to talk to your vet to see if Buster can have more pain meds? I assume the pain is worst when Buster puts weight on his leg.  I’m not sure about front leg problems but when Magnum was suffering due to metastasis of the cancer into her hip I was able to help her get up and walk around around by placing a towel underneath her back end.  I effectively became her back legs and she just used her front legs.  I don’t know how practical it is for you to become Buster’s front legs but I thought I’d mention it in case it helps.

 

Sending you lots of hugs.  We are here for you whatever your decision.

 

Karen and Spirit Magnum 

Magnum: 30th May 2002 to 5th May 2012. Lost her back left leg to osteosarcoma on 5th Sep 2011. Lung mets found on 20th Mar 2012 but it was bone mets in the hip that ended her brave battle. Magnum's motto - "Dream as if you'll live for ever, live as if you'll die today" (James Dean). Loyal, loving, courageous and spirited to the end. My beloved heart dog, see her memoirs from Rainbow Bridge ...... http://princess.....pawds.com/

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