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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Hi everyone. I’m pleased to have found this group because I’ve just got back from the vet. My 17 year old lurcher cross has a very ugly tumour (non cancerous I believe) on her left hind leg. The options are a) to do nothing which runs the risk of it starting to infect her body and causing other problems, b) refer her to a specialist who could try and cut it away as best as possible. Being a lurcher though, there’s not much spare skin on her to do a skin graft and the chances of cutting it away to “good” cells are quite low, and c) amputation. My worry is that she is too old to go through this procedure.
She’s in good health apart from the lump which has grown and changed a lot in the last 10 days and is now an open wound. Her other legs are fine and would be able to support her as she doesn’t weigh too much – skinny little thing! I’m concerned about her having a general anaesthetic at her age and adapting to only having 3 legs. Has anybody out there had a similar experience with an old dog?
All advice greatly appreciated. She’s provisionally booked in for Tuesday and I need to make a decision in the next day or so.
Thanks so much
Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not require moderation.
17… wow! I know we had a poodle here who was 17 at the time of his amp- his name was James. Lots of ‘mature’ pups here too.
Its not really about age, it is about overall health for dealing with being a tripawd. I do understand your anesthetic concern though, I have pugs and every surgery was dicey for Maggie. Does your vet think she is a good candidate? Being thin is a good thing- how active is she? If they could de-bulk the tumor and close the skin how much time would that buy you?
I guess another thing to consider is that if they do de-bulk and are not successful closing the wound then you would face another surgery anyway?
You know your girl best- what’s her name? If you think she still has some living to do amputation might be a good option. I don’t know how long or what kind of quality she will have with an open wound.
It is a tough call from afar- follow your heart and do what you think is best for your girl.
Karen and the pugapalooza
7 January 2011
There was another 17 year old recently as well– can’t remember his/her name. I think it was a small dog– Jack Russell maybe? As long as your vet thinks she’s a good candidate, I’d have no reservations. What’s her name?
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…
Thanks for your replies. Cracker is like the Dorian Gray of the dog world – she just keeps going on and on. She’s a very happy dog – no problems eating and is always eager to go out for her daily walk and she still has the occasional leap around the garden. It’s interesting that the vet didn’t mention putting her to sleep, which is encouraging and it didn’t even enter my mind until somebody said it may be the kindest thing. I thought long and hard about it. I read something on the web that said if you could ask your dog if they’ve had enough of life, or if they’d like to just give up, what would they say. Cracker is definitely not ready to give up. After I read that, Cracker showed me that she’s still full of life by leaping around the garden and barking, so I’m certain that there’s life in the old dog yet! I’ve also got a one year old cockapoo which may (or may not) help her to recover.
I’m going to talk to the vet on Monday and check the recovery process. If I have to carry her out to have a wee on a regular basis for months on end then I don’t think that would be good for her long-term. This is such a difficult decision, but I’m going to give her every possible chance, without putting her through any unnecessary distress.
I’m heartened to hear of the 17 year old jack russell – how is s/he now?
Would love to put a photo of Cracker up here, but can’t work out how to do it.
Any other advice on three-legged old girls would be greatly appreciated as I’ve got to make a decision in less than 48 hours.
Thanks so much, Jill
28 November 2008
Hi Jill. Check out Bailey’s blog! Bailey was 17 at the time of his amputation, I believe he is 18 now, and still going strong! Whatever your decision with Cracker, it will be the right decision because you love her. Good luck, and keep us updated on what you learn at your appointment!
Sounds like your dog’s name should be “Fire Cracker”! What spunk!
I agree that the decision rests on her pre-existing health and overall zest for life. Her size is a big advantage, she technically should recover without the added burden of carrying around extra weight on just three legs. And as far as anesthesia and how it could affect a senior dog, I’ve read that if you can ensure that your vet practices the latest anesthesia protocols, the drugs shouldn’t be any more dangerous for her than any younger dog. You can check out this post “How to Choose a Vet for Amputation Surgery” for tips.
The vet not mentioning euthanasia is a great thing, but for extra peace of mind you might want to consult another surgeon for a second opinion. In the meantime, check out this Forum topic that I moved your post to: “Size and Age Matters” for more stories about senior dogs who underwent amputation surgery.
Oh, and posting photos is easy (I think so!). Check out this post about adding images to Forum posts.
We’re glad you’re here and hope that we can help you in this tough decision.
Oh my gosh check this out, you will be blown away by Buck’s latest update. He is a 16.5 year old Golden who just had his one year ampuversary!
17 November 2012
My kitty, Xerox, is 15 and just had his right rear leg taken off 3 days ago. Your situation sounds very similar to mine (except for the species, haha) and I had the same questions you had. In the end, it came down to the fact that Xerox had no other symptoms other than the hurt foot (carcinoma) which he wasn’t using anymore because it hurt so badly and was so swollen.
When I found out that recovery time was only a couple of weeks, I decided to take the leg at the vet’s suggestion. It’s been only 3 days and I’m already glad I did it. Once the incision heals, he’ll be able to lie down without pain and maybe even play again.
I have to say, though, if he had multiple symptoms and it didn’t look like amputation was going to help anything, I would have had to choose to end his life on a happy note instead of putting him through any more stress. Thankfully, this doesn’t sound like the case for either of us.
Trying to post a photo of Cracker, but not sure if this will work or not.
Thanks for all of your advice and kind words, and I’ll certainly check out Bailey’s Blog. Hope the photo works…..
I’ll keep you posted about my chat with the vet tomorrow – I’ve got so many questions….
30 October 2012
Hi Jill and Cracker
Lol well you sound as good as me with all this technical world we live in
But as for Cracker, I say age is just a number and you know yourself whether Cracker could cope with a amputation and from what you have said about her, I would think she would cope well, and carry on with style :0)
My family had a Labrador who lived until she was 22, so 18 is still an adolescent !!
so I’m one who says that that Cracker should go for it as I want her to beat 22
This is the best place for all help and advice with anything Amputation and everyone will greet you with open arms and lots of hugs, it is really amazing how wonderful this site truly is, so You and Cracker will get all the help and advice that you need.
Take care and I’ll talk to you soon
zena and Fizzly in Spirit xoxox
I can’t tell you how touched I am by all of your replies, advice and kind encouraging words. Most people I’ve spoken to in the last day or so are of the opinion that I should go for the amputation. However one person thinks it’s kindest to put her to sleep – he thinks she won’t get over it. I’m still in turmoil over this. Do I want to go through this for my sake, for selfish reasons? How will Cracker cope with recovery and will it just give her a stressful end to her life? I know there’s no real answer for this, but can anyone with an old dog who had an amputation share how long the recovery took? If I’m doing this to give Cracker just an extra couple of months, is it worth the pain she’ll go through?
I know these are questions that can’t be answered, but I guess I’m just clutching at straws. I want to make sure I do the right thing.
I’ve got a ton of questions for the vet tomorrow!
Thanks again everyone
28 November 2011
I know there’s no real answer for this, but can anyone with an old dog who had an amputation share how long the recovery took? If I’m doing this to give Cracker just an extra couple of months, is it worth the pain she’ll go through?
Hi Jill. These questions really struck home with me – especially the second one. Our Zeus (husky mix) was 11 yrs old when diagnosed with OSA. Not only were we dealing with a senior dog, but our situation was further complicated in that a CT scan showed a lung met and a ‘suspicious spot’ on his liver. If mets are visible at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is not good at all (we were given an estimate of 6 weeks). We really struggled with the decision and whether it was fair to do the surgery to have him pass only a month after. Ultimately we decided to give it a shot and he lived very happily for ten months after diagnosis. The cancer eventually spread and took him from us, but it sounds as if that will not be a concern for you. Zeus actually did very well with recovery except for a strained muscle in his back during week two of the recovery which caused us to leave him on the pain meds a bit longer. I would say that it was about one month after surgery before he was back to ‘normal’ but I think that the longer recovery was due to the muscle tweak and prolonged meds.
This is a very personal decision for each person. For us, it was very important that Zeus had no other medical issues and we strongly felt that we had to give him a chance or we would always regret it. In hindsight, he did so well after the amp that even if we had only had the couple of months that our vet estimated, I would have no regrets. But, only you know your dog, your finances, your ability to physically assist during the recovery, etc., and you have to weigh all of those answers and make the best decision for your family. I wish you the best of luck!!
Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11. A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...
31 May 2012
There has been some really great advice on this thread. Lupe was just shy of her 15th birthday at the time of her surgery. At the time of diagnosis, the vets thought she was a good candidate as she was otherwise healthy and the removal of the cancerous limb would give her a chance to live her time pain free. I have no regrets on giving her the chance, she healed beautifully, but unfortunately her cancer had already gone into her bone marrow so I had to let her go.
Whatever you decide to do for Cracker will be right for you and her. Please let us know how the appointment with the vet goes.
Kori & Angel Lupe
Diagnosed with possible synovial cell sarcoma of right front elbow 5/31/12. Amputation surgery performed 6/7/12. Final diagnosis of histiocytic cell sarcoma 6/11/12. Her soul and spirit were strong, her body was not...my little girl earned her wings 6/14/12. "If there are labradoodles and goldendoodles, why can't I be a cockadoodle?"-Angel Lupe (June 28, 1997-June14, 2012) http://lupepod......pawds.com/
Thanks so much for all of your thoughts. Just got back from the vet and after much soul searching I’ve decided not to amputate. The vet held up her bad leg for a minute or two to see how the others reacted and sadly she thinks that she won’t be able to support herself. Her spindly little legs have got so much weaker in recent days and her good back leg isn’t straight when the other one is lifted, so it would be very difficult for her. I’ve also been kidding myself about her eyesight – although ok, it’s not wonderful and would be another added trauma for her.
The tumour has grown even more in the past couple of days and is now literally eating away at her flesh.
The vet agrees with my decision (amazing how you can get two so opposing views) and sadly she says Cracker probably won’t make it to Christmas. Her advice was to give her sausages for breakfast, take her to the beach and spoil her rotten. As soon as I see the signs that she’s suffering, it’ll be time to say goodbye. It’s been a very tough decision but I know it’s the right one.
I feel honoured to have had Cracker in my life for 17 years – she’s been (and still is) an amazing dog.
I’m so glad I found this group – you’ve all been a massive support in such a short time and I send my heartfelt thanks and love to you all and your beautiful dogs.
Jill & Cracker