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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Looking for advice - Large Senior Dog, Possible Front Limb Amputation, Preexisting Arthritis
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4 May 2024 - 2:32 pm
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Hello - My sweet almost-15 year old dog fractured her humerus (front left leg) during routine play indoors 3 days ago. She is a 60-lb pittie mix. She has had preexisting arthritis over the past couple of years, has mostly lost control of her bowels, and has had occasional seizures recently. The vet gave us three options: amputate the limb, try surgery to repair the bone (a long road to recovery), or humane euthanasia.

We're having a difficult time imagining that she could adjust well to using 3 legs, given her difficulty getting around with 4 - even before this, she struggled to get up and down from the floor, couldn\'t get onto the couch without help, and struggled to squat to urinate or defecate. But after reading some of the posts on this forum, it seems like it might be worth considering amputation.

I\'m wondering if others can share their experiences with older dogs with preexisting arthritis who have undergone amputation. What was the recovery period like? Could your dog eventually get around well/independently post-amputation?

Like everyone else who\'s posted here, we are agonizing over this decision. She seems to have life in her still, even though she\'s currently immobile. She\'s eating and drinking, and wants to be around us. We have a consultation with a surgeon on Monday, and I\'d like to go in with some ideas from people who\'ve experienced this firsthand.  Thank you in advance.

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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4 May 2024 - 5:18 pm
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Hi and welcome. I'm so sorry you are facing this tough decision. It sounds like the fracture was not because of osteosarcoma? Is she on pain medication for this? I hope they gave her something for it.

So you probably knew I'd say this, but every situation and every dog is different. It's hard to compare one story against another because all dogs are individuals, just like we are. But there are some generalities we see around here that might give you some insight.

Fracture repair surgery recoveries are often tough on even a healthy young dog, so at 14 years old, with her mobility challenges, that could be really really difficult for all of you. We see many people join us here because their dog's fracture repair didn't work. So if you tried to repair the limb, there's always the chance that could happen and you'd be back here again unsure of whether or not you want to go through a second major surgery.

Some arthritis is pretty typical of most older dogs who join us here. They take longer to recover than younger dogs, but generally most get around well if they had minimal other health conditions before surgery. We have very few people say they regretted amputation even for older dogs. The severity of a dog's arthritis though, can really impact recovery but you won't know how it will impact your dog until that leg comes off. Losing a front leg will put even more weight distribution on her rear, and if she already has mobility issues and pain back there, losing a leg could diminish her quality of life even further. The surgeon can give you a better picture of what to expect once they see her. 

I guess what you have to ask yourself is, do you think she has it in her to take on the extra challenges of losing a leg? Have you seen her bounce back from other challenges? What was that like? And do you have it in you to handle recovery for at least a few weeks, maybe longer? 

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4 May 2024
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4 May 2024 - 5:32 pm
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Thank you so much, Jerry. The questions you posed are very helpful and we will do some thinking on these. And thank you for giving me a general picture of how older dogs with arthritis tend to do post-amputation. We have not really been leaning in the direction of the repair for the reasons you mentioned, so for us it has been the question of amputation or euthanasia, which we are heart-broken about. 

Correct, Mattie does not have osteosarcoma (as far as we know). The vet did mention that when she hears about a dog breaking a bone like this during regular daily activity, it makes her wonder about bone cancer - but she did not see other signs pointing to this based on the X-rays. Mattie had been on 100mg/day of Rimadyl prior to this, and additionally they prescribed 300mg of Gabapentin every 8-12 hrs to help with pain management . I think it is mostly doing a good job of managing her pain, so far. 

Thank you again, and I imagine I'll be back here to post again soon as I think of other questions. 


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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4 May 2024 - 7:25 pm
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Sarah, you clearly have provided  your sweet Magfie with exquisite  care to jave her be with you for fifteen years!  Congratulations!

I can only ditto every Jerry has said. Yes, webe seen mature dogs with arthritis  be avle to handle surgery fairly well.  More assistance may be needed as far as maybe harness help getting out to potty etc.Having a dog in their sunset years does add an extra layer of ""between a rock and a hard place."  

Is Maggie on any arthritis maintenance like Adequan injections?  Worth a shot if you haven't already  tried that.  

Your co sultan Monday should help provide  you with a little more clarity if Maggie is a good candidate.  It sou ds like she has ple ty of spunk and determination  in her makenup and that's  a plus.

Just know we are here to support you in any way we can. Talk with the surgeon, talk with Maggie and just know that whatever decision you make, will be a decision made out of love and that is always the right decision.


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

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!

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