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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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Making the tuff decision
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Member Since:
22 April 2022
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22 April 2022 - 8:15 am
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Hi, I am brand new to this forum.  My almost 11y.o.  (rescue) dog was recently diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma.  They are usually removed with wide margins and great success.  However, my dog's sts is located in a rare and difficult place for removal and the only way to get the whole tumor is to remove her front leg.  Because of her age and the fact that she already has arthritis I am having a really hard time with deciding what to do.  I am looking for any and all advise.  Thank you!

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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22 April 2022 - 10:10 am
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Her avatar  photo is beautiful.  She looks so happy.  What's her name.

Yes, we understand  how hard a decision like this is.  As you navigate through the forums you will see age and size really do not matter!!

How s your girl's fitness otherwise?  Alert, engaged, enjoys life??

Have you jave her evaluated  by an Orthopedic  Surgeon?  They are excellent  at finding any hurdles that could compromise  her ability to handle life on three.  And rarely is arthritis a deal breaker.  

I think you will find a much more clearer  path forward once you jave that consult and, hopefully,  the reassurance  you need.

We have had dogs older and larger handle life on three just fine. Recovery  is no picnic at first, but we'll help you navigate  through it. Once they adjust to their new gait you will be so Happy to see her happy!

Jist wanted to pop in quickly  and send you a cyber hig andnlet younknow we are here for you to help,process all this in any way we can.

Hugs 

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!

Livermore, CA




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22 April 2022 - 10:11 am
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry you are dealing with cancer in your girl, what's her name?

It's not the actual number of years in my mind, it's the mileage!  Other than arthritis how healthy is she?  Is she in good shape? Fit and trim?  Does she still have life left to live?  What does your vet think about her being a Tripawd?

You should also consider consulting with an orthopedic vet to judge her ability to cope on three. How severe is the arthritis?  We've had dogs here with arthritis do fine on three.

Have you consulted with an oncologist yet?  It's important to know what all the treatment options are.

Sorry- more questions than answers!  It is a more complicated decision for sure when you are dealing with an older pup and some pre-existing conditions. 

You know your girl the best and will figure out what is the best path for her.  We are here to help however we can no matter what path you choose.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

On The Road


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22 April 2022 - 11:18 am
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Awww what a beautiful girl. I'm sorry you are facing this decision but we can hopefully help make it easier to choose a path. Whichever one you take, we will support you.

You've been given great suggestions/questions by Karen and Sally. It really is about the dog's personality and fitness level, not so much about the age number. Same as with people. If you feel she has the spunk and drive to handle recovery, she should do fine. It's always best to get those other opinions to help put your mind at ease. Knowing your options feels powerful, and gives you more confidence.

I'm looking forward to the whole story when you get a chance. Welcome!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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23 April 2022 - 4:59 am
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Thank you all for some good suggestions.  To answer a few of the questions, her name is Sadie.  She is seemingly healthy other than the tumor.  She was a rescue and like many had a rough start in life but has been pampered ever since we adopted her.  I'm not sure of her mix but she looks like beagle, cattle dog or aussie maybe.  She has never been a super high energy dog.  She love walks and colder weather, not a big fan of Charleston summers!  She is a good weight and because of the long walks in pretty good shape.  

We have met with an oncologist and have been given some choices, none of which are ideal.  I know like all of us, I wish Sadie was able to tell me the extent of her pain and what she would me to do for her.  

We are meeting with our vet of 40 years to "go over" Sadie's health otherwise and to get his opinion because I trust his judgement completely!  Then we have an appointment with the surgeon to go over CT scan in more depth and to make the big decision.  

Any and all suggestions, questions I should ask etc would be greatly appreciated!

On The Road


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23 April 2022 - 2:02 pm
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Sadie does look Aussie to me. What a lucky gal to have you advocating for her. I like that you're giving such in-depth thought to this and consulting with others. 

Yes, it's hard when our dogs can't tell us what they want in our own language. They have their own way of spelling it out and it's up to us to be in tune with their language. pain signals are one way but there's also a need for us to read their personality, daily life, and how they've done in other challenging health situations. Has she ever had any kind of surgery where you got to see how she did? Of course nothing compares to amputation recovery but at least you'd have some basis to gauge how she does after pain meds, overnight clinic visits, etc.

Just curious, what is it about the oncologist's recommendations that has you thinking they're all less than ideal? No judgement, just trying to see if we can put your mind at ease about any of the options. There's a tendency for us humans to compare vet oncology with human oncology, but the two are very different. For animals it's all about maintaining quality of life, they don't suffer the way humans undergoing chemotherapy does. If there's any sign that an animal is having less than ideal quality of life, the treatment can be changed or stopped to accommodate their needs. 

Here are some questions to review with your vet and the surgeon:

Top 10 Questions to Ask Vet Before Amputation Surgery for Dogs and Cats (Part 1)

Questions to Ask Your Veterinary Oncologist

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Member Since:
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26 April 2022 - 9:55 am
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In response to "guest" oncologist question about recommendations,  the main thing I meant by that comment is that amputation is so drastic and after reading about soft tissue tumors that I wasn't expecting that response.  I  understand that the tumor is in a bad location and she feels this is the only choice.  My concerns are many and one concern is that because of something that I went through with another family dog, I am having a hard time trusting these specialty vets that are owned by major corporations.  I am trying to trust the person (oncologist) but am aware of quotas etc that this these companies impose on the veterinarian practices.  The point of removing the leg is to get clean margins around the tumor.  The leg is only one side of the tumor, the other side is attached to the front chest and they have said that they are not sure of getting clean margins there.  So, why take her entire leg???  Also, everything I have read about these type of tumors on veterinarian websites that say radiation can be used if clean margins are not possible.  When I asked about this she basically blew me off.  I think it is because they don't offer radiation, only Chemo.  (I know, trust issues). So why not remove as much as possible and kill the rest with radiation therapy??

Sadie is currently in pain, but not to the point (yet) that it has affected her personality.  She has a hard time jumping on the bed and couch and doesn't want to walk as far, etc, but still wants to go her usually places.  She is sleeping well, eats well (knock on wood), and is happy.  

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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26 April 2022 - 11:42 am
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Hey there Sadie's human! The guest comment is from me. We had a technical meltdown the other day and all 15 years of my posts got changed to guest. Long story!

Thanks for clarifying your concerns. In many cases, what we see here is that a vet will often make multiple attempts to remove the soft tissue sarcomas with clean margins. I can't blame them or the pet parent, nobody wants to amputate. We sure didn't! Most members join us after the multiple attempts didn't get rid of the problem and the tumor recurs, without enough skin left to close the wound. Amputation is the next step unfortunately, for most cases.

My concerns are many and one concern is that because of something that I went through with another family dog, I am having a hard time trusting these specialty vets that are owned by major corporations.  I am trying to trust the person (oncologist) but am aware of quotas etc that this these companies impose on the veterinarian practices.

I can't blame you at all, I understand completely and have often felt the same way. What I can tell you is that no vet wants to resort to amputation to make the practice more profitable. They don't get into this low-paying industry unless their entire heart and soul is wrapped up in making lives better for pets. Amputation can of course do that but it also presents a lot of problems and so many will do whatever it takes to avoid it. 

The point of removing the leg is to get clean margins around the tumor.  The leg is only one side of the tumor, the other side is attached to the front chest and they have said that they are not sure of getting clean margins there.  So, why take her entire leg???  

These tumors are like daddy-long leg spiders, or octopus. Their "legs" can go to many, many parts of the body and by removing the leg, they remove most chances of that happening. And every case is different. So what we read on the web doesn't always apply to our own pets. 

Also, everything I have read about these type of tumors on veterinarian websites that say radiation can be used if clean margins are not possible.  When I asked about this she basically blew me off.  I think it is because they don't offer radiation, only Chemo.  (I know, trust issues). So why not remove as much as possible and kill the rest with radiation therapy?

I'm sorry they didn't address that with you. Yes, it can be used but again, like surgery, it's often not curative and the path most always leads to amputation.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro-amputation by any means. It's just that I often see many folks coming here after spending ten thousand dollars or more trying to save a leg. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn't. It's all a very big crapshoot and I know it's so hard to decide. 

If you are still on the fence, consider looking into electrochemotherapy , or intralesional chemotherapy . These are two options that are widely practiced in other countries but not in the U.S. Mainly because there just aren't enough studies to make U.S. vets enthused enough to study and work with these limb salvage procedures. There are some however, and I encourage you to look it up and see if that's something you can pursue with Sadie.

Sadie is currently in pain, but not to the point (yet) that it has affected her personality.  

Do keep an eye on her pain signals OK? Dogs are masters at hiding that they hurt, much better than we wimpy humans smiley2

Hope this helps. I'm in the Tripawds Chat for a bit if you want to talk. 

Member Since:
22 April 2022
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2 May 2022 - 8:18 am
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A quick update:

After meeting with our primary vet we have decided to go ahead with surgery.  She is scheduled to have her leg/tumor amputated tomorrow.  I am so nervous and worried for her.  I hope she understands that what we are doing to her is going to make her feel better in the long run.  I pray that she adjusts well to having three legs.  Even with the current pain she is such a happy girl and I hope that doesn't change.  I know many you have gone through all of these same feelings!  

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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2 May 2022 - 8:52 am
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Stay connected with us, okay?  We ALL understand the worry, the uncertainty, the fear, the mental and physical  exhaustion  I evolved in making this decision.   So know that you are not alone!.

One thing that will become apparent  as Sadie goes through recovery  and gets rid of that vum leg, you are doi g this FOR her and not TO her!  I k ow it's hard to grasp that, but you are giving her a chance at a pain free quaility  life full of loving and spoiling!

You have done your research and gotten guidance from the professionals.  It sou ds like Sadie is an excellent  candidate  and will thrive on three.

Not saying recovery  is a picnic and it make uptake a few days before she's movile or avle to stand  on her own.  Some dogs get their sea legs faster than others.  This is not a competition.   Sadie will recover at her own pace in her own way.

We are all jere to help you navigate  through  recovery, okay?  You'll want nonslip scatter rugs for traction   if you have hardwoods.   No jumping or stair climbing for the first two weeks.  Just SHORT leashed  potty breaks and back to bed for rest.

Is she staying st an overnight  fully staffed clinic?  Most dogs stay one.noght or two.  She'll come home with good pain meds.  Usually  it's Gabapentin,  an antiinflmmatory like Rimadyl and an antibiotic. 

We have lots of tips to help make recovery  easier, so let us k ow as questions arise, okay?  Let us k ow when she's out of surgery, okay?

I would say fet some rest, but that's not gonna happen.   I find eating  chocolate  and ice  cream and tons of junk food calm my  nerves!🤣😂

Hugs

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!

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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2 May 2022 - 3:33 pm
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Oooh tomorrow is the day! Well you guys have certainly given this a ton of thought and are making a decision with nothing but love in your heart for Sadie. As you go through recovery, always remember that we are the ones with the tough emotions. Sadie may not feel great for a few weeks because of pain meds and adjusting to life on 3, but she will very likely be feeling better than she did when that bad leg was still there. And I promise she won't hold anything against you. Animals just aren't capable of that kind of emotion, that's why they are such special creatures. The guilt and worry is all on us. As long as you keep the big picture in mind, when Sadie is 100% healthy and rid of that cancer, you can get through this with mental strength and pawsitivity.

How's your house? Ready for recovery? Check out our What to Expect articles and the Tripawds Recovery Shopping List to make sure you have your bases covered.

Keep us posted on how she's doing. We are sending tons of Tripawd Power your way. 

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22 April 2022
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7 May 2022 - 8:57 am
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Good morning,

So Sadie is on her 5th day post-op.  She has been doing pretty well I think.  She ate and drank as soon as we got here home.  She has been urinating normally also.  She finally had her first bowel movement yesterday.  She alternates between sleeping and being restless but most of the time seems fairly comfortable.  We have a two story house and about 5 stairs to go outside.  We have been carrying her to bed at night (she is sleeping with us as always) and to go out to pee until yesterday when she decided go down the steps outside on her own.  It terrified me and made me happy at the same time.   She struggles with wanting to sleep on the surgery side and will try then immediately flip to the other side.  She will go around in circles trying to figure out how to do it without it hurting.  I know that part should get better with time but it is really sad to watch.   

I still waiver back and forth about the decision to amputate and whether putting her through this will be worth it.  I guess time will tell. 

Thank you for listening and for the words of wisdom! 

Virginia




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22 February 2013
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7 May 2022 - 11:18 am
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WELCOME HOME SADIE!!  And yes indeed, this early on recovery  aou ds loke it's going very well.  Everything  you've described  is to be expe.  Actually, she may even be a little "ahead of the curve" five days out.

 Yeah, once the incision  site is less sore, Sadie will reclaim  her nor al "sleeping  side".  Just like hoomans, dogs have a preferred  sleeping position and can be a vit restless  when that is  interrupted. My Hapoy Hannah  took several weeks before she comfortably  laid on the incision  side.  Many dogs do ot after stitches or out.  Sadie will do it at her own pace.

Like many of us this early on, we are questioning  what we did TO our dogs.  You will soon switch  to being glad you did this FOR Sadie.  Remeber, this is just five days after MAJOR surgery while trying  to adjust to three while being on pain meds.  And she's eating  drinking  peeing and pooping AND movile enoigh to tackle the stairs on her own!!  Feisty  naughty girl!!  Don't  scare your Mom!

Thanks for the update.  All sounds good for a full recovery 👍

And YAY for poop!!!👏👏👏

Hugs 

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

PS If you feel like the restlessness is pain related  and shows up before her next pain med dose, you can ask the Vet about  giving  the meds to her more frequently 

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!

The Rainbow Bridge


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25 April 2007
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7 May 2022 - 12:26 pm
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Oh boy do I know that feeling of being half terrified and half happy! Sounds like Sadie is taking all the steps necessary to get on with the new normal.

Speaking of steps, are your stairs OK and with plenty of traction ? Five is kinda over that number where I worry a bit about a Tripawd on stairs. Just depends on the design and the floor surface. If they are grippy she should do fine.

I'm thinking like Sally about her restlessness. That can be a pain signal. Does she tend to do it soon before her next dose is due? Oh, and what meds is she on (dosage, and timing too)?

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22 April 2022
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7 May 2022 - 1:28 pm
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I'm fairly certain the restlessness was pain related.  The vet told me that I could give her the gabapentin every eight or 12 hours and I had been every 12.  The timing was right to give her a third dose.  It seemed to settle her and she ended up sleeping through the night.  I think the fentanyl patch is slowing (been 72 hrs) so I will give her the Gab three times a day for a few days then wean her back to twice and see how she does. 

Our outside steps are brick and not slippery at all (though the brick scares me a little but I walk next to her just in case).  The stairs in our house are carpet and not slippery either.  (always wanted wood, now I'm glad they are carpet!).

She is much more calm today!  She has been resting and relaxing and am thankful for that!

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