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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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Find out in Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now by Tripawds founders Rene and Jim. Learn life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Get the book and find fun gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.

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Member Since:
21 February 2014
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21 February 2014 - 1:50 pm
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My lab, 12 1/2 and 85 lbs was diagnosed with a primary bone tumor in the front right shoulder, and an aspirate showed sarcoma.  Vet is 98% certain of osteosarcoma at this point given the xrays and blood test.  Unknown at this point if it has spread to the lungs, but my understanding is that even with amputation, this is all but inevitable at some point.

 

Big question now is amputation or no.  I understand the pain relief, but he has esophogeal paralysis and a bit of a cloudy heartbeat, so we are concerned about anesthesia.  Additionally, he bears little weight on his hind legs these days due to arthritis and muscle atrophy.  I would say he's lost 35%-45% of his muscle mass back there, so I worry about removing a front leg.  He limps but does bear some weight on his affected leg.

 

We are torn, and I know you've all gone thru this, so I need some guidance.  Neither our regular vet or our referral vet gave us much advice as to whether or not we should consider amputation other than it is the only real option for pain relief.  My biggest question is how he would deal with it.

 

He eats, drinks well and seems mostly happy as long as he is under pain meds.  

On The Road


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24 September 2009
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21 February 2014 - 1:59 pm
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Hi Nordy and family, welcome. Your future posts won't require approval.

I'm sorry about the diagnosis and I definitely understand how you feel, especially because he's an older dog with some pre-existing conditions. So you've seen two vets now, what exactly did they say as far as his candidacy as a tripawd? Do they feel confident about it or are they uncertain?  Have you seen an orthopedic surgeon for an opinion?

For dogs who aren't good candidates for surgery, the other option as you are aware is palliative, pain management . As part of that, many dogs who aren't candidates are trying bisphosphonates , this may be something else to consider. Here is a link to forum posts that discuss bisphosphonates for dogs.

We're here to help. Hang in there and remember that no matter what decision you make, you are the only one who knows him as well as you do. As long as that decision is made with love and his best interests in mind, you can't go wrong.

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

Member Since:
21 February 2014
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21 February 2014 - 2:34 pm
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Thanks Jerry.

 

Our regular vet referred us to the oncologist who gave the diagnosis just today.  Neither gave us advice on whether he is a good candidate for amputation, but rather spoke in general terms about treatment options, odds, and the like.

 

We've not seen an orthopedic surgeon, but we are going to speak to our friends next week.  He is retired vet who specialized in orthopedic surgery in dogs, and he can give us the lowdown.  He also knows our dog very well and will be able to evaluate him based on his history.

 

Thanks so much.  I type this with tears welling up.  I want to do the best thing I can for the big guy.  So many considerations and none of them are very fun to think about.  I just want him to be comfortable and happy for the time we have left with him.

On The Road


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21 February 2014 - 3:45 pm
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nordy said
We've not seen an orthopedic surgeon...

FYI: This video interview we did has some important tips to consider when selecting a surgical center for amputation:

How to Choose a Veterinarian for Amputation Surgery

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

Member Since:
30 July 2010
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21 February 2014 - 7:47 pm
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When our loved ones are faced with a cancer diagnosis, it can take the wind out of our sails when we have to make a decision regarding their care/treatment.  I know we all wish we could know what path would allow our dogs to live the longest/best quality life, but as owners we are left with tough choices. Often we have to juggle multiple factors that overwhelm us.

I've recently been going though this tough process again. What helps me is to explore all options (which you are working to do it sounds like) to get as much information as possible and then narrow it down depending on financial, personal or other medical concerns. And don't be surprised if you change your mind once you get new info or circumstances change, I know the route I decided to take is different than I expected. This sounds totally silly, but I literally write all my thoughts down and use this technique from the book Smart Choices: http://litemind.....-making/ 

Surgery with pre-existing condition example: My dog was recently diagnosed with a moderate grade heart murmur 4-5, which depending on the cause can make her NOT be a candidate for anesthesia. Before considering surgery of her tumor, they wanted to do an echocardiogram. Fortunately she was cleared to go under and for the surgons, it was just a matter of altering the fluid levels during the procedure.  Depending on the type/severity of pre-existing conditions, surgeons can alter their procedure a bit to accommodate additional needs. 

Best wishes for your pup and your family.

-Chloe's mom

Chloe became a rear amp tripawd on 7-29-10. Another tumor was removed on front leg 2-20-14. Found 3rd tumor on neck 2-2015, but she's still kicking cancer's butt at age 14. Chloe's blog

Member Since:
21 February 2014
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25 February 2014 - 1:30 pm
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First of all - thanks for all the support and encouragement, it's really helped to read through your replies and get a sense of community and support.

We've decided to go ahead with the surgical consult to see if Orion is a good candidate for surgery.  They will do lung x-rays first and foremost, and if he's good to go, we're ready to move as quick as we can to get him some relief.  He's still doing surprisingly well, with Tramadol and Rimadyl.  He is still using the leg but limping, so we want to avoid him breaking the leg.

 

We know this is palliative care, but he deserves it, damn it!  A pain free existence, whether it's 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years, is the least we can do for him.

 

Will keep you all posted on his progress.

Member Since:
16 May 2009
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3 March 2014 - 10:56 am
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I don't envy you this decision.  I've always said that, all things being equal, I'd go for the surgery every time .. but in your case, all things are not equal.  It's hard on a dog adjusting to being a tripod, and it's doubly hard-to-nigh on impossible with some pre-existing conditions, but don't give up hope.  Your vet and the surgeon between them will give you an honest opinion on whether or not Orion is a suitable candidate. 

 

There is also the possibility of a wheelchair .  Having only one front leg and dodgy hind legs would make it difficult, but you might look at quad carts.  I imagine that a good counter-balanced cart will support him without allowing too much weight to fall on his one good front leg, but you'd need to take advice on that from someone more experienced than me.  My thinking is that maybe a quad cart might help him whether or not the surgery goes ahead. 

 

Finally, there are a good array of painkilling drugs available these days.  You just need to bear in mind, when making your decision, that dogs don't show pain until they have to. You know your dog best, too, and some show pain easier, some hide it well.  Only you can tell.

The very best of good luck to you and Orion! 

New Haven, CT
Member Since:
27 December 2012
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4 March 2014 - 5:36 am
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Tough stuff.  I hope his upcoming consult is GREAT, in that you get some helpful advice, a kind ear and heart, and listen to what Orion wants.  I worry about that muscle loss in the rear...  I wonder if after amp surgery, if you take that road, you'll be more responsible for his mobility?  If so, there are lots of great harnesses and tricks to helping him out!  Pain relief is in sight - in so many forms!  Orion will get the help he needs!

Keep us updated.

~ Katy & Jackson

ACL tear in right hind leg 12/5/12 and scheduled ACL repair surgery 12/21/12. Pre-op xrays revealed osteosarcoma. Amputation 12/28/12.  Chemo (carboplatin) started Jan 10, 2013 and ended on April 5, for a total of 5 doses. He handled carbo like a champ!  No side effects.  We started metronomic therapy at his third chemo and have been also doing some holistic treatments.  He's a lively, playful 10 year old huskie-boarder collie and a very proud member of the Winter Warriors!  Our love. Our funny little guy!

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21 February 2014
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10 March 2014 - 12:30 pm
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Thanks again all.

We talked with the surgeon (actually 2 counting today) at the vet who has the oncologist, as well as our regular vet, and the vet my wife used to work for.  Consensus is, that with his age and arthritis, he will have a slower recovery, but all agreed he SHOULD do fine.  No guarantees of course, but his overall health is good.  

The weakness in his back legs is actually mostly arthritis in his lower back, apparently, so that should be somewhat manageable.

Net is, he's in for surgery as I write this.  We had a great day with him running around with other dogs, in the woods, playing in the snow, since he's going to be cooped up for a couple weeks.

I'll let you know how he's doing and give some progress reports.  

In the meantime, Ruff wear harness, or the other one that Jerry has mentioned?  Mostly looking for a helper harness for when he's healed up - we want to keep him active as we can once he's ready...

Idaho
Member Since:
12 March 2013
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10 March 2014 - 12:41 pm
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We love our Ruffwear harness , although Murphy is a rear leg Tripawd. From what I understand, though, front Tripawds do well with them, too. Murphy is about the same size. He literally lived in his for the first month following his hip replacement, and gradually used it less and less. Now we use it for loading in and out of the car or when we go somewhere with slick floors. Just my personal opinion for what it's worth.

We are thinking of you today and hoping, along with you, for the very best outcome for your handsome boy.

Kathi and Murphy

Murphy is a five year old Lab/Chessie cross. He was hit by a car on 10/29/12 and became a Tripawd on 11/24/12. On 2/5/13, he had a total hip replacement on his remaining back leg. He has absolutely no idea that he has only three legs!

UPDATE: Murphy lived his life to the fullest, right up until an aggressive bone lesion took him across the Rainbow Bridge on April 9, 2015 and he gained his membership in the April Angels. Run free, my love. You deserve it!

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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10 March 2014 - 1:41 pm
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Awww we're sending our best wishes for a speedy recovery! Orion is in for surgery the same day as Abbee, you two are Tripawd Ampuversary buddies now!

For a dog with mild arthritis we recommend the Webmaster. It can also be used on both a front and a rear legger. The other harness, the Convert, is great but it's only a walking harness, it doesn't provide as much mobility support as the Webmaster.

Good luck! Keep us posted.

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

Member Since:
21 February 2014
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11 March 2014 - 7:07 am
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Thanks again everyone.

Orion did wonderfully during surgery.  The surgeon called immediately after finishing up, because surgery got delayed for some emergency patients and she knew we'd be wondering. :)

No complications, no issues with anesthesia.  He was still groggy at that point, but the clinic is staffed 24/7 because they are also an emergency vet. The only thing she mentioned of note was that there were a lot of extra blood vessels feeding the mass - another indicator of cancer, which we already had the 98% odds pointing to.  As a result, they just needed to be more careful in the procedure to unwind and tie everything off.

We will most likely pick him up tomorrow.  I wish I had an SUV or a wagon so it would be easier to get him in and out of the back, vs. the back seat of the car or the pickup, but we'll figure something out.  

I'm ordering the webmaster for once the stitches heal.  The big challenge will be keeping him contained when we aren't home.  I have a kennel, but if he has problems getting up, that will not be good.  Our house is 2 story, and of course all the good rooms for containing him are on the second floor- the first floor is basically completely open.  If you all have had the same experience and have an idea, I'm all ears - or eyes I guess I should say.

 

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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11 March 2014 - 9:31 am
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Glad to hear that things went well! Yay! First hurdle, check!

As far as how to contain him, well we had a similar experience during our recovery, we lived in an upstairs apartment and had to travel 18 steps up and down just for potty trips. It was challenging lifting 75 pounds each way, 3 or 4 times a day, but doable, very carefully and slowly. Once we had the Webmaster it was definitely a whole lot easier.

Is there anything that might present a problem if you left him alone downstairs? Slippery floors or stuff like that? He may be so tired and just want to sleep that he doesn't get into trouble at all. If it's not really safe to leave him there, is there any way to borrow an x-pen or a few baby gates from other dog people you know?

I hope you have a great reunion!

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

Member Since:
21 February 2014
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11 March 2014 - 9:59 am
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Hi again.

Heard from Doc this AM.  He's doing great, eating, going out for potty, getting up with a little help, so, WHEW!!!

Regarding the house thing - I don't worry about him getting into trouble downstairs.  We have a wood floor in the kitchen, but he's not allowed there - only on the carpeted areas, and he doesn't stray in there unless we have company he knows he can bribe.

What I do worry about is keeping him from trying to use the stairs on his own.  My upstairs office is where I'd like to keep him during the day.  He likes it upstairs, for reasons only he understands, when we are not here - so I know he'll be stressing if he isn't up there.

 

I could baby gate the stairs, or put him upstairs in the office - I think that's OK after the first few days at home.

Thanks for the ideas, we'll figure it out!

On The Road


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11 March 2014 - 10:16 am
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Oh yeah then I would definitely baby gate the stairs and make sure he can't access them while you're around. I know you'll get it!

Glad to hear this is a good morning for him!

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

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