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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10 November 2010
Like many others I found this forum searching for information about K9 amputation. Wow, there seems to be so many people on here that share similar experiences. With that in mind, my wife and I were hoping to get some advice regarding our 14 year old Lhasa/Poodle mix. This is Callaway's story:
It started when Callaway was diagnosed with a pancreatic insulinoma and the vet recommended surgery. Pancreatic cancer is just as lethal in dogs as it is in humans. Nonetheless we decided to go through with the surgery to remove the tumor and it was a success. Still, surgery for pancreatic cancer in dogs is not a cure, only an effort to prolong life. The vets told us she most likely had around 6 months to live with a 2 year survival rate of less than 5%.
Post-surgery we completely changed Callaway's diet and feeding fequency. She was also put on a small dose of prednisone to regulate her blood sugar. I'm proud to say it has been 3 years and 3 months since her surgery. To put it plainly, she's a miracle.
Several months ago we noticed she was limping slightly but it didn't look like any sort of acute injury, perhaps just arthritis. But, being extra careful we took her to the vet and they did x-rays. They told us it was the beginning of arthritis and we were given a perscription for a joint suppliment. A few weeks passed Callaway seemed to be showing signs of an infection so we called the vet and they phoned in a perscription for antiboitics. Callaway reacted very well to the antibiotics and seemed to be doing better.
However, beginning last week her limp worsened so today we took her to a different vet to get to the bottom of things. Turns out, her front right shoulder is dislocated and has been for some time. Due to the fact that it went undiagnosed (or should I say misdiagnosed?) for so long the ligaments and tendons in the joint have deteriorated and it cannot be saved. The surgeon at the vet hospital has given us three options:
1) Do nothing and manage Callaway's pain through medication
2) Sugically fuse the leg bone to the scapula with screws to create a “walking peg”
3) Amputate the entire limb
I don't think we want to go with option 1 because she is in pain and will continue to be in pain as long as the limb remains as is. The surgeon told us option 2 she will not have any pain walking on the new leg but it is a more complex surgery with and EIGHT WEEK recovery period!! The surgeon made option 3 sound the best because she will be pain free post operation and the recovery period is only a week to ten days.
However, I'm worried about amputation given her age. She's 14 years old and despite being a small breed (11 lbs) she is showing some early signs of arthritis. I'm worried that she may injure her other front leg or become too weak or arthritic after the amputation.
Will she be able to walk and be mobile without pain after amputation?
Would investing in a forelimb cart/wheelchair help?
If she does become less active or have mobility issues after amputation, is that the beginning of the end?
We would appreciate any advice on our situation.
thanks in advance.
Welcome to Tripawds.
Wow- your girl is quite a survivor!!
The first thing you should do is check out James' Blog. He is a 17 year old toy poodle who is battling cancer on 3 legs. His mom posts here as nstephenson.
We also like to point you to Jerry's required reading list, a compilation of info on amputation and recovery.
You know Callaway best- if she is still getting around OK (apart from the injury) and she is otherwise healthy then amputation might be a good option.
One word of caution on the recovery time- most of us found it was two weeks or so for recovery- often with ups and downs. But by week three most seem to be well on their way. Some, like my pug Maggie, took their time to adapt. But then Maggie was never a very adaptable dog, so taking longer made sense.
Maggie was 7.5 years old at the time of her amp, and about 17.5 lbs, she was a rear amp. She also was a long term survivor living 3 years and 9 months after her amp. As she aged I was a little more careful about what I let her do as far as jumping down from furniture, or going down stairs. But after her amp she returned to doing just about everything she did before- with a little less stamina. But she was walking a mile plus most days, going up and down hills. Toward the end she was slowed by additional illnesses, not arthritis. She was on a joint supplement from before her surgery which probably helped.
In the end it is all about quality for Callaway. You have to do for her what gives her the best quality of life. She may not get around as much on 3 legs, but if she is free of pain she will be much happier.
Karen and the pugapalooza
30 July 2010
We here at tripawds.com love to beat the odds and show cancer who's boss! Sounds like your Callaway has already been through some tough stuff, but made it through with flying colors! So long as her bloodwork says she is healthy, amputation would most likely prolong her quality of life (ie no pain).
I do understand the arthritis concern and I know there are other tripawds here who have the same issue and will most likely chime in to give you some advice!
Also, those who have undergone front leg amputation will tell you to request the vet to remove the scapula. Those who dont tend to have dogs experience phantom pain more often than not…plus it gives them a cleaner line when they heal!
P.S. We are not ageists here, we think 9-15 is still young! And anything above that is just inspirational!
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
25 April 2007
Welcome and thanks for joining. We're sorry to hear about Calloway's condition but glad you found us.
For what it's worth… All too often we here from people who put their dogs through multiple painful expensive surgeries trying to save their dog's limb, only to proceed with amputation. Others – with dogs who have been through both – have reported that amputation recovery was much easier than that after TPLO or similar surgeries. And a number of vets have also told us that pins and plates are more difficult procedures with more potential for complications or infection.
Here's a Tripawds News blog post with questions and answers from Doggon Wheels, a leading manufacturer of front and rear leg carts for dogs. And here's a forum topic discussing front wheel carts for dogs.
Hope this helps. You'll find lots of advice in Jerry's Required Reading List, and even more tips and fast answers to the most common amputation questions in the new Tripawds e-book, Three Legs and a Spare.
Best wishes in the decisions you face. Please keep us posted!
19 September 2010
Don’t let Callaway’s age alone be a factor. If he is generally healthy & mobile now, he’ll probably have no problems adapting to life as a tripawd.
Zack is almost 14 years old (looking forward to celebrating on 12/15!), and the first vet we saw when he fractured his leg suggested we not amputate due to his age and prior bouts with hip pain (when he’d overdo it jumping to greet people.) But, when he fully broke his leg about 3 weeks after the fracture, the 2nd vet didn’t hesitate to suggest amputation. The surgeon did the normal checks before proceeding, and since Zack was in otherwise good health, he went ahead with it.
And, we know we made the right decision. He did not have any complications from the surgery, and did not take long to get back to his old self – actuallly, he soon had more energy than his old self since the pain was gone (he never really limped, so we’re not sure how long the OS was there…)
Zack does a good job up & down 2-3 stairs, but up any more than that up & he needs help (he’s a rear leg amputee, so you’d most likely have the opposite issue with Callaway.) And, he still gets help up onto the couch and bed. I, too, worry about him injuring one of his other legs, so we block off the stairs so he doesn’t try something stupid when we’re not home, and we put our boxspring & mattress on the floor. It is now about the same height as the couch, and both are a distance that haven’t caused any problems for Zack to get down from.
You know Callaway and his situation the best and are the only one who can decide what is right – go with your gut! Good luck with your decision.
Zack, King of Dogs, 1996 to 2010
Zack lived a full 14 years, even to the end.
The joy and memories he provided us will last a lifetime.
Surviving him is his sister, Izzy, a 12-year-old boxer mix quadpawd.
And the latest addition, Zula, an 11-month-old pit bull mix tripawd.
25 April 2007
Callaway, with your survivor pawsonality, life on three legs would be a breeze for you! Your size is really to your advantage when it comes to being a Tripawd, and as you've already seen, you're still a kid in these parts. Don't let your age discourage your folks from considering the surgery, we've had many other seniors do great here, provided that their health was in relatively good condition to begin with.
To answer your question about wheel carts. We have been told by wheelcart designers that while they can be useful for giving dogs a break from the extra work to get around on three legs, rehab therapists have told us that cards should only be used if they're really needed after it's become clear that getting stronger isn't happening. Big dogs can really benefit from them but small dogs usually get around just fine as Tripawds without them. While every situation is different, we're betting you'll be a champ as a Tripawd.
Hope these answers everyone here has given can help your folks decide what's best for you. Just remember, there are no “right” decisions, only what works for you and your pack. We'll support you either way.
14 August 2009
Welcome Callaway and Family!
We know how hard this on you. But it sounds like you've got more time with Callaway and if she is pain free from the amputation, then go for it! The sooner it's over the sooner can start living a normal healthly tear-free life again!
I speak from experience from having two TPLO's (which is plates screwed into the back knees), Option #3 is easier! Ha! 8 weeks! Eight weeks is if the bone is healed. You have to usually keep them off the leg for 12 weeks! And even after that, you are a nervous wreck! I've heard that bones can take up to a year to actually heal. (that is coming from a person doctor)
But whatever you decide, it will be the right decision because it's made out of love.
Comet - 1999 to 2011
She departed us unexpectedly January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.
She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.
25 August 2010
I don't have any experience with this, but one year ago I lost my dog who was healthy and happy and lived to be 17 years old. She was a rottie mix so she was a large breed. I guess what I am saying is that if everything else is functioning with your pup that age is just a number.
I do agree with Chloe's mom, removing the scapula would be the way I would go too. They would probably want to do that anyway because her shoulder was the part affected, but definetly ask.
Good luck and let us know,
Elizabeth and Sammy
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,
leg fractured 8/27/10,
leg amputated 8/30/10
I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us. Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.
27 September 2010
Amputation was my first choice in our case. The vet didn't want to mention initially, because she knows that us humans don't like/understand the process. She just didn't want to seem too harsh or drastic. I took her by total surprise when i suggested it before she did, she also said that she wished all her clients were as understanding as I was.
I am so very glad we did, because when the leg was removed, it was the start of a better life…and not the end of mobility/normality. Sure, she is not as agile as before…but she sure is faster, cuter and all around happier.
- urinates standing up, no need to hitch leg (yes, she prefers to pee like a boy…strange) or squat
- makes a wicked-fast right hand turn
- easier to cuddle closer to her mommy, no leg in the way
- is the star of the neighborhood. everyone knows the three-legged doggie
- takes hilarious physics-defying photos: from the front view, looks like no back legs at all and is levitating hindquarters. cool!!!