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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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Forum Posts: 182
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1 April 2020 - 12:01 pm
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Hello, I am new here. Just got the terrible diagnostic of osteosarcoma for my 10yo husky on Monday. I can’t get over it, I am devastated. Started with a lameness on his right front leg and after a week of anti-inflammatory, we went for an x-ray showing the osteosarcoma. This really came to me as a shock, Arktik was in such a good shape and so energetic prior to this. I was always so sure he would live fairly old. We have an appointment in oncology tomorrow to weigh our options. 

I know there are different options and that we will find out tomorrow what applies to him or not. I know doing nothing his pain will probably increase rapidly and we won’t have that much time left with him. I am really struggling thinking about amputation because of the pain he might experience due to the procedure and recovery afterward. I am questioning if I would put him through that for my benefit (to maybe have him a bit longer and pain free) or for his? 

Right now he is limping but with the pain med he his otherwise happy, he wants to go for walks, play (not quite as much but still), he is still relying on his leg. I think that’s why the decision is so difficult. I am thinking how I will see my Arktik going from somewhat happy to having a difficult time recovering, I am so afraid to regret it after. Any thoughts ? Can anybody tell me about their experiences? 

Thank you for your support in this very difficult time. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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1 April 2020 - 1:11 pm
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Hi Arktik and family, welcome. We are sorry that you had to join our club but really glad you decided to post. You are in good company here and we will support you however you choose to treat the cancer.

I know it’s hard to picture your dog as a Tripawd. We can relate. Our Jerry was also healthy and fit and when we got the diagnosis we thought there was no way he could be happy on three legs. But you know what? The worries weren’t necessary…after surgery recovery Jerry proved to us that he was stronger and more resilient than we ever dreamed.

We have met many Huskies who have done really, really well on three legs! Huskies are strong dogs, and can tackle this recovery! In fact one of the most recent examples we spotlighted is Ziva from New Mexico. She did so well on three! She is an angel now but she had such a great quality of life for over a year after amputation. And the first Tripawd Husky we ever met was Calpurnia the Sled Dog. Oh my dog she was amaaaazing on three, and enjoyed quite a few years after her amputation. Her mom and dad now have BP the sled dog who is in Alaska right now running the trails. There are many more examples!

I encourage you to meet with the oncologist and find out your options. You can take this list of Questions to Ask Your Oncologist to make sure you cover everything.

Also, be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List and our What to Expect series of articles. 

I think that if you can take a step back and gather your thoughts and emotions, you’ll find that Arktik is much tougher and capable than you first believed when you got the news.

Stay tuned for feedback from others and let us know how your visit goes tomorrow!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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1 April 2020 - 4:18 pm
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Hi, my choc lab had Left front leg amputation 10 days before his 12th birthday because of OST bone cancer. I was worried because of Brownie being a senior. But he breezed thru recovery and did well on three. Because of amputation Brownie and I had an additional one year and eight days, which I will always be grateful.

You know your dog better then anyone, so you will make the right decision for Arktik. 

Sending positive thoughts your way.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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1 April 2020 - 7:11 pm
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Hi Jerry and Brownie packs,

Thank you so much to both of you for all the positive thoughts and encouragements. It means so much to me. To be honest, it is true that it helps having access to such a group. I am glad I decided to register.

Thanks Jerry for all the links you posted and I thought the “questions for the oncologist” was a really great idea, I printed it. As you mentioned it is a bit hard right now to think clearly as I am still quite in shock of the news, but I will really try to take a step back and think rationally about this. (This is partly why I wanted to join this group).

As you both went through this, how was the week following the surgery? Was the recovery very difficult (pain, eating, ability to walk around..)? Also, did you do chemo?

I know I will have more information tomorrow after my appointment about what are our actual options. But I thought it was worth seeing what others have experienced. I am not sure how long I have before I can make a decision. 

I will keep you posted about my visit. 

Virginia




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1 April 2020 - 9:45 pm
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I was owned by a Husky once!! Sich a privilege, right?  And, as Jerry said, Huskys are a tough breed and so full of spunk!

It sounds like Arktik is a fit and feisty  Husky  (except for that bum leg) and a good candidate for amputation.  

As hard as this is, you’re doing a good job of processing  everything  and evaluating  why you may need to proceed with amputation.  Glad Jerry gave you some good links to check out.

One of the  motivations leading me towards amputation  for my Happy Hannah was that I would second guess myself if I did not at least try….try to give her a chance at extended  quality  pain frre rime fpr mpre apoiling and loving.  Some dogs get great exten time… some don’t.   I would never know of my Happy Hannah  could beat the odds unless I tried.

I didn’t  find this site until day six after amputation.   My first post was someth loke, “Help!  I fear I’ve  made a horrible decision!”   I had noooo idea what to expect from recovery.  I was exhausted,  I was scared and I was alone!  This great community threw me a lifetime and pulled me to shore!

Had I found them before the surgery, I would have veen better prepared  as far as what to expect  during recovery.  Recovery  is no picnic  for about two weeks.  Sometimes  a little less, sometimes a little more.  Every dog is different,  every recovery is different.  It’s  major surgery, all while a dog is adjusting  to three legs!

pain management   is important and sometimes  needs some tweaking  to fit the needs of each individual  dog.  Most dogs come home with Tramadol, Gabapentin, Rimadyl and an antibiotic. It’s  important  to keep the dogs quiet for the first two weeks.  Just short leashed loth breaks and back in for resr.  No jumping, no stairs, use nonslip scatter rugs for traction if you have  hardwood.

My Happy Hannah was whiny and restless the first several nights.  Could not get comfortable. Again, this was before I found this site and became more educated  on tweaking  rhe pajin med, what was “normal” during recovery,  what wasn’t. 

Many dogs are off food for a few days because  of the meds, some are not.  My Happy Hannah never missed a meal.  Oddly enough,  she didn’t  want to drink water for about a week so I had to entice her.  Peeing is important  but dogs may not poop for several  days because  of the meds

Most dogs spend at least one night st a 24/7 staffed clinic.  Some dogs take a few days to get movbile and get their “sea legs”.  Some dogs hop out of the clinic on their own the day after surgery.  Again, every dog is different. Some need help with a harness or a towel sling.  Some don’t.

My Happy Hannah was 8 1/2 at the time (considered “mature” for a Bull Mastiff) and weighed 125 lbs.  In her case, she adapted  to her new fait almost instantly!  Her surgery recovery and getting the pain meds right for her was rough for about two weeks.  But once her sparkle started coming back it was glorious!!

If Arktrik is limping, he’s in pain, even with pain meds. Dogs are so stoic.  As you already noted, it will get worse.We KNOW what a difficult  decision  this is.  We also know that, once you make the decision to move forward with a plan, you will feel relieved.  You clearly  love Arktrik and will make a decision  out of love…and that is always the right decision ❤

Yes, sometimes during rhe first bit of recovery you will wonder what the heck you did TO your dog.  Once recovery  is done and you see how happy and full of life Arktrik is, you will know you did this FOR your dog!!

No dog has a timeframe  stamped  on their butt and they don’t  care about days on a calendar.   They just live effortlessly from one monent to the next.

Stay in the present and make  every moment the best time ever!!!   That’s  how you beat that piece of crap disease!

And btw, best decision  ever when it came to my Happy Hannah😁

,Keep things chunked down for now, okay?  Focus on getting  all the info about surgery snd recovery.   You will have about two weekish agter amo before the first chemo IF you go that route, so plenty of time to process it.

You are not alone and we are by your side the whole way!!  Stay connected  and update when you can and let us know any questions  you have. 

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!

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2 April 2020 - 5:45 am
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Brownie came home with plenty of pain medication. All dogs are different but Brownie never wined, not one time. His 2nd day home he was getting up on his own. The end of the first week he was using the doggie door which I thought he would never use again. The first two weeks he slept most of the time, and it took him about three week for him to get his personality back.

I do have a regret. Brownie at time of surgery did not have any signs of arthritis,  so joint supplements never entered my mind. About 7 months in he was showing signs of pain due to arthritis and being a tripawd. I would suggest speaking to your vet about starting joint supements now, and looking in to rehab, or doing exercises at home after recovery. 

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

The Rainbow Bridge



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2 April 2020 - 12:02 pm
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As you both went through this, how was the week following the surgery? Was the recovery very difficult (pain, eating, ability to walk around..)? Also, did you do chemo?

Hey how did the visit go?

To answer your question…the week following the surgery was harder for me than for Jerry. He pretty much slept all day and only went outside to potty, for at least a week. I was the over-protective mom constantly worried about him, and he was having none of it. The more freedom I gave Jerry the more I discovered what he was and was not capable of. His stamina was greatly diminished for a couple months, but his spirit was brighter than ever. I was the one who fretted and worried, not him.

He did have a pretty easy recovery and his stitches were out on time, although he did develop a seroma that needed draining in the office. Not all dogs have such an easy time after surgery but the majority do. We were very fortunate, especially because back then, pain management was not all that great. That is one thing you REALLY want to make sure your vet is on top of, because without good pain control, recovery is usually very difficult for both the person and the patient.

As for chemo, we opted out. We lived six hours from the nearest vet clinic we trusted to do it, and we honestly thought Jerry wouldn’t last long enough to enjoy any benefits. Well he fooled us and lived two years! We only chose at-home chemo (metronomics ) once we discovered lung metastasis, 17 months out. Keep in mind that metronomics is not a first-line treatment, it’s more like a last ditch effort to keep cancer in check and many vets aren’t encouraging it now after a study came out that shows it’s not as effective as once believed. So it’s something to discuss with your oncologist.

I hope this helps! 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
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2 April 2020 - 7:47 pm
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Hi

I am happy with our visit, I think it helped me to see things more clearly or at least in a more rational way. First time that I feel I am a little bit less in shock.

The good news is the the chest x-ray showed that his lungs looked good. And the vet thought he look in a good shape if we don’t think about the cancer. So he would be a good candidate for the amputation. We are pretty sure we will go for it. It is just still tough to think about this when I watch him right now as he is still using his leg. But on the other hand, his bone is so damaged that I am worried about a pathological fracture every time he moves a bit more. 

Wow for Jerry 2 years!! That is so great. His stamina got back better after a couple of months? Do most dogs need a couple of months to get back on their ‘feet’ or it really depends?

We are still really debating chemo. The clinic where they do it is about 1.5hr from us, so it is manageable. At this point, I have to say we have to look if we can afford it or not (even if I completely hate to think about this). We have 2 options for the surgery: do it at the reference clinic which would cost 3x the price or at our regular clinic who also have experience with amputation. If we go for our regular clinic, given that we would spend a lot less on the surgery, we could have a budget for chemo. We will reflect on this over the next couple of days. 

Do you dogs have a hard time going up and down the stairs? (for a front leg amputation)

Thanks again for all the support, this group is so amazing.

Virginia




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2 April 2020 - 8:53 pm
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YAY FOR CLEAR LUNGS!!!   YAY FOR BEING IN GOOD SHAPE!!!   Glad you are feeling a little more reassured as you gather information.

Generally front leggers can go up  stairs a little easier than down.  They use their back legs to push off to go up.   Coming down on one front leg is a bit harder for some dogs, but certainly  doable.  Many members harnesses to help dogs up and down as a safety measure. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the stairs have non slip treads of some sort.  

Is your regular Vet staffed at night by any chance?  IF….IF….possible, it’s a good idea to have the amp done at a 24/7 staffed clinic.  Certainly finances play a role in your decision so it may not be an option.  Some aren’t  even able to do the surgery at all due to fiances, so all any of us can do is the best we can with the circumstances  we have.  The reality is that many of us have our decisions  restricted due to finances, so we get it, okay?  It is DOABLE to bring a dog home the same night.  Others here certainly  have done that. Being prepared with good meds and an understanding  of what to expect the first night ss they shake off the anesthesia, a solid contact number for your Vet, etc are helpful ways to feel more supported if you bring him home.

Shhhh….just a personal opinion between the two of us.  If not able to afford the overnight  clinic (and many of us certainly  can relate), I would DEFINITELY bring him home rather than leave him unattended overnight.  And we are all here to help support you and get you over any rough hurdles.  Sometimes  dogs are so doped up they sort of sleep it off.  Sometimes  they are a bit vocal and “seeing things” like pink elephants!😉

Chemo is no guarantee one way or another.  Some dogs do no chemo and, like Jerry and others get extended  quaility  time for a year, or two or three, etc.  Some do no chemo and get far less quality  time.  And the same is true with chemo, some get  more time, some less time.  It really is a crap shoot.

For me, it boiled down to a couple of things.  My Happy Hannah did not mind carrides at all.  She didn’t mind  going to the Vet.  IF she had any side effects, she could stop anytime without any lingering consequences.  Her Onco, as with many, suggested four treatments.  Some Onco go with five, some with six.  Basically  just a personal choice, in my opinion.   At the time, by maxing credit cards, etc, she was a le yo compl four and sailed thru her treatments just fine.  Some dogs get a little nauseous  or a little lethargic, but it’s  only for a few days and Cerenia helps with the nausea.    The other driving force in my decision  was the old second guess routine we all do so well.  Would I second  guess myself if I didn’t  try?  Or would I not look back and know my decision  was the right one regardless? No right or wrong.

Generally it takes approximately two weeks to recover from the surgery itself.  Generally  it takes about thirty days for a dog to adjust to their new gait, adjusting  muscles, etc.

You’re  doing a great job of getting your questions together and getting answers. 😎  Stay connected!

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!

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3 April 2020 - 4:40 am
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Brownie and I did not do chemo. Brownie hated the vet with a passion so I didn’t want to put him thru that. His vet said Brownie has maybe three months without chemo, and maybe 10 months with. So I decided I would make it the best three months of his life, and we went the Hollostic route. Brownie lived a happy one year and eight days.

Years ago I had a shepherd and we did do chemo,  Charlee loved going to the vet. With chemo she also lived one year.

So I believe you just need to do what is best for you and your dog. As Sally says no right or wrong answer. 

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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3 April 2020 - 4:43 am
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By the way, there is a great book named The Dog Cancer Survival Guide . Great recipes and pointers.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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3 April 2020 - 7:48 am
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Thanks a lot for the great advices. Also the story of Happy Hannah, Brownie, Charlee and Jerry are really inspiring. 

Sally, as you mentioned I have been talking with my clinic. My best friend is actually a vet there, she said she would be comfortable letting me return home with him overnight and she would be available anytime throughout the night if I had concerns. So that might be an option for us. And as you mentioned I would definitely prefer monitoring him all night then having him alone unattended at the clinic. 

Arktik might be a bit like Happy Hannah and Charlee, he does not mind car ride at all and doesn’t hate the vet. I guess an option would always be to start chemo and see how it works out for us and go from there. I think if we go that route, we would try for 4 treatments (financially this is really the upper limit of what we are able to do if we do the amputation at our clinic). 

For Brownie, it seems to me that you took the best decision for him and you got an amazing year together, this is amazing. From what I gather with all your stories, every case is so different, I almost wish there would be a straight answer. I guess we can only make our decision on what we think is best for our pups and wish for the best outcome. 

Thanks also for the link I will look into this. 

Patricia & Arktik 🙂 

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3 April 2020 - 8:05 am
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I found out the reason Charlee loved going to chemo was they were giving her massages. That dog would drag me down the hall on three legs to get there!

Brownie was completely different. He had anxiety attacks when he would go to the vet, or if I left him.

You will make the right decision, Just follow your heart and think about Arktik.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

The Rainbow Bridge



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3 April 2020 - 11:44 am
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Hey I’m so glad the visit went well, it sounds like you got your questions answered and now it’s just time to decide. Don’t ever feel badly about considering finances, everyone gets that and really when it comes down to it, if you choose a route that will cause you great financial hardship and stress, that’s not what Arktik wants for you. The best medicine you can give him is a decision that helps you feel confident and as least stressed out as possible.

I think that yes, if your vet friend can help you in case you need it, bringing him home the same day would be a way to give him the chemotherapy you want to do. Before deciding, talk to your friend about the clinic’s capabilities. You really want to know:

  • how many amputations they do in a month (compare that number against the specialty practice)
  • how they handle pre and post-op pain management (review this post)
  • do they work closely with the oncology clinic you are thinking of using?

Every vet learns how to do an amputation in vet school. But like anything, they get better at it with practice. The more they do in a month or a year, the better. Specialty clinics charge more because you’re paying for a level of training that general practitioners don’t receive after vet school. But it’s understandable to consider not going to one when cost is a major consideration that will limit further treatment. It’s such a hard call, I know.

OK as for stairs….front leg Tripawds will have a harder time going down stairs than up. What’s your home situation like? Stairs are generally not a problem if you only have one or two steps inside the home, and they have traction . For anything more, you would want to use a harness like the Ruffwear Webmaster or Flagline. Here’s a post about how Tripawds manage on stairs:

Got Stairs and a Tripawd? You Need Traction!

And a video of us helping Jerry on our stairs:

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

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3 April 2020 - 8:14 pm
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I hope Arktik will be more like Charlee 🙂 In my experience, he is usually pretty good at the vet but we’ll see. First thing is to get through surgery. 

Wow  the video of Jerry in the stairs, I am so impressed! It makes me hopeful that Arktik will do as well. We have a staircase in the house to get to our room. Usually Arktik likes to follow us in the room when we go to bed, he has a bed in that room too but uses our bed when one of us gets up (he takes the spot of whoever left the bed 😉

There is a wall on the side of the stair case so I believe it will help. Thanks for the links, I have been looking at the harness I will get one. 

I will double check the questions you raised about the surgeon and the clinic, I have a good general idea but it is worth knowing where we stand. There is already a good communication between the 2 clinics so on that front I am not worried. 

I have to make a decision in a day or two, this is the stressful part to actually put a date on it. I will keep you posted when I have a date.

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