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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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Member Since:
30 October 2020
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30 October 2020 - 7:37 pm
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My beloved 13 year old Pomeranian was recently diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma on his right front paw. The lump is pretty large and is just under his wrist joint. I have taken him to several vets to gather as much information and opinions as possible, including, my primary vet, a cancer specialist, and a surgeon. Each one has given me three options, debulking the tumor followed up with radiation, complete limb amputation, or montronomic chemo over a prolonged period of time to slow the growth. 
My dog does have some other health issues including luxating patellas in black legs and arthritis, a slight heart murmur, and slight narrowing of trachea. Surgery is a risk because of his trachea so radiation is not an option because of needing to be put under each time.  

I am currently scheduled for him to have a complete leg amputation, but I’m not sure if this is the right choice. I was told this would essentially cure him. I am so worried about the surgery, his recovery and quality of life. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. 

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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30 October 2020 - 8:57 pm
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Hi Twinkle and family, welcome. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

I'm sorry you're facing this decision. It's not easy for any pet parent but it's especially tough when the animals is a senior. It sounds like Twinkle is otherwise healthy though, and a good candidate for surgery according to the vets, right? If so, that's great! There's no reason why he couldn't do well as a Tripawd. His small size is a huge advantage too. Smaller dogs do great on three legs!

If none of the vets mentioned electro chemotherapy, I'd like to throw that idea out there. It's a limb salvage technique that's not commonly practiced here because there's not enough studies for U.S. vets to be comfortable with, but in other countries, it's routine in both vet and human medicine. It's something to consider. Lots of people experience great success with it, typically as a palliative measure to shrink and stop the tumor from getting worse.  Here are two articles we wrote about it:


Another option may be intralesional chemotherapy

Finally, if stereotactic radiation therapy is available near you, it can often get the job done in a fraction of the number of sessions as traditional radiation therapy. 

And if none of these are an option for you, that's OK too. Amputation is scary for us, but not so much for the animals. They handle it so much better than we ever think they will. My guess is that Twinkle will surprise you with his resiliency!

Have you seen Jerry's Required Reading List yet? Or the Tripawds e-books ? They're good places to start to get your head wrapped around the idea of amputation and recovery. 

Hope this helps. Stay tuned for feedback from others!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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31 October 2020 - 11:43 am
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Thank you so much for the response. I have not heard of electro chemotherapy and intralesional chemotherapy , but am very interested to learn more. I see that there is a vet in NC who does this treatment, but are you aware of any other vets around the NY/NJ area who do this type of treatment?

Since he is older and has some symptoms of a narrowing trachea (coughing) I was told that multiple surgeries would not be a good idea for him. I think that is why I am struggling with this so much. Do I pick the amputation or do I go more conservative and just debulk and treat with chemo for my one surgery. Which one will help him more and give him the best quality of life going forward? He is just so happy right now and I am nervous that will change. Also, thankfully he has never had any other health issues that have required a surgery or an overnight hospital stay. I am so worried about him especially since there are so many restrictions due to COVID. I was told that I would not be able to visit him while in the hospital. 

On The Road

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31 October 2020 - 1:28 pm
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You are so welcome. Unfortunately I'm not aware of anyone else who offers those treatments, but if you call that vet, odds are that if there is someone in NY/NJ, they will know that vet.

Regarding the debulking...we often see many people have to resort to amputation anyways, because the tumor returned. So if you want to decrease the risk of having more surgeries, then amputation is a one and done. Of course we see it as a drastic option, and understandably so, which makes it a tough decision. But overall, amputation gives most dogs and cats a great quality of life afterwards. See our Tripawds Quality of Life survey:


And yes, most vet clinics still aren't allowing clients inside of the clinic. It's not that unusual anyways though, since most vets don't allow visits even without the pandemic happening (doing so tends to stress out the animal, and is really only beneficial to the human, so vets really discourage visits until discharge day).

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


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31 October 2020 - 9:30 pm
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Twinkie clearly is a well loved, well cared for pup!❤   Can't  wait to see pictures!  Poms are so adorable!  Here's a link for adding  images.

You are doing an excellent  job of gathering information and speaking  with different Vets

Generally we say age is just a number around here, while also taking into consideration the "natural lofespan" of particular breeds mutts, etc.  It sounds like Twinkie is still quite spunky!

Generally if arthritis is not too horribly severe, dogs do well on three legs.

As far as the luxating patellas, what does the Orthopedic  Surge say as far as whether Twinkie would have any mobility issues on three?  Additionally,  does the Ortho feel arthritis could be managed  and. not interfere  with recovery?

And then there's the trachea issues.  What EXTRA  precautions will the Surgeon take to  ensure there are no issues?  Are you having to do anything special mow day in and day out to deal with it?

You have a lot to consider  and I wish you didn't  have to deal with all the uncertainties.  This just sucks!

As Jerry said, amputation is one surgery, one recovery that's no picnic for about two weeks, but management  of pain helps during that time. 

As far as Twinkle  never spending  the night at a Vet, if you go with amputation he would be well drugged overnight and seeing pink elephants. So no worries on that end.

Don't  know if this is even possible,  but does the Onco offer any "probabilities"  as to if the tumor would come back and in what time frame if it would??   What would the chemo entail as far as Vet visit, etc.

Soooo maybe if you could get better reassurances as far as the trachea and the locating patella issues you would feel more comfortable pursuing  the amputation.

One thing you must know with absolute  certainty,  you are trying to do what is best for Twinkle and that is crystal clear to us.  Whatever  decision you make, you are making  out of love and that is always  the right decision!❤

We are here for you and support you as uou navigate to get the  best path forward for your Twinkle.💖 


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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1 November 2020 - 9:48 pm
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Thank you for the kind words. They are much appreciated!!
This is such a hard decision. I am thinking about everything, but I keep coming back to his age. Can I really take his leg from him now? Maybe debulking and cyberknife radiation would be better. I have been so caught up in thinking that he could only handle one surgery that radiation was off the table immediately. Now, I’m not so sure.

Has anyone had experience good or bad with this option? 

All the vets noted his other legs, but believed they would not be an issue. They said they watched him walk and did not notice any limping etc.

My primary vet diagnosed the narrowing of the trachea based on symptoms ( coughing) and chest x-ray. All the the other vets looked at the X-rays and did not see an issue with the trachea. I really like your suggestion though of asking the surgeon what precautions they are going to take to prevent any issues/problems  to the trachea from the breathing tube.  

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