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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HI everyone. I’ve already spent hours reading all your helpful, compassionate posts so thought it only fair I share our story. Our 5 yr. old mastiff, Atlas, has been diagnosed with cancer in his left front leg bone. It unfortunately has already fractured so he’s been in a cast for 6 weeks now while we try to figure out where to go from here. I feel that amputation is his best bet, since like I said…fractured and not going to heal. But, although our vet will support our decision, she’s not in agreement. She thinks he’s too lanky to adjust to three legs. She did go with my husband to the oncologist (so grateful for that help, as I’m currently in a wheelchair so couldn’t go.) They scanned his lungs, which were clear. But again, the oncologist said she wouldn’t amputate if it was her dog. She’d just do pain management until we have to let him go. I’m so confused because she even admitted amputation could give us a year+ with him and take away the pain. So, now we have a consultation set up with the surgeon to talk about amputation, but again… his assistant said over the phone that he does not recommend amputation for such big dogs. (This is the only surgeon we could get into without a month-long wait, but our vet does know him personally and recommend him.)
I’ve pretty much made up my mind that we will amputate… seems like a no-brainer to me. But we’ll be going against all three vet’s advice, which makes me nervous. What if they’re right and he won’t be able to walk on 3 legs? Are there cases where the dog just won’t get up? I have seen the great dane posts, which give me hope but the “professionals” are making me doubt our decision.
Will add a pic of his lankiness when I figure out how.
Hi Atlas and family, welcome. We are glad you registered so your future posts won’t need approval. Post away! Here’s a post that talks about adding images to the forums, we would love to see your handsome pup!
First off, not being a vet or even knowing Atlas or his health history, take this for what it’s worth. We have seen many people who trusted their gut instinct about their giant breed dog at Atlas’ size and went with amputation. The dog did fine. Giant dogs like Atlas the first, who had Wobblers Disease on top of cancer, and went on to live two amazing years on three legs! Or Cemil, the giant Anatolian Mastiff who went on for nine more years after losing a leg! Sadly, we have seen a small number of giant breed dogs who did not do as well as anyone had hoped, and did not make it past recovery or thrive much afterward. Again, that number is very small. So yes, it’s a crapshoot.
Other than his size, why did they say he wasn’t a candidate? Some of the very best veterinary surgeons in the states, like Dr. Sarah Boston, Dr. Dennis Marcelin-Little and Dr. Brian Beale, have told us that size should not be the deal-breaker when it comes to amputation surgery.
Where exactly are you located? Just curious because oftentimes a veterinary teaching hospital’s expertise is exactly what’s needed to evaluate a dog as a candidate for amputation. I realize your vet knows Atlas enough to reach some kind of opinion about his candidacy, but the oncologist? To instantly dismiss him without even meeting him or reviewing his file is completely unfair in my opinion. Meet with them of course, to get information you need to make the decision you will feel more comfortable making. Only you know Atlas better than anyone else.
I’m also surprised that nobody has even mentioned stereotactic radiation surgery for palliative care, or perhaps even a limb sparing surgery. Have they? If not, then I would absolutely recommend a veterinary teaching hospital who can give you their take on whether or not that is a good idea for him. Atlas may even be a candidate for this new kind of limb sparing surgery for dogs.
I hope this helps. Please do stay in touch and let us know how we can help you through this ruff time. We are here for you and your big handsome pup!
1 October 2017
Just saying hi, and hoping you find some good resolution. My girl Fallon is less than half Atlas’ weight, she is a greyhound. Our primary vet was initially opposed to amputation, as it was a front leg, her size and height, she can be a difficult patient, etc…but it just didn’t feel right. It was our surgeon who said there were no wrong answers, but amputation WAS an option. We hadn’t met our oncologist yet, but she is also an advocate of amputation, if only to get rid of the horrible pain
We’d definitely do it all over, just to give her a pain free chance. Our vet was wrong.
Fallon 8/28/06--9/6/18. My Heart.
Fallon's left front leg was amputated due to osteosarcoma on 10/11/17.
Nothing But Love in Her Heart - dawn3g.tripawds.com
Where do you live? All of the specialists here near Seattle including the surgeons and oncologists recommended amputation for my Mastiff Tazzie. She was 6 yrs at the time and was also tall and lanky and weighed about 190 pounds prior to amputation. She also had ACL surgery in the past on both her hind legs and she needed her RF amputated so I was hesitant. She did really well! I did do chemo and some holistic stuff afterwards and she lived about 1 1/2 years longer.
I am also a vet and have taken legs off of other large Mastiffs and a Saint Bernard as well as many 100 pound Rotties, etc and I have never had anyone regret their decision. Just because your dog is giant is not a reason to forego surgery and he is young so most likely does not have other health issues. Maybe they feel that since you are in a wheelchair you could not handle it but it sounds like you have other people to help you. I kept Tazzie a few nights in the hospital until she was on her feet.
Thank you for the welcome, everyone. (And Jerry thanks for the links to Atlas & Cemil) To answer your question, yes… the only reason they are not recommending it is because of his size. Otherwise, he’s extremely healthy and happy. He’s had no issues with either back leg. I don’t think their consideration is me in a wheelchair , either, because my husband is a big guy and obviously can handle him. We live near Sarasota, Florida.
I’m not sure if we have a vet teaching hospital around here or if that new limb sparing surgery would be an option for us. I guess those are questions for the surgeon on Friday. Though, I feel like we’re running out of time since his leg is already fractured (and being in a cast for over 6 weeks is causing sores on his skin) plus it takes forever to get in for consultations around here.
Pam, I did read Tazzie’s story and watched her videos. What a beautiful girl she was (is…I don’t feel like they ever leave really leave us) and so inspiring. I wrote down all the pre-op and post-op medications you recommended so I can request them.
My vet did mention maybe we could get him a prosthetic (one that uses a harness). Has anyone tried that? My thought is they all seem to be doing fine on 3 legs but I guess it’s good to have the option if he doesn’t do as well as we’re hoping.
I just feel really nauseous at this point and it’s still such a shock we’re even making this decision…which I know from your shared stories is normal so thank you all for sharing.
22 February 2013
I AM SOOOOOO IN LOVE!!! OMD!!!! HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE. SMOOCHING THE SCREEN RIGHT NOW!!!!❤
My Happy Hannah was a “fluffy” 125 lb Bull Mastiff and, certainly not as large as handsome Atlas, still good size. She was considered somewhat of a senior at 8 1/2 for her breed.
I agaonized, truly agonized, over the decision. Hysterical for weeks. Even CANCELLED the first scheduled surgery appointment!!
Recovery was awful! I did not find this site until six days after amputation. My first post was along the lines of “Help! I’ve made a horrible decision!” This great community threw me a lifeline of support and information and pulled me back from the edge.
HAD I FOUND THIS COMMUNITY FIRST, I WOULD HAVE BEEN SO BETTER PREPARED! I would have been armed with knowledge and support instead of fear, panic, and uncertainty! I WAS NOT ALONE!
BEST DECISION EVER!!! After about three weeks my Happy Hannah got her sparkle back enjoyed all her regular routines pain free!!! We had a glorious extended bonus time of over one year and two months!
I learned very quickly to master livi g in the NOW, in the present and just flow from one moment to the next, just like my Hapoy Hannah! She never counted days on a calendar and she certainly did not have a timeframr stamped anywhere on her chunky Bull Mastiff butt!
Be More Dog …..BE MORE ATLAS….no worries, just make every moment count. 😎
Yes, you are in a “forced choice situation.” To do nothing will most likely mean letting Atlas go in a matter of weeks. I’m sure there are exceptions and more time may happen in some cases. Atlas’s leg has already fractured and he has to hurt from that, as well as the osteo
Again, I agonized for weeks. Had I had my tripawd family by my side sooner, I know I would have made the decision far more quickly.
I knew my regrets would be far worse of I never tried, even if it wasn’t a good outcome, I knew I had to try. I had to give her a chance! I would have second guessed myself forever if I didn’t.
It is major surgery and, like ANY surgery, it has risk. In anything in life, there is the unforeseen. As Jerry mentioned, sometimes something “happens ” and a dog passes in surgery, or shortly thereafter. Here’s the thing though, obviously everyone here took that risk because we had ro give our dogs and cats a chance. Had to hope for the best. For those where things did not turn out well, I think almost all say they are glad they tried. And without trying, pretty much one thing is gua…there will be no chance at extended quality time for loving and spoiling and tummy rubs and naps wih his boys. And that’s all Atlas cares about, being with his hoomans ❤
Atlas is probably already adjusting more than you know to three legs. I giess he uses it now, basically because it’s still there. But I would think it hurts everytime he does. I’m sure he’s on pain meds now, and he will be for about three weeks after surgery, maybe a bit longer, but it will continue to reduce.
Don’t mean ro be writing a novel, vut one more thing. Yes, you want to get thos done sooner than later. But many dogs who just limped as the first sign (as opposed to fracture), were treated off and on for a sprain, or arthritis for several months before proper diagnosis. Although the scenario is different six weeks is not a long time in the scheme of things.
Amputation is ONE surgery, one relatively short recovery and done!!! 😁
STAY CONNECTED! WE ARE HERE WITH YOU, OKAY? And extra applause to the boys for being such good caregivers. Those pictures melted my heart😊
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!
WOW what an amazing dog! He is sooo handsome!
I’m thrilled Dr. Pam chimed in. Her Tazzie was a real eye-opener for us, we never even knew giant breed dogs could be happy until we had the honor of meeting them both.
You are about three hours from the University of Florida at Gainesville. Their vet hospital is one of the most outstanding in the country if not the world. The oncology surgeon who performed the new limb spare procedure, Dr. Boston, did it there at the hospital. I urge you to contact them:
Dr. Boston is no longer at UF but her colleagues will all be familiar with her work and no doubt fall in love with Atlas and want to help. I’m so surprised that the vets you’ve talked to have been so doubtful, you’re not exactly in a backwoods kind of place. So don’t give up. If your gut is telling you he can do this, hurry and get to UF if you can. Let them know your situation about Atlas’ cast, so they can bump you up on the list.
Virginia, thank you for sharing how agonizing your decision for Hannah was & the fact that you didn’t regret it in the end. That really helps feel like we are making the right choice. I know we wish they would just live forever, but if we could also get another 14 months with Atlas to spoil and love him, it would feel like a bonus at this point.
Jerry, unfortunately I researched Dr. Boston’s limb-shortening technique and Altas isn’t a candidate because he already has a pathological fracture. (He wouldn’t be a candidate for any kind of limb-sparing procedure) I will still bring it up to the surgeon tomorrow just to confirm but I’m pretty sure our only option is amputation.
8 July 2018
Our golden retriever Finley was 80lb when he had his front leg amputated due to a dog attack, and he hopped up right after surgery like it was no big deal. He had the surgery when he was 6 years old and he just celebrated his 12th birthday! He’s not nearly as big as your baby, but he also didn’t have the benefit of getting used to 3 legs. I would definitely trust your gut.
Thanks for sharing Finley’s story! So glad to hear he is doing well, what a great story.
If you’d like to send it in for Tripawd Tuesday, please PM me for details.
Aw, So glad your Finley is still with you. We had our Golden for 15 years, they are great dogs. Thanks for sharing & happy belated b-day Finley.
I’m such a mess right now. My husband just took Atlas to drop him off for his biopsy aspiration and I just broke down. I mean, it’s one thing to know intellectually that this is the right thing to do, but another thing all together to live through it. He’s never been away from us or in a cage and is afraid of men, which the surgeon is male and when Atlas met him on Friday, he barked at him the whole time and wouldn’t go near him. They are squeezing him into their schedule today for the biopsy so who knows how long he’ll be waiting in a cage. If they can even get him in a cage???? Can’t imagine how that’s going to happen. He’s such a good dog and such a big baby and doesn’t deserve any of this and I’m a freaked out, sad, angry-at-the-universe dog mom right now.
The surgeon was trying to talk us into radiation, he doesn’t think big dogs do well. I wanted to show him all your beautiful big tripawds but I just respectfully disagreed. At least he agreed to do the amputation if it is osteosarcoma and not the other kind of cancer (which I forget) because he said radiation works better on that type. But there’s only like a 10% chance it’s the other kind anyway.
Ok. Deep breath. Sorry, I just needed to vent to someone who understands. Going to go have a good cry now.
Is he having the amputation surgery today? There is really not much point to a biopsy if the dog already has a fractured leg and osteo is suspected. The leg needs to come off no matter what and then you send in the biopsy after surgery to confirm the type of cancer in case you are doing chemo.