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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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Reasons NOT to amputate?
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Member Since:
9 January 2022
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9 January 2022 - 12:01 pm
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My 6 yr old Grand Pyrenees, Niko, was just diagnosed with bone cancer and like most of you who have walked this path, I’m struggling with the amputation decision (front leg).

If it was any of my other dogs, I wouldn’t hesitate. But Niko, though very lean for his size, is extremely lanky and long-legged and has hip dysplasia in both rear legs. 

I see so many posts about big dogs with a strong will to live succeeding, but Niko honestly isn’t very strong physically or mentally. He’s a sweetheart, but also a sensitive soul who responds poorly to anaesthesia, has a sensitive stomach, strong reactions to medications, and anxiously overreacts to any change in his routine. 

He’s in a lot of pain and I want to make the right decision for him, but I don’t know what that is. Is there anyone else who made the decision NOT to amputate? Or who did and regretted it? 

This is so, so hard. And there is so little time to process before big decisions need to be made. I feel like the next couple of months are going to be hell either way and I have to choose which kind of hell to put him through. Appreciate any thoughts you can share! Thank you!

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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9 January 2022 - 1:12 pm
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Hi Jean and Niko, welcome. I’m sorry you are facing this decision, and glad you found us. 

I guess my first question is, what does your vet say about Niko being a good candidate for amputation (or not)? And have you received an opinion from an orthopedic surgeon? Many dogs with orthopedic issues have gone on to be happy and well on three, but that’s not a given obviously. Also, have you consulted with an oncologist to find out what your alternatives are to amputation? It helps to get multiple opinions to see where he stands in that department.

As far as your gut feeling about whether or not he can handle being a Tripawd. What you are describing (“responds poorly to anaesthesia, has a sensitive stomach, strong reactions to medications, and anxiously overreacts to any change in his routine”), are things you and he would encounter during recovery, and they are very temporary. Recovery is short usually, say 2-3 weeks (bigger dogs need more time). They are temporary hurdles and once they’re behind you, he can go on to enjoy his days being pain free. Recovery isn’t always easy, especially for bigger dogs, and especially if you are on your own at home, but it’s not impossible and people do it, even with dogs weight as much as 175 pounds.

Is there anyone else who made the decision NOT to amputate? Or who did and regretted it? 

Of course, many people opt out of amputation and choose palliative care.  It’s not always the answer for every dog and that’s OK. If you decide not to amputate, we will still support you in your journey. 

Almost every Tripawd parent surveyed here says they don’t regret the decision. Other veterinary studies exist and they reflect our findings. 

As you suspected, making a decision quickly is super important. Whatever you decide doesn’t have to be a hellish situation. Rarely are things in recovery and cancer therapy as bad as we envision them to be. We can choose how to respond to the situation, and our pets are the best teachers to learn how to respond with pawsitivity, hope, and courage. 

Stay tuned for feedback from others.

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

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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9 January 2022 - 1:21 pm
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We all understand  the emotions involved, the fear, the uncertainty,  the shock….it’s all very exhausting  mentally and physically. 

Glad you found us though.  We are here to support you on any path you take.  You clearly love your Niko♥️

While not answering  your specific questions from personal knowledge, I can say that the Tripawds site has done several surveys  regarding any “regret” for amputation.   It’s a very small percentage  that have had a regret.  One of our “search techies” can pull up that survey for you. 

How many opinions have you gotten so far to determine  of Niki is a good candidate  for amputation?  In my opinion ou would want two or three?) consults with a Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and maybe even a Rehabilitation  Specialist  too

Certainly  we have had large dogs with hip issues, arthritis. etc adapt very well to life on three.  Is her hip dysplasia  causing  noticeable  issues in her gait at this point?  On any meds, a inflammatory,  etc,

Is he on any pain med now for the bones pain like Gabapentin??

Regarding her sensitivity  to anesthesia, generally Saurgeons are very well prepared to handle that.. 

As far as sensitive tummy, lightweight when it comes to meds and not a big Fan of change…..these “issues” can also be managed by working closely with the Surgeon.  Not liking change usually shows up in the form of just taking a bit longer to recover, master the tripawd gait, etc,   So just sort of makes the recovery  dragmout a little longer.

 Sorry, didn’t  offer much of an answer to uour main questions. 

Do speak with the Surgeon and Onco about biophosphate (?) or any other options that don’t  involve amputation.   That has proven to be a good solution  for some sogs when amputation  is off the table.

Stay tuned….

(((((((((((((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!

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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9 January 2022 - 1:23 pm
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Hahahs…..while I’m spending g time typoing my reply, I see our Jerry has already covered  everything!  quickly, concisely and thoroughly 😎

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!

Member Since:
9 January 2022
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9 January 2022 - 4:22 pm
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Wow, this has been super helpful! Thank you all so much for the quick and kind responses. ❤ 

Niko’s appt. with the surgeon is tomorrow morning and I will definitely rely heavily on his opinion. With things moving so fast, if we decide to amputate, we want to do so asap (before the cancer spreads to his lungs), so I just wanted to be prepared to make decisions quickly. I hate feeling so rushed, but my vet keeps stressing speed for the best outcome. 

Shortly after my initial response, Niko began hopping on three legs to avoid the pain of putting the other down for the first time. He’s been reluctant to move at all prior to this, so that’s encouraging and shows that he CAN do it. 

So maybe I’ve underestimated him. 🙂 

Thank all again for the help! 

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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19 January 2022 - 11:13 am
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Heya! Just checking back to hear now the vet visit went and how Niko is doing. Drop us a line when you are able!

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

Member Since:
10 October 2021
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24 January 2022 - 8:55 pm
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Hi Jean and Niko,

Your post reminded me so much of the agonizing my husband and I did before we chose to amputate our cat’s front leg due to fibrosarcoma. It was the only way to save his life and like you we had to make the decision quickly before it spread and it was an incredibly hard thing to do. Also like you, our cats had some issues that may not have made him the ideal candidate. Still, we went ahead with amputation and have been amazed by our cat’s perseverance and ability to figure things out and return to his usual activities pain-free. We don’t regret the decision. Whatever you decide this community will support you. Deciding to remove a beloved pet’s limb is incredibly hard and we all have to make the decision we think is best. Honestly, even up to the morning of his surgery, I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. I am glad I did though. Our cat is happy and healthy and enjoying life. You know your dog best. Whatever you decide will be the right decision, but I want to say that our pets can surprise us. Take good care and know this community is here for you whether you choose amputation or palliative care.

Take care,

Michelle and Castiel

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