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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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Senior dog amputation due to soft tissue sarcoma
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Member Since:
7 September 2021
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7 September 2021 - 1:00 pm
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Hi, very new here and glad I found this site. My Boston Terrier mix, 40ish pounds, Lucy will be celebrating her 13th birthday in October and is facing front leg amputation tomorrow! I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician and have worked in a shelter for 15+ years. I have seen multiple dogs go through and recover from amputations but the decision is weighing very hard on myself and my husband. Lucy was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma on her left shoulder in November 2020 and it was removed with clean margins. Then in March 2021, another mass popped up on her right elbow. This second mass was removed without clear margins (placement of the mass made it nearly impossible), and also came back as spindle cell sarcoma. Within 5 months the mass has grown quickly to larger than it was the first time it was removed. This is where we arrived at our decision to amputate her right front leg. I am not concerned with the surgery itself as I have no doubt she will be in the best of care, and I am confident in my own abilities to help her recover, but I guess I'm just looking for a sounding board of sorts, to assure me I made the best decision for her and our family. I have read through the other discussions about senior pet amputations which give me hope, but I have not come across any having to amputate due to soft tissue sarcoma. Lucy gets around just fine right now and her mass does not seem to bother her in the least. I feel this is part of the reason my husband and myself are having such a difficult time with the decision. We know amputation will eliminate the cancer on that limb, but we're so afraid it will pop up again somewhere else. Any and all advice/info is appreciated and much needed today! 🙏 

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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7 September 2021 - 4:50 pm
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Hi and welcome to you and Lucy! Your future posts won't need approval so post away.

We are so glad you found us and decided to share her story. As a LVT we especially value your perspective and experience, so thank you for becoming part of this community (but sorry you had to of course!).

As these "soft tissue sarcoma" search results show many dogs and cats lose legs for the same reason, that I can't even begin to count. As you probably know, once the leg is removed the tumor can be sent to pathology and graded to find out the odds for recurrence, if any (hopefully this will be curative!). 

Although the mass doesn't seem to bother her right now, just try to imagine how you would feel if you had one in your limb. It would probably hurt. Dogs are just so good at hiding their pain, they'll do anything to hide it. So as much as it sucks that amputation is the next step, once that bum leg is off you'll probably see a positive change in her personality. I know that when we amputated our dog Jerry's leg because of osteosarcoma, we had completely forgotten how happy he really looked before the tumor set in. He was a new dog!

Amputation recovery may not be easy as you know, but it's not an impossible recovery. With your skills and team, Lucy has everything on her side for an uneventful recuperation.

And yep, in our experience, vets and vet tech tend to take this situation VERY hard when it comes to their own pets! You aren't alone there.

We are here to help however we can. Be sure to check out Jerry's Required Reading List and the Tripawds e-books library, as well as our What to Expect articles , for some info you may have missed. And ask any questions you'd like, we are here for you and Lucy!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Livermore, CA

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18 October 2009
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7 September 2021 - 7:07 pm
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Hello and welcome.

My Pug Maggie lost a rear leg to mast cell cancer.  The tumor was in her knee so there was no way to remove it with any kind of margins.  Maggie was quite a drama queen- she always let me know when something bothered her.  She panicked once when a leaf got stuck in her toes!  She had a tumor removed from her side about 6 months before her amp.  That tumor didn't cause her any pain but she was quite uncomfortable with the resulting sutures. 

Anyway- all that to say that I get your hesitancy because Lucy isn't showing any significant pain.  I couldn't believe that the best solution to a bump on Mag's knee was amputating the entire leg!  But the tumor would have eventually grown to inhibit her knee movement and would have ulcerated causing a wound that would probably never heal.  And worst of all, the longer the tumor remained the higher chance of metastasis.

Although I thought the amp would be curative by the time we did the amp her cancer had spread.  I was devastated all over again- I though I shouldn't have done the amp, she was given 6 to 9 months WITH chemo.  In hindsight I realized that by doing the amp I gave her a chance. Mag crushed her prognosis living almost 4 more years and she did not pass from mast cell cancer. 

Good luck with the surgery tomorrow, keep us posted.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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21 November 2021
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21 November 2021 - 1:53 pm
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Hi - I'm new to this group and so relieved to have found you. My 14-year-old black lab mix, Angel, had her right front leg amputated 5 days ago due to a soft tissue sarcoma on her right elbow. There was just no way to get any kind of clean margins. She never had any pain or mobility limitations, but it was growing and - right before our consult for surgery - actually began to break open. Thankfully they could get her in for surgery the next day.

I'm feeling like I was underprepared for this, and I'm realizing as I write that I have some guilt about that. I'm adjusting and figuring things out, and I'm very glad to be connected to this group. I was surprised and grateful to find a thread specific to an older dog with a similar cancer.

She hasn't wanted to move much since we got home, and I'm worrying about it. She's also yelped out a few times in a way that's breaking my heart. I was reassured when I read here that this is not uncommon. I'm not sure if or how much to move her when it seems like the pain is still so acute.

On the positive side, she is eating and giving the occasional tail wag. It feels like she's still in there. Right now I'm aiming for patience since it's still early, but man this is hard.

I am aware how much she feels my energy, so I'm doing all I know to stay peaceful, or to settle down when I start to lose it. But also I'm really struggling. I welcome any guidance or insights. Thank you for being here. 

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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21 November 2021 - 8:41 pm
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sarahjmcc said
Hi - I'm new to this group and so relieved to have found you. My 14-year-old black lab mix, Angel, had her right front leg amputated 5 days ago due to a soft tissue sarcoma on her right elbow.

Hi Sarah, we are glad you found us too. I wanted to make sure you saw my response so I left it here as part of the older topic. But would you mind starting a new topic so we can help you and Angel better? Just go back to the root of this Size and Age Matters forum and choose "Add Topic" on the right of your Forum box.

All of your feelings are totally normal. Five days is not a long time, especially for an older dog. They do tend to take a little longer than younger ones to recover, so don't compare her recovery with others, and keep your patience and spirits high. You have a really great attitude, and things do get better. You already see little parts of her sparkle coming back, that's awesome.

OK so please start a new topic and let us know more details like:

  • what pain management is she on (meds, dosage & frequency)
  • when she gives out pain signals (which sound like phantom leg pain ), when does that happen and what do you do to help her get through it?
  • and do you have any special people or doggie friends you can invite over, not to really play a whole lot, but to perk her spirits up and get her motivated to move around.

Alright I'll look for your new topic. Your future posts won't need approval so post away!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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