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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 Great Dane 3 days into recovery - does not want to be moved.
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20 August 2018 - 1:35 am
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My wife’s Great Dane, Johnnie, had his front left arm amputated Thursday. He is already a senior (8 yrs 4 mos), and rather small for his breed (125lbs). Current medication = 100 mcg/hr fentanyl, transdermal, 125mg tramadol 3x/daily, 500mg clamadox 2x daily.

He was already less mobile pre-surgery, due to age and the mass in his arm that prompted amputation. He has only stood under his own power a few times, and after a strenuous morning, with both my wife and I helping him out into the yard, he appears to want to stay put, going so far as to snap at both of us when attempting to lift him onto his feet. I am concerned, as we need to get him into the vet tomorrow in order to remove the fentanyl patch and commence follow ups.

I suspect his reaction is due to pain – the fentanyl has largely worn off at this point, with subsequent increase in intensity of pain. I am leery of a harness at this time, due to his sutures. His incision is massive, describing an inverted T running from his shoulderblade to the joint and laterally from his chest to the first 1/3 of his ribcage (roughly below where the 3rd or 4th intracostal space would be on a human.)

Has anyone else dealt with this reaction in their animal, and how were they able to minimize negative effects to the dog while still effectively moving from A to B? Any help is appreciated.

The Rainbow Bridge



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20 August 2018 - 9:45 am
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Hi Johnnie and family, welcome. We are glad you found us, your future posts won’t need approval.

I hope that by now he is feeling a little better and has moved from his spot. What you are describing could very well be pain, as like you said, the Fentanyl has worn off (typically it’s a 3-day dose), and Tramadol alone probably isn’t cutting it (which is the case for most dogs). Call your vet and let them know what is going on and ask for more pain medication. Amantadine is one that comes to mind, as is Gabapentin. If Johnnie will take treats, anything, hot dog, whatever, you can give him the medication with treats and hopefully get him to start feeling better. 

Meanwhile instead of using a harness you can try the ol’ canvas grocery bag sling trick and see if that works.

Hang in there, things do get better! Let us know how today goes.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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20 August 2018 - 9:49 am
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Even at his age your dog should probably be on an NSAID to help reduce the swelling of the cut muscles and there are many options so ask your vet.  I do agree that gabapentin is another good pain reliever especially for an amputee.

Pam

The Rainbow Bridge



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20 August 2018 - 11:06 am
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Thank you Dr. Pam! Much appreciated.

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20 August 2018 - 4:05 pm
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Hi Johnnie and family 🐾🌸

You’ve got great advice (including our wonderful tripawd’s vet, Dr Pam) so I have nothing to add on the drugs front. 

As for mobility I can share my experience with you.

I am a proud Mom to Angel Eurydice, a massively big Dane who weighed 170lb and measured almost 1m to the base of the neck.

She took quite a long time to learn to be mobile again and at four days after surgery she did not want to be moved around too much either. 

I got her back home 4 days after surgery as I felt due to her size it would be better for her to be looked after by professional staff initially. 

She took at least another week to start initiating going from a to b and, just like Johnnie, a couple of times when I wanted to move her she growled at me (never before and never after has this happened) 

Her incision, like Johnnie’s, was enormous but she wore a tshirt to protect the area and a soft harness over the tshirt, at all times, until stitches were out.

If it wasn’t for the soft harness there is no way I could have helped her stand up and go potty outside. 

She would only get up to go potty and we reduced the steps to a bare minimum.

Graduslly, we started increasing the distance, but only very, very gradually. 

Eurydice was also a front legger and not having a front leg means far more effort to stand up, lie down and hop than if it was a rear leg.

What my baby did during recovery (and when she managed to stand up on her own) was she would stand still for longish periods of time, I eventually realised she was practising her balance. 

Big breeds can take longer to recover and I would be surprised if you’d be able to manage without a harness to help you.

I borrowed mine from the hospital, could you get one too?

After stitches were removed we switched to a Ruffwear harness which was great because it has a handle on top and that allows us to help them navigate very efficiently. 

Please do not feel discouraged, it takes a vast effort for a Great Dane to learn to move around without a front leg but they all get there in the end.

Despite a difficult, slow recovery Eurydice recovered fully and she had an incredibly active life on three, doing everything she did before, except stairs. 

We are all here to help guiding you through Johnnie’s journey so do not hesitate in reaching out to us, anytime.

Hugs and cuddles 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

Virginia




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20 August 2018 - 9:01 pm
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You’ve  gotten such good input and, hopefully,  you feel a lot more reassured  that Johnnie is doing what big dogs do who just had MAJOR surgery.   He’s  taking it real slow. And even though the patch has worn off by now, it can make them quite whacked for a bit.  Dogs do seem to get snappy on it on occasion.   And as suggested,  he is probably  in pain though and needs the combo of Tramadol, Gabapentin  and Rimadyl. Keep them consistent  so he always has his pain managed  as best you can.

Drink and peeing okay?  Don’t  be too worried if Johnnie isn’t  hungry or is slow to poop.  Just give him any yummy food he’ll eat.

Recovery  is no picnic.  This is an exhausting  and stressful time.   It’s  soooo hard to be patient.  Stay connected.   We’ve  all been where you are.  This, we can promise  you, it does get better!!!

Update when uou can.

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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24 August 2018 - 11:36 pm
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Thanks for everyone’s input.

Johnnie is doing well, at 1 week and 1 day post surgery. His surgeon has recommended a reduction in dosage re Tramadol – his taper began yesterday, from 125mg to 100, 3x/day to 2x/day. The medication makes him very sluggish and reluctant to move, but he definitely wants to move.

He has renewed interest in his food, and I am encouraging him to drink more water – his urine is very dark,I suspect due to decreased fluids and the various medications he is on. His harness is on the way, and should help with his confidence – I have noticed that he gets a bit anxious if I am not nearby while he stands to eat/drink. I use a large field towel to support him, easing off and letting him support most of his own weight. He began moving his bowels again, as well. We have also begun laying him on his left side, with plenty of towels and pillows, to prevent any wasting of his right rear leg, which he typically mashes his body onto when he rests , due to the missing  front left leg.

He is still quite vocal when it comes time to shift or lift him, but the reaction is more irritation than pain or panic. We have laminate flooring, which poses an additional challenge, but a runner or area rug on his route to the back door should solve that. He’s much more confident on grass or concrete, where he can leverage his grip more.

I have high hopes for Johnnie, even at his age. He’s my wife’s dog (on paper), but he’s made 3 change of station moves with me, sprawled across the back back bench of my truck, and has been a constant, mellow, occasionally smelly part of my family for over 8 years now. I look forward to him walking his neighborhood again, with a little extra help this time around.

The Rainbow Bridge



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25 August 2018 - 11:56 am
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That is such great news! I’m thrilled that he’s back into a “normal” recovery zone for a larger, mature pup. All of the behaviors/activities you describe are so normal for a giant breed in recovery, and I feel good knowing that we can continue telling new members that this is what recovery can look like for a dog like Johnnie.

It so amazes me that Tramadol can make him dopey and woozy, and it makes our Wyatt Ray and many dogs like him, totally bonkers and wired. Strange how chemistry can differ from dog to dog.

Yes, more traction will definitely help him feel more confident, so you’re on the right track.

If you get a chance, do share some photos, we would love to see him. And here’s a post about adding images to the forums in case you need assistance (you can also PM me as well). 

Hope you are all having a restful and recuperating weekend!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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25 August 2018 - 2:04 pm
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Well, those are very pawsitive news 👏🏽👏🏽

Thrilled to hear little by little your boy is recovering ☺️

As for water intake, I had a large syringe and would insert it (without the needle, of course) at the side of Eurydice’s mouth and squeeze the water in.

But at that point she wasn’t drinking at all, so not the same as Johnnie.

Still, maybe worth a little gentle try if he is not drinking enough ….

There is also the easier solution of adding a bit of chicken broth to make water more appealing to him. 

Or, as Sally did, add a bit of ice cream 🍧

Runners are a crucial part of building his confidence, you can also use yoga mats, they provide great traction

You’ll find everything so much easier when his harness arrives!… 

Hang in there, there’s light at the end of tunnel and it is shining bright !

Hugs and cuddles 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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27 August 2018 - 11:58 pm
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Hello, everyone. Again, thank you for your inputs. 

Bottom line up front – He’s healing, recovering some mobility, but can’t figure out how to get up without major assistance. His motivation seems gone, and he’s just not the mellow, cheery dude I know.

Johnnie is doing fairly well, 1 week and 4 days into recovery – his sutures are scheduled to come out Wednesday morning, and his last dose (25mg) of Tramadol was this evening. I still have some on hand if his surgeon directs it, should the suture removal cause any significant discomfort. Ice packs seem to help his discomfort, too.

Johnnie is still lacking confidence on his feet – standing, eating, and drinking are no problem, and he can manage to urinate/defecate without support, but even with his harness, he is still uneasy about moving around, especially in the house. He’s much more confident in the yard, and we made it down to the sidewalk and back this evening, so he could get some sun and see something different.

He’s very sluggish and cranky, and I suspect the whole situation has him bewildered and feeling down. He was combative with my wife today when she tried to get him up, and I sometimes have to muzzle him. I’m hoping this will resolve in time, as his pain and fatigue decrease and the drugs clear his system, but it does concern me. He still hasn’t figured out how to stand on his own, which is the biggest obstacle for us, even as he learns to widen his base in order to support his weight while upright. I know timelines vary, and Inhave to remind myself that Johnnie is a senior dog who just lost a wheel, but again, I am concerned.

Any input is appreciated. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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28 August 2018 - 3:40 pm
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Of course you are concerned! I would be a mess myself, it’s difficult to see our strong doggies struggling in this way. But I can tell you that we’ve been doing this a long time now, and what you are describing is not at all uncommon for larger dogs. You will all get through this and be closer than ever because of it. For now though…

One week and four days is not a long time. If he were a human, that person would likely be in worse shape. There are good things you are describing, like that he does better outside. That makes me wonder, what are the surfaces inside your home like? Do you have good traction ? How do your indoor surfaces compare with the terrain outside? What is it about the ground outside that’s maybe giving him more confidence? I’m not suggesting you throw dirt on the floor in your living room 😉 but maybe more traction is the answer.

When he tries to stand up, what kind of surface is he doing it on?

Also, the irritability is a sign to me that he needs better pain management . I would not be so quick to get rid of the pain medication until you have him evaluated by a canine rehab therapist. Remind me, I’m sure I”ve asked, but have you set up an appointment for one yet? He can really benefit from a visit it sounds like.

This is all just guessing, but I’m hoping that we can all help you feel better and less worried. There are definitely ways that he can overcome his challenges, just try to be patient and get him into the rehab clinic if at all possible, I guarantee it will be the best thing you can do for him and your sanity right now.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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28 August 2018 - 3:56 pm
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Hi Jonnie and Dad 🌼🐾

1 week and 4 days is still very early days in a senior giant breed dude’s recovery.

Generally our dogs get much better mobility after stitches come out but let’s not forget Johnnie’s age.

Learning to negotiate three legs is not easy for big dogs and we must allow them to progress at their own pace.

It is important to follow their lead and not push it, if they are recovering in all other regards (eating, peeing and pooping, etc) then we must give them time to adapt to their new normal. 

Getting up is always the most difficult part of being a giant breed Tripawd, I find. 

It certainly was the trickiest bit for my Eurydice to master. 

If you are asking more than he can handle right now, that could explain his grumpiness … please do not take this personally, I know you and your wife mean well and want the best for Johnnie and I don’t mean to criticise.

Just arm yourselves with patience and persevere gently.

I am sure this will all be behind you in a not too distante future.

Hugs and cuddles 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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