Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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25 April 2007
What can you do when you Tripawd has cancer in another leg? It's a tough situation that some members of the Tripawds community encounter. Let's talk about it today, to give hope and information to anyone currently dealing with cancer in a dog or cat's remaining leg or elsewhere on the body.
We hope this information helps start a cancer treatment conversation with your vet. Don't panic if your dog or cat is otherwise healthy. This situation isn't common.
Stay Pawsitive After a Pet's Leg Amputation
Leg cancer tumors in dogs and cats hurt — a lot! Dogs and cats with a leg cancer tumor don't appear to be in pain. They hide pain well. Good thing that once the bad leg is gone their pain goes away too. Amputation can get rid of the pain, the primary tumor, and sometimes even cure the cancer. But in many cancers like osteosarcoma, leg amputation doesn't cure it. But, the surgery can help your pet enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible, once recovery is over.
Lots of long term Tripawd cancer survivors go on to outlive the worst case prognosis, like:
He's celebrating nearly five years of living beyond his osteosarcoma diagnosis! That's a big feat, for a really big dog!
And all these amazing Tripawd dogs who beat histiocytic sarcoma (a poor prognosis)!
A leg cancer tumor in a Tripawd's remaining leg isn't as common as say, osteosarcoma lung metastasis. Again, don't focus on this worst case scenario if your Tripawd is healthy right now. Make the most of every day and Be More Dog (or cat!) instead. Your Tripawd hero might just beat the cancer odds too!
My Tripawd Has Cancer in Another Leg (or somewhere else)
A secondary cancer in a Tripawd is a remote possibility. But cancer sometimes starts or metastasizes (spreads) to a Tripawd's remaining leg, or elsewhere on the body. If it does and your dog or cat doesn't have a spare leg, or their health is too compromised for more chemotherapy, then what do you do?
First, don't panic. Take Charlie Bear's advice:
So...as to maybe two cancers? Does not make a whit. It is true that cancer does what cancer wants to do but even then, there are options. I have a 15 year old with a brain stem tumor, thyroid cancer, a heart mass, and now heartworms. She was never sick a day in her life until this January past when she was 14 1/2. Guess what?!?!? She is STILL working on the farm, out in the pasture, and beating all the odds. So having a second cancer does NOT rule out more time together. -- @charliebear
Things might seem hopeless if your Tripawd has a second cancer. But you still have options to treat it. Be sure to discuss these pet cancer treatments with your veterinary team.
Stereotactic Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy for pets has been around for a long time. But more recently, stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) came along to offer a more precise way to zap tumors in less time, with fewer side effects. SRT is often used as palliative care (pain reduction therapy). It's ideal when amputation isn't a good idea for certain dogs, like Hazel.
Stereotactic radiation therapy uses high-dose, targeted radiation that is precisely focused on a tumor. The technique requires sophisticated imaging and newer radiation delivery vehicles, but the results are a significant improvement over standard radiation therapy, with very little damage to the surrounding normal tissues. Another benefit of stereotactic radiation is that because of its precision, higher doses can be delivered at one time, reducing the number of treatments. This in turn decreases damage to healthy tissue, and reduces the number of times a patient must be anesthetized. -- Understanding Cancer Treatment: Stereotactic Radiation, Morris Animal Foundation
Cancers treated with SRT include tumors in the:
- nasal cavity
- pelvic region
The SRT therapy machine is so expensive that even many veterinary oncology clinics don't have it yet. But you can usually find it offered at veterinary teaching hospitals like Colorado State University's Flint Animal Cancer Center.
This non-invasive, affordable experimental therapeutics cancer treatment for pets and people alike is ideal for small tumors (<3cm). electrochemotherapy costs a fraction of the price of radiation therapy. It's a relatively affordable way to attack certain cancerous tumors:
electrochemotherapy is a type of treatment that enhances the delivery of traditional chemotherapy drugs to the interior of a cancer cell through the local application of short and intense electrical pulses. These pulses transiently permeabilize the cell membrane, thus allowing transport of chemotherapy.
ECT can also increase absorption of the drug by up to a thousand-fold that would not otherwise be permitted by the cell membrane. electrochemotherapy can also be beneficial in shrinking a tumor, thus making surgical removal more successful, if required. –Electrochemotherapy FAQsby Megan Padget, Veterinary Cancer Care, Santa Fe NM
Electrochemotherapy for dogs, cats and people is practiced throughout the world.
Unfortunately in the United States, only a few veterinary clinics practice it, including:
- Oregon's Veterinary Cancer & Surgery Specialists
- University of Missouri Veterinary Teaching Hospital
- New Mexicos' Santa Fe Vet Cancer Care clinic.
Check out our Tripawds posts about electrochemotherapy. And also see this 2020 study from the Korean Journal of Veterinary Research, "The application of electrochemotherapy in three dogs with inoperable cancers."
Intralesional (aka Intratumoural) Chemotherapy
intralesional chemotherapy is another unconventional therapy. It's considered experimental but practiced by some veterinary oncologists. In the Animal Wellness magazine article "Could intralesional chemotherapy be an option for your dog or cat?," Dr. Shawn Messonnier, DVM writes:
intralesional chemotherapy is safe, requires minimal sedation, can be repeated, is practically devoid of side effects, and is much less expensive than systemic chemo or surgery. While these other therapies may still be needed to achieve systemic cancer control, intralesional chemo is an exciting alternative that is worth discussing with your veterinarian.
Intralesional chemotherapy helped Tripawd Travis Ray enjoy a long, healthy life up to age 13. He was diagnosed with a soft-tissue sarcoma on a remaining limb. The University of California at Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital removed the leg tumor and treated the surrounding area with intralesional chemotherapy .
intralesional chemotherapy is similar to the new mast cell cancer therapy treatment called Stelfonta.
According to Dr. Messonnier, intralesional chemotherapy can treat pet cancers like:
- soft tissue sarcomas
- isolated lymphoma tumors
- mast cell cancer tumors
See our interview with vet oncologist Dr. Jeannette Kelly in the article "Local Intralesional Chemotherapy" for more information about intralesional chemotherapy for dogs and cats.
Examples of Tripawds with Cancer in Another Leg or Elsewhere
These treatments are not too common. But we hope the information provides a good starting point to find a path that helps your Tripawd with cancer. For examples of members who faced this same situation, see these Tripawds Discussion Forum posts.
Swollen (?) front leg/paw + shivering
Cancer has reared its ugly head
3.5yrs post amp and another limb with a tumor
Want support and resources for your Tripawd? Start an all new Forums topic about your three-legged hero so we can help.