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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I am not sure if I am posting correctly but I will learn as I go. I have been reading on here for a while and I have never joined a forum before so forgive my ignorance. My little guy Digit had a mass cell tumor and had to have his rear leg amputated. I really had a hard time making the decision to do it but we tried removal and it grew back right away and doubled in size. We tried chemo but his blood work showed he was not a good candidate for that either so amputation was my last resort. He is 12 so I really wasn’t sure if it was a good idea but he is a 7 lb chihuahua so he could have a lot of life left at 12 if we can kick this cancer to the curb. Since surgery I can’t get him to eat anything. He is barely drinking water and he just seems so depressed. Is this normal? Any tricks to getting them to eat? My heart is broken. He was running around playing and happy as can be with the tumor on his leg which is why I had such a hard time giving in to the amputation. I think I did the right thing but he is just so sad. Any advice? The surgery was 2 days ago so maybe I just need to give it more time.
Hi Digit and mom, welcome. You are absolutely doing this correctly and not ignorant at all, promise! In fact you are super smart for joining us so we can help you feel better about Digit’s recovery.
First, you’re right: two days is not a long time at all. Try to put yourself in his paws and remember that most humans wouldn’t handle amputation half as good as he is. I know it seems like he’s not, but this is super early in recovery. Here are some of my thoughts about what you are describing:
First, have you talked to your vet about his behavior? Keep them in the loop OK?
What kind of pain medication is Digit on? The meds can make dogs feel wonky and not want to eat, this is not unusual. And that’s OK because the most important thing is for Digit to rest right now.
You really want Digit to stay hydrated so do all you can to get him to drink water. Add tuna water to his bowl, or low sodium broth, or heck even a scoop of ice cream as many members here are known to do! Whatever it takes, keep him hydrated.
Eating will come in time, but you can encourage him by feeding him his super favorite foods, trying out the super stinky meats or whatever rocks his world. He may not poop in a few days either but again, that’s totally normal.
And remember, as a senior doggie Digit will need some extra time to recover, but he will get there! Be patient and know that this doesn’t last furever. Meanwhile be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List and the Tripawds e-books for more ideas. Our What to Expect Series is also helpful.
Keep us posted on how he’s doing OK? We will be waiting for a pupdate.
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome.
I’m sorry you are dealing with mast cell cancer. My Pug Maggie lost her left rear leg to a MCT. Maggie was a stubborn Pug, set in her ways and she really, really hated any change to her routine. Maggie was a slug for about 6 weeks post amp- way longer than most pups. In hindsight it made sense since she was so sensitive to change but at the time I was sure I had made a terrible mistake. Maggie wasn’t limping or showing signs of pain, it was really hard to come to grips with the fact that amputation was the best path forward. Without the surgery the tumor would have ruptured causing a painful wound that wouldn’t heal, and/or the cancer would spread internally.
You can read about Maggie and about her amp and treatment if you are interested, the links are in my signature below.
I am also curious about Digit’s meds. For a couple days the surgery meds are still in their system and can make them really wonky. Not wanting to eat is common, but it does make giving meds a challenge. Jerry gave you good ideas for getting him to drink, and do keep your vet in the loop.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
11 April 2019
Hi Digit’s Mom
I know how you feel as to whether amp was the right thing to do. My Roxi is 6 days post op and at day 2 I told a vet friend of mine she seemed depressed. She said it was the meds and that you needed her to rest as much as possible since it is a MAJOR surgery. Hold tight and Digit will be trotting around in no time. Roxi didn’t eat good for about 2 days until I start spoon feeding her with some potato soup in her food. I would also give her meds with Cheetos, she loves Cheetos.
Take a deep breath, you can do this and so can Digit. You’re in my prayers!
Mim and Roxi
Ditto Jerry, Karen and Mim!
This is MAJ0R surgery! Hoomans would still be in the hospital in a morphine drip!
Drinking is more important than eating at this point. And yes, ice cream swirled j fo rhe water worked for Hapoy Hannah. Let Digit have a little taste of it on a spoon and then let her follow the spoon jnto rhe water as you swirl it around. Try stinky liverwurst yo hide the pills.
Rest, rest, rest and more resr. It is sooooo normal to think “what in the world have I done to my dog?” during recovery. It’s scary to see them on med and out of it. One of my dogs recen6 had LIGHT SEDATION fot an in and out minor surgery. She whined and whimpered and walked around like a drunk well into the next day. And that was LIGHT SEDATION and all four legs intact!
I joined this community on day six scared to death I’d made a horrible decision! These great people calmed me down and enlightened me on what recovery looked liked for about two weeks. At first, it feels like you did this TO Digit…..very soon you will realize you did this FOR Digit!
B R E A T H E…..B R E A T H E……Try and grab some quick naps while Digit rests. And eat lots of chocolate! It helps!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
Oh my gosh, thank you so much for the quick responses. I have been a wreck. He was such a happy little guy before the surgery. The meds he is on are Biomox (Amoxicillin) for antibiotic and Torbugesic for pain. I am also weening him off of prednisone and benedryl so he still gets a little bit of those every other day and then next week it will be every 3 days until I ween him off. I just got him to eat some steak today yay!! I took the cone off and let him sit with me and he actually ate a few pieces. One of my biggest challenges is also the dang cone. It seems to shut him down. I took it off for a little while and he perked up but he went straight for those stitches and started licking so back on and then he shuts down. I am going to head off to Walmart to see if I can get creative with some baby clothes. Maybe some infant pants and cut out a hole so he can pee? Any ideas for what I can put on his rear end that he can still go potty and maybe take the cone off? I had another little one named Willie that I lost to MCT a few years ago. It was on his hip and they did surgery and tried to get good margins but it spread like fire inside of him. I lost him 6 months after the surgery so I have not had good luck with MCT. Willie was only 9. I am waiting on one lab test to come back on the lyphnode they sent out that was right above his leg tumor when they amputated. I did an ultra sound and they said they didn’t see it any where else so I am hopeful we are on a path to recovery and back to a happy healthy 3 legged love bug again. Thank you all so much. I’m glad I found this site and look forward to learning all I can.
You are so welcome! Glad you came back with more info.
Regarding the Torbugeic (aka “butorphanol”) . . . I’m guessing that Digit got it because of his size, but it’s mostly given to cats. I think you should read what our friend Stephen Cital, a veterinary pain management expert, has to say about it here,
Butorphanol is a common drug that we use in veterinary medicine. It is a pain medication but it’s probably only lasting for like 30 minutes to maybe 2 hours once we give it. And the animal can still looks sedate even after that 2-hour period but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting the benefit of pain management .
….it’s really not a good pain management drug. So if your animal is going to have surgery, make sure they get a really good opioid, something like methadone or hydromorphone or fentanyl even if they can get their hands on it during the procedure and after the procedure, not butorphanol.
The shutting down may be partly because of the cone, partly because he is not getting good enough pain management . Please let your vet know if you haven’t already, and ask for something stronger.
Meanwhile, whatever you do, please use care about leaving the cone off. If he gets to those stitches he can do a lot of damage and end up back in the hospital. We see it all the time.
Glad you got him to eat! Keep bringing out the filet mignon and anything else you can think of to get him interested. And keep him hydrated too.
Let us know how things are going, we are here for you.
So sorry your Willie was dealing with MCT. You have a good Guardian Angel watching over you and Digit.❤
Yeah, some dogs just HATE the cone….okay…..make that ALL dogs, and cats too! It can, indeed, can kinda’ make them “shot down”. Alao, as Jerry said, Digit is on a pain med generally used for cats. You can ask the Bet about Gaba6 and Tramadol, but they may not make the doses small enough for your little guy. Although I think some cats take Gabapentin.
Maybe some others can chime in on how to turn a baby onesie into a good incision protector. I was very lucky in that my Happy Hannah never bothered her stitches. But we’ve seen many a dog restitched because they got to the incision. Ugh!
Digit! Leave those stitches alone silly pup!!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
21 October 2014
Howdy Digit and Mom!!
We lost our Harmony to MCT but gained so much information and experience from her journey. Now we have another fur-baby with this cantankerous cancer and I’m totally convinced that Harmony saved his life.
He’s the complete opposite from your little Digit. Weighing in around 95 lbs., he’s already had two surgeries for MCT, none of which have resulted in amputation. We feel very strongly that Harmony’s journey kept that from happening for him. She’s been gone for nearly 5 years and she still keeps us on our toes! LOL!
So Harmony wants me to tell you, you’ve got this. She hated the cone (as do all of them) as well. From time-to-time I will actually use the cone like a thunder shirt because it does shut them down. Now if I could just get them to stop running into my legs and bruising them!
When Doublestuff had surgery for his MCT, not only did he shut down, but we couldn’t keep anything on tables and such ’cause a 95-lb dog in the house with a huge e-collar on is much like the “bull in the china shop” adage. So we researched an alternative and came up with thickly folded towel around the neck held with a clip-on, adjustable dog collar. For little Digit, it could be a wash cloth, but the way it worked was it would be too bulky to allow the neck to flex and reach the stitches: Think soft neck brace for a dog.
Lastly, along with a balanced diet, all my puppers (4 of them from 52 to 95 lbs) take Loratadin (Claritin) every day, vet approved and prescribed for MCT management and seasonal allergies.
Again, Harmony says, you’ve got this. The depth of information from the wonderful people on this site is priceless. You will hear it often; you are not alone.
Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.
"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."
- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey
Hijacking the thread for just a second.
PAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!! OOOOOMMMMDDDDD! SOOOOOO GOOD TO HEAR FROM YOU!!
And you were sooo gracious to provide such good input! Yes, Harmony ‘s life mattered and continues to have a pawsitive impact here!!!❤❤❤
Saw you made a big and going to catch up over there.
In the meantime, always sending you and the hubbadub love!!!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
Today we have progress! I left for a few hours this morning and came home to him standing up and I got my first tail wag since the surgery and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. I couldn’t get either of those until today so yay!! Still not eating much but we will keep trying. He is drinking water now as well. As for the pain meds, I remember the vet saying that he was limited on what he could give Digit while he was still on the prednisone but since we are weeing him of of that maybe we can switch to something better. I will give them a call and see what he says. I need to call to see if the lab results are in as well anyway. I remember Willie was on tramadol and they are about the same size so that should be an option. Thank you for that information. Thank you all for the words of encouragement as well. Until today I was really wondering if I had done the right thing considering his age but I think we are turning a corner and it really has only been since Monday. Patience is not one my best qualities lol. Neither Digit nor I are good at change either so we are both learning a lot and being forced out of our comfort zone. (probably good for both of us)
I went to the vet and got gabapentine yesterday and started that last night. I think it may be a little too much. He was shaking and glossy eyed after the second dose this morning and just didn’t look right. I think I will go back to the torb. and see if anything changes. He just didn’t look right after that dose this morning. Still not really eating. Got him to eat a couple treats and a couple tiny bites of meat again but that is it between yesterday and today. He is however getting around really well. I think I may let him sleep back in the bed with me tonight. Maybe that will cheer him up.
1 October 2017
Please give him some time with the gaba. It can make them very sleepy first few doses but that passes. Your vet can also tweak the dose if need be. Just the fact that he’s getting around better is a pawsitive step forward.
Hugs, hang in there!
Jackie and Huckleberry ❤️
Jackie, David, Bo, Andy, Oscar, Angel Mitchell, and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry
Just catching up on things, I didn’t realize that Digit was on pred, and thus the reason for the limited medication. Not sure how prednisone plays with other pain management drugs, that’s a good question for us to ask when we interview future pain experts. Meanwhile, whatever you do, keep in mind that Gabapentin is not an “as needed” kind of pain reliever the way Tramadol is. It must be given continuously for it to work, and should not be withdrawn suddenly or it can make the pain rebound even worse.
Please read this article about Gabapentin and then call your vet to let them know you are concerned. The dosage can be adjusted, as well as the timing.
Otherwise YEAH! Digit is definitely on the mend. Here’s to more typical behaviors!
Hope last night went well for both of you. Keep us posted.
Oh my gosh Jerry, now things are making sense. So after the first two doses of Gabapentin he just didn’t seem right so I went back to the torb. and then I thought maybe I should stick with the gaba. so I went back to the gaba. this morning but decreased the dose and he is not right at all. Have I done a terrible thing? His tail is tucked so far under that you almost can’t see it. Won’t eat and not moving around much at all. Seems like we are back at square one. How long do they generally need the pain med? He will get his stitches out this Friday. I am just at a loss and I feel terrible. I had him on the right track and now he is so sad and miserable and I am not sure what to do with his next pain med dose tonight. I will call my vet but he is terrible at getting back to me same day.