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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Amputation or not
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Member Since:
6 June 2010
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6 June 2010 - 11:19 am
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Unfortunately, my 13 years old Cocker Spaniel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma…

Some months ago I thought he was limping from his left front leg and he didn't like when I tried to cause flexion of the shoulder. However, it was gone without any pain meds. But 2 weeks ago he started to limp with much more intensity than before, from the same leg. He was on Rimadyl for 4 days and the lameness was gone. He seemed perfectly normal during 1 week. However, after it he started to limp again and I took him to the vet again. The vet didn't see anything abnomal since my dog didn't limp in front of him, but I insisted in doing an x-ray to the shoulder and the x-ray showed some lytic areas in the bone marrow of the proximal humerus.

We did a biopsy and sent it to 2 different labs. One said it was just a little inflammatory reaction of the periostic bone, since the architecture of the bone was perfectly normal. However, they didn't see any bone marrow in the fragnment sent. The other lab diagnosed osteosarcoma, confirming the normal architecture of the bone, except in the marrow.

After the biopsy he was on Rimadyl for 1 week, without lameness. He already stop any medication and didn't start to limp again. We did an x-ray to the lungs and no mets were seen. The alkaline phosphatase was normal too.

The vet said both options (amputation or do just pain relief meds) were valid, since he already has 13 years old and from 1 or 2 years ago he stopped jumping to my bed and standing on his back legs, probably due to a hernia (however never diagnosed).

I'm not sure if he can do it with 3 legs and if it's worth to make he pass through these all at this age…

Otherwise he seems very well. He isn't on any meds, his kidneys, liver and heart seems fine.

What should I do? I'm a bit lost…

Sorry about my english but I'm portuguese and it's hard to put in english everything I feel right now.

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
Member Since:
28 November 2008
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6 June 2010 - 11:52 am
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Making the decision to amputate is a personal one.  There are many factors to consider - age, general health, what can you afford.

The disease is very painful, there will be a point where you cannot stop the pain with medication if you choose not to amputate.  That was the deciding factor for us, but Trouble was only 9 years old.  I'm not sure I would have made the same decision if she were 13.  The decision should be based on quality of life for the pet.  You want to be able to have more good days than bad going forward.

You have a very tough decision to make, compounded by the age.  Do as much research as you can, there is a ton of information in this forum, sit down with your pet by your side and make that decision for the good of both of you. There is no wrong decision.  Each one is different and personal.  Each one is supported by the folks here.  We've all been in that difficult place.

Sending you tons of good wishes.


by the way, your english is great!

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

Member Since:
14 April 2010
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6 June 2010 - 11:57 am
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Welcome to the family, you have come to the right place. When Gus first started limping, we thought muscle, put him on rimidyl and after 2 weeks there was no change, did the x-ray, saw some abnormality in the bone, did the biopsy, that came back negative but our vet and ohio state vets felt we were dealing with cancer, so we did the amputation of his left front leg. Gus is 7, a very strong dog, a lab-rottweiller mix and I knew he wouldn't have any problems adjusting , and he hasn't. The first couple weeks after the surgery are the worst, it gets significantly better from there, but be ready for sleepless nights and a dog that will have alot of ups and downs in that 2 weeks. It will probably be harder on you than the dog, although at that age I can't say how they will handle the surgery and recovery. Gus' first x-ray was clear in the chest, we found out last week he has 3 spots in his lungs. We opted to not do chemo from the start, we are using prednisone and a product called k-9 immunity right now. Our vet is checking into a couple drugs recommended by folks here in the tripawd family. You know your dog best, talk to your vet about all options and make the decision you are most comfortable with. Quality of life for the dog should be your #1 priority, make sure if you decide to amputate, you can't undo it, and some people feel guilty during that first 2 weeks about having it done, there is alot of stress during that time, thats where making the decision you are comfortable with comes in . Good luck, don't be afraid to ask ANYTHING, experience gives the best answers. Paws up, Gus and Dan

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

knoxville, tn
Member Since:
12 February 2010
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6 June 2010 - 1:22 pm
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ana, this is really a tough call.  i don't know what the average life span for a cocker is.  gayle was ten when we discovered cancer and amputated right front leg.  she's doing chemo IV, and has handled this all remarkably well.  she is a lab mix, and was in good health prior to this, so we felt amputation was a good option.  hope others can give you more info, and suggestions - i say, you will follow your heart and do the right thing.  paws crossed that dolphin feels better soon. 

charon & gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Portage Lake, Maine
Member Since:
8 December 2009
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6 June 2010 - 1:50 pm
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You need to follow your heart with your dog.  You can read all our suggestions but please follow your heart.  My suggestion would be to not amputate at 13 years old...but AGAIN, this is purely my opinion.  You do what is best for YOUR dog.  It's all about quality, yes...but at 13 yrs. old and with the surgery and recovery, will your dog be able to handle it?  All questions you need to try to answer for yourself...

Sorry I'm not much help really...Good luck in your decisions for your pup!

Tracy, Maggie's Mom

Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13


Member Since:
6 June 2010
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6 June 2010 - 3:22 pm
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Thank you for your answers...

You're very supportive and I appreciate it smiley

It's hard to make decisions without knowing what will be the future... Breaks my heart if we choose the amputation and he passes through all this process and then die a few months later... If I knew he would live with good quality for some time I would do it without thinking twice but I know if after the surgery he couldn't walk with 3 paws he will be sad because his biggest happiness of the day is when he goes out for a walk. The rest of the day he's sleeping...

At least I'm going to change his diet right away and try to find some of the supplements you talk about.


Thanks for the support once more



On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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6 June 2010 - 5:12 pm
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Ana, welcome. We're so sorry about your pup. Lots of us went through a similar situation with undiagnosed osteosarcoma s well. It's good that you did fid out what's going on.

What did the vet say about your pup being a candidate for amputation? Does the vet think he can handle it? Do you think he can handle it?

It's a harder decision to make when an older dog is concerned, we understand that completely. Because you are his pawrent, only you know if he will be able to handle the surgery and recovery. What do you think? What do you think he wants?

I will say that there has been dogs here who did not make it through surgery, or passed away just a few months after. It's heartbreaking. The weird thing is that of these dogs, not all of them were senior dogs, some were younger too. You just can't know for certain how things will turn out, a major surgery like this is a leap of faith.

What I will say is that, none of us know the future, ever. All we have is right here, and what's in front of us. Keep in mind that dogs do not count days on the calendar, that's a human thing. However much time we have after amputation is always uncertain, but what does matter is that if we handle the recovery well, that time was spent pain-free and enjoy ing life.

If you are uncertain you may want to have another conversation with your vet about his candidacy for living as a Tripawd.

We're so sorry. Keep us posted OK?

P.S. Your English is GREAT, by the way!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
6 June 2010
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6 June 2010 - 5:43 pm
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Thank you Jerry.

I'm a vet student (at 2 months from finish the course) and I know the vet because I've been working with him for the past 4 months. He says if it was his dog he wouldn't know what to do... He knows some vets who choosed to do nothing (beside the pain killers) and others who did amputation. He says I fully understand the situation, so I'm the best person to decide. But it's hard and I'm struggling with the medical part vs feelings.


He's tough... When he goes to the vet he just shows any sign of pain if it's really, really painfull. The vet at the beginning thought I was kidding with him when I said my dog was limping because he seemed perfectly normal in front of him.

But at the other side I don't wanna make him suffer just to have his company for just a few time.

My parents don't really like the idea of amputation because they think he would not be able to walk after it due to his lack of muscle in his legs (he sleeps most of the time and don't run anymore, so he doesn't have a lot of muscle).

He seems so normal now that breaks my heart doing the surgery and make him pass for all the painfull recovery process. But I know it's a matter of time until he feels pain again.


I just hope to do the best decision for him because one thing is certain: I'm gonna miss him so much... I grew with him and he'll always be my buddy.

Minneapolis, MN
Member Since:
23 May 2010
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6 June 2010 - 5:53 pm
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Welcome, and I'm so glad you posted! Daisy turned 12 last month, and on Wednesday it will be 3 weeks since amputation of her front left leg up to the shoulder. (The average lifespan for labs is 12.) Her diagnosis of osteosarcoma came in early December. I immediately changed her diet (I now cook for her) and started her on supplements. Eventually she needed pain meds and eventually, pain meds weren't enough and it was decision time. I had earlier made the decision not to amputate--ever--but when decision time came and she seemed to be so healthy (great appetite and lungs were clear) with such a strong will to live, I reconsidered and had a conversation with Daisy about the options and what to expect if we went ahead with surgery. I found I had to get past the fear and let the "knowing" come to me. I got a very strong sense that amputation was the right thing to do. The vet felt confident that she was well enough to survive surgery (no guarantees, of course). Learning to walk/hop on three legs was easy for her, and her recovery has been quick. I do notice that she is more tired than before, but that is to be expected for awhile as she gets all the toxins out of her system. Her eyes are bright, she wags her tail a lot, and still eats very well. She seems to be happy, and no matter how much time I have with her, every day with Daisy by my side is a great day for both of us!

You'll make the decision that's best for you and your friend. Once you do, either way, have no regrets.

Best wishes with this difficult decision.

Lexi (Daisy's momma)

Daisy, 12 years young, had left forelimb amp on 5/19/2010 due to osteosarcoma. She left her body behind and joined the other spirit tripawds on 7/16/2010.
So grateful for each day with her!
Lexi (Daisy's momma)

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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6 June 2010 - 5:57 pm
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dolphin said:

He says I fully understand the situation, so I'm the best person to decide. But it's hard and I'm struggling with the medical part vs feelings.


Just think what's best for your buddy. He can't make these medical decisions himself. You owe it to him to do what you believe is best and never look back. How do you want to enjoy the time you have with him? Medicating his increasing pain? Or, loving life after recovery as long as you can? There are no regrets here. Live in the now with your pal and enjoy every moment whatever you

See our latest two Tripawds Health videos for an idea about how painful OS tumors are compared to amputation recovery, and how fast the cancer can grow if you choose to do nothing (other than medicate). Complete interview posts coming soon to Jerry's blog!

Best wishes to you and your pup.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Madison, WI
Member Since:
5 December 2009
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6 June 2010 - 6:45 pm
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You've gotten a lot of great advice already from a lot of experienced folks.  I would just add that when my dog Yoda (who I had before Gerry) was finally diagnosed with osteosarcoma (after being on Rimadyl for a few months due to a misdiagnosis of tendonitis) he was on a lot of pain meds (Rimadyl, Tramadol and Tylenol with Codiene) and he was still limping.  He spirits were still good at that point, but it was scary - to me - to think about trying to manage that pain for him even if he only had a short time left.  And then there's the risk of pathological fractures from activity. 

Yoda only lived about four months after his amputation (with chemotherapy - but certainly others have done great with the same treatment).  But he had a mostly very happy, carefree four months.  He still went to dog parks and played with other dogs.  He played ball.  In fact, he became more outgoing after his amputation.  I think the pain may have been present and holding him back a long time before he started limping.  Within the last week of his life, even when he had lung mets, Yoda caught a rabbit in the yard.  Didn't get to eat it, poor boy, but he was still very pleased with himself.

It is a tough choice and there are no guarantees.  Keep in mind that first two weeks is tough with ups and downs and its best if you can be around as much as possible just to make sure he's not botherng the incision and things like that.

Definitely check out videos on this website if you're worried about his quality of life on three legs.  You probably know his physical condition best, but unless he's very overweight, or your vet is concerned about his lack of muscle, I would think he'd do just fine - so many old as well as young dogs have.  Here are links to a couple blogs for my dog Gerry that have video of him and Yoda.  Yoda's video is pretty poor quality because I didn't have a digital video camera then, but you can still get a sense of how well he did: ,

Gerry has been a tripawd since 12/16/2009.

He was a shelter dog with a mysterious past and an irrepairable knee injury.

Videos and pics of Gerry's pawesomeness can be found at:

Madison, WI
Member Since:
5 December 2009
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6 June 2010 - 6:48 pm
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Maybe I should mention I probably have a different bias then most.  I had a mid-sized mutt live to the ripe old age of 17 years.  So 13 doesn't sound very old to me.

Gerry has been a tripawd since 12/16/2009.

He was a shelter dog with a mysterious past and an irrepairable knee injury.

Videos and pics of Gerry's pawesomeness can be found at:

Edmonton, Alberta
Member Since:
11 January 2010
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6 June 2010 - 7:01 pm
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Ana, I - like so many others on this site - are familiar with the wrenching feelings you have right now. A lot of great advice has been posted here and I don't have much to add. I can only reiterate what's already been said - trust your heart. There is no wrong decision. If you're worried about his mobility following amputation, I didn't believe my Golden Retriever Catie - although younger than your friend - would  be able to adjust. But she did. She amazed me, just as so many people insisted she would AND the two-week post-surgery recovery discomfort was nothing, I'm sure, compared to the awful pain from the tumour that was eating her bone. I can't even imagine how much that must have hurt. 

Our Catie continues to amaze us. It's been almost 5 months now and we never know how the journey's going to turn out but  I don't regret the decision to amputate at all. 

Good luck with making your decision, Ana. You've come to exactly the right place for support.

Carmen (Catie and Riley's mom)


Catie -

Birthday – November 4 2003

Amputation – January 13 2010

Crossed the Bridge – June 2 2011

 Catie Caitlin 

Kirkland, WA
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2 June 2009
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6 June 2010 - 8:18 pm
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When I was born, my parents had a cocker spaniel and a cockapoo.  one lived to 16, the other to 17 (or was it to 17 and 18...).  At 13, your baby could still have plenty more years left in him 🙂

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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6 June 2010 - 9:18 pm
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Ana welcome.  I wished we could have a magic answer for you.  You'll get great advice from everyone here and we are supportive no matter what you decide.

If your vet feels he would be a good candidate for the surgery, you ALSO have to ask yourself, are YOU a good candidate to handle the emotional stress of living with cancer? 

It's so obvious the love you two share and I only ask because it is very hard emotionally.  I don't have a dog with cancer but I feel for the others that do.  I personally probably wouldn't be a good candidate to handle the emotional stress of living with cancer.  I would put my dog through my anquish and make her live in my fear bubble. 

If you think you can make your little Dophin happy during what time he has after the amputation and not worry yourself sick, then I would say, try it.   But if you will live worrying day in and day out and show it, then you and Dolphin will be unhappy.


I hope the answer will come to you.  Perhaps you'll just wake up one morning and know. 

Please let us know.  Here's wishing you all the best.

Comet's mom 

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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