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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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Amputation scheduled, nervous and overwhelmed
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Member Since:
21 July 2022
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27 July 2022 - 4:32 pm
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My 11 yr old boy, Riley, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last Monday (7/18) and has amputation surgery scheduled next Monday (8/1).  I'm absolutely terrified and flooded with emotion.  I'm NOT a nurse and am worried about how to tend to him.  I would do anything for him, so I know we'll get through it, I think it's more the fear of uncertainty that's getting to me know.  I'm reading through all the pre-op articles and making lists, trying to get as prepared as possible, if there is such a thing.  

My biggest fear is something happening to the wound.  Can I put bandages on it to protect it or does it need to stay uncovered?  Also, how long to they typically have the stiches/staples in?  I know the very will answer this on Monday, but my mind it swirling with questions now.

We've been feeding him a little chicken and rice mixed with a bit of his dry food and a spoonful of pumpkin the last week.  Do you have any dietary recommendations?  I don't want to cause him weight gain.  Are there things I can add to his food to help combat tummy upset?

I'm still debating on pursuing chemo.  I figure we'll get through this, then go see the oncologist.  He seems to be in great health other than the leg, so I have mixed feelings on putting him through chemo.  We were given a prognosis of 6 months without it and maybe a year with it, which is just unfathomable to me.  Has anyone just done the amputation without the chemo?  I'm curious what your experience was.

Thank you for listening, I've been through the recommended reading list, but if there's more I need to read, please point me in that direction.


The Rainbow Bridge

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27 July 2022 - 5:53 pm
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Hi Stefani and Riley, welcome to the club nopawdy wants to join! I'm so sorry you are facing this situation but you can lean on us for help. And rest assured that probably 95% of us here knew nothing about caring for a new three legged dog or cat, or have any kind of nursing background. We learned the hard way, but now you don't have to because you can learn from our experiences.

It really does sound like you are doing everything right to prepare. Did you see our What to Expect articles too?

You ask some great questions. I'll try to give some input to ease your worries:

My biggest fear is something happening to the wound.  Can I put bandages on it to protect it or does it need to stay uncovered?  Also, how long to they typically have the stiches/staples in?  

Yes it's scary looking to us. Our dogs don't get hung up on it though. Like they barely notice! Maybe they might try to scratch when it starts to dry and heal, but you do want to leave the cone of shame on or a good recovery suit so that Riley won't mess with it and pull stitches or staples.

Whether or not an incision gets a cover really depends on the surgeon's preference. Most tell us that they prefer to leave it uncovered, because air drying helps it heal faster (just like for us). Usually stitches stay in about 10-14 days depending on how healing goes. 

Do you have any dietary recommendations?  I don't want to cause him weight gain.  Are there things I can add to his food to help combat tummy upset?

The Tripawds Nutrition blog has lots of ideas from when we actively blogged there about nutrition, as does our Eating Healthy Forum topic. But right now don't make too many drastic changes. You don't want to do that and then add pain medication into the mix, because IF he gets GI upset you won't know what it's from. To combat tummy upset we love pumpkin as you are already doing, and if his poo gets runny you can try edible green clay, it's excellent.

Being weight-conscious is EXCELLENT! A Tripawd should always weigh less than a dog with a similar frame. Your vet can guide you but generally underweight by a pound or two is far better than overweight.

Has anyone just done the amputation without the chemo?  I'm curious what your experience was.

Oh my gosh yes, it's probably split down the middle between those who do and those who don't. See this post for some insight.

It's smart to meet with the oncologist to get all your options together, but in the end it's your decision, there are no mandatory ways to go about dealing with this, other than to make a decision that keeps Riley's quality of life as the #1 priority.

I hope this helps! Stay tuned for feedback from others and ask as many questions as you'd like, we are here to help.

Member Since:
21 July 2022
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31 August 2022 - 10:37 am
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So, Riley is a month out from his forelimb amputation and has done really well up until the last couple days.  Sunday (maybe Saturday) he started yelping when too much pressure was put on his remaining front arm (like getting off the bed or going down a step).  He's a big boy, so he climbs on and off the bed rather than having to jump so it's not a lot of force being applied, but I've kept him off since even that seems to bother him.

Yesterday was worse, he seemed lethargic and started having difficulty getting up from lying down and vice versa.  I picked up carprofen (vs just the gabapentin and tramodol I have) and he seemed to perk up a little after that.  He was walking around the apt and went outside to potty just fine. 

Today, is even worse.  He can't get comfortable lying down, is having difficulty both lying down and getting up and his back legs keep giving out when he's trying to walk.  I've taken him outside 3 times to try to potty, but he just looks at me in frustration and plops down.  I have a strap to help him walk, but he won't look for a place to potty while I'm using it.  I gave him carprofen and gabapentin this morning.  I might try the tramodol, but I want to help him, not just knock him out.

He also seems to be losing weight even though his eating habits haven't changed, which also worries me. 

I don't understand the sudden decline and I don't know what else to do for him.  What I thought was just his front arm now seems to be his whole body.  I don't know if this is just a normal bump in the road, but of course my mind is telling me the cancer has spread everywhere and this is the end. 

I'm waiting to hear back from the vet and we're seeing the oncologist for the first time on Friday. 

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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31 August 2022 - 10:47 am
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Hi Stefani, I'm in the Tripawds Chat right now if you want to talk. Back in a sec with some feedback.

The Rainbow Bridge

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31 August 2022 - 10:57 am
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I'm so sorry that Riley is having some mobility issues. It's scary to see that happen and of course your mind is thinking the worst right now. But take a deep breath, you will both get through this. Here's what I know after 15 years of watching other recoveries:

Senior dogs often take longer to recuperate. And there are always ups and downs. Just read through Marley's current issues right now (her blog is also great). This is normal, and you can do a lot to help ride them out with Riley. First, get on the phone with your vet for some pain management help.

Tramadol is worthless for acute pain, don't even bother with it right now. Gabapentin can help, so can Amantadine and a muscle relaxer called Methocarbomol. The dosages and timing may need to be tweaked to get pain under control. Address the pain first, then you and your vet can work on finding the root cause of the issue. Many dogs need pain control longer than a few weeks. It's nothing to be sad about. It helps them feel better and move better. You can work on the "why" he needs pain control later.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a Tripawd in recovery is that pain originates in the remaining leg(s). Rarely does that happen. Usually it's a strained muscle, and sometimes a spinal issue, both caused by moving the body in an entirely new way. And almost every time, it can be alleviated with pain management , and rehabilitation therapy. Rarely does cancer return so quickly that it causes a sudden decline so soon after surgery. Not saying it can't happen, it does. But the vast majority of dogs are not in this category.

Too much activity too soon is often the source of the problem. The reality is that you just don't know what a new amputee dog is capable of doing until you are in the middle of recovery. Sometimes we let our dogs do too much too soon. I know I did. For a senior Tripawd it's even more important to take things very, very slow. You are not to blame for this. But I'm curious, what was his activity level like before this happened, when he was doing better?

Rehabilitation therapy makes a BIG difference in recovery, especially for senior dogs. Check out the stories of dogs and cats who had rehabilitation therapy after surgery. Remember, the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit with Riley. 

Not sure about the weight loss but that is probably not related. Please call your vet today and advocate for some pain control. First put together a list of symptoms you can share with them, and video if you're able to catch Riley when he's showing pain signals .

I hope this helps. Keep us posted OK? 

Member Since:
21 July 2022
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2 September 2022 - 8:52 am
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Thank you for your informative and comforting reply, Jerry.  After the vet visit, I think we have the pain under control finally.  I'm sure he was doing too much too soon.  We didn't let him get on the bed until after the staples were out, about 4 weeks after surgery and he didn't seem to have trouble with it, but I guess it was too much.

Update on Riley.  I took him to the vet Wednesday and they said it was a pulled groin muscle and gain him a shot for pain and sent us home.  He wound up peeing and pooping in his bed, which we of expected since he hadn't gone all day and was in a lot of pain.  He woke up in a lot of pain at 5am the next morning, couldn't stand up, but was still hopping around with his back legs.  He refused to eat for the first time ever, but I managed to get meds in him and he eventually settled down.

He didn't move all day yesterday which I wasn't concerned about since the dr said to restrict activity.  When we tried to get him outside to potty, we realized he had already done it in his bed.  Got him cleaned up and fresh bedding and settled back down. 

When we moved him around the day before, he was very vocal, now it doesn't see to be bothering him and when we tried to stand him up, he's not even hopping around anymore, it's like he can't use his back end at all.  He can stretch out his legs when lying down, but he's not reacting to me messing with his paws or tail.  And, he's not wagging his tail.  Meanwhile he's lifting his head and moving his front arm around trying to get up.  And, he's no longer holding his urine, it's just coming out at will, which is concerning. 

We see the oncologist in a couple hours, so hopefully they can shed some more light on this.


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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2 September 2022 - 11:03 am
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Such a bummer you are gping through this.  Been following along and glad Jerry has been responding  with what we "usually " see around here in cases like this......usually. 

If I'm reading this right, the "severe" mobility issues started AFTER the groin shot??? The loss of bowl control, not able to get up,  not eating, etc.?

Couple of questions: 

What was the injection?    Where in the groin area?  Was there any swelling?  Just wondering  if there is any correlation  between the injection and the issues he's had afterwards.  FWIW, just seems like things were getting better to some degree and then things worsen after the appointment.   Could be waaay off base though!

Also, to what degree did the Vet checkout any issues with the spine, the neck?  Any xrays or manipulation up and down the spine, the neck etc.  

As Jerry suggested, have you tried just the Gaba (no tramadol) along with the muscle relaxer and the Amantadine  yet??

So glad you have an appointment  for him today with the Onco.  The limp tail, no reaction when pinching the paws etc should be able to give more clues about what's  going on so you can get solution  oriented  treatment.


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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21 July 2022
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2 September 2022 - 5:52 pm
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Well, the oncologist sort of confirmed what I suspected.  Either the cancer has spread to the spine or it's a slipped disk.  My guess is it's a slipped disk, but we're waiting for confirmation from radiology on what the xrays show.  The oncologist said there wasn't any obvious glaring cause of the issue, but radiology should be able to tell us more. 

It doesn't matter really.  I think we're at the end here.  A slipped disk requires more surgery, likely a wheelchair , and on he'll still have cancer.  She pretty much said it was a lose lose situation because even if we do everything, it might only buy us a couple more months and put him through hell.

The oncologist gave us Amantadine, I just gave him that with the carprofen and gabapentin.  I don't think the shot had anything to do with this, he was already on this downhill slide, they just misdiagnosed it.

I tried to take him outside to hold him up to poop, but that just caused him more pain and stress.  He's laying next to me whining and I don't know how to fix it.  He's wearing a diaper because he's incontinent.  A few days ago we were fine and now I feel like I've let my best friend down in his ultimate time of need.  My heart is completely broken and I've never felt more hopeless in my life.


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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2 September 2022 - 8:30 pm
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Struggling  to find some words and, pretty much there are none.  The one thing I know with absolute  certainty,  you did EVERYTHING  possible, every single thing possible to give Riley a chance at ext6 quality  time.  You did NOT let Riley down, this effn disease  ('scuse my "language")   had already  plotted its course undetected.  And if it is a slipped disc there probably  is some underlying reason that happened. 

When you do get the feedback from the Radiologist IF it is the disc as opposed to the spine cancer, you might've able your Riey on a course of Prednisone.   That would help decrease any inflammation  around the disc and "maybe" help him be more mobile for a little while as help alleviate  the pain.  

While what I'm going to share is different, it will help you know that the decision  to not proceed with disc surgery  is a path I had to make with my dog Hank.  He had been ina shelter for a year and I only had hominy heart and home for about five months before his backl legs basically became paralyzed.  I was t able to afford an MRI (and will forever regret my lack of finances could not give him tio notch diagnostics) to determine  exactly the situation. 

Point being, my Vet told me it basically  wouldn't  change the outcome regardless of the exact cause.  Surgery for a disc issue would be about 50/50 chance of success  and he would have to be grated confined for eight weeks.  

However, big doses of Prednisone and pain management   with Gabapentin  did help restore his mobility,  although somewhat wobbly like a drunk, gave him back some quality  for another two months or so!.

Hank was a four legger and the Prednisone  dis help  in his case.

I'm not trying to give you false hope at all.  Just a long winded way of saying I understand  why you woild not want to do surgery, confinement, high rish surgery  with no guarantees  of success.

This is pretty mich a failed attempt to try and help support you and bring you some sort of emotional  relief.

See what the Radiologist says and hopefully nthe pain meds will give him some relief.

Do know that Riley knows you are doing everything  possible for him.  He wanted the chance to have a quality  life with the amputation.   He wanted that chance.  And it should have turned out in his favor, but the script  was already written

Spoil and love and just be with him ♥️

Sending  you love

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!

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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2 September 2022 - 8:37 pm
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Oh noooo. I'm so sorry there wasn't better news for you and Riley. My heart hurts for you both. I wish there was something I could say that would help him feel better and get his mobility back. Give him the Amantadine, it should help him sleep comfortably.

And please know that you did not let him down. You are doing everything humanly possible for your sweet guy. There is nothing anybody would have done differently. We do our best with the information we have at the time.

It's hard not to think the worst right now. I would be too. But if at all possible, try to hang on to some hope that the extra medication will at least get him comfortable right now, and maybe enough to help him go potty on his own. We have seen others here with spinal issues and slipped discs. I wouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that his situation requires more surgery until you talk to someone who works in that area. I'm sure your oncologist is awesome but if you wanted another opinion it couldn't hurt to have them review his case.

We are so sorry that things are so hard right now! Please know you can always call the Tripawds Helpline OK? We are here for you. Keep us posted here too (sorry the Forums are so slow right now, we're working on some behind the scenes technical stuff). ((((hugs))))

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