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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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How to Cope During Recovery
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Forum Posts: 9
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5 April 2021 - 3:40 am
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Hi all!

I come to you via recommendation of my dog’s orthopedic surgeon. What a phenomenal resource this community is!

The light of my life is a 6 year old German Shepherd boy who goes by Rue. I adopted him at 7 weeks old and we have been inseparable ever since. We have had a looonnggg list of vet visits from everything from freak accidents like choking on a ball to a TPLO on each knee to unexplained eye issues. Rue and I are both known well by first name at multiple vets and specialists offices in our area. Rue has had intermittent lameness on his right front leg on and off since he was about 9 months old. We have been to the vet for it at least 6 times. I will spare you all the details unless you want to know but until recently it was undiagnosed and not a significant issue in our life. It only bugged him when he really over did it…. which is saying a lot for an energetic boy like him.

Fast forward to about four months ago, his lameness became less intermittent and more severe when it was present. It advanced to continuous lameness that was transient in severity. He was diagnosed with a mineralized bicep tendon and a biceps tendon release surgery was performed after four weeks of medical/conservative management that didn’t show any promise of helping. After the surgery his lameness became progressively worse and after a CT with contrast our worst fear was confirmed. He had a brachial plexus tumor that was merely centimeters from his spinal cord. This was on Tuesday night at 7pm.

After weighing the pros and cons of my terrible choices and losing a lot of sleep I opted to go with amputation. Mind you, Rue is a 100lb (healthy weight for his size) boy, with lots of energy, and not the most sound of joints. After consulting with his orthopedic specialist, one of his colleagues and my primary vet I was reassured that they felt Rue would make a good adjustment to being a tripawd and it’d allow him to live a happy lifestyle (the ultimate goal for my guy).

His surgery was on Thursday. Here we are nearly four days post op and boy what an emotional roller coaster this his been! I feel like I have whiplash. Rue and I have been through a lot and he is a rockstar with recovery but I am SO worried about him all the time. Does that ever settle?

I feel sick about the whole thing and have a hard time focusing on anything but him. I wonder how or why I did this and if it was the right choice for him. He has been so inspirational and resilient. I am so proud of him. He makes me laugh and smile and doesn’t forget to cuddle me when he knows I need it. He’s somehow still been my rock while going through this unimaginable trek. I want to do the best for him but I never know what is too much.

He is a picky pottier (picky about everything really… I wonder where he gets that!) and it takes him a while to find the right spot. He occasionally needs to rest before he finds the perfect spot, which is fine by me.. I like on his time right now. I am just terrified he is going to over do it and harm his other joints.

He also seems to be somewhat restless, on occasion, and I can’t tell if it’s because he’s in pain or he wants to go potty. He ALWAYS wants to go outside to lay in the grass and sniff around and has always been a trickster about pretending to need to potty to get some more outdoor time.. even at 3am.  It is difficult for me to read his cues as his behavior is slightly altered due to his pain meds.

Any advice or reassurance would be greatly appreciated. We have been through hard recoveries, a second TPLO one year after the first, but this is a whole new world for us. Rue was born with a short tail, about the third of the length of a “normal” germy. The woman who was fostering him said it added to his character. And a true character he is. I keep reminding myself this will just add to his character… we just have to make it through. But what does the other side of this look like? That’s not something that’s been discussed with me as choices had to be made so suddenly.

He has helped me through so many of the most difficult times in my life and I am so happy to help him through any and all of his, but I am just at a loss for what is best for him. This was all so sudden and I like to overthink and be prepared as best I can for all situations so this has been difficult to say the least. I should also mention that I work and I am in nursing school so my life is already hectic. I am dialing back my work schedule (which brings its own stressors) and trying to alter my school schedule as best I can (thankfully I am at a place in my program this is possible- to an extent) when I have help with Rue.

Reading other forums have been so helpful thus far, but I am still feeling like a piece of this puzzle is missing for me. Maybe that’s normal? This isn’t something I ever imagined having to cope with. He honestly seems to be doing better with it than I am. He’s still his happy go lucky self, just wobblier.

Thank you,

L & R

The Rainbow Bridge



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5 April 2021 - 10:41 am
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Hi Lauren and Rue, welcome. Your future posts won’t need approval so post away. I’m sorry you had to join our club, but we are here to help you feel better about the situation and step into your new normal.

I apologize for making this so quick but we are on the road right now and I may lose my cell signal when we head into the boonies. Here’s what I want to say before I get cut off:

 He honestly seems to be doing better with it than I am. He’s still his happy go lucky self, just wobblier.

Yes! You nailed it! Rue doesn’t have the burden of thinking about what could have or should have been, he only knows that right now you are worried and he would really like you to feel happier. At four days post-op, he’s doing amazingly well and it sounds like his pain is well-managed too. Now, try to put yourself in his paws: what would you be like four days after amputation surgery? Odds are good that he is handling it much better than any of us would.

Try to be patient. Four days is not a long time. In four weeks, you will wonder why you were ever so worried. For now, take each day for the blessing that it is: Rue made it out of surgery, he’s on the mend and he can go on to live a pawesome life on three legs, doing all the things he loved before but with some modifications (really just things you would have needed to do for him as a senior anyways, like adding traction to your floors and focusing on interactive brain games to keep him entertained and go easy on his body).

Something that will also help is an evaluation with a canine rehab therapist. Please consider taking him to one so that you can learn how to help him get stronger and stay that way. The Tripawds Foundation can even pay for your first rehab visit so please take advantage of the program.

Got any pictures of Rue? We would love to see them! Here’s how adding images works, holler with any questions!

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5 April 2021 - 11:22 am
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I appreciate the response. Hope you’re headed somewhere pawsome! I am feeling like his pain is not well managed at this point. He yelped out last night in pain. This morning I woke up to him screeching in pain. He was laying on his incision and looked pretty we’ll stick, so I’m sure that was the issue. But he was trembling. I lifted him and got him more comfort some. But he hasn’t fully calmed down since then. I am scared to give him anything for anxiety as I don’t want to mask his pain symptoms. He also doesn’t seem like his normal anxious self. The anxiety seems to be caused by his pain. I have been back and forth with the vets office on the phone for 1.5 hours (frustrating). They finally said I can increase his Codeine dose and they prescribed him Gabapentin which I can pick up from the pharmacy in a few hours. I am not sure it’s phantom limb pain but I am not sure how to tell? All I know is he is restless, breathing heavily, and has been whimpering on and off. It breaks my heart. He also hasn’t been out to potty in quite some time but when I asked him he looked at me like “yes, but I am not up for the task.” That has been our biggest battle. It is not that far from my room to outside, but distance feels so much longer than it did previously. I am considering camping out in the laundry room with him for a few days/nights as it is closer to outside but I am not sure he will feel calm in that new environment (he’s a sensitive boy). I work on a Post-Surgical unit at the hospital and we have a lot of patients that get amputations. Usually just above or below the knee. Rue is handling it significantly better than most of my patients have, that’s for sure! I am worried because the only time he has shown an interest in eating was yesterday and that was when he yelped in pain. I am not sure he source of his pain. When I poke around or touch places he is not giving me any indication at this point as the where it hurts. What are everyone’s thoughts on raised bowls for comfort? They seem to be a controversial topic. 

I will add some Rue photos a little later once I have him more comfortable! 

Virginia




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5 April 2021 - 1:47 pm
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Ditto Jerry.  Her “quick responses ” are pretty darn thorough!-😎

Okay….B R E A T H E……..B R E A T H E……seriously, inhale alowly….exhale s.owly…..feel yourself get more centered and calm.  You’ve got this!  

The “how” and the “why” are because  you love Rue and are doing whatever it takes to give him a quality  life full of snuggles and sniffing the glorious scents of Nature while he sunbathes.  You can figure out of their was a misdiagnosis later.  For now, use your energy  to focus on Rue’s healing and recovery.

Really glad your Vet prescribed Gabapentin.   That is the defi most often prescribed  for recovery pain, as well as phantom pain .  And he is clearly showing  you pain signals .  All the stronger  hospital meds have worn off now, so this is when tweaking  dosage and frequency  becomes crucial.

Does he also have an anti-inflammatory  prescribed, and an antibiotic.   Sometimes  Tramadol and Gaba are prescribed  together as they work better that way.  And you can stagger them an hoirmor so aprt ro prevent  any break through pain.  Once the pain starts, it’s harder to get it back under control.  Not sure how the codeine I teracts or of it will even be necessary  if you jave the Gaba, etc..  All that needs to be discussed  with your Vet.  We are not Vets and not giving Vet advice.

ERght now, its  just SHORT potty breaks and back in for rest, rest, rest!  It’s  okay of he wants to rest outside, Nature  is very healing.jist no unnecessary walking around at this point..  

If you can keep his usual sleeping  arrangements,  that’s good.  But if the walk tires him out too much, try the laundry room scenario.   Once he gets his pain managed he’ll pr jist be happy sleeping any where as long as you are by his side.  If he will let you, you can try a towel sling to help offer support while he’s going outside.  My guess is he won’t  like it!

Try any yummy food….cheesevurger… warn chicken…liverwirst… cheese pizza….bacon….you can deal with nutrition later.  Give his pills in maybe some cream cheese or, velveeta….just not in any food you are trying to get him to eat.  

Raised bowls…and it doesn’t  have to be dramatic, help a tripawd from having to strain while his muscles are adapting  to his new gait.

You are kn the hardest part of recovery  amd YOU are exhausted,  emotionally  and physically.  So you must try and take care of yourself too, okay?

The first week or so, we all wonder what did we do TO our dogs.  As recovery  heals amd Rue’s sparkle comes back, you will celebrate  that you did this FOR your Rue!

This will a

So make you an even more compassionate  and supportive  nurse for the humans under your care♥️

Stay  connected…stay strong  and confident…and eat chocolate!!  Oh, and do the breathing  exercises!!

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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5 April 2021 - 2:25 pm
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The weather is beautiful here so we have been sunbathing most of the day. Mainly because he hasn’t peed since yesterday around noon and I don’t want to keep taking him in and out until he goes. He shows no interest in eliminating. He also hasn’t pooped, which isn’t surprising to me at this point. I want to make sure he is getting what he needs to heal properly. They prescribed him carprofen as well. I was thinking about asking for tramadol instead of Codeine. Gaba can take a few weeks to truly start working so I would be hesitant to stop the Codeine because he is now on Gaba. Today his pain signals seem to be coming from his belly and his right knee. Sore perhaps? Hopefully. He is very restless/whinny/wants to be held (his obvious sign he is in distress). Due to the pain he only wants to take a few steps at a time and rest. He hasn’t peed in 24 hours. When he first came home he did the same. The vet said it was probably because he didn’t trust his balance enough to be able to relax to pee and not to worry about it yet but yay he might pee I’m his sleep.  Now I’m thinking his ability to pee is limited by his pain that is also limiting his mobility. He’s not overly keen on the towel sling, but he does let me use it for parts of our walk to the grass, so I’ll take any opportunity to help him that I can get. I am not sure at what point I need to take him in for the yelping and the urinary retention. Suggestions? The tech I spoke with this morning seemed dis concerned about everything I brought to her attention but something just feels off. 

Virginia




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5 April 2021 - 2:40 pm
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Okay, of he defiantely needs ro have the Vet take a look and express his bladder of he hasn’t  peed in 24 hours. Tjat could clearly be causing him discomfort.   

The Gabapentin  in dogs DOES  take effect fairly quickly and can show reduction in pain within the first 12 – 24 hours.  And it does build on itself, but for now I would not hesitate  to give it to him.  Uou need to disc with the Vet abput when and if to stop the Codeine.  

I see your on now, so won’t elaborate  firther otherness than to say he needs the Vet to take a look at him asap and express his bladder. Hopefully you can get him in now.  Update as soon as you can, okay???

((((((((hugs))))))))

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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5 April 2021 - 3:20 pm
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He has only been peeing once every 24 hours since he got home. They said that could be because he is having a difficult time relaxing because he is still finding his balance. He has had ample opportunity to pee but he is so limited by pain today that I am not sure he wants to get up to find a spot to try (again, picky pottier). I have a call into the vet. They said they would call me back shortly. I called them the first time he hasn’t peed and they didn’t seem overly concerned with it and said he may even pee himself in his sleep. His next round of meds is due at 3pm so I will be giving him his gaba then. 

Virginia




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5 April 2021 - 3:50 pm
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And yes, probably  he is not peeing for all the reasons they said, so, as far as “cause”, probably  nothing to worry about at all.  Justt want the Bet in on the loop to make sure he gets his pee going one way or another.

Also, I think I misunderstood  and thought he had not gone at all for 24 hrs..  So once is better than nuttin’. 

Hopefully after his Gaba, etc, he may be relaxed enough to pee in his sleep.👌

How is his water intake?

It gets better, promise!!  You’re  doing a great job

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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5 April 2021 - 5:17 pm
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Totally. The vet tech told me not to worry about the pee like it wasn’t a big deal. But that was the third time I called them about it so maybe they were annoyed with me at that point? I’m always overly concerned about his bodily functions, of all kinds. He is in the vets office right now and I am patient awaiting my Covid friendly phone call. I hate not being able to be with him. 

I think maybe I misspoke. It has now been close to 28 hours with no pee. I palpated his bladder, it’s definitely getting full. He’s been drinking, quite well actually. 

Just got an update from the vet. I guess they gave him a 72 hours nerve block that I wasn’t aware of. So that wore off and his pain started to get out of hand. It would have been nice to know he had that so I could have called at the first sign of pain last night instead of spending all day on the phone with the vet tech and now trying to chase his pain. They are going to straight cath him to drain his bladder and test his urine to make sure all looks good and give him a shot of methadone to take the edge off. Hoping he can just rest for the night since he didn’t much today and that tomorrow will be a fresh start and we will be ahead of the pain. I was so so worried something was very wrong. I am beyond impressed with this orthopedic surgeon. His compassion and willing to explain everything is nearly unmatched (aside from Rues last orthopedic surgeon that retired). Who would have thought my dog would have MULTIPLE Ortho guys in his life time. 

The Rainbow Bridge



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5 April 2021 - 5:36 pm
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Lauren I’m in the Tripawds Chat for a bit if you want to talk. Back in a sec with some thoughts.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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The Rainbow Bridge



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5 April 2021 - 5:41 pm
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Ohhhh, glad you shared all that with us, had no idea he was having those challenges. NOT unusual, but it’s good information to know so we can help you better.

Yay on partnering with his vet to manage the pain and his bladder situation. I’m not a vet, but our Fairy Vet Mother Dr. Pam once told us that if a dog doesn’t urinate in 12 hours, you need to figure out a way to make it happen. Not pooping yet is typical, that makes sense. Many dogs are constipated sometimes up to five days. You can help move things along by adding pumpkin pulp, steamed squash, metamucil flakes to his food.

Oh about the Gabapentin….Sally is correct. While it may take longer to kick in for human neuropathic pain, for post-operative pain it is showing to be effective. Watch this video about Gabapentin with vet expert Dr. Downing for details.

Anyhoo, your gut instincts were spot on, you advocated for him really well. Never be afraid that you are being a pain at the vet clinic, you are his only voice, and with your background, you have more of familiarity with situations like this than most of us so trust your gut. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Read my story here.

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Virginia




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5 April 2021 - 6:09 pm
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So glad they are taking care of the pee issue!  Whew!  Gotta feel better after that!  And now gett the pain man proper too should make a good difference!

Great job of advocatingmfor Ie and making sure your concerns  were addressed!!

Thanks for the update.  I know it’s  been a stressful 24 hrs plus.  Hopefully you can get some rest tonight. 

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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5 April 2021 - 9:24 pm
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Sorry I missed you Jerry! That must of been when I was at the vet. Sorry about that! I tried t include as much as I could but there’s just SO much. Peeing is so important! I am glad the vet was able to help him. Tomorrow is a new day, and their hope is that his pain will be better controlled. I am nervous for tomorrow but we will face it as it comes. For now he is resting comfortably. I cannot wait until the day which I feel like I don’t have to have super sonic hearing for a puppy squeak. Hoping we can both rest a little easier tonight. Him being in distress has been very difficult on the both of us today. 

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6 April 2021 - 12:56 am
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Update on Rue:

He is still comfortable and much less droopy/sleepy now, but in great spirits. I am hoping that methadone injection last for the duration of what would be his worst pain now that this nerve block wore off. He is pretty calm, still breathing a little heavy but in good spirits. And no screaming episodes. PHEW! He got his night time meds and was actually willing to eat some canned food. I have been adding psyllium husk powder to whatever he eats since he started getting more lame a few months ago. He has a finicky digestive system and less bodily movement always ends up in constipation for him. He also ate a bite of cottage cheese (his fave but I didn’t want to overdo it). I also made him some chicken and rice (another one of his favorites) for tomorrow in hopes to entice him to eat. Holding onto hope that things will go up from here. My neighbor brought me over a wood sling he has that is canvas with leather handles that will be perfect in place of my makeshift towel sling… as long as Rue will let me use it. The concern I have is that the vet said he is topped out on what he can give Rue for pain. He is getting the max gabapentin, codeine, and carprofen dose. I am so hoping this controls his pain well or maybe we will have to go back for another methadone injection? I am also looking for suggestions on tripod friendly ramps for getting in and out of cars. Rue is so big that I can’t lift him into the car myself. Out of the car I have no problem. Thank you!

The Rainbow Bridge



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6 April 2021 - 9:35 am
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How’s he doing today? Is he showing more improvements? Your update yesterday sounded very pawsitive.

What is his Gabapentin dose right now? 

If his pain is still breaking through, Amantadine could be a good option. See:

Exploring Better Amputation Pain Control for Dogs and Cats

As for ramps, has he ever used one before? Many dogs won’t use them. They have such poor depth perception that it’s very difficult for them to gauge distance to the ground and they get scared. We recommend assisting into cars and trucks with a Ruffwear Webmaster or Flagline harness . Or if you have an SUV, a hitch stepis a good idea too. 

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