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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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I cannot make a decision...Help!
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Columbus, Ohio
Member Since:
17 April 2012
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17 April 2012 - 12:19 pm
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Recently my dog Ally, an 8 yr old Lab-mix, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.  She had a fall 2 weeks ago and was found to have a pathlogical fracture of her femur.  The vets were not 100% certain that is was cancer( chest x ray was clear, blood work normal, abdominal ultrasound normal, ct normal except for abnormality to right femur) at the time, so we opted to fix the fracture and they would take a biospy.  The biopsy results came back last week and it was osteosarcoma... So now I have "fixed" a cancerous leg, she is recovering well, but there is a chance it may not heal.  At this point we have 3 options.  1. Do nothing, palliative treatment.  2. Amputation followed by chemo.  3.  Radiation and Chemo.  Ally has always been very active.  I hesitate to amputate because I just put her through this other surgery.  I am scared to do nothing though, because I have heard how painful this cancer can be....I am at a loss.  I know I am supposed to make a decision, but I don't know how.....

On The Road


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17 April 2012 - 12:39 pm
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We're so sorry to hear about Ally, but glad you found us. Your future forum posts will not require moderation.

Please know that we are not vets, but based on the stories we've heard here over the past few years and the number of veternarians we have interviewed, that bone will break again even if it does "heal".

Check out this video for more information from one vet we talked to about x-rays and scans:

Dr. Hady Demystifies MRIs and CT Scans

Hope this helps with the difficult decisions you face. If she is otherwise healthy, fit and trim she should adapt well to life on three legs. If you do nothing you face the possibly of that bone never healing at all, and a waiting game for it to break again. One other treatment option you might consider is asking your vet about bisphosphonates.

Best wishes, please keep us posted!


Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

juhlie
3
17 April 2012 - 1:00 pm
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I am very sorry to hear of Ally's diagnosis, our dog was diagnosed with osteosarcoma 11 months ago.  She had her leg amputated 4 weeks ago because we think that it microfractured.  She had a great summer of swimming and playing on the farm, but looking back on it we probably should have amputated her leg in the fall while her muscles were still strong.  In the fall she became less and less active and I think that she may have been able to adapt more easily to the amputation if she had still been active. I know how hard this decision is, especially after the surgury you just put her through, but know that this cancer becomes extremely painful.  We had a really hard time making that decision too, but in the end we had no choice because she was in so much pain from the fracture.

There are also other treatments that you can put them on as well to help stop the spread of the cancer before and after amputation. There is some info on this site for options and lots on the internet.

I hope that she recovers from her surgury very well.

krun15
4
17 April 2012 - 1:40 pm
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Pain was not a factor for us when deciding on amputation for my pug Maggie, she had mast cell cancer.  I chose amputation because the tumor could not be removed from her knee, the danger was the cancer metastasizing.

Here is what I would want to know- will the bone really heal?  From everything I have read here if the bone is too damaged by the OSA it will never heal and be strong.  If the bone will not heal then amputation may be your only option. If you do nothing and it breaks again you will be facing another surgery anyway.  And I would want to know if you would have to limit her activity level to protect the leg.  If she is an active dog she could be back to most activities after she heals from an amputation.

You do not have to do chemo after amputation- many here have not done chemo.  I chose to do chemo with Maggie after her amp because the cancer was in her lymph system.  She handled it fine, and in fact far outlived her 6 to 9 month prognosis.  But chemo is not right for everyone, for a variety of reasons.  My local friend Cemil had his amp over 3 years ago for OSA, and did not do chemo.  I saw him this past Saturday and he looked great!

I don't mean to come across as pro-amp, it is what I did and what I know. I just wanted to say that there is good life quality if you chose amputation. 

We have another member who's pup lost a leg for other reasons, then developed OSA in one of his remaining legs.  Obviously amputation is not an option for Dozer.  They are trying a radiation/chemo protocol at CSU.  Here is the forum thread talking about it.

No matter what you decide to do we are here to support you and help any way we can.

 

Karen and the pugapalooza

Columbus, Ohio
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17 April 2012
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17 April 2012 - 4:05 pm
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I just have a hard time knowing that if she has surgery (amp) she will be in pain again and have to recover again.  They have told us we would most likely have her for a year after amputation and chemo.  So I find myself wondering, is a year worth it??Should I go holistic approach? I just wish I had a crystal ball and could see how this would go for her. I feel robbed and wanted more years..This is the hardest decision I have ever made.

Sydney, Australia
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13 September 2011
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17 April 2012 - 6:16 pm
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I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis.  It is a scary time and so hard to know what is the right decision.  Unfortunately only you can decide what is best for you and Ally. Everyone has a different story and what works for one family may not be the best option for another.

Quality of life rather than quantity is paramount.  I was in a lot of pain when diagnosed so mum had to act quickly.  I will be 10 yrs old next month.  Amputation and chemo have given me a wonderful quality of life for 8 months so far and has been the right decision for us.   But you have the added complexity of already being through an operation to mend the fracture that we didn't have to consider. 

The key for us was to do our research and to have confidence in the specialists who gave us advice.   Good luck.  I hope our story is of some help as you collect your thoughts and information to enable you to make a decision.  As I've seen many people say on this website, whatever decision you make,  have faith in yourself, it will be the right decision for you.

Magnum: 30th May 2002 to 5th May 2012. Lost her back left leg to osteosarcoma on 5th Sep 2011. Lung mets found on 20th Mar 2012 but it was bone mets in the hip that ended her brave battle. Magnum's motto - "Dream as if you'll live for ever, live as if you'll die today" (James Dean). Loyal, loving, courageous and spirited to the end. My beloved heart dog, see her memoirs from Rainbow Bridge ...... http://princess.....pawds.com/

Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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17 April 2012 - 6:59 pm
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Hi Ally and Mom.  Sorry to hear about this diagnosis, but please know that you have found a wonderful resource in this site.  Our Zeus was diagnosed at 11 with OSA and had his front leg amputated almost five months ago.  I would like to add some thoughts about your fear of causing her more pain.

Not sure what kind of surgical repair they did on Ally's fracture, but I can speak as to leg surgeries vs. amputation and the pain associated with each.  Through the years we went through three ACL/luxating patella surgeries on Zeus' brother (he had terrible knees).  In my opinion, hands down Zeus' amputation recovery was much easier than the other types of surgeries we experienced.  Don't get me wrong, it is a major surgery and the first couple of weeks are very hard.  But usually after the first couple of weeks the pups get their stitches out, come off of the loopy pain meds and really start making progress.

Usually with amps, they remove the entire bone which means that they are cutting through muscle as opposed to cutting, drilling or pinning bones which is more painful to the dog (and calls for a much longer confinement/recovery).  Depending on the prior surgery she had, I don't know if you can really compare that pain with what she will experience with an amp.  It is well recognized that the pain from OSA itself is excruciating and the short term pain from the amp is minimal compared to continuous pain from the tumor.

Each of us must make the decision that is right for our family - emotionally, financially, etc.  There really is no "right" answer.  Just the one that you have peace with.  Good luck to you!

Lisa

Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...
http://zeuspod......pawds.com/

Columbus, Ohio
Member Since:
17 April 2012
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17 April 2012 - 7:28 pm
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Thank you all for your responses and stories!  I deeply appreciate it!!  I am going to think on this a bit more and am trying to research all of our options.  I am lucky that I live near Ohio State University which offers a great veterinary hospital with a lot of resources.  I just need to regain some faith in myself and my decisions.  I just wish I would have known it was osteosarcoma at the time I fixed her femur, but looking back it cannot change the choice I made.  I have to re-group.  Thank you and I am sure I will have more thoughts and questions..

Peoria, IL
Member Since:
8 November 2010
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17 April 2012 - 9:22 pm
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One thing I thought I "heard" in your first post was some worry about what amputation would do to your active dog. Maybe I just read concern into your words, but it was something that worried me when I learned we would have to amputate Sammy's right front leg. He absolutely loved to play ball; he lived to play ball. He bounced through life full-speed ahead. So I worried that my poor three-legged dog would be awkward and depressed.

Well, I didn't know much about tripawds! Sammy could still outrun, outswim and outlast every dog he came up against. His enthusiasm for life was unchanged and he was happy and pain-free for about a year after the surgery. I don't think that would have been the case without amputation, since he was having severe pain before the surgery — and that was with no fracture. So, if that is factoring into your decision, please know that your active dog will approach life with the same zest and joy that he did before.

Prior to OSA, if someone had told me that I could be closer to my sweet furkid I wouldn't have believed them. But those 13 extra months we had with Sammy were so special that it is hard to explain. We so admired his courage and dignity, and he seemed to realize how much we wanted to help him. Each day was a gift and, when sympathetic strangers approached us, they left knowing what I didn't know before: tripawds are amazing.

All that said, I am not rying to convince you that amputation is the answer for you. As several others noted, you alone know what is the right decision for Ally and your family. I just wanted to address something I thought you might be worried about. Whatever you decide, the group will be here for you. 

Best,

Beth and Spirit Smilin' Sammy

Smilin' Sammy, March 16, 2004 – Dec. 5, 2011
Golden retriever, diagnosed with osteosarcoma in September 2010 — right front leg amputated November 2010. He fought valiantly to stay with us; but a second diagnosis of osteosarcoma, this time in his left front leg, was more than our golden warrior could overcome. He loved his pack — and everyone else he met.

We loved him even more.
Thanks for the pennies, Sammy. They helped.

On The Road


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24 September 2009
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17 April 2012 - 9:24 pm
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I'm so sorry you're going through all of this, it's a tough situation for sure. If you are near Ohio State, GO THERE. They are one of the best vet schools in the country and can help you make the best choice for your girl. Whatever you decide we'll be here to support you.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Sebastopol, CA
Member Since:
11 June 2011
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18 April 2012 - 12:01 am
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I'm so sorry you and your pup are having to go through all of this.

I just want to share my experience with our Lylee. She is a 12 year old Shepherd mix, she had a fracture of her humerus on her right front leg in April of 2010. The vets were worried about a pathological break so they did a biopsy of the bone when they did the repair. It came back negative.

Forward on to April 2011 and she was in increasing pain on the same leg and after numerous x rays, another bone biopsy we still didn't get a clear diagnosis but there was 'something' they could see on the xray. It was so obvious that she was in increasing pain that even though we did not have a clear diagnosis we decided to amputate. The pathology then came back as positive for osteosarcoma.

We, like you, were so fortunate to have the Tripawd community to support us. I knew that even if we had only a few months that removing the pain was paramount. Plus the recovery from the amputation was much easier for her - no bone to heal with all that drilling, pinning, etc to add to the trauma of a fracture. She was down on the beach on day 11 after the amputation surgery!

Now we are going to celebrate her 10 month ampuversary in 3 days - woo hoo. It has been a glorious 10 months! Check out her blog http://www.lyle.....ipawds.com.

Activity wise she doesn't have the same stamina than with 4 legs (no 3 mile hikes through & up the mountains) but she still has huge love of life and goes for beach walks, etc and has her chariot to aid her on longer walks (she loves it!).

It's great you have the good specialists to advise you. Know you have support with your journey from us all.

Hugs & wags

Joanne & Lylee

http://lyleegir.....ipawds.com

Columbus, Ohio
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17 April 2012
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18 April 2012 - 6:02 am
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My main hang-up is that I hate to see her go through another surgery since she just had one.  She was so painful in those first 4 post op days and I hate to put her through that again.  She seems so comfortable right now!  But I now with this dreaded disease that will most likely change.  I know she would be ok on 3 legs, but the thought of another surgery really scares me.  The thought of her in pain if I keep her leg scares me too!

  Thanks again for all your hope!  I need hope, I seem to have lost a little...

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17 March 2012
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18 April 2012 - 7:17 am
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I agree with Jerry (that seems to happen a lot).

 

I've read so much about how active tripawds can be on this forum so I wouldn't assume that your dog would have to be sedentary after an amputation. But, some places (e.g., Colorado State vet school) offer stereotactic radiation to kill bone tumors. It is as effective as amputation in getting rid of the primary tumor. You might talk to a vet at Ohio State about that... We had it done on our K, and she's as active as before her diagnosis (that includes long trail runs, climbing mountains, plowing through deep snow). A neighbor who lives in the same rough mountain area as I do had her dog's hind limb amputated, and her dog went snowshoe hiking through 3' of snow within a couple of months of the amputation. So, there really are very good options out there.

 

I am so sorry that you are going through this. Right now, the shock and fear is probably terrible. I hope that you can get to OSU vet school to get some helpful guidance.

K, an 8 year old chocolate lab, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the radius and ulna on 12/23/11. She had stereotactic radiation to kill the bone tumors, and 3 rounds of carboplatin. On 3/16/12, lung mets were found. We tried several different kinds of chemotherapy to slow the lung mets but none worked. Finally, mets appeared at other sites, including her spine. She earned her angel wings on July 15, 2012. K changed my life, and I'll never forget her. Our/my journey is chronicled at romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com.

On The Road


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24 September 2009
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18 April 2012 - 9:24 am
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kbear said
But, some places (e.g., Colorado State vet school) offer stereotactic radiation to kill bone tumors. It is as effective as amputation in getting rid of the primary tumor.

Hey kBear, I apologize for pointing this out but I'm not entirely sure this is true, and just want to make sure our information is current. Can you point us to where you read this? From what I understand stereotactic radiation's effectiveness varies depending on lot of factors. We've seen a few Tripawds here who have tried it and it failed to work, resulting in amputation.

This is a great topic to discuss with an oncologist we'll be having on Tripawd Talk Radio in May. I'll try to remember to bring it up. Stay tuned!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Member Since:
17 March 2012
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18 April 2012 - 10:49 am
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Jerry,

 

I am simply citing what the CSU oncologists told us. They said that their current patients had a 5-10% chance of primary tumor recurrence after stereotactic radiation. They said that the incidence of recurrence was decreasing because they are better at choosing the cases that are suited for stereotactic radiation. However, they hadn't yet published their more recent data in which they felt that they were choosing patients better for stereotactic radiation.

 

The bigger risk, in the minds of the CSU vets, was a pathological fracture, because the bone is weaker where the tumor was, yet a dog will use the leg just like it's normal. They said that they had about a 5% incidence of that. It could usually be fixed by putting in plates and screws or splinting, but occasionally the limb had to be amputated after a major fracture.

 

I'm no expert but my understanding at the time that we made our decision was that there is also a risk of osa tumor recurrence in amputation. I read about it occurring at the stump. I have no idea of the rate of incidence of that.

 

Back when we were making the decision, I found a research paper that supported the CSU vets' statements about stereotactic radiation's effectiveness against OSA tumors but I'm not sure where. I'll have to look.

 

I don't mind you asking the critical questions! I'm a physiologist/biologist by training so I'm used to it and even like it.

 

KB

K, an 8 year old chocolate lab, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the radius and ulna on 12/23/11. She had stereotactic radiation to kill the bone tumors, and 3 rounds of carboplatin. On 3/16/12, lung mets were found. We tried several different kinds of chemotherapy to slow the lung mets but none worked. Finally, mets appeared at other sites, including her spine. She earned her angel wings on July 15, 2012. K changed my life, and I'll never forget her. Our/my journey is chronicled at romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com.

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