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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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Map is having a hard time.
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Sacramento, CA
Forum Posts: 6
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6 November 2021
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25 November 2021 - 8:58 pm
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Hello friends,

We have been lurking on this site now for a bit over 2 weeks and this group has been a comfort - especially the volunteers working the the help line. Thank you Renee and thank you Gale.

On 11/1/21 our companion - an 82 lb, 11 year old, male pit-mix named "Map" was diagnosed with a possible osteosarcoma lesion on his front-left humorous. A follow up with an oncologist on 11/5 all but confirmed the cancer. The oncologist's prognosis was positive; no visible cancer in the lungs, so amputation will remove the pain and chemo will likely give him another 3-12 months. But we had to act quickly. Map has been with us since he was 8 weeks old and he is the sweetest, most expressive, and most loving mut you could ever ask for; so our hearts demanded that we try. On 11/12, his leg was amputated.

As some of you surely know, the pandemic has strained the vet industry just like it has everywhere else. We called all the vet surgeons that were recommended in our area and we were not able to find an available surgeon on our own who could do the operation soon enough. Our oncologist stepped in and got the medical Director of her hospital to agree to perform the operation. The Director told us he was not "a board certified surgeon" but he assured us that he had done several amputations and that it was fairly routine. Time was so important, so we were grateful, The surgery would be that Friday, a mere 4 days after his oncology diagnosis.

We were so anxious about our decision the evening of the surgery. "He's big, he's fairly old, it's a front leg, and he already has some arthritis... can this possibly be right?!" But our vet team was quite sure that dogs like him tend to do just fine as tripawds, and that amputation was actually the best way to get rid of the pain. We chose to amputate for all of these assurances, and we planned that he would need intensive recovery and rehab, but that he would be free from pain within a week or so once the surgury site healed.

The first night he went into surgury we were worried sick, but they told us later that night that he had made it out of surgury and did well under anesthesia, and they would call us the next day to update us and pick him up. When they called the next day it was to tell us that we could not take him home yet because he was still not able to urinate or eat and they had to catheterize him in order to deal with the lack of urination. We went to visit him and were able to get him to eat chicken, and as we left we were so sad and worried. That was the first time we called the Tripawds help line; We spoke with Gale and she was so sweet and informative - she helped us calm down. He was able to urinate on his own the next day-Sunday (11/14)so we took him home. There was plenty to be grateful for.

Initially, his recovery was somewhat normal. He was dopey and uncomfortable for a couple days. The fentanyl patch came off and he was starting to occasionally get up on his own. He was eating, drinking, pooping and peeing with our assistance, and sometimes on his own. Though we still weren't sleeping through the night, some sweetness and energy was coming back to him. We had a couple of good days.

His meds at the time (11/14-11/20) were:

  • 1 Gabapentin(300mg) 3x daily
  • 1.5 Tylenol(300mg) w/Codine(30mg) 2-3x daily
  • 1 Rimadyl(75mg) 2x daily
  • 1.5 Trazodone(100mg) 2-3x daily
  • Antibiotics 1x daily for 10 days

(So many drugs! We we're keeping a paper journal but have since switched to an app called "Dog Log" that is working quite well for us.)

On Friday (11/19) on week after the surgery his pain seemed to be getting worse again - much worse. That evening, he began whimpering. Then, occasionally he would appear to spasm slightly in the area of his former shoulder and then cry out a scream that would just break your heart. Sometimes the cry/Yelp/scream seems to come in response to moving or touching him,  but sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere while he is lying, or while he is sitting down; it’s not consistent. This went on for hours. Pets, warm compresses, ice, scritches, nothing helped. We called the Tripaws help line again, left a message and Renee called us back.

Renee will be the first to tell you she is not a vet, but she is very knowledgeable and talked us down that evening. On our own we gave him an extra gabapentin and he seemed to relax. First thing the next morning (Sat 11/20), we took him to the surgery/oncology hospital. The checked his incision site everything looked really good with that, but he was still having this new pain. They upped his meds: gabapentin to 2 pills every 6 hours and the Tylenol/codine from every 8 to 6 hours. This helped. This would knock him out and when knocked out he was not apparently in pain. During the day on Sunday (11/21) he was even bouncing around on his own, going in and out of an open door to watch us do years work in the back. Those were good moments.

That evening was rough. We called the vet hospital and they were surprised - this is not what should be happening at 9 days our from the amputation. They told us we could give him as much as 2.5 Tylenol/codine each 4 hours. They also added 1x daily amantadine. We had another great conversation with Renee of  the Tripawds help line and she helped us find a rehab center in our area and we sent them an email, filled out some e-forms, and left a voicemail.

Monday (11/22) and Tuesday (11/23) were hard. We had a phone conversation with the vet who performed the surgery and he said this was very abnormal and he had a glum outlook; if this new pain cannot be controlled with the meds as is then there is nothing else we can do. Tuesday afternoon we took him into the Rehab Clinic. The vet there spent an hour and a half with us. We did some acupuncture, some laser therapy, and some "tens" electro therapy. He seemed to relax. She listened to our story and made some med adjustments downward  hoping that some of this discomfort was being caused by excessive dysphoria/confusion as a result of to much opioids. She recommended that we reduce the codine, Gabapentin, and trazadone and apply regular ice-packs to his back where the shoulder used to be and that we get our own "Tens" device and use it liberally. The emerging theory is that he is a) dysphoric from the pain drugs, and b) he may have "phantom limb" pain or some other nerve issues. She recommended we give it all we got for 5-6 more days, but if the pain can be controlled with these therapies/drugs, it might be time to let him go...

We were supposed to have his first chemotherapy appointment Wednesday 11-24 but we postponed it in order to try and get control of his pain first. His oncologist agreed. She was also somewhat resigned to the "let him go" timeline. A phone conversation with the surgeon took a similar tone.

We were crestfallen yesterday (Wednesday 11/24) He's slept ok the night before but only because of heavy sedation. My wife and I have no children and so Map (and his brother Compass) are all we have. Yesterday is the first day that he has refused his breakfast... maybe ever.

Being told "confidently" that amputation would take away the pain and the chemo would extend his life at a moment when we were already preparing to let him go was so lovely. But now it seems we have essentially tortured him for many days and spent thousands of dollars for our trouble.

I know that many, many of your stories are much better than ours, but right now we are all crushed.

If anyone has had any similar experiences that were turned around, we would be so grateful to read them.

Thank you so much if you got this far, we will update as things unfold.

Sincerely,

Harue, Butch, Map & Compass.

The Rainbow Bridge



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25 November 2021 - 9:57 pm
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Harue and Butch, I'm so glad you posted. How did today go? Is Map any better? Any differences with the new pain management ?

I wanted to get your first post approved so others can chime in right away. I'm on my phone now and calling it a day, but tomorrow I will share some links to more stories. For now here is a blog post we wrote about hard recoveries:

https://tripawd.....-recovery/

We are sending much love and strength your way. 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Sacramento, CA
Forum Posts: 6
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6 November 2021
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25 November 2021 - 11:10 pm
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Thank you very much Jerry. I skimmed the blog and those are wonderful stories, and seem to represent the kind of comeback that we are hoping for. It is great to know it is possible.

We had one therapy session on Tuesday.  We did some acupuncture, some lasers, and some tens. We will be back at the therapist on This coming Tuesday.

We acquired a tens device like the therapist's and have been using it liberally. Sometimes it seems to relax him; at other times it annoys him. It's difficult to tell if the device is having a positive effect, but we intend to keep trying.

His progress is different hour by hour. Yesterday was rough in the morning but good in the afternoon; today was good this morning and rough in the afternoon. Tomorrow, Map's surgery vet will be removing his sutures and is aware of the troubles Map. I'm sure that the sutures are at least a small part of Map's overall discomfort, so we are looking forward to having that go away.

We have managed to keep him eating and using the bathroom, though he isn't really drinking very much water.

thanks again and we will update as things progress.

-Butch

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 November 2021 - 8:30 am
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Oh I'm so happy to hear that! Yes, this is what's known as the recovery rollercoaster, and those ups and downs are not unusual. Some situations are bumpier than others but it sounds like things are headed in a better direction. Let us know how the vet visit goes.

To get him to drink, try spiking his water with no-salt chicken or beef broth, gatorade, pedialyte, or even some tuna water from a can.

Keep us posted!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Virginia




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26 November 2021 - 10:58 am
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WOW!  Talk about  a rollercoaster ride!  .Map is definitely the poster child of what it can look like sometimes!.   So glad Gayle and Rene  have been able to help support you.

Sorry you are going thrpugh the rougher aspects of recovery.  And also sorry Vets are being a bit to to eager  to throw in the towel.  That is not what you need to hear right now.  There is no reason this can't  get figured out!!

You are doing an excellent  job of researching  and checking  out all options AND not giving up! Map is not giving  up either!  

Map has been one lot of  meds and they've  been switched  up a lot.  I also thought what the Rehab Specialist said about the meds causing  some dysphoria, confusion, cert made sense.  The opiods, the very sedating Trazedone...ugh

A sugtestion would be to write down every time there is a "victory" (like bounciing around watching you do yard work).  Make note when the meds were given and when he seemed "pain free" and when the pain kicked in again.  And it IS good he's eating and using potty okay.  My Happy Hannah didn't  want to drink much either.  Although  not very "nutritional ", I would swirl a scoop of ice cream in ner water and she drank .like a champ.

.Let us know how stitch  removal goes.  And make sure ALL are removed!  

We're  all cheering for Map and waiting  for him to be the next Comeback Tripawd Kid!!

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!

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 November 2021 - 2:19 pm
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Aww I like Sally's suggestion to write down the victories!!!!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Sacramento, CA
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6 November 2021
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26 November 2021 - 6:43 pm
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Thank you Sally - that is a great idea: "write down the victories".

There have been a few (small) victories today. Sutures came out and he seems happy about that. Also, he did some sniffing around in the grass outside the vet. We reduced his gabapentin today and he seems to enjoy the lucidity.

Thanks again folks!

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 November 2021 - 10:39 am
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How's it going today with Map? I hope you are still seeing more victories!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Sacramento, CA
Forum Posts: 6
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6 November 2021
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27 November 2021 - 11:22 am
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Actually Jerry, the last 20 hours have been pretty good.

Since Map's sutures came out he seems to be in less pain and so we have reduced his gabapentin and his codine. There is now little doubt in our minds that dysphoria was part of Map's problems.

Map was more active yesterday evening and is drinking a lot more water. He even stood at his usual eating spot and ate from his big dog bowl (Elevated, of course); he hasn't wanted to eat like this since last week!

He was very restless last night however, and so moving forward tonight, I think we will return to giving him the full recommended dosages of his meds at bed time. Harue and I have been taking turns each night sleeping on the floor in our livening room with him (this plan has worked fairly well this last week so that we aren't both constantly sleep deprived), and last night he exhausted Harue's usually inexhaustible patience.

This morning he's on low doses and seems to be fairly relaxed sitting with me on the floor listening to a YouTube video called "Dog Watch TV Spectacular" - an 8 hour video of birds chirping, eating,  and playing near a running brook ("Paul Dinning" is the host FYI). I find it relaxing  as well.

Map still has random yelping fits and is all and all not very mobile, but - fingers crossed/knock on wood - he may be turning the corner.

-Butch

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 November 2021 - 12:18 pm
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WONDERFUL!!! Oh this makes my day!!!!

It makes sense that at night he's hurting more. I remember our Jerry was the same way. And I was like that after I had a bad accident once. It's like the pain just catches up with you at night when you're finally trying to relax. I hope the modified schedule will be the tweak his meds need.

How beautiful to think that he's laying there at your feet. Calming music and sounds are soooo good at a time like this, for everyone!

And those elevated feed bowls are a good thing in the long term too, so it's awesome you have them.

This is headed in the right direction you guys. We are keeping the pawsitivity coming!!!!

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

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Sacramento, CA
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28 November 2021 - 1:44 pm
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Update:

Map slept through the night (only waking up once)!! Still using Trazidone at night, but a win, is a win.

Map is also doing great with eating, drinking, and using the bathroom. He's still inexplicably whiny at times, but he's definitely trending towards his old self.

There are so many variables at play, but "pawsitivity" is surley helping 😊.

Thank you so much!

-Butch

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28 November 2021 - 4:46 pm
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It’s so great to hear that Map is improving! Little victories and improvements are so important here.I think it’s also important to acknowledge that many of us, including myself, felt the same as you. At two weeks post surgery I was convinced I had made my dog suffer intensely and ruined his last weeks on earth, and drained my family’s savings to boot. But day by day, you claw through it. You focus on each small victory, and remember your dog has their own timeline for recovery. It’s sounds like you and Harue are doing a phenomenal job fighting for Map, and you’re figuring things out already. 

We struggled through a bunch of sleepless night the first week after surgery. Maybe a week in I figured out some of the middle of the night whining meant he had to poop or pee (at that point we weren’t getting up unassisted, and definitely not going to the door like he used to). So any night whine meant a potty trip. I also deeply struggled with what was medication dysphoria, what was pain vocalization, and what potty whining. I don’t think I ever really figured out why he would sleep comfortably during the day, but whine and be unsettled at night. For some reason, it was worse in the dark so I kept low lights and TV on all night and it seemed to help a little.

Another thing my vet’s office suggested when we were really struggling was to give my boy a little change in scenery. We were lucky enough to have some nice weather, so I drug his bed outside and let him sleep in the sunshine in our backyard, on our driveway, on our front porch, etc. It really seemed to lift my dog’s spirits. If you are able, a little change of scenery might lift Map’s spirits.

The Rainbow Bridge



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28 November 2021 - 5:32 pm
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Oh yay yay yay! You guys this road is getting smoother, everything you are describing is pointing to a better recovery. And I love Megan's vet's tip about a change in scenery (thanks for sharing M!). See if that keeps the spunk factor going.

Tripawd Power is strong and steady, you've got this!!!

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

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Sacramento, CA
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4 December 2021 - 9:39 am
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Happy Saturday Friends!

It's been a phenomenal week 😊
Map is - more or less - acting like his old self. His surgery site is nearly fully healed and we have nearly removed the Tylenol-codine from his regimen.

His possible "phantom limb" pain seems to have quelled and his dysmorphic whining is nearly gone, having mostly turned back into his occasional happy groan (a kind of vocalization he has done when being pet for as long as I can remember). Though he does seem to be a little more spoiled then before, but we don't mind ❤️

For the last 4 nights Map has been sleeping through the night; which some of you know is a huge win (still with help from trazodone, for now). Also, last night we all slept together in our bedroom, in all our own beds, like old times (Harue and I were taking turns sleeping on the living room floor with him so the other human could get a nights rest).

Map is being active: climbing onto the couch; destroying empty boxes (something he has always loved to do); and marching outside on his own. He no longer needs us to bring him water - he goes to it on his own and his appetite is as strong as ever!

Map got his first round of chemo on Wednesday (12/1) like it was nothing along with a new round X-rays and tests. Our oncologist says there are no apparent metastases in his lungs, we are so happy about that.

Map's spirit is almost fully back. Our next phase is to plan out how to make the very most of our remaining time with him.

Thank you all so much for all the generous advise and camaraderie. There were a few moments that we might have given up if it weren't for your guidance and examples.

Love,
Butch, Harue, Compass, & Map

Virginia




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4 December 2021 - 10:30 am
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TEARING UP BOXES!!  JUMPING  UP ON  THE COUCH!!  YAAAAAY FOR MAP!!!👏👏👏

AND everyone is sleeping  their own bed!!!👏👏👏

Abso thrilled to read  Map is being Map again!!!  This is exactly why we do what mee do around here.  Relieve  their pain, bring their sparkle back, spoil, spoil, spill and make every day the best day ever!

Thanks so much for the update.  Made us all so Happy

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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