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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Marley - 12 yrd old choc lab scheduled feb 2nd - help!
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Forum Posts: 104
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24 January 2009
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24 January 2009 - 8:44 pm
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Hi everyone,

My husband and I have been posting for about a week now – we finally have a plan for Marley our 12 year old chocolate lab – amputation of her left leg is scheduled for Feb 2nd. We met with one surgeon who said she was not a candidate – that her right knee was not strong enough – just by feeling it he thought she had a previous ligament tear we did not know about… we then met with Dr. Romansik at New England Veterinary Oncology Group (NEVOG) in Waltham, MA – anyone in this area needing help – he was AMAZING! He was so positive and said to get a 2nd opinion so we did today – Dr. Pastor at Port City Vet in Portsmouth, NH was terrific. She did not feel any difference between her left or right knee and found via xray that her right knee is fine, maybe a little swollen tissue from limping off and on the past few months (thought it was arthritis!). So this goes to show how important a 2nd opinion can be!!

So we feel good about this decision – I'm so sad for her to lose her leg, but so relieved she should be with us for longer! Now we are getting anxious for the surgery – just looking for some advice! We have a four year old, a two year old and another on the way in 4 weeks… yikes! (Marley is our “first child”.) So we are a little overwhelmed thinking of the recovery period. Just wondering if you can all share your experiences of the first two weeks. Marley will come home on a Wednesday and Kevin is taking the rest of the week off from work – we are hoping by Monday (1 week post surgery) things will get a bit better so he can go back to work? (I will have help lined up for the kids.) What is so difficult about the first two weeks? I know all dogs react differently – should the pain meds keep her relatively comfortable? (We had a bad experience with Tramadol for her – made her completely loopy – so she's now on Oxycodone which Dr. Pastor said she would keep her on post surgery. She is pain free now whereas two weeks ago she would not touch her left paw to the floor and was panting and breathing was off due to such pain…) Were your dogs up a lot at night? Was it the stress of trying to get them to eat/drink? We are planning to order a harness. I'm assuming we should have her confined to a small area for a while? Any suggestions to help us prepare would be so appreciated! This site is amazing! So glad we won't be going through this alone!

thanks so much

Holly, Kevin and Marley

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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24 January 2009 - 9:03 pm
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The hardest thing for us in the first two weeks was the need for constant adjustment.  Trouble did very well and we could see improvement daily.  She came off  her pain meds and antibiotics on day  7.  We had to  put her back on  pain meds after a couple of days, she just didn't seem like she was doing as well and seemed uncomfortable.  Initially, she wasn't able to walk far without resting.  She did eat in the bedroom for the first couple of days, but by the time she  came into the kitchen on her own,  I moved the food and water back to their normal place.  We have tile floors and that was not good for her.  We put runners down so  she wouldn't slip and it gave her the confidence she needed  to move about on her own.  We let her pace herself.  Whatever she wanted to try we went with it.  [Image Can Not Be Found]

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.

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25 January 2009 - 10:12 am
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I think our worst thing with Max was not knowing what he was feeling. A lesson in Labby speak would have been nice, but we finally got the language down. Certain whines for certain things.

 You will find that eating and drinking might be an issue, assistance with going potty (we used a sling that our vet gave us for the first 2 days and were already used to it since Max had TPLO surgery 8 weeks prior) and from your post Im wondering if you wont have an issue with the kids? I accidentally bumped Max's surgery site and it hurt him alot. You will certainly have to keep her in a spot where she has privacy and wont have to worry about what is going on around her. Meds may make her a little off too….they play a big part in eating, drinking and elimination.

You will see where people have posted that the first 2 weeks are hell…and they arent kidding. I slept with Max on our kitchen floor for a night and the rest of the time on the couch right next to him. Its a constant watch to make sure they are not licking the incision, or doing something else that might be harmful. Every dog is different and maybe Murphy will heal very quickly, but Id be remiss if I didnt tell you that it will take all of the 2 weeks for her to heal.

Good luck on your journey and keep us posted with Murphys progress. We are all here to help in any way we can.


Paula and Spirit Max

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25 January 2009 - 12:00 pm
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Hi Holly:

You will definitely have your hands full after next week.  Our girl is a rear amp and she's bouncing around 1 1/2 months after surgery just fine.  (Malamute with Osteosarcoma)

The first two weeks are very hard, I would suggest making sure that Marley has a personal space and is given some quiet, they come home confused, tired, and doped up.  We made a pen in our living room so that she could be with us but we didn't have to worry about her moving around and although we don't have kids in the picture, we do have a rambunctious german shepherd.  We were concerned on how she would react to Tika, but they both did fine.

Our girl didn't take to the pain meds to well, she was constantly getting sick, so we took her off them early and just kept her on the anti-inflammatory.  Once we did that, she started sleeping better, getting food down and keeping it down.  I slept on an air mattress by her for almost the first week, especially with her getting sick.

I also think you should prepare yourselves for how you are going to feel. My husband and I went through grief, guilt, panic, you name it.  When your baby tries to do something that he can't quite do, it's hard. When we dropped her off the day of the surgery, I completely lost it, it wasn't pretty.

A month and half later, she's doing great, it really doesn't seem to bother her at all. She has learned how to lay down on her amp side now which is good, it was one of her struggles. She loves her walks.  We use a scarf to give her support if she has to go up a long flight of stairs, but she manages most fine. (Rear amps, going up is the hard part, my girl tears down stairs like she has four legs, I think mainly because she enjoys giving me heart attacks)

Just remind yourself that if you didn't do this, your time with Marley would be drastically reduced and the poor guy would be in horrible pain, that will get you through the tough times.

Good luck to you and your family, let us know how things are going, there's great people on this board who have gone through it and can give you peace of mind!

–Kim and Tika

Kim and Spirit Tika

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25 January 2009 - 5:26 pm
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So sorry to hear about Marley. All your fears and worry are understandable. We have a 9yr. choc. lab that had amp surgery 12 days ago ( Wrigley II- we gave him the two because there is another Wrigley on this forum too: ) . Just remember every persons/dogs experience is different.  We feel extremely lucky that we have had a relatively easy time of it.  I can tell you I was in tears on about day 2 and 3,  the stress of it all just wears you down!  It's hard to see someone you love not feeling well!  Wrigley had no problems with the pain meds. no whining or crying from pain and could have been off meds. by day five, but I continued just in case.  The first few days he wasn't that interested in food- he had chemo also- He ate and drank lying down and we still have to hand feed him- I think he had some pain the first two times he tried to eat (yelped) so he is afraid of his bowl now.  I would agree about having an area he can be near you but so he isn't disturbed by the kids. If he's used to always being around you I wouldn't put him some place where he can't hear and see you.  Wrigley II slept well, it was, me always sitting up to check on him if he made a sound. Being a mom it's something you're probably used to. The constant worry tires you out.  We never kept Wrigley confined, he didn't move at all for four days.  I was worried about helping him around but you truly will be amazed at what they can do all by themselves when they come home!  Balance (mostly when he was eliminating)wass the  thing I worried about, he wasn't the most graceful on four legs!Laugh.  So here we are on day twelve and Wow! He is happy and excited for walks. The first week I thought I would never see the old Wrig again- but he's back!  So, just take one day at a time. Be strong and Marley will do great! I wouldn't have made it without all these great people here. 

You will be in our thoughts

T,B and Wrigley

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25 January 2009 - 10:22 pm
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Dear Holly, Kevin and Marley-

Just as everyone else has said, the first 2 weeks are the hardest.  Blackjack did fairly well getting around the house, but had a tough time on stairs and had to be carried.  He occasionally still does, though ususally he tries to run down and up now (almost 3 months post-op) which is probably more a problem for us than for him!  Blackjack had extra fluid after surgery since he had problems with bleeding, so, even though we thought he was getting outside enough, he still had a few accidents on the kitchen floor.  Expect that your Marley may also be swollen and will be given some fluids during surgery, so that could be an issue for you, too.  My spouse and I took turns sleeping downstairs with him and found that we woke up with every little noise (at least for the first few days), but then slept through a few times when he would get up to pee in the kitchen since we were so tired.  (We don't have children, so you may already be used to sleep deprivation and may do much better than we did!)  Every dog is different, so you will have to see how Marley is getting around and then judge how much you need to be with her when she gets up.  We used a towel as a sling for the first day, then stopped as Blackjack seemed to be doing ok without it.  It is very helpful to have some old T-shirts for her to wear post-op as the Elizabethan collar thing is just a joke.  Cut off the sleeve on Marley's good side and then cut the T-shirt up the middle of the back about 1/3 of the way-enough to tie it around her waist.  You may need to cut the back a little more or less depending upon how it fits her.  Blackjack seemed pretty comfortable with that, and tying it works better at keeping it on than using a rubber band to try to scrunch up the excess.  We are in the Boston area, too, so feel free to contact us if you need to talk.  Just post a reply to this and I'll send you our e-mail/phone.  This is a great resource, though, so many people helped us out and it was an immense comfort to hear from everyone when we had an issue or were feeling down.  As Jerry's pawrents have said, you need to be strong for Marley, but it's totally ok to cry, too.  Remember that you are doing this to ease Marley's pain and give all of you some more time together.  Hang in there and let us know how things go.  As Balckjack says, “Go Tripawds!”

Blackjack and Nancy

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25 January 2009 - 10:25 pm
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Sorry, almost forgot 1 thing- If Marley is taking a number of meds after surgery, it is really helpful to make a schedule and check it off as you give them to her. 


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26 January 2009 - 12:30 am
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Holly, Kevin &  Marley:

Our dog Max had his left front left amputated about 10 weeks ago.  I would prepare yourself definitely for the first two weeks, but also the next 2 weeks after that.  The first 2 weeks are filled with pain and medication.  Max did well with both, but I didn't.  There will be a lot of painful yelping.  It got to the point where I was afraid to touch my own dog because I was afraid I was going to hurt him  Frown  The staples (or stitches) will come out after the first 2 weeks.  Then, it's just  a matter of time until all the remaining pain goes away.  Things really started to get back to normal (for us) at about 4 1/2 – 5 weeks.  Max started play-bowing and chasing again, and was back to his old self.  You just have to be patient with Marley.  And when you have bad days, try not to beat yourself up over it.  I think most people here probably went through all the emotions (anger, sadness, guilt) of having their dog lose a leg; things will get better.  For me, every day seemed like it was a year.  It was a very slow time to get through those first weeks, but you will.  And things will be so much better, it will be hard for you to remember what it was like those first weeks.  Good luck, and keep us updated.

Di & Max

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26 January 2009 - 2:11 am
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Hi Holly, Marley & Kevin,

When Barley came home from surgery (left front), the meds really didn't agree with him. And it was sometimes hard to tell if he was in pain and needed more meds, or if the meds themselves were freaking him out. My husband slept on the floor under the dining room table with him for several nights. We didn't have kids at the time…I was pregnant…and we just tried to keep our other dog pretty mellow around him. I also had to be careful to not show how sad and worried I was about him, because that was his least favorite thing in the world. We were amazed at how fast he was able to figure out how to pee and poop and move around on his own. Our house is mostly carpeted and we put down runners everywhere else. The first couple of days were the most difficult for him, but it was tough for us for several weeks — just a lot of stress, worrying about how he was doing, questioning whether we'd done the right thing because it feels and looks so drastic — and then, we all just got used to it. And felt so proud of our brave boy for doing so well, and liking his new nickname “Three”. It was unquestionably the right thing to do.

The med schedule is a really good idea. Maybe it was pregnant brain, but I really needed to write down what he had when. Di is right…things get so much better, it's almost surreal to remember those first few weeks.

We'll be thinking about you all!


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26 January 2009 - 5:56 pm
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Marley & Family

It is a one day at a time thing.  Buddy is 2 weeks post-op today and he is really doing great.  He is still tired a lot but he loves to go outside and do short walks (Dr is saying 75 to 100yds 2 to 3 times a day slowly increase every week). Buddy is a left front ampute and he was still using his leg to walk but when he was standing he would hold it up and not put pressure on it.  Since Surgery the Dr gave us a sling to bring home and it helped a lot.  The first couple of days we used it everytime he was walking but then just started using it when he walked outside down the ramp to the yard and then let him walk on his own. We've been really lucky or the drugs he was on were amazing. (Tramadol)  The first couple of nights my husband slept downstairs with him and he had to get up 2 or 3 times to go out but after than he has been sleeping through the night and even sleeping late.  He ate fine and is drinking plenty of water.  One thing of Dr said was to put a spoonful of pumpkin pie filling in his food has good vitamins/fiber to help him get back in the swing of going to the bathroom and it worked!  Our Dr was amazing, Buddy's scar has healed wonderful.  The first week and a half he was wrapped with a bandage now we just put a t-shirt on him when we aren't around so he can't think about licking the area. Now on to the Chemo and I can only pray that goes as well as this.  Good luck to you though and keep us posted of the recovery!

Buddy & Missy

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26 January 2009 - 7:32 pm
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Hi Marley – I honestly cannot think of anything else to add on “what to expect” those first two weeks than what already has been said – great, great advice and thoughts.

My 2 cents would be to take a deep breath when you pick up Marley from surgery and look into her eyes when she comes out – Zeus was waggin his tail and looking at me a little uncertainly – like, “do you still love me?” Reinforce that you do, even with words – she will understand. Get some rest…you'll need it and you'll be better equipped to handle the roller coaster of emotions that you are going to feel. Most importantly (in my book), have no regrets…embrace each and every moment with her from this second forward – I know that prior to this diagnosis that I took for granted that Zeus would always be here – not anymore, I cherish each tail wag, each kiss from him. You are about to take an incredible journey full of such human emotion that despite the tragedy and cruelty of the cancer, it will be a fulfilling experience…at least it has been for me.

We are thinking of you and no, you are not alone going through this – as you can see, someone is always here for you when you need it.

Lots of pawsitive thoughts, prayers and healing energy.

Much love too.

Heather and Zeus

Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together

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26 January 2009 - 10:06 pm
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28 January 2009 - 8:37 pm
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Thank you everyone!!! I could not imagine doing this without this site… you know, it's interesting – our local Vet, the oncologist we've met with and the surgeon scheduled to do the surgery all act like the recovery period is no big issue – that they often hop out of the hospital, that they figure it out, that if they're in pain we just up the meds… thank you so much for preparing us realistically. I know it will not be easy. With two little kids and another one due only 3 weeks after Marley's surgery Monday, I am freaking out! Luckily Kevin is taking off the first week, but he'll have to go back to work the 2nd week. I guess we'll just figure it out. I do have family that can come and help me. I have been such a train wreck emotionally the past two weeks I cannot imagine it any worse.. I bawl every few hours. I'm so worried about her making it through the surgery, being 12! My vet, the surgeon and oncologist say she should be fine, but I just can't believe it. I can't bear the thought of her in the hospital for 2 nights, wondering why she's going through this, why I've left her there….

She has has been fine this past week – pain free with Oxycodone (she did not do well on Tramadol – would not eat, completely out of it). 

I have seen several posts stating “the meds did not agree with him”. I wonder if these are from Tramadol? Has anyone had their dog on Oxycodone? Marley also has been on Rimadyl, but we just had to take her off of it because her bloodwork just came back showing elevated ALT levels (liver) because of it. Hoping she won't start limping again without it… the surgeon said we could possibly put her on Derramax after the surgery, that it may not cause an issue with her liver where the Rimadyl did? So many questions!! 

Here and Now

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28 January 2009 - 8:56 pm
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marleyflynn said:

… posts stating “the meds did not agree with him”. I wonder if these are from Tramadol? 

Jerry's pain medication of choice was Tramadol, it agreed with him quite well. He took it daily and never showed any adverse side effects. Unlike Rimadyl which quickly tore up his insides and gave him the runs.

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28 January 2009 - 9:37 pm
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Same with Max…..he takes Tramadol 3 times a day and has no issues with it. He took Rimadyl after his TPLO surgery and it really bothered his stomach even when giving it with his nightly food.

Paula and Spirit Max

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