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 am so glad I found this site! Everyone seems so helpful and kind. I need a little advice now about my baby.
I have a 7 year old Doberman, Leo, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left shoulder on July 25th. On August 31st we had a consultation with a surgeon for amputation of the front left leg. Leo has been feeling great lately, however, and has not limped in 3 weeks. He is very active and goes for walks and chases squirrels around the yard. His surgeon said he is a little reluctant to do an amputation on a dog that uses his leg as well as Leo. He said that by the time he sees most patients, they are dragging the cancerous leg. He also said that ususally with cancer, early detection, early surgery and chemo and/or radiation will put the cancer into remission. That is not the case with bone cancer and the amputation is more for pain management . The amputation will not stop the cancer. Based on the hours and hours of research I have done, this seems to be true. Leo’s regular vet and the surgeon said ultimately the decision is up to me as to when to do the surgery.
So this is my dilemma. Is it better to wait until Leo can not use the leg or should I just get the amputation done even though he is not limping and does not seem to be in tremendous pain? If he was suffering, there would be no hesitation. The surgery would be done right away. But I am conflicted right now and I wanted some opinions from people who have had to make this decision before. Leo’s lungs are clear so far and the cancer does not appear to have metastasized anywhere else in his body, based on his xrays. Leo is also eating Evo and is on K9 Immunity and K9 Trasfer Factor. He also takes Chinese herbs Bone Stasis and Stasis Breaker and a takes a fish oil and joint supplement every day. I would really appreciate any guidance I can get because I am trying to think rationally about this but sometimes it is easier to listen to people who are removed from the situation.
Thank you so much!
Thanks so much for joining the Tripawds community. We are sorry that you are having to go through this with Leo, but hope we can be of some help to you during this time.
First of all, we aren’t vets, so we can only share our experiences and non-professional personal opinions.
Leo is a lucky boy for you to have caught the cancer so early. What led you to suspect he was ill? Your vet is right, usually dogs aren’t diagnosed until they are limping and not using the affected leg.
We all know that dogs hide pain really, really well. Back when they were wild, non-domesticated animals, they would hide the pain until the couldn’t stand it anymore, as a way of protecting themselves from predators. Today they still have that ability to hide the pain from their pack, until it is unbearable.
And that’s exactly what a dog that’s limping, due to osteosarcoma, is doing–hiding the pain so as not to show weaknesses. When they show the pain, it is at the point when it is unbelievably, violently painful.
The weeks leading up to my diagnosis, I went on two long backpacking trips. On those trips, Mom and Dad noticed something was wrong, but they thought I was going slower because of my age. It wasn’t until several weeks later that my pain showed so much, that vets finally suspected osteosarcoma, in my front left shoulder too. At that point, the tumor was the size of a mango. Huge!
Ok now, did your vet say that amputation is inevitable? Is it only a matter of time before the amp has to be done? We assume so, right?
If so, then in my opinion, I say why wait until the pain is so terrible that it has to be done, quickly? Why not do it now that you have the luxury of being able to prepare for his Tripawd lifestyle, and psych you and your family up for the surgery?
You’re so lucky to have been given the blessing of time. Most of us find out we have cancer, and then do the amp, within a week or two of eachother. It’s quite traumatic.
Leo’s a lucky boy. Eating all the right things, and part of a loving family that can take such great care of him.
We hope this helps somewhat. Please let us know what you decide to do, and how Leo is doing.
28 July 2008
Leo and Sherri
I say do the amputation soon. You know it is never going to go away since it is bone cancer. I say do it soon while Leo feels ok (sounds like better than ok). He might recover easier instead of waiting until he is limping and not using that leg. Hope this helps
Heidi and Titan
Thank you for your input!
I know in my head that I need to do the surgery soon but he seems so darn happy now. I talked to my husband about it and we are going to schedule it for the early part of September. We have family coming in from overseas for 2 weeks this afternoon and I really want him kept quiet after surgery also.
Here is how we found the cancer: I came home from work one afternoon and he was limping bad. He was outside that day so I thought he hurt himself chasing a squirrel or a lizard. I rushed him to the vet but when she moved his leg and joints around he just sat there. He gave no indication of where it hurt. Neither of us thought an xray would be necessary at the time since it appeared to be an isolated incident. She sent me home with some pain medication and the next day he was back to normal. A month goes by and he starts to favor that leg again. He was not limping like the last time but he was not putting full weight on it. Then he started to lick his wrist. He licked the fur right off it. This time the vet sedated him took an xray and there was the cancer. It seems to be about the size of a superball right now and there is no swelling in the joint. I am still not sure why he was licking his wrist. That made me think the wrist hurt but that was not so. Today he is still putting full weight on it. I know it HAS to hurt and he is just not showing it.
When we go for walks he is walking at a very brisk pace. I can barely keep up. I usually heel him back but since the surgeon said to let him live his life, I have been letting him walk as he pleases. This also gives me a chance to monitor his gait. I had asked the surgeon if I should restrict his activity and he said to let Leo decide how much activity he wants.
I forgot to mention that he has only one eye. He lost his right eye in February 2007 because there was a tumor growing in it. The tumor grew SO fast that I feared it was cancer but thankfully, it wasn’t. He does so well with one eye that few people notice. I hope that does not bring him any balance problems in the future as a tripawd but I am trying to stay positive about that as well.
Leo is very lucky that you caught it early. Osteosarcoma moves very quickly and any amount of waiting is taking a chance that it will metastasize to his lungs. I would go ahead with the amputation; the sooner you do it the better chance he has at a longer cancer free life.
Connie & Radar
note: Jerry, for some reason I am unable to log in. I requested a new password and that doesn’t work either.
Thank for sharing the story of how you found out. It is almost identical to how I showed my osteosarcoma too, at first.
Inbetween the time of my last backpacking trip, to the time the vets suspected OS, my pawrents did take me to the vet’s office at least three times. The first time, as soon as I got to the vet I stopped limping, which lasted a while. Bingo! I was all better. The second time, I was limping off and on (but not badly), on different legs, and nobody could tell which leg was hurt, not even the vet. I was put on all sorts of arthritis meds which helped me feel like a new dog, but they messed up my belly. When Mom and Dad took me off the meds, the pain came back. So they took me to a new vet who was bright enough to suspect OS. Leo’s vet sounds really sharp too!
Glad to hear you’re going to schedule the appointment. Good idea to wait till things are calmer around the house.
I’m pretty sure that Leo will do just fine even though he’s a one-eyed dog. We adapt so well to challenges like this, you’ll be amazed. And boy he’s going to be a superstar afterward, people will just fall all over him because he will be so amazing, like no other dog they’ve ever seen!
Have a great family visit, and let us know if there’s anything we can do to help with the preparation.
28 July 2008
Sandy did not have bone cancer, but a nerve sheath tumor. She didn’t appear to be in any pain and was using all four legs. We spoke with several vets before proceeding with the amputation and they all expressed the same concern, that since she was using all legs she may have a harder time adapting to just using three. I can’t say whether it was harder than what some of your dogs experienced but she is doing great. Sandy’s amputation was 2 1/2 weeks ago. She has mastered going down stairs and is getting really good at going up. Yesterday she even played a little game of fetch. I don’t know how she felt but my husband and I were thrilled.
This is Sandy’s second bout with cancer. The first occurence was three years ago. She had the tumor removed and then went through six weeks of radiation therapy. A year ago the tumor returned. We were given the option of amputation and turned it down flat. The tumor continued to grow until it burst through the skin. Now our options were to amputate or euthanize. We really struggled. We were about to call off the amputation again. Then I found this site.
My advice is to move forward with the amputation. Knowing what I know now, I wish we would have done it three years ago. As you have read on many of these postings, the dogs do very well. It is the humans with most of the issues. Sandy is not 100% and may never be. But I am optimistic that with time she will get very close.
Best of luck. Your dog is much younger than many of the tripawds and I’m sure that will aid in the recovery process.
13 June 2008
Our poor boy took a while to diagnose then had another major op. to contend with before the amputation could be done – at that stage he was in a lot of pain. By the time they are limping it must be hurting a lot – Max was not using his bad leg at all in the end. He is now a few months post op and has a new lease of life. He is pain free and a happy dog again.
My advice is to be guided by your surgeon – ours was amazing and I trusted his judgement completely. Don’t put it off too long – I wish Max could have had his sooner. I’m sure you will do what’s best. It sounds like you’ve already decided to go ahead – for us it was definitely the right thing to do and Max is doing very well now – no regrets whatsoever.
So pleased to hear that Sandy is doing so well – you obviously made the best decision too
We wish you all the best,
We were given the option of amputation and turned it down flat. The tumor continued to grow until it burst through the skin. Now our options were to amputate or euthanize. We really struggled. We were about to call off the amputation again. Then I found this site.
My advice is to move forward with the amputation. Knowing what I know now, I wish we would have done it three years ago.
Thank you for the very kind words, they really do touch our heart.
My pawrents also struggled with the amputation decision, and it was only until they saw Moose, looking happy and healthy and loving life, that they saw the pawsibilities. We are always so grateful and happy and thrilled when others look at this site, and see it too.
Of course I’m not 100 percent either, but hey, it’s all part of growing older anyhow, right? Bodies get older, some have more challenges than others.
Sandy, we are so glad to hear you’re doing stairs and getting back to normal living. What a blessing it is.
Seize the day, and enjoy every minute!
17 July 2008
18 August 2008
You have come to such a great place for information. This site was a lifesaver for me when our 7 yr. old Great Dane, Myrtle, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right front leg at what would be considered her wrist. I sure understand your hesitation on amputation with Leo, but with this type of cancer, it’s so necessary. Myrtle’s swelling on her "wrist" popped up in 1 week…she had no lameness in the leg & was feeling terrific. After reading MANY posts on this site & having some background knowledge on this disease, we decided to amputate & never looked back. Myrtle is exactly 5 weeks post-op today & she plays, digs holes & runs around like nothing ever happened!
Good luck with Leo! 🙂
10 August 2008
You certainly have come to the right site. I was just where you were less than a month ago and Bonnie is a tripawd as of yesterday. I am sure that we have a long road ahead of us, but I would not change anything.
This site is the only thing that is keeping me sane! If I could not hear about that light at the end of the tunnel that I cannot see yet, I would be a total wreck. What am I saying? I am already a wreck, but these people have helped me hold the pieces together.
Bonnie did not limp,so she never really learned to work without the leg prior to surgery. I gather that is why she is not walking as easily as others, but I am jumping up every time she moves to see if she wants to try again.
We will get there, and so will you. Take care and our prayers are with you.
Chris & Bonnie