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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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Non-scapular vs. scapular amputation
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Forum Posts: 22
Member Since:
11 June 2011
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19 June 2011 - 1:50 pm
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Hello–

Wondering what others' experience has been with non-scapular amputation.  Our dog will lose his front right leg due to an injury on his foot (he came into rescue with it, and it has not healed).  The vet suggested not taking the entire shoulder blade.  He said it would not be as asthetically pleasing, but it would be less painful for Buddy.

Any comments from those of you who had a choice?  Any photos you care to share with me?

It is not an urgent surgery, so we have time to investigate our options.  We just want to do what is best for Buddy.

Thanks!

Erica

Greater Western Washington area
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19 June 2011 - 2:27 pm
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I went through this with my boy.  I wish now that I knew what the scapula was because I would have had them remove it at the time.  The surgery is less intense if they don't remove it but in the long term it is better (I think) if they do remove the scapula.  The problem with leaving it in is the muscle wastes away from the bone, and it can be very uncomfortable for him to lay on.  The bone protrudes after this happens.  It took about 3 to 4 months for it to become obvious when you pet him.  My boy Sammy has to have a very cushioned area now to be able to lay on his amp side.

Also, during recovery it can be a harder road if it is left in.  The nerves surrounding that bone seems to cause much more phantom pain then if it is removed.

My vet is Dr. Pam, she is Tazziedog on this site.  She can explain it much better than I can so I hope she sees this post.

I highly recommend it being removed, not at all for asthetic reasons but because I believe it is better for the dog.

 

Elizabeth

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,

leg fractured 8/27/10,

leg amputated 8/30/10

http://sammyand.....pawds.com/

 

I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us.  Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.

Scottsburg, IN
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19 June 2011 - 5:50 pm
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My dog had her scapula removed.  Actually our vet didn't even put the choice on the table, she just said this is how I do it and why.  She said basically what Elizabeth said above.  That the muscle would atrophy, it could be uncomfortable, and she also said they may tend to hit the scapula on corners/walls/whatever which could be more painful.  Below are some pictures.  The bad looking one is 2 days post-amp. I hope you've seen post amp pics before because I don't want to freak you out.  I thought it was important for you to see though.  In the others I think you'll see she doesn't look “deformed” or anything because the scapula isn't there.  You can see where she's exerting herself and those muscles are like little ripples, but when she's sitting still (rarely) her side is smooth. 

Hope these help one way or the other.

Leslie

 

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Forum Posts: 22
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19 June 2011 - 7:10 pm
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Thank you.

And, no, the pictures don't freak me out.  Your dog is beautiful!! big-grin

I appreciate your honesty.  I had read that they take the entire leg, for some of the reasons cited above, but some of the reasons are new to me.  Very very important for my husband and I to discuss and research.

Please, others, post your opinions.  The more info I have, the better!

The Rainbow Bridge



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20 June 2011 - 9:37 am
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Hi Erica,

It’s super smart of you to ask about the vet’s technique. Most pawrents don’t (including mine!) because they just don’t think of it. While lots of dogs here have partial leg amputations in the rear, seldom do we have any partial amps in the front.

Roxy and Sammy’s pawrents reflect most of what we have heard here about the pros and cons of taking the entire limb. I had my entire front leg and scapula taken too, but it was because the cancer was up high, I had no choice.

Another story you might want to check out is Biff. He has a similar story as yours. He recently underwent an “amputation correction” to remove the stump, which was getting in the way:

“They Call it An Amputation Correction”

Our second tripawd, Biff, came to us with a small stump remaining of his left front leg. He has been with us now for almost two years, and the stump has become more of a problem. It has atrophied, and it pulls on his spine and puts extra pressure on his remaining legs. The muscles in his shoulder make him think he has a full leg, and that causes confusion in his gait. As you may or may not know, dogs put 60% of their weight on their front legs. Therefore, a stump in the back is not as much of a problem as a stump in the front.

Grill your vet and ask why he wants to go the partial amputation route. And ask how many partial AND full-front leg amputations this vet has performed. Get client referrals and talk to these folks, ask what their experience was.

You might also want to get a second opinion from another surgeon and/or consult with a canine rehabilitation pro to find out if leaving a stump would help him. We have heard some rehab folks say that leaving a stump could help with balance but it depends on the dog.

Doing the legwork (pun intended!) up front may save your dog from the stress of another surgery.

Let us know what you find out OK?

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



Forum Posts: 27488
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20 June 2011 - 9:48 am
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Erica, here is one more story for you, about Marmaduke. He had a front leg amputation from the knee down and his had to redo it because it was giving him trouble. Their vet gave them some story about how it happens all the time (not!):

“Ulceration after amputation trouble”

Me and my husband rescue a german shephard puppy from a very abusive home a few months ago and had to get his right leg amputated from the knee down. It was healing great until it got infected and ulcerated it's slowly healing and it's been two months still open. Anyone ever dealt with this or have advice

Marmaduke’s blog (you can track his 2nd amputation’s recovery here, is Marmaduke.Tripawds.com.

By the way, you can Private Message any of these folks, I’m sure they would be happy to share their experiences with you.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Linden, MI
Forum Posts: 458
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20 June 2011 - 6:59 pm
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Nova's surgeon took her scapula even though the tumor was way down on her left wrist, and said he would not do it any other way.  It is a sleeker, more natural look.  He told me it “floats” around and can be uncomfortable for the dog.  At the time I was horrified, and didn't see the point in removing a bone that didn't have a tumor in it, but I trusted his judgment.  I am so glad I did.

Sue and Queen Nova

Dane Mom Sue at nova.tripawds.com and Mom to Beautiful Great Dane Queen Nova, a Blind Tripawd, who kicked cancer's butt from 11/08-03/13. The Queen is Spirit Nova now, but her legacy lives on here at Tripawds!

Forum Posts: 22
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22 June 2011 - 4:08 am
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Again, I appreciate all the advice. 

My husband took Buddy in Monday to have a cyst looked at (he can't get a break!!) and talked more with the vet, bringing up many of the things we have read here.  The vet said a non-scapular surgery will be less traumatic for Buddy (fewer muscles and nerves being cut), that he's done both, and he hasn't known dogs to have problems with a stump, if you will. 

A former high school classmate is a local vet, and I e-mailed her some of these questions.  She said she was trained to take the scapula, but her boss was not. I plan on asking her if she has seen issues with the non-scapular surgeries post-op.

The main reason we are considering it:  we want it to be less traumatic for Buddy.  He has been through so much already.  However, going through another surgery down the road to remove the scapula would make this a moot point.

A lot to think about.  I am glad we have time to think, as it is an injury and not cancer.  He is in some pain, but we have pain meds and can wait until we feel confident we are making the right decision.

Keep the opinions coming, please.

The Rainbow Bridge



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22 June 2011 - 10:13 am
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You’re doing your homework, that is pawesome. Only you know what the right decision is for Buddy, so after you learn as much as you can, you know you’ll be making the best decision!

Poor Buddy, hope the cyst was not too serious.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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rex
10
12 February 2014 - 12:11 pm
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What did you decide to do for Buddy? I am going through the same issue where I need to decide whether to choose a partial amputation for my dog or remove everything.. I am in the research phase and was hoping you could share what you had decided.

The Rainbow Bridge



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12 February 2014 - 2:06 pm
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Hi Rex, I’m sorry to hear you and your pup are in the same situation. Why is he going to lose his leg?

We highly recommend registering so your posts won’t require approval.

Meanwhile, I tried to find other posts by Buddy’s people about whether or not they went with the full scapular amputation but unfortunately I can’t find any. I will say that the large majority of people do get the entire scapula removed. Leaving a partial is only useful if you’re considering a prosthetic (and if you are, be sure to consult with a company like OrthoPets before the surgery to ensure he’s a good candidate for a prosthesis. Most dogs who have a partial amp encounter major healing problems and end up getting another surgery to remove the remaining bone. Hope this helps!

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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polarbear
12
3 April 2014 - 8:04 pm
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I am getting a newborn pup tripawd and we are likely going to leave the scapula in. The vet I spoke with believes that it leaves the dog with better muscle/skeleton balance. She will only be 50-60 pounds, so not a giant breed.

Not sure if it will be a mid-humerus or proximal humerus amputation yet, though. We are still asking more vets.

Lots of opinions out there.

The love the dog gets is the most important factor, imho. :O)

The Rainbow Bridge



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3 April 2014 - 8:13 pm
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Hi Polarbear, welcome. Please consider registering so your posts don’t require approval.

Congrats on the new Tripawd puppy! You’re doing really great by getting more than one opinion. Consider asking a veterinary rehabilitation therapist for another perspective, they can tell you how, if at all, leaving the scapula could affect balance.

Why did the pup lose her leg?

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

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

polarbear
14
3 April 2014 - 8:55 pm
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Well, she’s just 3 days old and in another city right now, so i’m not actually sure exactly how much of her leg is left. All i know right now is that she was born with a “malformed front leg.” Luckily, the breeders are wonderful people and are asking a lot of vets for opinions. 

Actually, it was a vet rehab therapist who suggested leaving the scapula in. Since she doesn’t know the details, she didn’t claim to know how to deal with the rest of the amputation, but she did say that she knows some dogs who have done well leaving the leg on, even. I doubt that the breeders will do that. They will likely do a mid or proximal humerus amputation. I’m really leaving that up to them and the vets that they know. 

Glad to know this place is here. I’ll likely sign up at a later date. Am signing off the computer for tonight.

Thanks for your quick reply–much appreciated. I have almost 8 weeks to get ready, and i do need to get the yard ready–trashed from a big storm–and get the (little bit grouchy cat) a little room she can hide in with everything she needs in it and get rugs covering everywhere and…..

Exciting, though, will visit her on April 30th. Akasha is her name. Assuming she takes to me!

You are all an inspiration. Goodnight. :O)

Twin Cities, Minnesota
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4 April 2014 - 8:23 am
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We are in the camp that did not do a scapular amp. There were a host of reasons we went that way–the cancer was pretty distal, the vet himself felt more comfortable with that method–and we wanted him to do the procedure, cost, recovery time, etc.

We never had any issues with Sam’s stump–he was able to navigate in the house, up and down stairs, around courners, in the woods and underbrush, etc. fine. And he never had any problems lying down on it (started doing it after only a couple days, in fact…I had to put towels down so it wouldn’t make a mess :D).

Mind you, every case is different, for sure…and also, Sampson was a 13 year old dog with terminal cancer. We weren’t dealing with a younger dog who was having the amp for a (relatively) benign cause and thus might be looking at 5, 7, 10 more years of navigating around and high activity levels (which Sam never had ANYWAY :p).

So, yeah, n=1 and all that…but for us, we were fine with non-scapular.

 

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
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