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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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Claire Ashgrove
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30 September 2016 - 11:10 pm
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Hi all!  I’ve been a lurker, tried to post once, but something weird happened and it went into cyber oblivion. Glad to be here, glad to be speaking up and saying “hi!”

So Daisy is around 7 years old.  We’re not sure, as we found her on the road — she’d been dumped.  She’s a Golden mix of some sort.  She had a soft tissue sarcoma that ended up getting a small puncture wound and becoming a festering mess of draining, stinky wound, which would never heal because it was in a cancer lump.  So we – without hesitation – decided to take off the offended leg.  It’s her right fore.

She had her surgery a week ago today, and was actually released five hours after because she’d done so well and was recovering so strongly.  (That, and the vet knows me well and I have former experience as a tech.)  She was groggy the first night, understandably, but the next day, mobility wise, she was pretty normal.  Appetite was a problem.

Four days post-op, she was still getting around very well.  She’s never been a particularly energetic, active dog — more of a couch rug.  But I could tell by the significant increase of tail-wagging when we spoke to her that she was feeling better than she was pre-surgery.  Still, though, she wouldn’t eat.  Nothing that required any bit of chewing.  And she was dry heaving periodically throughout the day / night.  She was on Clavamox and Previcox.  Called the vet.  He felt it could very well be related to the anesthesia tube still and said see what happens for another couple of days.  I continued for that night, but the following morning I began to have a ‘very bad feeling’ about her pain meds.  I’ve lost two dogs to NSAID poisoning, and she was acting like those pain meds were really causing problems. 

I opted to pull pain meds for the day and see how it went.  Figuring if she showed pain I’d get something else from the vet before they closed.  Lo and behold… she showed no indication that she was in any greater pain, her mobility wasn’t affected, and that dry-heaving stopped.  So she’s been off pain meds for three and a half days now.  Absolutely no more dry heaving, and the constant “at the water bowl” has stopped.  However, she will *not* eat anything that requires any significant amount of chewing.

I’ve fed her shredded beef, shredded chicken, and made meatballs with oatmeal in them for her.  These she will eat.  But even with chewing the meatballs, she is “off”.  Chewing on one side of her mouth, chewing with her front teeth… and her appetite is significantly diminished.

Question One:  Is it possible that she could have slipped while I was sleeping and injured her mouth?  Is there something else that I should prompt the vet for when we go in Monday to pull stitches?  A starting place, perhaps?  Or is this… normal…?

Second issue —  Her routine is get up, go potty, climb onto the short couch, sleep, thump tail when she’s spoken to, lift leg for belly rub, rinse and repeat.  So we’re not running marathons here.  “Overdoing” isn’t really happening in Daisy’s life.  However, tonight, I noticed she is distinctly favoring her hind leg on the same side the fore was removed.  Muscle soreness?  She’s definitely up less today than she was yesterday.  I’ve been rubbing her down on her good legs and her spine.  What else can I do for her if it is likely to be muscle soreness?  I really, really, really do not want to go back to pain medications unless it is absolutely necessary.  I don’t want the side-effects of Tramadol, and I absolutely do not want to deal with NSAIDs at all.

Hoping you guys can help me figure out some things to help her through the weekend, and perhaps some appropriate questions to put to the vet.

Thanks in advance!

Claire

The Rainbow Bridge



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30 September 2016 - 11:30 pm
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Hi Claire, welcome. I’m glad you were able to post this time. I have some ideas but I’m on my phone now so I will respond when I can actually type coherently OK? Stay tuned for insight from our awesome members.

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1 October 2016 - 12:13 am
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Hi Claire wnd Daisy!

WOW! You brought her home five hours after surgery! You are a strong woman! 🙂

I love hearing avour Daisy and her attachment to the couch…and belly rubs! She sounds like sicrh a sweetheart!

I’m really glad you have her pain managed with so lottle meds. Almost everyone here does Tramadol, Gabapentin, Rimadyl and an antibiotic for about two weeks. Maybe you could introduce Gabapentin if the Tram makes her weird. I know the NSAIDs can be scary. Sounds like that did cause her tummy upset.

I wish I had insight about her mouth issues. Can you see well enough to see if there are any inflamed gums? Maybe some teeth that are broken off causing some sort of irritation? Is it possible her jaw has been dislocated somehow?? Now this is REALLY crazy, but…could the anesthesia tube or devices they used to hold things in place have caused any sores or jaw issues? Just throwing crazy stuff out there!

Drinking okay?

For now, I vuess just keep shredding her food and doing whatever it takes to get her to eat. Aybe you could video her eating and send it to the vet!!

As far as her sore leg, miscles and joi ts are DEFINITELY getting adjusted ti carrying more weight. Even kf she hasn’t “overdone it, it takes very little to cause soreness. I knkw she loves her couch, but she really should be doi g NO jumping up or down.

Sorry not much help. Just want to let you and Daisy know we are here for you any way we can. Ha g in tbere! Recovery doesn’t last forever! You’ll see her sparkle come back slowly but surely!!

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!

Kansas City
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1 October 2016 - 1:14 am
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Hey, Sally, thanks for responding!  (And you too, Jerry!)

She is drinking okay, and I think that’s a great question for the vet – whether the tube could have caused some issues.  I don’t see anything obvious on or in her mouth.  A spot on her tongue, but it’s on the side she’s eating on.  I’ll take a meatball in with us and show him.  Hee!  This is what I’m after though; things I can pose to him to get us brainstorming on possibilities.

Just FYI, she’s not jumping at all.  She’s tall enough that all she has to do is step up onto the couch and step down. The first time I caught her was the morning after she came home, and I was scared the strain of the slight pull would pop a stitch.  When it didn’t, I haven’t stopped her. She gets up there and lays down on her stitches, which was my first hint she wasn’t hurting much at the site.  On the floor, even on the carpet, she will not lay on the stitched side.  I put her dog bed on the floor in front of it to encourage her to sleep on that, but, nope, she wants her couch.  My vet said not to restrict her (within reason) because the more I did, the longer it would take her to get used to using three legs and that she’d do what she felt comfortable doing.  Since she’s not a terribly active dog, and I’ve never seen her run except for the morning she was running on the road scared to death, I’ve not limited her at all.

On the upside of everything… While yes she’s got some hurdles, I already see a vast improvement in her state of mind.  The week we were waiting for surgery, when that leg was just a mess — not terribly painful, outwardly, but disgusting and gross — and she had to wear the cone of shame , she was so depressed. Her eyes are brighter as well, and the thumping tail is a great sight to see.

Minneapolis, MN
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1 October 2016 - 10:14 am
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Hi, Claire:

Pofi is also an STS amputee.  His was an STS in the nerve tissue – do you have a more specific diagnosis on Daisy’s STS?  The reason I ask is if it was a Nerve Sheath Tumor like Pofi’s, there may be significant residual nerve pain and for that Gabapentin was incredibly effective for us.  Pofi was on a combination of Gabapentin, Tramadol and Rimadyl for two weeks prior and post surgery and really did well.

Also, every time he has had to have GA, and it has been too many times in the last year or so (9 times for ops, scans, etc), he definitely has some esophageal discomfort after it.  In fact, he had GA a week ago yesterday to remove an ulcerated lump on his remaining foreleg and has been, as he always does, making throat clearing noises, but it is diminishing.  He also seems uncertain about committing to chewing for a few days post intubation for anesthesia – as if the palate is just a bit roughed up.  So if Daisy needs to, feed her softer foods. Baby food even – just make sure she is getting nutrition and it will hopefully improve in a few days.  Maybe some tasty deli meat or rotisserie chicken will help entice her.

Lisa, Minneapolis

On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly.  His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Michigan
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1 October 2016 - 1:09 pm
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Murphy didn’t eat well after surgery, either, so I cooked rice and added chicken broth to it, then some chunks of chicken.  We also used Gabapentin for nerve pain (along with the Tramadol & Rimadyl).

Donna

Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs

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1 October 2016 - 1:51 pm
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Hi Claire,

I’m back so I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can:

Question One:  Is it possible that she could have slipped while I was sleeping and injured her mouth?  Is there something else that I should prompt the vet for when we go in Monday to pull stitches?  A starting place, perhaps?  Or is this… normal…?

My guess is that she is experiencing the same esophegal issues that Pofi has. Give it time and lots of soft foods to see if that helps. It is a VERY good sign that she’s drinking and not coughing or dry heaving anymore. Have you checked for any signs of a tooth abscess?

Second issue — However, tonight, I noticed she is distinctly favoring her hind leg on the same side the fore was removed.  Muscle soreness? What else can I do for her if it is likely to be muscle soreness?  I really, really, really do not want to go back to pain medications unless it is absolutely necessary. 

That’s my bet, she’s sore. Tripawds use their bodies in all new ways and it takes a ton of effort to move around, even for couch potatoes. Have you seen our Tripawds massage tips? Or considered rehab therapy? If you go to rehab, Tripawds Foundation will even pay for the first consult! See: http://tripawds…..-tripawds/

Try not to be too afraid of pain medication. I can’t blame you for being nervous, but remember that it’s there for a reason. If you want to try holistic therapies, that can be effective too. Just let your vet know what you’d like to try. This Tripawds Nutrition blog post has some info:

Natural Remedies for Amputation Recovery

I hope this helps. Let us know how the vet visit goes/

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Kansas City
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1 October 2016 - 3:36 pm
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Well, first up — she’s better on the leg today.  In fact, she’s better all the way around.  This morning she *wanted* her meatballs, and ate them with more gusto, but her normal “volume” is very much decreased.  Not surprising since she’s been off-food for a while.  I think the thing that concerns me the most about feeding home-cooked food or alternatives, is how much?  Without a scale –and I’m simply not breaking down to buy one — I have no idea the comparative amounts.  I guess it doesn’t really matter if I’m offering her 2-3 meals a day and letting her eat until she turns up her nose.

do you have a more specific diagnosis on Daisy’s STS?  The reason I ask is if it was a Nerve Sheath Tumor like Pofi’s, there may be significant residual nerve pain and for that Gabapentin was incredibly effective for us. 

Hester — I honestly don’t have any idea about the location or the specifics on her STS.  A little background:  We found her on the road in May.  It wasn’t until mid-June we were certain she was dumped and not an escapee from one of the neighboring farms.  At that point, when I took her in to confirm what I suspected, that it was a small cancer tumor, we hadn’t really become 100% attached.  We did an aspiration in the clinic and confirmed STS, and at that point I opted to just let her live her life because we have no idea how old she really is. The growth never bothered her, and she never limped on it. It was just beneath her “armpit”.   In early September when she punctured the wound, it was pretty rapid “We have to do something now” and so I skipped all sorts of diagnostics and jumped right to amputation. Chemo is/was never an option, so what *was* there, didn’t particularly matter in my head.  We amputated all the way up to and including the shoulder blade, and he said he took large margins around the good tissue, but I honestly didn’t ask when I picked her up if he’d found it extended into her actual shoulder or chest regions. 

Don’t hate me or think poorly of me for taking the cheapest, quickest solution, and not doing a bunch of other tests.  It’s only because we became so attached to her over summer that we amputated at all.  We live in the country and dumped dogs are normal around here.  Half the time the fools leave their collars *and tags* on the dogs.  I’ll take them in if we can, try to find their owners if we think they are lost, spay/neuter if not, vaccinate, and otherwise give them the best life we can, until their time comes.  Presently, Daisy is dog 12.  Four of my dogs I actually sought out.  LOL.  Daisy has, however, in the time we’ve owned her elevated herself to the favorite of the family’s, second only to the Newfie.  This is the first time I even considered a procedure that is equivalent in expense to a livestock emergency or a bi-annual herd call.  It’s not that I’m cold-hearted or don’t care, but sometimes when the bigger picture is looked at, it’s better to suffer a broken heart and euthanize.  In Daisy’s case, I couldn’t take that step.

RE The Gabapentin

Have any of you used it on a skinny dog?  Daisy has lost a lot of weight in the last two weeks (which is why the non-eating bothers me so much; she needs her weight up).  I read some information about Gabapentin last night, and it said side-effects could cause underweight dogs to have significant drop in coordination and balance.  I’d hate to give her something that causes her to fall now.  Yes, it’s a question for the vet, but curious if your guys/gals have been underweight while on it.

I had not seen the massage tips, but just read and watched the video.  That’s fairly close to what I was doing.  Will try some more of the specialized tips!  Thank you!

Rehab sounds tempting.  I looked — the closest place is 40 miles away.  Any idea if this is typically a program that requires continued visits, or is it typically something that can develop an at-home program?  I’ll call the place on Monday and see what their typical routine is.  I bet Daisy would like that.  She does love to go in the truck and see new people and new places.

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1 October 2016 - 4:50 pm
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No one will think poorly of you for choosing amputation! We all have to make judgment calls when it comes to choosing our dogs’ treatment paths and finances are almost always a consideration. She and all her siblings are so lucky to have found you. 

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1 October 2016 - 7:53 pm
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Wow.  Claire.  All I have to say is that you are a Rock Star… and Daisy is lucky to have you.  Holy cow.  Nice job and thank you.  MysweetTed came home about 5 hours after surgery too, and it was a rough couple of days but he’s doing pretty darned good now – almost two months post amp.  He is a sweet mellow boy but he does do a little “twirl” for a biscuit – which is ridiculous but so joyfully funny that we go with it..  he has never been a big eater but I wanted to make sure he did eat so I could give him pain and anti-inflammatory meds so I’ve been mixing a tiny bit of wet canned dog food with his kibble and that has been working really well. Have you tried that?  Cheese has also been a good go-to.  Ted had Gabapentin when he came home after his surgery for about two weeks and I honestly didn’t notice anything different about him while he was taking it (and he is about 70 pounds)- but I did make sure he had food in his stomach to tolerate all of the drugs….CHEESE helped.  I hope things go well for you – Daisy sounds super special.  Nothing that you have posted here makes me think poorly of you at all.  

Wanda

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1 October 2016 - 8:48 pm
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Wanda,

I don’t know about the rock star part, lol, but thank you.  I’m glad to hear Ted is doing so well!  I hope in two months Daisy will twirl… yea, no, she’ll never twirl cause that would disqualify her from Couch Rug of the Year.  But I hope in 2 months she’s back to normal and gains some weight!

She was eating Taste of the Wild canned and dry food prior to.  She won’t have anything to do with either.  She detests the AD the vet sent home.  She loved cheese until she figured out there was a pill in there, and then she ate the cheese and spit out the pill and I had to resort to the shove it down her throat method.  (Hm.  I wonder if I melted cheese and poured it on her kibble…)  I did let her eat the cheese before and after for the same reasons you said — didn’t want meds on an empty stomach.  We’re off all meds as of today.  Last night was the last of her Clavamox.  Maybe that’s why she is a little more interested in eating today.  Maybe it was giving her tummy aches too.  I know it can have nausea as a side-effect.  Hopefully by Monday this will be a non-issue.  Sigh.

I tried to convince her into taking a picture so I could change my avatar.  She hammed it up well for the camera, tail-thumping, expressions, and rolling around but she had no intention of sitting up so I could get a head shot.  laugh.

Melbourne, AUS
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1 October 2016 - 11:29 pm
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Hi Claire! 

Meg had these issues after her amputation a few weeks ago – she stopped eating for a few days but when she resumed eating, it had to be tiny bits she could lick up because she didn’t want to chew at all. Not sure why! Eventually I offered her normal wet dog food rather than the raw chicken she’d been on, and hand fed her tiny bits on the tip of my finger, and as she became more interested in the food, I increased the size of the bite. She happily chewed the last few bits.

I’m still having to do that in the morning, otherwise she will leave it too long and the other dog will get it. 

Hopefully slowly getting her used of her normal food everyday might help! 

Good luck 

Minneapolis, MN
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2 October 2016 - 2:48 pm
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Hi, Claire:

Pofi’s Nerve Sheath Tumor was actually located in the armpit – the brachial plexus.  It was not visible, even when it was diagnosed it was not even palpable, but the pain reaction to pressure under that arm was the diagnostic test. 

And I completely get your logic and decisions here and it isn’t particularly important to know what STS type – mere curiosity on my part.  Daisy is so lucky to have found her way to you after being abandoned.  VERY lucky.

On the Gabapentin – Pofi is a slim dog, but at age 12, I wouldn’t call him skinny any more.  They rate him a 5 on the body condition scale – so not underweight and not overweight.  He tolerated Gabapentin very well – I don’t think it caused inappentance, but post surgery and for a few days before, there was a lot of hand feeding and experimentation.  Four months post amp, he is back to eating grain free kibble and canned food with some bonus toppers to keep his interest high (some deli turkey or chicken, or rotisserie chicken, some shredded or crumbled cheese, green beans, greek yogurt – all of these are in the arsenal).

The Gabapentin made a clear difference for him in pain management – we started it about 2 weeks prior to surgery and continued for a month after.  He had a relatively smooth recovery and I really worked to “stay ahead” of pain.

Lisa, Minneapolis

On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly.  His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Kansas City
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2 October 2016 - 3:15 pm
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Update!

We are having a *really* good day today!  Last night, the little stinker managed to get her head around far enough to start pulling at her stitches.  So I put her in a T-shirt — green is kinda her color.

But today she’s sitting up a lot more instead of just stretched out.  She’s getting up every time the door opens.  She ate her meatballs pretty well this morning.  And something I have never seen in her–helicopter tail!  You know, where it goes around in circles it’s going so fast, not just back and forth.

She even posed.  Heh.

Anxious to get to the vet tomorrow and discuss.  I don’t think pain is her issue, except for muscle soreness, and maybe there’s something she can take on an as-needed that is gentle on her stomach.  Like Advil for us when we have a headache.

I too go for the grain free with her, and that’s why we did Taste of the Wild.  I used to feed Blue…something.  And then there were some issues with product reliability that made me uncomfortable.  Have any of you tried Merrick’s brand?  I just saw it the other day and wondered about it.  Probably ought to take that to a different forum.  LOL.  Will look for a better place to stick it.

The Rainbow Bridge



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2 October 2016 - 4:47 pm
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Wheeeee for helicopter tail! That’s fantastic!!!

Keep in mind though, that muscle soreness is indeed pain. I would definitely consider rehab, and a great rehab therapist will work with you to come up with routines you can do at home. It’s not a lifetime commitment. However should your pup have mobility problems later on, you’ll know where you can turn to for help. Many vets still aren’t too familiar with the benefits of rehab therapy, so don’t be surprised if yours doesn’t have much to say about it. Rehab therapy for animals is relatively new but the differences between those Tripawds who go and those who don’t are clear. It helps, it really does. We have loads of info here about it, and the Tripawds Foundation will even pay for that first consult! See: http://tripawds…..-tripawds/

We have fed Wyatt Ray Merrick off and on through the years and are big fans. See: http://nutritio…..?s=merrick

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