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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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Should we go through with the amputation or use other treatments?
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Member Since:
22 June 2010
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22 June 2010 - 6:38 pm
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Hi my dogs name is chessie. She's 10yrs old and was diagnosed with cancer in her back left leg. The vet said she only had 6months and maybe a 1yr if she had the leg amputated. i want to make her as comfortable as possible, but im not sure if it would be better for her to just take it easy these last 6months on pain pills or go through with an amputation and rehab. Can anyone help me out or have any suggestions?

Edmonton, Alberta
Member Since:
11 January 2010
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22 June 2010 - 7:02 pm
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First off, that's a sweet picture of Chessie! Secondly, so sorry to hear about her diagnosis.

Thirdly, it always comes down to personal choice. Our 6-year old Catie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January and her right foreleg and shoulder amputated in January - over five months ago already. We opted for the surgery because, although she didn't show it except for not wanting to move and terrible lameness, she was in a great deal of pain. In fact, her right leg - by the time of the amputation - had atrophied from not putting weight on it. The pain medication she was on prior to the surgery (and after) made her loopy and not herself. Despite the two week post-op management, the pain from the cancer that was eating her bone from the inside out was gone. I can only imagine how she suffered.

I would go through with the amputation again in a heartbeat.

These are difficult times for you, I know. It's hard trying to decide what is best. Amputation is serious, major surgery and, as with any surgery, comes with its own risks. What I can say is that Catie is amazing. She's adapted without flinching to her life as a tripawd. She's happy; she's lovely and full of her own special (and unmedicated) joy.

Good luck with your decision.



Catie -

Birthday – November 4 2003

Amputation – January 13 2010

Crossed the Bridge – June 2 2011

 Catie Caitlin 

Member Since:
20 May 2009
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22 June 2010 - 7:11 pm
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Well, amputation is major surgery and does take awhile to recouperate from it.  Most of our dogs seem to take about two weeks to recover.  Two weeks of recovery is really short next to six months of the pain of bone cancer.  My Emily also had her back leg amputated.  I think it is an easier recovery.  I didn't realize how painful the cancer was until she felt better right after surgery than she did before it, and we are talking about a dog that only limped occasionally.

Having said that, the decision to amputate is a very personal one.  No one loves Chessie like you do and I know you will make the best decision for her.  Whatever you decide to do, we are here for you.  There is no wrong decision.

Debra & Angel Emily

Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Cleveland, OH
Member Since:
19 June 2010
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22 June 2010 - 7:19 pm
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You never know for 100% how much loonger they have.  I am opting for the amputation if the biopsy goes as suspected.

~~~~ Denali ~~~~

June 9, 2010 OSA suspected

June 17, 2010, July 14, 2010 Clear X-rays – no mets

July 1, 2010 Amputation

July 9, 2010 OSA Confirmed

November 23, 2010 Cancer took you from me - Never forgotten, Always Loved - Forever

Supporting the Fighters, Admiring the Survivors, Honoring the Taken, And never, ever giving up Hope

Calgary, AB
Member Since:
30 January 2010
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22 June 2010 - 7:23 pm
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Sorry to hear about Chessie's diagnosis. It's heart wrenching to hear such news. Tai was diagnosed December 18th with the same prognosis. However I was also told that within about 2 weeks her pain would be so intense that pain meds wouldn't touch it and I would have to put her to sleep. I had no hesitation in going ahead with the amputation knowing that at least even if she only lived for a short time after, it would be free from the pain of bone cancer. I hadn't known how painful bone cancer was. We did the amputation on December 21st. The first 2 weeks of recovery were difficult, I won't lie, but I would do it again without question. If you decide to opt for the amputation read through this websites forums for some ideas on what to expect. It is a very individual decision but I think you will not find anyone who would not do it again if the need arose. Sometimes radiation is an option and there will be people on here that have experience with that treatment. You have found a tremendously supportive site no matter what you decide is best for Chessie. Welcome to Tripawds.

Laura and Tai

Tai – 9 yr old lab. Diagnosed Osteosarcoma Dec 18/09. Front right leg amputated Dec 21/09. Started chemo Jan 7/10. Lung mets discovered Sept 16/10. Valiant to the end on Oct 26/10 when cancer reappeared in a leg and we made the decision to set her free. Forever in my heart where not even cancer can take her from me.

22 June 2010 - 7:24 pm
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Ruthie had her left rear amputated which gave her immediate pain relief.  She lived for 9 more months....8-1/2 of those were without any pain meds.  She had a great 8-1/2 months without pain and without drugs and I wouldn't have traded them for anything in the world. 

Good luck with whatever decision you make. 

Pat & Spirit Ruthie


Member Since:
10 March 2010
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22 June 2010 - 7:31 pm
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Magic was 11 at diagnosis and had his front left leg amputated…The doc said he would continue to experience more and more pain and eventually (he was 114 pounds going in) his leg would break.  It was a no brainer when they said he would do just fine on three legs and he did…unfortunately his cancer was aggressive and went on to attack other organs.


If you decide to opt for the amputation (can you tell the way all of us lean???) get a Ruffwear harness and ask your vet how soon Chessie can use it (some vets prefer after staples…Magic's vet said go ahead when you get it..about 5 days after surgery but his surgery site was wrapped) … That harness will go a long ways toward saving YOUR body and helping Chessie navigate the trickier things like in and out of vehicles and steps in the beginning.  Get some non skid runners for any slippery places in your home and take a look at how she gets in and out of the house to go potty…do you need ramps or are the steps few enuf…

Welcome to our community!!  That is a great picture and we are glad to meet you and hate the reason you are here.  Anything we can do to help…just come here and ask.

Member Since:
14 April 2010
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22 June 2010 - 7:41 pm
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Welcome to the family. Gus is 7 and an extremely strong dog, so adjusting wasn't much of an issue, but he had his left front off, so can't help with rehab on a back leg. The one thing to consider is quality of life for the dog. Gus was in terrible pain before surgery and it killed me everytime he whined from the pain. he wasn't using the leg already so it was a no brainer for me. This isn't an easy road, the first 2 weeks after surgery aren't much fun, little sleep, stress level is up, and some people feel guilty about having the surgery during that 2 weeks, so make sure you are comfortable with whatever you decide. The drugs play games with them sometimes, some dogs have phantom pain , that makes recovery more trying. You know your dof best, hopefully your comfortable with advice your vet gives you on the pros' and cons of the surgery, but this is a great place to be, experience gives the best answers. Good luck, Paws up, Gus and Dan

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
Member Since:
28 November 2008
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22 June 2010 - 7:52 pm
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Chessie has a beautiful face.  I know this is a horrible decision to make.  The fact that you are here tells me you are not entirely satisfied with the vet's opinion.  Trouble's story goes like this.  Monday before Thanksgiving 2008 I took her to her long time vet for what I thought was the beginning of arthritis - she was beginning to age after all.  The vet told me pretty much the same thing you were told.  Trouble wasn't a good candidate for surgery - she was overweight.  Take her home with a bottle of pain killers and love and spoil her.  She has probably six months.

I was devistated. My husband, being the one who refuses to believe insisted we have a second opinion.  We couldn't get in to the specialty clinic in Houston for a week.  I called a vet we had consulted with on allergies a few years prior, he was able to see us the next afternoon.  He took all the time we needed to talk us through each scenario, but he firmly believed the only way to stop the pain was to remove the limb. We would deal with the weight afterward.  He gave us the statistics - about 12 months with chemo.  He told us we didn't need to call, he would clear his calendar the next morning - just drop her off.

We struggled with the decision.  I drove her in on my way to work the next morning, still not sure we were doing the right thing.  I cried all the way to work.  Our Thanksgiving was pretty bleak without our girl to share it with.  We picked her up on Friday afternoon.  She came out happy to see us but looking to us for acceptance.  Once we talked to her and gave her a hug, she never looked back.  She has taught us so many things in the last 19 months - yes 19 months on the 26th.  She has well surpassed statistics - that being my final point. 

Statistics are just that - numbers that represent averages.  There is no time stamp on any of these dog's butts.  No one knows how long they have.  We've had a few lately who either didn't survive surgery or made it only a couple of days.  That isn't likely, but it can and does happen.  This isn't a decision to take lightly.  Do your research.  Know what you are dealing with.  Make your decision based on what is best for both of you  - what are your limitation, and what are Chessie's?  Then ask yourself what is in Chessie's best interest.  You'll have your answer.  There are no wrong answers - just individual ones.  We will all support whatever you decide.

Best of luck to the two of you & I'm really sorry you have to take this journey.

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.

22 June 2010 - 9:04 pm
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Hi Chessie's folks,

Sorry you had to find us, but you won't find a better, more supportive group of people anywhere. 


Check out Jerry's Required Reading List for a good start on amputation and cancer treatment information.


Do lots of research, ask your vet a lot of questions, and then decide what you want to do. As long as you make your decisions with Chessie's best interest in your heart you will be right.

Everyone here will help and support you with whatever path you choose to follow for Chessie. 


Karen and the pug girls

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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22 June 2010 - 9:05 pm
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Welcome Chessie and family!  Looks like you got a beautiful sock thief!


So sorry about the cancer.  I'm glad you found us.  You'll find a wealth of information that will help you get through this bad situation.

I don't have a cancer dog but I know from being here how devastating it is.  Not to mention the horrendous pain, the chances of her fracturing her leg is very high.  The bone is so brittle, it will snap rather easily.  And then you'll be in a position to do an emergency amputation or put her down.  Blunt, I know...but we've seen it here.

I had a friend who's dad had cancer and when it got into his bones, the pain was intolerable.  Morphine barely touched it.  So, you probably won't even be able to get the pain erased with pain killers and she will suffer intensely.  If you don't feel you can go through with an amputation, then you must make a decision to say goodbye.  Because she is suffering.  Dogs won't show pain like us humans.  Weak pack members hold up the pack.

I say this all in a loving manner.  I don't mean to sound cruel.   But you either have to amputate or say goodbye and not wait.   As you can see amputation is a choice that will buy you time painfree. 

We'll support you either way.  Again, I'm so sorry. 

Comet's mom


Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

22 June 2010 - 9:33 pm
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Hey Chessie and family,

My 10yr old boy Fortis lost his right rear leg due to osteosarcoma almost 5 months ago. He was diagnosed 1/23/2010. My Vet told me I had until Valentines day to say goodbye. He was not in favor of amputation nor was he for letting Fortis continue on with an impending fracture. Fortis was showing no obvious sign of pain but he is a large dog and the possibility of a painfully nasty fracture scared the fire out of me. Three weeks seemed crazy as well, so for me amputation was the only choice. I promise you though it was not an easy decision to make and the journey hasen't been a walk in the park but for me I have no doubt I made the right choice. What ever you decide will be from your heart and the love you feel for Chessie. That's all that really matters. Please keep us posted.

Fortis' Dad



On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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22 June 2010 - 9:48 pm
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Hi Chessie,

Well do we have a great community here or WHAT?!

Thank you for joining us, we're sorry about Chessie's diagnosis. She is ADORABLE. Can you tell us what exactly she was diagnosed with? It sounds like osteosarcoma? If so, your vet's prognosis are the standard ones given. But as you can see here, many dogs beat those odds, while sadly, some don't. It's a gamble for sure, and you must do your research to find out if it's right for Chessie, because it's certainly not the right one for everypawdy.

Some things to consider are:

What is Chessie's overall health? While sometimes age is an issue, most times it isn't. It all depends on what the dog's pre-existing health is like. The healthier the better the outcome. Overweight dogs have a harder time, but if you can faithfully scale back the dog biscuits and help them lose weight right away, it can be done.

What is your situation like? Are you able to provide care for a dog after surgery? It will take no less than two weeks of constant monitoring and checking in to make sure verythings OK. If you're unable to devote so much time because of work or whatever, do you have a support system in place? Others who can help?

Consider what six months on painkillers feels like. For most people and animals, painkillers put them in a dopey haze. It sounds like a solution but ultimately, if you don't amputate, do you want your dog's last months on earth to be spent in a fog?

What are your vet's qualifications to do the surgery? Not all vets are created equal. Here's a great post about things to look for in a qualified vet facility, especially one who will do such a major surgery.

Finally, remember, statistics are just numbers. All dogs are different and none of them goes through this the same way. While your vet can give you benchmarks and averages, your Chessie is her own dog. I'm not saying the cancer will miraculously disappear, just that how she and you experience it will be different in some ways, and alike in others. There are no guarantees but with luck, our pups will hopefully outlive the worst case scenarios. I did, for two years.

Good luck with the decision. We hope this  has been helpful. If there's anything else we can do, please write OK?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Minneapolis, MN
Member Since:
23 May 2010
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22 June 2010 - 9:50 pm
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Welcome! I'm glad you are here. I found this site after surgery. I remember the setting well. We have a split-level home, and I had decided that the landing between the two levels would be Daisy's place for a few days post op, as she weighs too much for me to carry and my strong son was on a fishing trip (the surgery was a sudden decision). I had decided to "camp out" on the landing and spend the first couple nights with her as well. (I rarely left her side those first few days.) So, I was spending time on my laptop while Daisy slept, and that's when I found Tripawds. I am so happy I did!

Daisy is 12, and I didn't know what to expect regarding her recovery, mainly due to her age. Healthwise, she was in excellent shape. Unlike some dogs, Daisy had a relatively easy recovery, even those first two weeks. She was off pain meds after day 3, and she also went up the stairs on her own that day. Scared me to death, but what a great sign!

Every dog is unique and wonderful, and every situation is unique as well. Hopefully by reading our comments you'll get a clearer picture of what is right for you. I am one of the few who delayed surgery for 5 1/2 months. If you'd like to read about my reasons and what I did during that time, please see the current post of my blog at

And remember: No choice is wrong. It just takes you down a different path.





Daisy, 12 years young, had left forelimb amp on 5/19/2010 due to osteosarcoma. She left her body behind and joined the other spirit tripawds on 7/16/2010.
So grateful for each day with her!
Lexi (Daisy's momma)

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7 June 2010
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23 June 2010 - 6:10 am
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Charlie and I are fairly new to the site, but the experience has been the same. I actually made the decision prior to the confirmed diagnosis due to the amount of pain Charlie was in. We are on day 12 of post amputation and I am so grateful to have found this site and to have made the decision. Even the last 12 days were worth the pain (human pain) and expense for Charlie to have had a pain free existence during this time. I got the confirmation of osteosarcoma a week after the surgery.


The oncologist told us about radiation as an option, but that it reduces the pain, doesn't take it away completely. The pain meds weren't working for us, so that was another reason I opted for the surgery prior to the diagnosis. It happened so quickly and I didn't think it was going to be an option for us, but I found this site, and it helped me to see that it was an option for old, large butt, Charlie. big-grin


Take care, keep us posted and know that we will support you in the decisions you make.


VQ & Charlie

p.s. Lexi - Charlie & Daisy could be related. wink

"I don't know where I am."

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