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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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Surgery done 3/17/20 - is depression to be expected?
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Forum Posts: 4
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23 March 2020 - 1:10 pm
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My 8-year-old Golden Retriever, Daniel, had his right front leg amputation 6 days ago because of chondrosarcoma at his elbow.  He impressed the vet hospital and us with his happy, waggy disposition in the first few days after surgery, but things have changed.  He is lethargic and seems depressed.  He is taking Gabapentin and Rimadyl for pain and inflammation, and we are icing the area a few times a day.  He seems to like the icing.  The incision looks good – no signs of infection.  

We are thinking he is probably sore all over, from trying to get up and down, and walk, with his compensatory gait. He hadn’t been very lame before the surgery and doesn’t have his “new” gait figured out just yet.  

Someone told me their dog was depressed for two weeks after an ACL surgery.  So I’m just wondering if this is to be expected.  

The Rainbow Bridge



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23 March 2020 - 3:00 pm
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Hi Daniel and family, welcome. We are so glad you joined us, because as you’ve discovered, amputation recovery for dogs or cats is not an easy journey. But we hope to help make it easier for you.

When dogs come home all zippy from the hospital, it’s usually because they’re still high as a kite on pain medication. Once that wears off and they’re back at home, they tend to have a little crash and slow down. That’s not unusual at all. 

We are not vets but I’ll tell you that what you are observing is not abnormal. Your gut instinct is probably right: yes, it takes a ton of effort to move around on three legs and the body does get tired. It takes time to build up enough stamina to get the spunk back. Try to picture how you would be six days after amputation: betcha Daniel is handling it even better than most people!

Depression is a human state of mind and I’m not saying dogs do not get depressed. They certainly have emotional ups and downs just like we do and although experts cannot yet say for certain if they get depressed, what we know is that when a dog’s emotions seem off after surgery, it’s typically because they are feeling the physical effects of the amputation, and also the side effects of pain medications. Remember, he’s not used to being on painkillers and you’re probably not used to seeing him on them either. 

Now, it could also be that he seems depressed because he is not getting enough pain medication–or sometimes too much. I know it’s a roller coaster and takes some fine tuning. Gabapentin and Rimadyl both address different types of pain, which is good. But if you haven’t already, talk to your vet about how he is behaving. Maybe all he needs is a little tweak to his medication that will put some sparkle back in his eyes. 

How is his eating and eliminating? Is all that normal? Is he giving any pain signals

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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23 March 2020 - 3:30 pm
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Hi, and thank you so much for your encouragement!  

Eating, drinking, and eliminating are all normal, except for him trying to figure out how to find the “right” spot as a limper.  He doesn’t understand to conserve his energy and just hurry up and go!  But I know he will get better at that.

I don’t think he’s having actual pain??? A couple of times he has started to whine a little when he’s been laying on his surgical side a long time.  Both times I encouraged him to get onto the other side, put his ice packs on his surgical site, and he settled down immediately and went right to sleep.  But he’s breathing quietly the rest of the time, seems relaxed.  

Incision looks really good.

My husband is so worried that Daniel will be mad at us, but of course we realize that we did the right thing for him.  It’s hard for us to see Daniel seem so sad, but intellectually we know it’s probably just us projecting what our own emotions would be in his situation.  I think you are right that he’s just sore and medicated, and tired because everything requires extra effort on is part right now.

Jerry, I see that you are the owner or leader of this site, and I thank you so much for this! I am going to do lots more exploring of the resources on the site.  Daniel did have the scapula-sparing amputation, and I want to read some more about that and what problems we may encounter.  I know it’s controversial, but our very experienced surgeon has done many many of both types, and he said he would recommend it if it was his own dog because of the lesser trauma and smaller incision.  And since Daniel has chondrosarcoma, not osteo, there isn’t a concern about metastasis to the scapula bone.

I will keep you posted – thanks again!

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23 March 2020 - 5:10 pm
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Hi, Daniel’s mom! My 7-year-old lab Rylee just had her front left amputated on Friday, so we’re three days post-op. She’s doing great so far, but it has definitely been an adjustment for her. She hops around with a lot of energy, and then she just kinda runs out of steam after a few minutes. I think, as Jerry wisely said, the stamina will come with time. They’re figuring things out at the moment and they need to build some strength in the remaining three limbs. Just give it time, and stay in close contact with your vet. I’m sure he will do fine! Hugs to you and Daniel! ❤️

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23 March 2020 - 7:45 pm
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Hi. I’m sorry Daniel doesn’t is seeming down. My lab had front leg amputation 10 days before his 12th birthday. He had no complications in recovery, but it did take him about three weeks to get his spark back. Bit when it came back it was bigger then ever. The best advise I got was to be patient.

Brownie was also low on stamina I would say until he got his stiches out. It took him a little while to figure things out, but he did. My first post was after Brownies amputation, and I posted “My Dog is mad at me”.

So I will give you the same advise I got. Be patient, he will get there.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

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23 March 2020 - 8:05 pm
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Thank for the fantastic advice and encouragement!  I’m glad to know about Brownie and Rylee.

Virginia




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24 March 2020 - 6:01 am
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bvanmark said

My husband is so worried that Daniel will be mad at us, but of course we realize that we did the right thing for him.  It’s hard for us to see Daniel seem so sad, but intellectually we know it’s probably just us projecting what our own emotions would be in his situation.  I think you are right that he’s just sore and medicated, and tired because everything requires extra effort on is part right now.

  

Daniel’s avatar picture is so sweet.  Can’t  wait to see more of that handsome boy.

Yes, you have it figured out.  Your energy has to be upbeat and confident and strong.  Daniel just had MAJOR surgery, he’s on pain meds,all while trying  to figure out mobility. 

It’s hard to see it now this early in recovery, but you did this FOR Daniel, not TO him!  You took away his pain and gave him a chance at a quality  pain frre lofe fot mpre loving, more spoiling, more treats, more joy, more snuggles. Dogs don’t  dwell in the past and certainly don’t  “blame” anyone for anything.   They love in the now, in the present.

Actually, “day six” is when I joined this wonderful site.  I was in a panic and was sure I had made a horrible  decision!  I was alone and scared and uninformed on anything about recovery and what to expect.  My Happy Hannah (125 lb Bull Mastiff) also came bouncing out when I went to pick her up with a wagging tail.  In her case, the Surgeons didn’t  tell me squat about after care!

Well, this lovely  community  pulled me back from the edge, walked me thru the recovery day by day and PROMISED  me it would get better….AND IT DID!!!

It “generally” takes approximately two weeks to recover from rhe surgery itself,  and about a month to adjust to the new gait.  Bigger dogs take a bit longer than these “generalizations ” sometimes.

We PROMISE you, it will get better!  Daniel needs rest, the pain meds, lots of loving and spoiling (we know that’s  a done deal😎). Humans would still be in the hospital  on a morphine drip after this kind of major surgery!

Hang in there and stay connected, okay?  We’re here for you and can’t  wait to celebrate  each victory as you see his sparkle come back!

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!

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24 March 2020 - 3:30 pm
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Wow, I’m overwhelmed with the kindness and encouragement offered!  I should have spent more time on this forum BEFORE Daniel’s surgery.  I signed up in February, but didn’t spend much time on it.

So we are on Day 8.

After Daniel decided he wasn’t interested in his breakfast today, I did call the vet hospital to report his symptoms, since they always say to let them know of any changes in behavior, appetite, etc.  I was expecting they might say he needs more pain medication.  The answer from our rock star vet surgeon surprised me.  She feels that the Rimadyl could be causing stomach inflammation and he’s got an upset stomach.  And the gabapentin can make dogs sleepy.  So she actually recommended LESS medication.  Since Daniel is a week out and his incision looks great with no signs of infection, she doesn’t think his symptoms are from surgical pain, and his pain control should be okay with less medication.

Daniel had been taking both of those drugs for a few months prior to his amputation, and had appeared to do fine with them, but of course the dosages were upped after surgery.  So we are returning to the pre-surgical dosing.

He’s had a pretty good day, and here’s a little victory:

After being listless, lethargic, and “sad” all day, he had a great time hopping around the yard and hunting for cat poop.  Then he actually RAN up the driveway to the house. Okay, well, “ran” may be an overstatement.  I could say he “trotted”.  We’re supposed to be keeping him quiet, but it was still nice to see him try and to have some success.  

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24 March 2020 - 4:56 pm
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So happy to hear Daniel is feeling better! He is going to continue to surprise you each day. Just celebrate the victories with him, and praise him.

I remember I use to tell Brownie “no” when he would jump on the couch. The first time he jumped on the couch after surgery I found myself praising him and  saying “good boy”. in fact he never heard the word “no” again.

You will find that Daniel will do everything he did before, he will just find a different way to do it.

Keep the victories coming, and keep us updated on how he is doing. Belly rubs always worked with  Brownie.

Pictures?

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

Virginia




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24 March 2020 - 5:09 pm
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Yeah, in recovery, trotting is, indeed, running!!!  So YAY!!!   And I know it did Daniel a lot of good too!!😎

And being engaged enough to want to hunt for cat poop?  Another YAY!!!

Sounds like you have a good plan fot reducing meds and why.  Makes sense.  Did he eat better later in the day, or too soon yet?  Also, you can always try yummy stuff just to get him back on track.  Chicken, scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon.  You get the point.

Thanks for sharing  the victories.   Made me smile! 😊

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!

The Rainbow Bridge



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24 March 2020 - 8:06 pm
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That is really great news! I think your surgeons recommendation sounds totally spot on and obviously it was. That’s terrific!

Yes NSAIDs can do quite a number on the belly. Our Jerry has a major meltdown on Previcox, it was no fun. Glad you guys figured it out before it became serious.

Here’s to more trotting Daniel! Keep it up!

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