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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 today and hello! This is our first post.
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22 August 2019 - 10:38 am
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Hi there! We are new here, and wanted to start by saying thank you for all the helpful info everyone has contributed here. sp_hearticon2 The support on this site is truly amazing.

Today is Ellie’s surgery to amputate her left, front leg. Ellie is the most precious, loving, and slightly neurotic 5 year old Brussels Griffon you will meet! We got her when she was 1 years old and she has been attached to my hip since. Ellie had a mast cell tumor on her left elbow that was removed twice, in 2016 and 2018. The area where the tumor was made it impossible to get clear margins, and the tumor came back again this year at a faster growth rate. After 3 consults (including oncologist), the only way to save Ellie’s life was to amputate. The hope is that this surgery will cure Ellie since there were no signs of metastasis in the post op testing.

Ellie’s last surgery (tumor removal only) was pretty rough; she shivered, hid, and cried for days. She doesn’t do well with medications (acts scared, anxious, hides and cries), especially anesthesia. I have had a lot of confusion on whether to put her through this surgery or not. The oncologist is the one that really convinced me that amputation was the kindest thing I could do for her. I am mostly concerned with how difficult her recovery will be in regards to pain, medication tolerance, and learning to get around with three legs. I know we will navigate all of this as it comes, but we would love any tips or advice!

Thank you in advance! sp_hearticon2

The Rainbow Bridge



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22 August 2019 - 1:20 pm
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Hello Ellie and family, welcome! You’ve come to the right place for support, we’ll try to make things easier for you. We are sending lots of love and healing wishes to you for a speedy recovery!

 I am mostly concerned with how difficult her recovery will be in regards to pain, medication tolerance, and learning to get around with three legs.

A good pain management protocol will make all the difference. The hardest recoveries happen when pain control is lacking. It sounds like you are working with a specialist, which is great because they usually don’t skimp. Did they talk to you about pain medications that they will give her? Did you discuss her previous experiences on pain medication? If so what did they say? Click on our pain management link to browse our best tips and articles.

As for learning to get around on three, be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List , the Tripawds Gear blog and the Tripawds e-books library for lots of tips about life on three legs. Smaller dogs tend to do so well on three, my guess is that Ellie will get back to her new normal in no time at all. 

How is your home set up? Do you have stairs inside or out? Did you raise her food bowls? Put down traction ?

You may also want to check out our Tripawds What to Expect series for more tips. Stay tuned for feedback from the community and keep us posted on how she’s doing!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Livermore, CA




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22 August 2019 - 2:16 pm
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Hello and welcome.

I’m sorry you are dealing with mast cell cancer- my first two Pugs both had multiple tumors.  Maggie lost her left rear leg to a MCT that was in her knee and couldn’t be otherwise removed.  We did do chemo after surgery since cancerous mast cells were found in lymph node removed with the leg.  Maggie hopped happily through life for almost 4 years!  If you are interested you can read her story and about her amp and chemo, the links are in my signature below.  Mag’s little sis Tani had multiple MCTs throughout her lifetime, the final count was 12 I think.  At first we removed surgically but as she got older and had other more pressing health issues we just left them alone.  Tani lived to almost 15 and did not pass from mast cell.

Maggie was a very stubborn Pug who hated any change to her routine.  She took waaaay longer than most to get used to her new normal, it was 6 weeks after surgery before she would play with me again (most pups are back to themselves in 2 to 3 weeks).  I was sure I had made a terrible mistake choosing surgery and I was sure I had the only dog in the world who wasn’t going to adapt!  In hindsight her recovery time made perfect sense, but when I was in the midst of it it was rough.  So keep Ellie’s temperament in mind as you work through the recovery period.  It’s important for you to be confident and positive for her.  That was a mistake I made with Mag-  she was grumpy so I was grumpy, we fed off each other which didn’t make the recovery any easier.

The behavior you describe for Ellie after the last surgery sounds a bit like signs of pain.  It’s really hard to tell sometimes whether what you are seeing are signs of pain or side effects of meds! 

Here are a few posts on pain:

Is Your Tripawd in Pain? Dr. Downing Explains How to Tell.

What to Expect: Better Post-Amputation Pain Relief for Dogs and Cats

How Dogs Show Pain and What You Can Do About It

I understand the anxiety caused by pain meds.  Maggie once was awake for 12 hours after a dose of tramadol.  She acted like something was after her and she was inconsolable!  I have had good luck with tram in my other dogs but now there is a lot of discussion among vets about whether or not tramadol works at all.  Be sure you understand what pain meds Ellie will be on when she comes home and the dosing schedule.  We often see here that tweaks are needed in dose or dosing schedule to get optimum relief.  It is definitely an ongoing discussion to have with the vet if you think Ellie is uncomfortable or is freaking out.

My current Tripawd is Elly, a little Pug mix who lost a back leg to a car accident when she was 7 months old.  She is now 4.5 years old and does pretty much anything a dog her size and age can do.  Oh, and she is about 5.5% Brussels Griffon!

I hope the surgery goes well today, keep us posted.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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22 August 2019 - 2:43 pm
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A good pain management protocol will make all the difference. The hardest recoveries happen when pain control is lacking. It sounds like you are working with a specialist, which is great because they usually don’t skimp. Did they talk to you about pain medications that they will give her? Did you discuss her previous experiences on pain medication? If so what did they say? 

Thank you, Jerry, for the welcome and resources! We are working with a specialist and her post op pain meds (not sure of dosing schedule yet) will be carprofen, acetaminophen/codeine, and gabapentin. I discussed her previous experiences, but the vet wasn’t sure if it was a reaction to meds or if it was inadequate pain control. I honestly could not tell either. She has had the same reaction when given two other meds (separate occasions) that did not involve surgery. She seems distressed with medications that make her feel loopy.

How is your home set up? Do you have stairs inside or out? Did you raise her food bowls? Put down traction ?

We have stairs inside and out. Our downstairs area where she will be staying has carpet, so no need for traction there. Our upstairs area is hardwood floors, but we have mats we can put down in the areas she needs to walk. The vet wants her restricted for two weeks to reduce risk of complications.

  

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22 August 2019 - 3:06 pm
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Maggie was a very stubborn Pug who hated any change to her routine.  She took waaaay longer than most to get used to her new normal, it was 6 weeks after surgery before she would play with me again (most pups are back to themselves in 2 to 3 weeks).  I was sure I had made a terrible mistake choosing surgery and I was sure I had the only dog in the world who wasn’t going to adapt!  In hindsight her recovery time made perfect sense, but when I was in the midst of it it was rough.  So keep Ellie’s temperament in mind as you work through the recovery period.  It’s important for you to be confident and positive for her.  That was a mistake I made with Mag-  she was grumpy so I was grumpy, we fed off each other which didn’t make the recovery any easier.
The behavior you describe for Ellie after the last surgery sounds a bit like signs of pain.  It’s really hard to tell sometimes whether what you are seeing are signs of pain or side effects of meds! 

I understand the anxiety caused by pain meds.  Maggie once was awake for 12 hours after a dose of tramadol.  She acted like something was after her and she was inconsolable!  I have had good luck with tram in my other dogs but now there is a lot of discussion among vets about whether or not tramadol works at all.  Be sure you understand what pain meds Ellie will be on when she comes home and the dosing schedule.  We often see here that tweaks are needed in dose or dosing schedule to get optimum relief.  It is definitely an ongoing discussion to have with the vet if you think Ellie is uncomfortable or is freaking out.

Thank you, Karen, for all the resources and tips! Your experience with Maggie has been so helpful, so thank you for sharing all of that. sp_hearticon2 It is good to know of another dog with a special temperament and how that affected their recovery process. Her personality and quirks have made this decision so difficult, but the vet feels sure that we can find ways to manage those issues as she goes through recovery. I appreciate your advice to be confident and positive. I know that will be key as we go through all of this. 



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22 August 2019 - 4:51 pm
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Hi to you and your precious dog. You’ll receive the best support and advice from Jerry, Karen and others who have gone through amputations. You stated that you are “mostly concerned with how difficult her recovery will be in regards to pain, medication tolerance, and learning to get around with three legs.” The first thought I had was that getting around on three legs is actually the easiest! I believe this because our pets are so resilient and once pain-free will do the best they can to get going!!

There is a new video up on how to tell the difference between pain and medication side effects. I would have found this useful when my cat was in recovery: https://tripawd…..d-in-pain/

You are at the right place for support and information!

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

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24 August 2019 - 8:37 pm
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I appreciate everyone’s help! Ellie is home (today is day 2 post amp) and resting beside me as we speak. She has completely shocked me and has tolerated every med she is taking well!! I couldn’t be happier about that. She is doing okay walking, but is pretty reluctant to take more than a few hops. She is eating well, taking meds well, allowing me to apply ice, and pottying. All of this seems like a good sign! The only worry I have is she has been struggling to get comfortable. Since the incision is on her left side, she started  mainly laying on the right side. It seems like that side has been laid on too much and is uncomfortable, so she will either roll on her back or to the incision side. When she goes to get up from laying on the incision, she screams out. Is there any way to help her rest more comfortably? We are dosing carprofen every 12 hours, acetaminophen/codeine every 8 hours, and gabapentin every 8 hours.

Livermore, CA




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24 August 2019 - 8:52 pm
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Sounds good so far!

Going just a few hops is normal and plenty of movement. Our surgeon said Maggie was only allowed short, leashed potty breaks for the first two weeks.

As far as the pain, are you giving the gaba and codine at the same time?  Many here have had good results staggering the med times to there is always a pain med in their system.  You should of course check with your vet before changing anything.

Does she have a bed with good padding?  Most Tripawds seem to like a firm bed so they can move around on it. Does she have a good, firm bed to lay on- something with memory foam or something similar?  Other than that I don’t have any ideas on her laying down and getting up.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls (and my Elly too!)

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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24 August 2019 - 9:48 pm
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Hey Karen!

I had already started staggering the pain meds and that definitely helped her sleep, but she’s still having the issues getting up from her amp side. She is on a memory foam dog bed right now. I think I’m going to check with vet and see if we can increase dosing of one of her pain meds. With all things considered, she has already impressed me with how well she’s handling everything. Thank you for all your help, Karen. I can’t express how much it is appreciated!

Virginia




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24 August 2019 - 10:09 pm
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WEELCOME HOME ADORABLE ELLIE!!! That avatar picture is the cutest thing ever!!

Y9u arr soing sich a good job of caring for Ellie.  Recovery  is no pocni6 fot a couple of weeks.  She’s  eating, drinking and putting AND is already hopping some?? Realky, really good news!

The hospital  meds will wear off in a day or so, so she may have a bit of a crash, so no worries of that happens..

If I recall, My Happy Hannah took five weeks before she lay in her incision  site!  Most dogs do it sooner though.  But right now her incision  aire is sore as heck and has those stitches adding  to the discomfort  of she tries laying on the incision. Another thing that I think causes  some “confusion” that may look like discomfort is sogs arr ised yo circling  kn a preferred direction when making their nest, and they prefer one side over the other.  If the side they prefer to sleep on  is the incision  side, well, you get the point.

Try some ge tle massage all over her neck, shoulders,  spine, etc.  Gently massage her right leg and GENTLY stretch it, supporting it underneath at her knee and hip.  She may be experiencing  some stiffness and cramping  from laying on that side so much.   She’s n the roughest part of recovery right now.   

Be sure and take care of yourself!  Sleep is a realky good thing  for a caregiver!

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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25 August 2019 - 6:04 pm
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sp_hearticon2Thank you for the helpful info and encouragement, Sally! sp_hearticon2

Today has been rough. She has had 4 bouts of screaming since 3a this morning (they last about 15-20 seconds each time). It seems like she screams out every time she is trying to move where the leg was or is getting up from laying on the incision side. We have bumped up her gabapentin and are doing our best to comfort her during these times. We are Day 3 post op and this has been the toughest day on her so far. icon_cry When is a typical time frame to see them start turning a corner? 

Virginia




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25 August 2019 - 7:55 pm
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We know this is soooo hard to watch.  And,if you’re  like those of us who had an early recovery  with crying, yelping, restlessness, no sleep (dog or hooman), you re  second guessing everything!  Right now you re  probably  saying “What have I done TO my dog?”    

Yeah the hospital meds are out of her system now and this is when the tweaking of,pain meds can  get a little tricky.  Check out the link on phantom pain (phantom limb pain).  The brain is still sending  signals to the nerves that were attached to a leg that is no longer there.  Out of the blue a dog will basically jump up and help and try to get away from the pain.  Andnyes, this kind of “nerve shock” lasts around thirty or so seconds.  Although, it seems like an eternity  when you’re watching it!

Gabapentin is generally the best med for that.  The frequency of the doses may need adjustment.  I know Ellie is on the small side, but Gaba can be given up to three times a day WITH THE GUIDANCE OF A VET.  So ask the Vet about more frequent  doses for now.  Yoi xan alao ask avout adding Tramadol to the mix (in lieu mif rhe codeine) as Gaba and Tram supposedly  compliment eaxh other.  Again, speak with your Bet.  We are not Bets and not giving  Vet advice.

Continue  with the gentle massage around the area.  You can try some warm towels from the dryer too.

Every recovery is different.  Every dog is different.  I know that doesn’t  help, but it is sooooo true! Your Ellie is eating, pooping, drinking  and is mobile.  Some dogs are not that “advanced” this early on.  And yes, some dogs have phantom  pain and some don’t.

For whatever it’s  worth, I joined this wonderfu6  community  on Day Six.  My title was something  like “Help! It’s  Day six and I fear I have made a horrible decision!”  I was thrown a lifeline of valuable information and support to carry me through the rough spots.   It took about three weeks, but I was finally able to say I did this FOR my Happy Hannah and not TO her!!

Stay connected!  It gets better, promise!!!!

(((((((((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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25 August 2019 - 9:58 pm
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Sally, thank you so so much! You are so right about second guessing all of this. Seeing these episodes are just heart wrenching. She just screams and screams (15-20 seconds that truly feel like forever) and she is so scared. We are dosing the gabapentin every 8 hours, and the vet emailed tonight and gave the okay to increase the dose. I’m hoping that will help! If not, I will definitely ask about changing the pain med to tramadol. We have also been massaging her today and will try the warm towel. 

Thank you for reminding me to remember what’s on the other side of this and that this is temporary. The support here is beyond helpful during this. Thank you thank you thank you!!! sp_hearticon2

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 August 2019 - 10:13 am
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Awww poor Ellie! I’m just now catching up on her recovery. Thanks for being there last night Sally, you’re a dear!

I’m really sorry, you guys must all be so scared. She should not be having those episodes. Good for you for contacting your vet, I hope the new dosage works. Keep in mind that Tramadol and Gabapentin work best when used together. As a standalone, Tramadol is now known to have little if any effectiveness for major pain relief. 

And another link to check out is our link on pain management . You’ll find post-surgery recovery tips there, and information about additional, complimentary meds such as Amantadine that you can discuss with your vet.

Let us know how today goes. We have our paws crossed for good news.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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26 August 2019 - 4:56 pm
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Thank you, Jerry, for the kind words and info! All of the help here has helped us get through the difficult times and it is so very appreciated. sp_hearticon2

Last night was a pretty rough night. The increase in gabapentin did not help much and she panted all night. This morning she was not wanting to get up or move because that’s usually when she has the severe pain episodes. I spoke to the vet this morning and he thought it couldn’t hurt to try tramadol in place of the tylenol/codeine. So far she is doing good! She is still panting here and there, but at least she is now having breaks in it. She also hasn’t had a screaming bout since this morning. I’m hoping this new combo and pain regimen will keep her comfortable as she continues to recover. I am definitely happy to see some improvements! 

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