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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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Treatment options, costs, and concerns
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2 September 2008 - 11:43 am
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Hi – our dog Koty was just diagnosed this weekend with bone cancer.  The vet gave us the options – 1) Make him comfortable with meds until its time to put him down 2) to relieve pain – amputate and then put him down if it spreads and he’s uncomfortable 3) amputate and chemo  – all options seem to end in death – its just a matter of time.

My husband is disabled and I am the sole breadwinner – our dogs (2 collies and a Maltese) keep him company at home and he is super attached to them and treats them as his kids. since we have no children  I am attached but more practical.  We don’t have the money to ampute or put him on chemo without running up a credit card and my husband needs things being disabled that to me comes before spending money on a dog that will eventually die.  I am torn on what to do.

Besides the monetary concern, my other concern is how much care will the dog need if we amputate – my husband is disabled and I’m already taking care of him which is enough stress so how much more stress do I need with dealing with a big dog after surgery?  How difficult will recovery be if we ampute which is the direction my husband wants to go?  Is it alot of work – what kind of work is involved?  Koty is a collie and weighs about 70 lbs.   2nd)  how long do they typically live with just amputation – 3-5 months? longer?   3) how much did it cost you to amputate – vet said $1500 but is that true – how much did any of you pay?

Help me out – I want to do what’s right but I also want to be practical – my husband has his heart on his sleeve and I understand his love for his pets but I don’t want to be made to feel heartless and am trying to be practical.  I love our dogs too but putting financial strain on top of our situation is really troubling me….please give me your input so we can make a "good" decision.

 thanks for listening…


The Rainbow Bridge

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2 September 2008 - 7:42 pm
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Michele, we are so sad to hear about Koty, and your situation. My Mamma says that she totally understands how you want to be practical, because she is the CFO in the family too, and does everything in her power to keep us out of debt.

Let me see how we can hopefully help by answering your questions;

First off, know that no matter what you decide, there is no "wrong" decision. Everyone’s situation is different, and nobody is going to condemn you for how you go about coping with this. It is heartbreaking when finances come inbetween caring for an ailing pet and their humans, but it happens a lot. You are not alone.

The costs: Your vet’s price is pretty accurate, I think, and even might be lower than average, for doing the surgery at a private practice. But keep in mind there are follow up visits, and after care like chemo and/or supplements, should you choose to go that route. My Mom did a blog post about the Costs of Caring for a Tripawd that you might want to check out. 

If you choose to just do amputation, your costs will be considerably lower than someone who has the resources to go "whole hog" and buy numerous anti-cancer supplements.

Is there a vet teaching hospital nearby? If so, chances are the surgery will be less than in a private practice. 

There is a group called IMOM, which helps pawrents in financially challenged situations. Also, the Magic Bullet Fund is another one. Please contact them to see how they might be able to help you. 

Caring for big dog amputees: We really don’t require that much work, as far as assistance goes. It’s only for the first couple of weeks after surgery when we might need help navigating stairs, or uneven surfaces. Helping us out to go potty at first, is probably the biggest hurdle. If you live upstairs from a potty area, this may be a challenge.

Most of us will be mobile just a week or two after surgery, if we don’t have any complications. Some of us take longer though. 

How Long is Our Survival Time? Well, we have to be honest; it’s all a gamble. For some, bone cancer may shorten their lives considerably. Some dogs only last a month after amputation. Many last at least 6. I myself just passed 21 months and am still doing pretty good. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. Your vet can give you a better idea of where Koty’s health is at right now, based on x-rays that can show if the cancer has spread to his lungs yet. Sometimes the "lung mets" won’t show up on an x-ray though, and vets will give you the disclaimer that mets in the lungs may or may not be present. It’s all a gamble.

Oh Michele, we are so sorry, we wish that nobody had to go through an agonizing decision like the one that you are trying to cope with. Like I said though, please remember that nobody will condemn you for whatever you decide. Most importantly, keep in mind that neither will Koty, as we dogs carry with us the incredible gift of love that knows no boundaries, love that doesn’t judge, or compare. Our love is unconditional, for eternity.

Hugs, wags and woofs,

your friend,


It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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2 September 2008 - 7:54 pm
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Hi Mmartello and Koty,

Believe me, we all know what a hard decision this is.  Some things to consider are Koty’s age, what stage the cancer is in (if they did a biopsy and can tell you), have they x-rayed her lungs to see if they are clear, is Koty otherwise healthy?  Longevity after amputation is so relative to all these things.   Many dogs have done very well.  Jerry is at 21 months right now and still going strong.  I have read 3 months to 3 years – it’s just so hard to tell and each case is individual.  Radar is only 4 weeks post amputation so I can’t really give you much input there.

As for costs – They can vary wildly.  We were so lucky and our vet is an angel.  Our costs, including x-rays, overnight stay, medications and followup was only $500.  I was so scared about a large bill also but knew my vet would take payments so I didn’t even ask until after the procedure. We were just floored when she gave us the total.  I do know there are a couple of organizations online that help with vet bills. I have seen them but don’t remember the names – maybe someone else here does.  If cost is the only consideration I would definitely do a bit of searching for those.

The amount of support and assistance you will need to give to the dog isn’t extraordinary in my opinion.  They adjust amazingly well.  The first couple of weeks you will need to give the most help until Koty is off meds, has the stitches out and has a chance to get the new balance worked out.  After that occasional help getting in and out of the car, going up and down stairs, occasionally helping if koty gets into an odd position and needs help getting up.  Radar is 4 weeks post-op and I don’t even need to help him in and out of the van.  We don’t have steps that the dogs ever use so really don’t have to help him much at all (he is a 90 lb borzoi).  He also plays well with the other pups here and has no problems getting up on the couch to get comfy.

I know this may not have been much help.  We are so very glad we gave Radar a chance at a pain free life.  But your situation depends on Koty.  Follow your heart and know that there are folks here to support you no matter what your choice is.


Connie & Radar

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2 September 2008 - 9:32 pm
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I am so sorry to hear about your dog!  I am a veterinarian and I have seen dogs die of bone cancer in 2 months and I have seen a Golden Retreiver live 2 1/2 years after amputation alone (no chemo). Don’t let fear of amputation stop you.  I have never had any client regret amputation, because the dogs always surprise you and do so well on 3 legs.  Even if you only get a few months, the dog is at least pain free!

You can ask your vet about CareCredit.  It is a credit card that you can use just for your dog.  Yes, you still have to pay it back, but they have many no-interest promotions and then at least you are not maxxing out the cards you need for your husband.  I would also recommend checking vetschools if there is one nearby.


Good luck!



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5 September 2008 - 3:07 pm
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I see that many people have given great advise regarding the financial side of your question. I just wanted to pipe in to say that I am a 12 1/2 year old 83 pound Labrador that just had surgery last Friday. Oh yea, I also have a little hip issue…arthritis…sucks getting old but everyone says I have a young personality! I was up and going potty with the help of my sling the hospital gave my Mom the very next day and I’ve needed very little help since then. It’s day 7 today and I can get outside and do everything I need to including monitoring the yard for strange scents and any nessessary re-marking all on my own. I even jumped into my favorite chair on day 4 much to my Moms dismay…it made her smile but she’s worried about my staples and how I was going to get down. It was no biggie! My Mom says I’m pretty amazing. Just remember, like Jerry said there is no wrong decision. I’m glad you came to visit this site. It’s a wealth of support and information. Good luck to you Koty! Licks from Cody

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