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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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What to do about a young dog with bone cancer
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9 March 2010 - 12:47 pm
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Hi. I've never written on a blog before, but full of so many emotions that the only place I can turn to is towards other people experiencing similar situations. Last week my 6 1/2 year old lab was biopsied, and the results came back as an inconclusive type of cancer, maybe bone, maybe another kind, in her left front elbow. The doctor did chest x-rays, and seems to see nothing in her lungs/chest, and recommended amputation, although he says he's never really seen this type of cancer before, and it seems to be spreading very quickly.

Like all of you, my dog is my best friend, and I would do anything in the world for her. She's already had a rough year - had a TPLO knee surgery last March, and after the Dr. botched the surgery, had to go in for more surgery a few months later. She had a really tough time with everything - I think it took a lot out of her. Not to mention, it was $4000, and her recent biopsy was $2000. I think I am getting ripped off by my vet, but they really play to your emotions and it's easy to hand over the credit card.

In any case, the Dr. thinks that, at best, with amputation and aggressive chemo, she's got 6-12 months. If we do nothing, 3-6 months. While I want to cherish every day with her, why in the world would I put her through a tough surgery that apparently costs nearly 3000 if it's only going to give her a few more months?

I know the decision ultimately is a very personal one, but I'm looking for feedback from any pet-owners out there who made one or the other decision. Thank you.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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9 March 2010 - 1:13 pm
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jgrodin said:

... I want to cherish every day with her, why in the world would I put her through a tough surgery ... if it's only going to give her a few more months?

Welcome, and thank you for joining the tripawds community! the best answer I can give you is – and most members will agree – that it's all about quality of life, not quantity. The prognosis your doctor has given you sounds like the stereotypical worst case scenario answer. They gave Jerry 3-4 months after his amputation, and he ended up Loving Life On Three Legs for nearly two years! He did not have IV chemo either.

Every dog is different, and complications can occur, so make educated decisions, stick by them, and above all, have No Regrets.

Check the Tripawds Nutrition blog for lots of links and information about popular canine cancer supplements. Many members have found success using K9 Immunity with Transfer Factor and Power Mushrooms. You might also consider discussing Metronomics with your oncologist.

Keep in mind that amputation will not change your pup's prognosis, but it is the only way to eliminate the excruciating pain of a growing cancer tumor and avoid a traumatic bone break and resulting emergency vet visit.

Best wishes in the decisions you face. You've come to the right place for answers and support. Thanks again for joining. We look forward to hearing more about, hmmm .... does your dog have a name?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Northern Indiana
Member Since:
15 January 2009
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9 March 2010 - 1:42 pm
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Welcome to our little community......

I was the mother of a 3 1/2 year old Lab that started limping and at 4 yr old had amputation for osteosarcoma followed by chemo.  We found a way to do what we needed to do for her and never looked back.  We were blessed to have her one year and three days after the surgery.  Our time with her was filled with love and her life was good....very good until the last two days.

Was it worth it?  Yes.....a million times yes.  That is our story.  As you read through the forums and blogs you will see that we chose different paths, and there are no right or wrong ways of handling this.  No judgements here...only support as you face the decisons.

Educate yourself on all the options and make the choice that is right for you & your Lab.

Ginny & Angel Paris

Grateful for every moment we had with Paris… regrets!

Honoring her life by opening our hearts & home to Addy!

Member Since:
17 February 2010
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9 March 2010 - 1:50 pm
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Hi there. Gosh can we relate to everything your going thru, even with the botched TPLO surgery's. We had BOTH rear legs done on our male Goldern Retriever Jack, and he broke all 6 screws AND bent the plate in both legs, so I know all about that part, and now just about 6 weeks ago, Jacks sister (same litter) Ginger came up lame with her left rear leg. I just KNEW it was another blown out knee. No such luck. The x-rays showed an abnormality in her bone. Like you, the biopsy came back inconclusive. We were told 1 in 3 come back that way. Figures we got the short end of that stick. Anyway, it was recommended to us to amputate her leg. We have posted on both the blog section and also the forum section about the actual lead up to our decision and you can read them. I won't bore you with all the details again here. We did decide for the amputation because of the quality of life issue. Apparently bone cancer is extremely painful and does destroy the bone. Sometime along the line there is the very real possibility of breaking that bone and there is nothing that can be done to heal it because the bone is diseased and will not heal, so at that point the only option is amputation. We had Gingers left rear leg amputated on Feb. 23rd. Exactly 2 weeks ago today. You will learn here that the first 2 weeks are a roller coaster and I will not dispute that. But from day 1, I have been TOTALLY AMAZED at how Ginger has handled it. She was up and walking the very next day after her surgery and today she is just one very happy, attention craving, mush mutt that she has always been. Like most on here say, no regrets. FYI, Ginger celebrated her 6th birthday just 5 days after joining the tripawd community. As you have said, it is a very personal decision and only you know your dog and what will be best for the 2 of you, but whatever direction you choose to go, people on this site will support you and give you really good advice. I would have been lost and feeling very alone going thru all this cancer crap without this site.

Good luck to you and your pup. Keep us informed and ask all the questions you can think of. There are a lot of very intelligent people on here that have been thru these things and have some very sound advice. Also let us know your pups name so we can add her to our prayers.

Again, good luck and whatever you decide, remember, no regrets.

Randy and Sharon, Gingersfolks.

P.S. PLEASE don't tell Ginger she has only 3 legs! We haven't told her and she sure doesn't seem to notice! :)

Member Since:
13 July 2009
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9 March 2010 - 2:34 pm
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Welcome to the website. Great place to get information to help you make the difficult decisions you are facing. As some people have already said, it is not only a comparison of 3 vs. 6 or 12 months but a case of pain-free time (if the bad leg is removed) vs. time spent carrying a leg that gets increasingly painful. The main reason for amputation is to relieve the pain, not to cure the cancer. If your dog's leg is fractured or when it fractures, I think the leg kind of has to come off.

Some people might think one should just put the dog to sleep instead of amputation or once the leg fractures. But most of us have or had youngish or middle-aged dog that are full of life. It just seems crazy when you look at your bright and bushy dog and think about ending things due to a bum leg. At least I could not imagine that.

And you will see that most dogs do just fine on three legs. Plus they get showered with attention so it probably turns into the best times of their lives

There are other pathways. Palliative radiation and bisphosphonates can help to alleviate the pain and slow the tumor growth. Some dogs (not many but a few) start with that, thinking they only have a few months. Then they come back several months later, once the leg is fractured which happens, and think it is time for amputation. That is not necessarily a bad route to take, and one can also start chemo at that time (if one wants to do chemo - lots of dogs don't).

There are definitely no guarantees about how long a dog will last with surgery or chemo. They give you an average. Some dogs beat that average; some reach the average; and some of us don't. Even though Tazzie only lasted four months after surgery (and he did have IV chemo), it was a fantastic few months. He already had a small fracture (didn't see it until the leg was sent to the lab), so obviously couldn't have done that well without the surgery. Tazzie had surgery for torsion just 5 weeks earlier, so also had a traumatic summer!

The idea of regrets is an important one. In the end, you probably have to go with the path that will give you the fewest regrets (other people said this, I am totally plagiarizing). If you don't amputate and something happens in two months, how will you feel? On the other hand, if you amputate and she passes in two months, how will you feel?

It is a lot to take in, surgery, chemo or what? Try to take each decision one step at a time. You don't need to decide everything all at once.

by the way, what is your Pup's name?

Member Since:
22 December 2009
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9 March 2010 - 2:43 pm
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Whatever path you decide upon is the right one.  Only you know your dog and your circumstances.  I know it’s hard. 

I believe Comet’s Mom recently posted the CareCredit was offering 18 months interest free.  Not sure if this would help with your decision or not.  Or, I don’t know where you are located, but are you maybe close to a Vet School that has a clinical study going on now you would qualify for?  The bills add up so fast and seem to be never ending, don't they?!

This is our story …

We were in a similar situation as you; we spent a large amount of money on biopsies, only to have them all come back inconclusive.  The Pathologist suspected Histiocytic Sarcoma, due to what the Orthopedic Surgeon described seeing in Harley’s elbow when collecting the biopsy samples, but since the biopsies didn’t confirm this, we didn’t know for sure what was destroying the elbow.  What we did know was the bone above and below the elbow were starting to show signs of something invading them, and there was a thick white substance growing in the elbow joint.  Although Harley didn’t show signs of being in pain, the Orthopedic Surgeon was sure he had to be due to what he saw growing in there.  We were never really given a time frame for Harley, only told that Histiocytic Sarcoma is a very aggressive form of cancer.  We chose to go ahead with the amputation after xrays and ultrasounds showed no visible signs of cancer spread to the lungs/organs.  Histiocytic Sarcoma was confirmed about 2 weeks after amputation, and it was also confirmed the cancer had spread microscopically to the lymph node that was taken, as well.  Harley has had 4 wonderful months; he is back to being his old, goofy, playful self.  If the cancer is growing somewhere else in him, he doesn’t show outward signs of it.  I don’t regret amputating his leg. 

We did decide to pursue chemo since cancer was in the lymph node removed, and since the chemo recommended for Harley was relatively inexpensive.  He takes a pill (CCNU/Lomustine) every few weeks, and has tolerated chemo pretty well (a little diarrhea and a small drop in white blood cell counts, but no noticeable outward changes).

This is just our story.  Everyone’s path is different; no path taken is any more right nor wrong than another.  Good luck with whatever your decision is!

-Gwen & Harley

Amputation on 11/10/09, due to Histiocytic Sarcoma in left elbow. Angel Harley earned his wings on 06/24/10.

Kirkland, WA
Member Since:
2 June 2009
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9 March 2010 - 3:22 pm
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I'm so sorry about your doggie's diagnosis!  Jack was a little over 5 when he was diagnosed last May, and he will celebrate his 6th birthday next month (fingers crossed), shortly after his 10 month ampuversary.  As people have said, each dog is different and will fight the cancer in a different way.  We did amputation and 4 rounds of chemo (could not afford all 6 rounds) and I have absolutely no regrets.  You know your dog better than anyone, so I'm sure you will make the best choice for her.  Many dogs jump right back after amputation (Jack was running in circles and jumping on counters the morning afterwards) but some do take a little longer to recover.  You just have to weigh the pros and the cons, which can be tough.  Also try to keep in mind that the statistics that doctors tell you are just that...and dogs don't pay attention to numbers 🙂  Your little girl has no idea there's anything "wrong" with her, so try not to show how worried or upset you may be, cuz she may catch on.  I remember sitting in the vet office before Jack had his surgery talking with the people that worked there about any side-effects of amputation.  One girl said, "well, in the long term you may have to worry about arthritis" to which we responded "we don't have to worry about the long term".  Just the other day, this conversation popped into my head, and I started thinking about what 10 months of hopping and landing on 1 joint has done to the shoulder...I never thought I'd have to worry about that!!!  Funny how things can change, huh?  Good luck with your decisions!!!

<3 Laura

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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28 November 2008
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9 March 2010 - 3:52 pm
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When Trouble was diagnosed, I came home with a bottle full of pain pills and had resigned myself to a few months with her. The next morning I made an appointment for a second opinion.  The most wonderful vet took a full hour of his time to talks us through all the options and to tell us over an over the only way to remove the pain is to amputate.  Trouble had osteosarcoma, and it is extremely painful for them.

I always recommend if you have doubts, seek a second opinion.  It was an eye opening experience for us, and Trouble is now going into her 16th month cancer free.

You decision is a personal one, and what ever you decide, it will be the right decision for you.  It doesn't have to be what any of the rest of us would decide. Do your research, sit alone with your fur child and decide.

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.

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20 May 2009
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9 March 2010 - 5:29 pm
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Everyone has already given you so much wonderful advice there really isn't anything to add.  I wanted to welcome you anyway and say how much I agree with everyone that it isn't the quanity of life but the quality that counts.  My Emily had an osteosarcoma and had chemo.  She lived a good post amputation life for about five months before the cancer spread to her spine.  Amputation and chemo were expensive (but not as high as your estimate) but we know that we did everything we could do to make sure the time she had left was quality time.  Although we would have like more time with her I cherish the time we had and would make the same choices in a heart beat.   Whatever you decide we at tripawds will support you.  Remember what Tazzie said though  "The main reason for amputation is to relieve the pain, not to cure the cancer."

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.

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1 January 2010
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9 March 2010 - 6:06 pm
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We're so sorry to hear about your pup. We agree with all the posts here - everyone has already given you such good advice. We just wanted to add that we're all here to support you, whatever decision ends up the right one for you and your dog. This site has been such a saving grace for us - full of information and supportive people. We opted for amputation and chemo. Holly is just more than 2 months post-op and is doing very well overall. Making these decisions is so very hard - just gather as much information as you can. I agree with Shanna, too - a 2nd opinion can be very valuable.
Best wishes,
Holly and Holly's mom

Holly joined the world of tripawds on 12/29/2009. She has a big little sister, Zuzu, who idolizes Holly and tries to make all of her toys into tripawds in Holly's honor. And she's enjoying life one hop at a time!

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10 February 2010
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10 March 2010 - 10:46 am
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Hi there!

Just wanted to say give your pup a fighting chance! : )
When I found this website...I felt so blessed. My 11 year old Golden Retriever just went through Amputation surgery on Feb 18th...we are three weeks tomorrow! ( Front Limb )
He is doing fantastic and I was worried if he would!

They thought he had Osteosarcoma but he has Fibrosarcoma.

We started chemo yesterday!

Prayers are with you and your lab!
It is amazing what dogs can do! They are so so strong!
: )
There is no telling what my babies time limit is but I cherrish each day! It is a gift!

And my pocket is bleeding too but I would not change anything!

10 March 2010 - 5:27 pm
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So sorry to hear about your Lab. It is an all too familiar story for me. My Yellow Lab Suapi was 6 1/2 when she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer) last November. She had TPLO procedure on both knees but our surgeon was great. The osteo was in her Rt. Rear leg, we did do the amputation. We had little choice since she had a pathalogic fracture of the tibia. She handled the surgery well. Within days she was much happier dog since the pain was removed. At 10 day's when the sutures were removed she was playing fetch, 2 weeks after the sutures were removed she was doing a 1.5 mi. walk and playing fetch.

The good things our dogs respond well to the surgery and in all most all of the cases live a very good quality of life. we have absolutely no regrets doing the amputation. $2,500-3,000 seems to be what people are paying for this surgery. If you question your Vet I am sure people can recommend another in your area if you ask for info.

What ever decision you make for treating your friend is a good one. You know him/her best and your decision will be guided by your heart. Unfortunately this is a tough battle and no matter hold long it last this is going to be a heart breaker. Enjoy everyday, don't miss any opportunity to rub a belly, scratch an ear or just admire how your lab sleeps.

Good luck and PM"s are welcome.

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