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  1. #1
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    Any Advice Appreciated re: Dogs, cancer, amputations etc...

    My sweet dog is an Alaskan Malamute. She is a rescue so we are unsure of her age but believe she is now between 8 and 10 years old. She started limping and we went to the vet. There was a large tumor in her leg but the vet was a bit perplexed because it was in an odd location for osteosarcoma (cancer.) We scheduled a biopsy a few days later but the very next day her leg fractured. Of course we did the biopsy, radiographs, blood tests and ultrasound and everything came back negative for cancer. My vet sent us to see a specialist at Kansas State Vet. school and he agreed that the tumor certainly looked like a cancerous tumor but we can't get a positive result.

    My vet feels we should euthanize her rather than amputate because she would have to take so much of the shoulder along with the leg. She has seen so many well-meaning people trying to save their animals and seen the animals suffer. If I knew she had cancer I might agree with her but we cannot get a positive result. I don't want to put a steel plate in the leg and try to save it and all of the physical therapy and bed rest that goes with it just to see the cancer show up and kill her a couple of months from now.

    Meanwhile the dog has spent all of this time in a sling: I will say this--she hasn't mastered pooping but she walks, trots, pees and gets around very well. We have pain meds for her which seem to work which has me a bit flummoxed because I understood that type of cancer was so painful that medication was useless. I know if she does have the cancer she has 2 to 4 months without chemo and maybe a bit longer with chemo. Does anyone have any experience with any of this?

    Btw--I am work typing this as I am without any means of communication (driving me nuts) so I can't respond quickly but any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2

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    This is a front leg, then?

    Our dear lab-collie mix, Fable, had cancer in her left front paw three times by the age of 13. The first two times, local excisions were sufficient, but 2 years later it was starting to creep up her leg (common for this type of cancer to recur--something about the lining of the blood vessels--hemangiopericytoma??). We really wrestled with the decision on what to do. Prosthetics just weren't a realistic option, but amputation seemed so drastic, and we KNEW she had a lot of life left in her; even at 13 she was a very healthy and happy dog.

    We did research and decided on amputation, knowing of course that there were risks with a dog that old. Before the surgery we took her and our other dog on a trip up to northern Wisconsin, had a great time on the beach & swimming, enjoying the glories of her having four legs for the last time.

    There was certainly an adjustment period. She had to remember that she couldn't just jump out of the car (!) 'cause she'd splat. It was really tough to see her without her front leg at first, but wow, she did great. But she relearned stairs, hopped around just fine. For a while she even would still catch balls (thrown more gently), and until a few weeks before her death she was still hopping out into the field next door each day. She only left us this past May, at the ripe old age of 16; by that point pottying and getting up and down were just becoming impossible.

    Wishing you all the best with your pup.

    I recommend tripawds.com. Lots of great stories and advice.
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  3. #3
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    awww, i'm very sorry for you both
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  4. #4

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    I'm not a dog owner myself (although my parents always had dogs), but at the shelter where I volunteer, there have been a couple of three-legged dogs, and they all seemed to have figured out how to get around and do what they wanted to do. I think LilJen's story is a very informative one.
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  5. #5

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    I'm so sorry Cachoo. We lost a dog to cancer suddenly last summer after she'd had surgery for two non-cancerous lumps. One of the lumps didn't heal properly and maybe that was an indication of the internal cancer, but we no reason to suspect she had cancer. The symptoms became apparent less than 24 hours before we put her to sleep.

    My question is: how much will the surgery impact the dog's quality of life? As Lil Jen and Overedge have pointed out, dogs can enjoy life even without one leg. If the tumor hasn't been proven cancerous yet, assume it isn't until you find out otherwise. If you pet thinks euthanasia is warranted, does that mean quality of life will be seriously compromised?

    It's a hard and horrible call for you to make. Ultimately you need to do what's best for the dog.

  6. #6

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    BTW we also have a puppy who came to us as a rescue with a fractured foreleg. She'd had one inadequate surgery and it had to be 'redone'--so she has a plate & screws in her leg. She was SUPPOSED to be immobile ("no activity beyond pottying") for 8 weeks after the second surgery. . . but what does one DO with an enthusiastic puppy? She was around 5 months at this time. It was pretty obvious within a week or so that the second surgery was successful--she was putting weight on the injured leg and showing LOTS more energy (previously, the rod in her leg had been sticking into the muscle so she was in constant pain and did NOT want to put weight on the leg).

    This was expensive, yes (goodbye, $2700!), but completely successful. Apart from a barely noticeable limp, Miss Leeloo is just fine and healthy and wreaking havoc like any good puppy should.
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  7. #7

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    The fact that many people have dogs that are happy and comfortable with three legs doesn't mean that it will work this way with your dog. If the vet thinks that the damage is so high up that it would leave her uncomfortable, maybe the right thing to do is to get a second opinion from another vet who can examine your dog.

    It is one thing if your current vet isn't in favor of amputations in general, and another if your vet thinks that in this particular circumstance they aren't a good idea.

    ETA: I'm truly sorry you're facing this. It sucks.

  8. #8
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    My sister inherited a dog when a close friend died. This was at least a middle aged dog at the time and very energetic. He was later diagnosed with cancer and had one hind leg amputated and chemo. He got around very well for several years and still enjoyed long walks and chasing squirrels. Having only one leg did put additional stress on his spine and eventually he stopped being able to get around well on his own and by then he was quite old.

    Every situation is different so consider getting a second opinion for a different vet.

  9. #9
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    I would get a second opinion. It's hard to make a good decision without all the facts. And in the area of veterinary medicine, vets vary so much in their approaches and what they think is reasonable to do and spend that it's hard to know if you are getting good advice or not.
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  10. #10

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    Do you have access to a University Veterinary School?
    It might provide the best information and options.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by skatesindreams View Post
    Do you have access to a University Veterinary School?
    It might provide the best information and options.
    Yes--went to Kansas State (referred from my vet.) They could not find cancer either but agreed that the tumor looked like a "classic osteosarcoma." I am going to a local surgeon Wednesday who has a fine reputation for another opinion. Thank you all so much for your advice. Imho she is doing quite well running around in her sling---I am praying for happy outcome for her (and us.)

  12. #12
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    Cachoo, do you know why they can't confirm cancer? I thought the cells were pretty easy to identify via biopsy? Have they explained what about the area looks like cancer? Our Boston had a pre-cancerous growth removed several years ago, and we had a lump on the other leg checked last year. The vet aspirated it and said it was benign, but it's gotten very large since then. I guess I'm just wondering how sure they can all be about all this. I'll sure be interested to hear what you find out if you get a second opinion.

  13. #13

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    I don't have any experience with this, but it sounds like you are doing the right thing by getting a second opinion and going from there. Hopefully a suitable treatment can be recommended, and your dog will be on her way to restored health. Best wishes for you and your furry friend!!
    "Marge, if you're going to get mad at me every time I do something stupid, then I guess I'm just going to have to stop doing stupid things!" - Homer Simpson in the Mr. Plow episode

  14. #14
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    If you are willing to travel by car or plane to Colorado, the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital is excellent. It is one of the best facilities in the country. You would get excellent diagnostic services and counseling about your options there. Good luck!

    http://www.csuanimalcancercenter.org/

  15. #15

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    As someone who has always had dogs and who had a heart-breaking experience with cancer a year and a half ago, I will say this: your doggie will let you know when it's time. As long as she's enjoying pets, walks, food, etc. then I would look at the decision to euthanize your dog with a very critical eye. Dogs have a miraculous ability to adapt and survive; as long as she's happy and otherwise healthy, so I would definitely get a second opinion before making any decisions.

    I will say if it is cancer, please weigh all your options before putting an older doggie through chemo. It makes older dogs sick, lethargic, and unable to really function. In many cases, it doesn't even really help with pain management--my vet bluntly told me that the chemo is really for the owners more than anything else, but it ends up being almost as miserable for the owner. It's just me, but I'd rather have two good months with my doggie than four awful ones.
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  16. #16
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    Another helpful website is the Veterinary Cancer Society:
    http://www.vetcancersociety.org/ .
    You can find an oncologist in your area, and there are many other helpful links.

    Here's another web page about canine cancer which lists the warning signs and how to get help:
    http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/canine-cancer

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