In the last post, I focused on looking at life quantity, or lifespan, in considering amputation for dogs with osteosarcoma. Let’s focus on life quality issues and amputation.
Often the first question that arises is, “But will my dog be able to have a normal life on 3 legs?” Everyone, the answer is almost always yes.
There are two big things to factor. First, are you available to assist your dog in walking during the recovery period? The remaining limbs need to strengthen to support the extra weight. This can take just a few days in a lean, young dog, or it may take a few weeks in an older or overweight one.
The second things to factor in is other problems that could affect the weight bearing, like arthritis, hip dysplasia, old ligament tears, back or neck problems, and so on. The presence of other orthopedic issues can slow or complicate things a little and should be discussed with your vet.
Usually, most dogs are up and hopping around whenever or wherever they want to within 1-3 weeks. They really do just fine once their strength builds. It can be hard to watch but many times when people are depressed about it, they start to look at the dog and realize, “Wow..my dog actually seems pretty happy!”
They just seem to move on with life and live in the moment, which is a good lesson for all of us to learn from our dogs.
During recovery, you will need to help your dog learn to walk on three legs. This is really pretty simple. you just need to help them support their weight during walking. This can be done with a commercial sling you can purchase, or with a towel looped under the belly or the chest. You just lift some of the weight and they will hop right along.
Remember in males that you will need to position the towel away from the sheath for urination or you will have a wet sling and a unhappy boy!
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You will want to provide a surface that is not slippery to walk on. Ramps can help get up in some cases too.
You should work on keeping your dog lean. Being overweight has a whole collection of bad effects in dogs with cancer, and bone cancer is no exception. Additionally, the extra load makes it harder to move around. Another issue to remember is that being overweight increases the risk of injury in the remaining limbs due to increased wear and tear (arthritis, cruciate ruptures, and more).
Activities that required four legs can always be modified. Dogs will learn to live how they can and they adjust, just like we do. If you watch them, they will derive as much pleasure in their new life as they did before. The limits of what they can do change, not the limits of how happy they can be.
Let’s look at the surgery itself and preserving as much life quality as possible with pain control in the next post.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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