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What to Expect 1: Leg Amputation

Osteosarcoma faces greyhound owners with an extremely difficult choice: Amputate the affected limb, or just manage the dog’s pain until it’s time to help him pass on. No one wants to make this choice, and every hound parent who has been through this has questioned their decision and agonized over it.

**PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a vet. All medical advice given here should be discussed with a specialist and with your regular vet. This is based on my own experience with my boy Whitey (front-leg amputee at age 11), my boy Apollo (front-leg amputee at age 10), my other pups Crisco, Tanner and Annie (who had osteo but were not candidates for amputation), and extensive conversations with vets and parents of other osteo hounds. This is a work-in-progress, and I will revise/update as I gain new information.**

The information here is intended to help you make an informed decision, by telling you what to expect if you choose amputation, as far as surgery, recovery, medication, etc. Nothing, unfortunately, can predict the amount of time you will have with your hound whichever path you choose. But amputation may sound like a scary alternative, and we hope this information will help alleviate some fears.

Once you have an osteosarcoma diagnosis (your vet has seen the characteristic sunburst bone lysis on a radiograph), you need to do a couple things before you know whether amputation is an option for your dog:

First, get a high-resolution lung radiograph (xray). Osteo metastasizes extremely quickly, and if it is already in the lungs, amputation may not be a viable option except as temporary pain-relief. Unfortunately, osteo micrometastasizes so rapidly that once it is visible on a leg xray, it may already have invisibly spread to the lungs. However, if it is not visible on the lung films, it may be early enough that amputation/chemo can significantly prolong survival time.

Then, do a full blood workup to determine whether your dog is healthy enough to withstand surgery (and subsequent chemo, if you decide to do chemo). Make sure your vet understands the difference between greyhound blood numbers and those of other breeds. Check the alkaline phosphatase – if this number is elevated, the prognosis is worse. Make sure his kidney and liver values look good.

Once you have xrays and bloodwork, it’s time to get oncology opinions. With osteosarcoma, time is of the essence since it can spread so rapidly. Email, fax, or overnight all your materials to the Ohio State University (OSU) Greyhound Health and Wellness Program. This program is the world’s leading research center on osteosarcoma in greyhounds. The program head, Dr. Guillermo Couto, probably knows more about greyhound osteo than anyone on earth. OSU is extremely busy, so call and email until you get a response. (https://greyhound.osu.edu/consultationservice/)

If OSU believes that your hound has osteo and is a good candidate for amputation, they will send some handouts for your surgeon. As of this writing (March 2010), OSU will also send free Adriamycin chemo drugs for any ex-racing greyhound.

While you are waiting to hear back from OSU, find a surgeon. You want a specialist with overnight medical care. Meet with him/her, get their opinion on your dog’s case, get comfortable with them. You may even want to schedule a tentative surgery date to save time.  In Apollo’s case, we were able to have his surgery on the day of the consult, because we had already made our decision.

OSU does not recommend bone biopsies on greyhounds. This is a painful, invasive procedure that is intended to confirm that the hound actually has osteo. However, in most cases a diagnosis can be made on the basis of xrays (and at most, a fine needle biopsy which does not require anaesthesia). A bone biopsy also increases the chances of pathological bone fracture in the hound.

Once you’ve consulted with your regular vet, the specialist, and OSU, you can make your decision based on what you feel that you can handle, and what you feel your hound can handle. You know his personality better than anyone, and are the best person to make this decision for him out of love.

What to Expect with a Leg Amputation

Before Surgery:

It’s likely that you will not have a lot of time to prepare prior to surgery, but here are some things that you can do as soon as you know that your hound will be having an amputation…

…Supplies & Home Preparation

Order Aminocaproic Acid (a brand name is Amicar). This drug has been shown by Ohio State to minimize the post-op bleeding that greyhounds are prone to. Vets do not typically stock this, so you will need to order it. Begin giving it on the day of surgery, and give for 5-10 days after. 500mg three times per day.

Order an assistance harness (Here’s one we like at http://www.northcoastgreyhounds.net/ click on “Admirable Resources”). It may take some time to ship, and some are made to measurements, so order this in advance to have on-hand when your hound comes home. It will help you help him get up and about during the period when he is still finding his balance.

If you have slippery floors in your house, get some rugs. You don’t want your hound slipping and falling after surgery, while he is still learning balance. And many hounds will just flat-out refuse to walk on slippery floors.

If you have a lot of stairs, think about how you will negotiate these for the first few weeks post-op. You may want to set up a “recovery area” in the part of the house that has the fewest stairs, and prepare to keep the dog (and yourself) in that area most of the time post-surgery. If you have a few stairs to go outside, strongly consider purchasing (or constructing) a ramp with good traction.

Stock up on some things you may need when the dog first comes home. Pediasure is good for a dog who does not have much appetite, to get some calories into him. Chicken broth poured over food may stimulate eating. Gather some old t-shirts to cover the surgery site, some old blankets to put on top of the dog’s bed in case the wound is seeping. Maxi pads stuffed into the t-shirt can catch some seepage.

…Diet and Supplements

Get your hound on a low-carb diet. Carbs feed cancer cells, so it’s desirable to eliminate as many of these as possible while maintaining a healthy diet. Both Evo and Wellness make “very low carb” dogfoods. You can generally get the lowest carbs with canned, but there are some kibble options as well. Wellness also make some “jerkey-style” treats that are low carb. And Stella & Chewy’s makes a dried meat patty that can be fed as a treat (really intended as a complete meal for a small-breed dog).

(Locally, Chuck ‘n’ Don’s Petfood Outlets carry these brands. Whole Foods Market carries a small selection of the Wellness. Some Petcos and Petsmarts will also have a small selection.)

Get your hound on nutritional supplements. The strain on his joints is going to increase, so it’s a very good idea to get him on some glucosamine and chondroitin. Springtime makes a chewable “Joint Health” tablet. The same company also makes a “Longevity” supplement that can be used in conjunction with the “Joint Health” if desired. The Greyhound Gang sells powdered glucosamine and chondroitin that can be mixed into yogurt or food.

Order some Artemisinin. Studies have shown that Artemisinin (a holistic drug) kills cancer cells in the test tube. Ohio State has been doing clinical trials with it, and they use it with osteo dogs that they treat at their facility. You can order it from Hepalin.com. Give 100mg once a day. OSU recommends giving it first thing in the morning, when the dog has an empty stomach. Give it with a high-fat but low-iron treat, such as peanut butter or cheese. Refrain from feeding any high-iron foods for at least an hour afterward. If you are giving anti-oxidant supplements (such as the “Longevity”), give those at the opposite end of the day.

…Miscellaneous

Make sure the dog’s toenails are nice and trimmed, to minimize slipping.

Prepare yourself for what your dog will look like when he comes home. Join the Circle of Grey yahoo group, Greytalk.com, and Tripawds.com for personal stories of amputations, often accompanied by photos and sometimes video. All 3 of these groups are great about giving advice to newbies from been-there-done-thats, so ask questions!

———-
Day of Surgery

Make sure that your surgeon is familiar with the special needs of greyhounds under anaesthesia!! Also, make sure they are familiar with the greyhound’s sensitivity to certain drugs, and the differences between the greyhound’s bloodwork and that of other breeds. Most adoption groups will have info on these things that they can provide to your vet.

Make sure your surgeon has operated on greyhounds before, and is familiar with their post-op bleeding issues. Ohio State can provide your surgeon with information on aminocaproic acid, and on the anaesthesia and pain management protocols that they recommend.

You will need to fast the dog for around 12 hours pre-surgery.

Consider bringing your hound’s bed along, so that he will have a familiar place to recuperate in the ICU. Also bring one of your own recently-worn t-shirts (for your scent), some of your dog’s food, and some treats that he finds especially appealing.

——

Post-Op

Choose a facility that has overnight medical care!

They will probably keep your hound overnight 1-3 nights, depending on how he is recovering. They typically like to see the dog both eating and able to get himself up and move around a little bit before going home.

If, when you see your dog, his level of mobility is not something you are comfortable handing, you can ask them to keep him another night. They will generally let you visit your dog in the ICU, but perhaps not on the day of the surgery itself, as the dog will be sedated and resting.

Be prepared when you see your hound for the first time. He can sense how you are feeling, and if you are upset and scared, he will be too. Act like everything is normal, and he will feel better. It is still the same dog!

If he is not bandaged, the sight of the incision may be a shock, so prepare yourself for a very large (10” or so) incision, with swelling and possibly substantial bruising. Also prepare for him still to be potentially a little “out of it” from the sedation.

Here are photos of Whitey’s bandage, and of his incision at one-week post-op.

…Meds

The hardest thing for the humans to handle may be if the dog seems afraid, anxious, uncertain, or painful. Remember that some of these things – especially the anxiety – can be caused by the very medications that are helping with his pain. He may still not be “with it.”

Pain medications such as Fentanyl (this is a patch that is applied to the dog’s skin for 3-5 days post-op), Tramadol, hydromorphone, etc. are called “opiates,” and some greyhounds may be extra sensitive to these. They can very often cause restlessness, panting, anxiety, whining, and dysphoria (hallucinations). However, they are also often the most effective method of pain control.

If the side effects are too much to handle, talk with your vet about possibilities for different pain meds. Your hound will probably also be on an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as Deramaxx or Metacam. These may cause a little stomach upset, but will not cause the dysphoria of the opiates. Another option to ask about is Gabapentin.

If the side effects of the drugs are keeping the dog from getting rest, you can ask your vet for some Valium (diazepam). This can “take the edge off” the anxiety from the opiates. Some vets may also use Acepromazine, which really can knock the dog out. If you use Ace, start with a VERY small amount (e.g., ¼ of a 25mg tablet), and if that has not had the desired effect after 90 minutes or so, give another ¼ tablet. This has a muscle relaxing effect, and will make it harder for the dog to walk. It can last 6-8 hours. It can also lower blood pressure, so ask your vet whether this is a concern for your dog.

It is very important that your hound be able to rest during the days after surgery, so it’s important to find a balance between pain relief and side effects of the pain medications.

Pepcid AC can help with tummy upset from the NSAIDs, too (although antacids should not be given with Gabapentin). He needs to feel well enough to eat something to keep his strength up. If need be, use the Pediasure or chicken broth to get some calories into him. And make sure he stays hydrated; offer him water often.

…Mobility

Your hound WILL require almost CONSTANT supervision during his first few days home from the hospital. The first night or two, you are unlikely to sleep much, so rest up before surgery and while your dog is in ICU. Make sure the schedule the surgery at a time when you will be able to take a few days off work when he comes home. Preferably someone who is physically able to lift the dog unassisted.

How mobile your hound will be when he comes home depends on the individual dog. Some dogs are getting around relatively well within a day or two. Others will take a week, 2 weeks, even a little longer to really figure it out. In the meantime, you can assist your dog with a harness (as mentioned above), or even with a long bathtowel looped under his ribcage. This can help you bear some of his weight and keep him on balance.

You will almost certainly need to assist him at first with pottying. Some dogs may find this type of help difficult to accept, especially those who are not used to doing their business while on-leash. Try to give him as much “space” as you can while still being there to support or catch him if he wobbles.

As he gets more confident, it’s up to you to keep him safe. He may forget and try to do things he did pre-amputation, like jump on/off the bed, run too soon, go down stairs without assistance, etc. It is very important that he not fall hard during his recovery period, or he can injure his surgery site (or one of his “good” legs).

Older dogs have a longer adjustment period in general. Also, paradoxically, the dogs who had the best use of their “bad” leg pre-amputation have longer recovery times. Dogs who were not bearing weight on the bad leg have already started to adjust to walking on 3 legs. The amputation is less of a change for those dogs, and actually eliminates the pain from that bad leg. However, those who had good use of their “bad” leg before surgery also probably had the cancer caught earlier, and will have the best prognosis.

Mobility generally improves as more of the sedation drugs and pain drugs leave his system, and as the swelling goes down.

He will learn it! He just needs rest, practice, and supervision and encouragement from you.

If you must leave your dog alone soon after surgery, put him in an area where he cannot hurt himself, and away from your other dogs. If possible, get someone to check on him if he is alone for a long period, or hire a dogsitter.

…The Surgical Site

The bandaging that your surgeon does will depend on his/her preferences. My vet recommends a compression bandage left on for the first 5-7 days after surgery. This prevents fluid buildup at the surgery site, which can cause pressure on the sutures and oozing of the wound. If this bandage gets wet, it will need to be changed.

After the bandage comes off, you can protect the area by putting a t-shirt on the dog. You can use a human t-shirt, tied up at the waist so not to trip the dog or get peed on. Or you can use a t-shirt made for dogs. (www.crittercozies.com has t-shirts made especially for front-leg amputees).

You can expect to see edema (swelling) around the compression bandage, down around the dogs chest and groin area. You will also see edema in the remaining leg. If this seems excessive or increases very rapidly, check with your doctor. It may remain for a week or so. As time goes on, everything moves “south”…The swelling in the chest will decrease but the swelling in the leg will increase. You can massage the leg gently, or use a heating pad on it to encourage circulation.

You will also see some redness and bruising. Again, if it seems excessive or increases very rapidly, check with the doctor. This should also dissipate over a few days to a week. It looks a lot worse than it is.

This is Apollo’s bruising and swelling a few days after surgery.  I panicked a little when I saw this, but my vet assured me that it was within the normal range for this surgery.  The edema was down into his abdomen and groin.  Over the next few days, it moved into his back leg so that both hocks were very puffy and swollen.

One more note on bruising — If your dog has had extensive bruising, you can expect to see some orange urine for a day or two as his body breaks down the extra blood.  You might immediately think “internal bleeding” but if he is otherwise okay (normal heart rate and respiration, not overly lethargic, normal temp) then this is unlikely.  For a quick test, check his gums.  If you press your thumb against it, the white spot you leave should turn pink again almost immediately.

You will need to watch for infection.  Your hound will probably either be on an oral antibiotic, or have been given a long-acting antibiotic injection during surgery, and infection is more likely to occur after those meds have finished.  Apollo developed an infection at the “Y” intersection of his incision at about 3 weeks post-op:

You can see that the top part of the incision is all nicely healed with no bruising; but just below the “Y” it has become extremely swollen.  The skin was taut and shiny, pulling on the staples and causing constant seepage from the wound.  The tissue in that area had become necrotic (died) and it was unable to heal up.  In Apollo’s case,  we gave him antibiotics for a couple weeks to get the swelling down and see how much tissue was ultimately going to necrose, and then we needed to put him back under anaesthesia, debride the wound and resuture it.  This was about a 20-minute procedure and he actually felt a lot better afterward.

The First Couple Weeks

Hound parents who have been through amputations with their hounds often report the “two weeks of hell,” during which the dog is recovering from surgery and taking lots of medications. Your hound is almost certain to behave oddly during this time, both as a result of the meds, and also of just adjusting to his new situation.

He may seem unable to get comfortable, or just not seem to know what he wants. He may stand up, lie down, stand up, lie down, wander aimlessly. He may pant a lot or seem anxious. He may cry out or whine even if it seems that nothing is touching his sore spot. He may refuse foods that he otherwise loved, and eat things you didn’t expect.

Unless any of these are extreme, they are probably within the normal range. Most of these do pass after a couple weeks, and your hound’s pre-surgery demeanor will gradually come back. Some people report that once the pain meds are gone, it’s like somebody turned the lights back on and the hound gets back to normal. DO NOT withhold pain meds, though, because he needs them!

Hounds can have phantom limb pain, just like human amputees do. This is *real pain* even though the limb is gone. It’s nerve pain. One of the best meds for this is Gabapentin. Ask your vet about it if you think your hound is having this type of pain.

You may also see what can only be called “depression” in your hound.  It is tiring, both mentally and physically, to feel “off” for days on end…whether that means painful, uncomfortable, drugged-up, nauseous, or just “not-quite-right.”  In most cases the depression doesn’t last long, and you can help your dog by getting him back into the normal swing of life.  Encourage him to do his favorite things.  We took Apollo for car rides, which he loved, even if it was just a half-mile to McDonalds for chicken nuggets and back home.  But try not to fuss over him too much, or he will sense your worry and reinforce the idea that something is very wrong.

Within 2-3 weeks, your hound should be moving around with near-normal confidence (although it is best not to allow him to run yet, if he feels up to it). Before that time, you might feel yourself questioning whether you’ve done the right thing for him. But remember, you made the decision out of love and the best information you had. He’ll get through it, and you’ve given him the best chance of pain-free life that you could.

Here are Apollo (one week post-op) and Whitey (2 months post-op) hopping around their yard:

Feel free to email me with questions! greyhoundmama @ earthlink.net

47 comments

  1. This is a fantastic summary of what to expect with amputation and greyhounds!

    For more advice about canine bone cancer and life on three legs, do come visit the pups at Tripawds.com anytime. We’re here for you.

    Thanks again.


  2. Just wanted to say thank you for posting this information. My beautiful lurcher Murphy had her left front leg amputated in March and I have found your website very useful in helping us all get through it. Murphy is now doing really well and enjoying life to the full. Thank you.


  3. Thank you for your honest web page about the post op surgery. My dog’s leg was taken off Monday, June 21st and things have been tough. The phantom pain has been the hardest for both him and I. Please send any suggestions my way. Again thank you for your honesty, photos, and video clip. Dyer is a Heeler but any information would be great.

    Kim (Dyre’s mom)


  4. What a fantastic post! You are doing such a great service to those going through the decision to help their sweet pup through amputation – a choice to help improve their quality of life. My fiance & I adopted a 3 legged, 6 1/2 year old Doberman after his back, hind leg was removed. We are astonished that he is a now a healthy 8 1/2 year old & runs faster than other 4 legged dogs in the neighborhood. It is through this experience that I realize I would not hesitate to go though the surgery with a future dog should the issue ever arise – our dogs are part of the family and we would do anything to extend their quality of life!


  5. I have found this to be very helpful for me to understand and ask the right questions. This whole experience is devastating however as long as my dog is OK and happy, pain free I hope it will all be worth it to him. I want no less than the best for him.


  6. Finally I found an article that gives some solid info about how awful the first two weeks can be. I have 2nd guessed this decision from the beginning. I’ve been searching for details about the first two weeks but everyone just talked about how wonderful the dogs was after the leg was removed. We are on day 7 and I am very comforted by the info and video you shared.
    Thank You!


  7. My Keetna has bone cancer and we just got the amp done. This article was a wonderful help to us. Alone with the panting she chatters her teeth like she is cold, it has only been two day since amp. What can you tel me.


  8. Thank you so much. My Jazz will have this surgery soon. I am taking a vacation to help her through it. Your information and insight is priceless.


  9. This was by far the best site i came across answering all of my questions about the amputation and after care, particularly with regard to the effect of the pain meds. until i read this, i had assumed that there was sometging wrong because of the reactions, as described in this sie, that our dog had on the meds. i am at much greater ease as we live through the amputee processes. thank you for this information!!


  10. As a veterinarian, I can say that this post is an excellent review for owners. It is honest and complete.


  11. Thank you so much for helping me understand what I’m seeing with my dog one week post-op. Ellie is doing so well, but I wasn’t understanding her panting, sudden outbursts of anxiety and other behaviors. Now I do. I feel much calmer and better able to deal with the situation. Also thank you for mentioning the feelings of questioning whether or not I did the right thing. You have made all the difference for me.Thank you SO much!!
    Susan and Ellie


  12. Thanks for the info.. Great job at describing what to expect. Dimples broke her front leg a couple of weeks ago in the upper area towards the shoulder. A pin was placed in the bone as well as wires since it was a spiral break. She is a genetic spook and the vet office knows that she is better off with me and the knowledge I have gained in the many years of Greyhound Adoption. She came hope with her IV line still in place so I could keep her pain at a minimum. I slept on the floor with her for a week and after that we moved back to the bedroom. She couldn’t have a bandage or cast due to the swelling etc, so care was given with warm sea salt soaks as well as cold compresses. Her recovery was going along pretty well but I had noticed her paw on that leg was swelling up. The vet was not as concerned as I was about this. Our followup appointment is scheduled for Friday, however now she is at two weeks into the repair and today she started swelling in the shoulder and was showing signs of distress and pain. I gave her more pain meds to keep her calm, and of course called the vet.. They know I am giving her the same treatment they are giving her and if she is not better by morning, I will be at the office.. I have been preparing myself since Sunday for amputation or whatever else might follow our visit. The one thing that concerns me is that for Dimples, she turns cirles and the broken leg is her left front, which is her power leg. It is hard for her to find a way to get comfortable and she has been quite clumsy, trying to get used to not having the use of that leg. She has adjusted well to going outside so far. I suppose we will find out in the morning what to expect or what has happened. I fear the worst. But maybe she just bumped her shoulder and had a little setback in the process. She finally has settled down again for the night and I of course am sleeping with her. It comforts her and makes me aware if she is showing signs of distress.

    Take care, I will post a reply once we see the vet again in the morning..

    Gil Caldwell
    Richmond VA


  13. This site is an answer to my prayers. I have been online all day trying to find something to answer my questions. My Ace (greyhound) had his right front leg amputated 6 days ago because of a bone cancer diagnosis. He is getting around great and actually was up walking the day after surgery and according to my vet tried to escape his kennel that first night which he alwasy did when we boarded him. He started doing the panting and standing up laying down etc. thing which had me fretting over him constantly. He acted like he did not know what to do. I was so worried that he might be in too much pain or was doing to much too soon. I did not want to leave him at all but had to go to work so I have been worried contantly but I just read your article and I feel so much better. THANK YOU! This has been the only article that has addressed that issue. This has been a long 2 weeks since his diagnosis and amputation but I am looking forward to him being back to his normal self and hopefully some more precious time.


  14. Thank you sooo much for all your detailed experiences and advice. Our 10-year old Joe is approaching his third week post amputation and is just now getting back to normal.


  15. Thank you for posting this. My pomeranian is about to have a rear leg amputation, and I was looking for information to help prepare myself and my family. I’m going to go over everything on this page with them. I know you speak of greyhounds, but it seems to be universally helpful. This is one of the most thorough articles I’ve read. Thank you!


  16. I have an 11 year old Rottweiler diagnosis bone cancer. Her back leg and they said it has moved to her chest too. Amputation they felt wasn’t a good idea and they suggested putting her to sleep. I couldn’t see doing that. She was still living a pretty normal life except for the weight loss which she was over weight anyways. Her son stepped on her back leg prior to the vet visit which I thought it was just a spain. Only to find out it was cancer. Odd to me. She was functioning but hobbling. I decided to take her home and let her die with love at home. I have been researching and put her on herbs, supplements and raw foods blended. Its been 3 weeks now. Her leg is very swollen and she doesn’t get up to go to the bathroom now. I want them to remove the leg. I feel she can handle it. What should I do. Please email me lexusis05@yahoo.com I am in georgetown texas.


  17. Thank you so much for this information. We are deciding how to handle our retired greyhounds osteosarcoma. We are planning to amputate his hind leg next week. Your information was very helpful for us.
    Thank you.


  18. I posted about my greyhound Ace on April 2nd after he had a front leg amputation after being diagnosed with bone cancer. I am so happy to say that Ace is still doing great! We have decided not to have lung x-rays done but my vet said after listening to is heart and lungs that he does not hear anything that would indicate a tumor in his lungs etc. He is 12 years old now and will have made it a year next month. We did no chemo just amputation and I was expecting to have him around for only about 4 – 6 months. So there is hope if you are doing amputation only!!! He does have hard days because of arthritis in his hips but he takes rimadyl and tramadol and it keeps him active and out of pain. He eats like a horse and we have since gotten a little brussels griffon. He runs around the back yard with her so she has been good for him. They are best buddies now. I am so glad I read this article back then because it made me understand so many things about what was going on.
    Thanks again almost 1 year later!!!


    • Thanks so much for this update! It is always wonderful to hear stories of brave survivors like your boy! I hope you have lots of great times to come with him.


  19. A very detailed guide of what to expect from the pet u love so much. Just wanted to thank for being so detailed.A lot of people i spoke with about this surgery thought it was a bad idea. Some referred to it as torture to the dog. i couldn’t disagree more. The people that say these things do not have special relationships with their dogs and moreover never will. I’m just happy to say that i do. I love this dog more than these people will ever understand. So thanks for providing very useful info and thanks for being a very special dog lover!

    Mike


  20. Thank you so much for this! My greyhound, Silas, was recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma and I opted for amputation. I’ve been a CVT for 10 years now and have seen and helped with MANY amputations. But this is a first for me, with my own dog. I have seen, I know how long it takes for them to recover, and how great they look after they heal. And though I do get emotionally involved with all my patients, I’m able to distance myself enough to gain a unbiased idea of how they’re actually doing. I maintain perspective. Not so with my own dog. I have been THE BIGGEST basket case, calling my doctors, drilling them on every pant, whine, and yelp, obsessively taking his temperature, giving medications on time every day, to the minute I might add, and took to locking myself in the bathroom where he can’t hear or see me and crying my eyes out thinking I’ve broken his spirit and made a horrible decision. I HAD LOST ALL PERSPECTIVE! Then I read this. And, low and behold, I remember! This is normal! I need to stay positive! Its only been 9 days! He’s learning how to walk all over again! This is a big adjustment to him! Give him time! I’ve been smothering him! This has put into words all my fears and made me remember that everything he is doing is okay. He’s okay. We’re okay. We’re both adjusting and I really just need to chill out. So, thank you. You helped this Vet Tech veteran find her perspective when nothing else could. The “two weeks of hell” is most appropiate, and it’s almost over. Silas and I will make it.


  21. What a great resource. Thanks for all of this.


  22. We just had our 12 year old GH’s hind leg removed due to osteo. Seems like most amputations im reading about are front leg. Our boy is 4 days post op. Seems to be weak in all legs. Ordered harness and waiting on its arrival. He is standing well. Anybody know if hind legs are slower to recuperate than front? We have to head back to work tomorrow but are going to crate him and ck on him every few hours. Still very worried! tnx!


  23. My Greyhound Alfie had a hind leg amputated 3 days ago due to a very serious break and post op complications. It’s so hard! I feel so bad for my baby and constantly question whether amputation was the right thing to do – seeing my beautiful graceful boy struggling to get around, in pain and frightened is beyond heartbreaking.


  24. Thanks for this. Our boy is 11 and about to come home after his operation. Your account has been very helpful and keeping us focused that he will get through this.


  25. My 6.5 yr old greyhound has osteosarcoma of her right rear leg above ankle area. All of her blood tests and chest x-ray were negative. This was on 6.26. She is no longer limpingand has been on Deramaxx 50 mg daily and has had 3 infusions of Pamidronate 30 mg 14 days apart. The vet really didn’t give us many choices and explained this was only paliative treatment and that we would probably lose her in 5 months. Now I am second guessing that I should have pursued more options…e.g. amputation. My husband thinks it is cruel to even consider it. I need your help as I have had Doreen 4.5 years and love her dearly.


    • Sandra – To amputate or not is an extremely personal decision. You need to think about what Doreen would want. It is possible that you will amputate and still lose her in 5 months. We only got 6 months post-amp with both of our tripawds, but I knew that both of them could handle the amputation and I had to give them the chance. Because there *is* a chance that amputation can buy you significantly more time, and there *are* dogs who beat cancer with amputation. I knew that the odds were not in our favor, but I thought both of those boys had that drive to live and not give up. Especially my little Whitey. If you’re considering amputation, I would urge you to re-do the chest x-rays right before you do the surgery; if it is already in the lungs (and the past month could have changed things) there is no point to do the amputation. But if she is otherwise healthy, fit, and enjoying life, then an amputation may be a good choice for you. A dog that young would likely tolerate the surgery quite well. The downside is that the younger dogs often have a more aggressive tumor and it may already have metastasized. There is no way to know for sure. If you think she would want you to try everything, then try it and give her that chance. But go into it knowing that there are no guarantees. I hate making this decision, and I feel for anyone in this position. You just have to make the choice that you can live with and she can live with. So ask her what she wants you to do, and I think you will find the answer. As for it being cruel, show your husband this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cFokzB0qIo&feature=plcp When I question whether I did the right thing for Apollo, this video saves me. He was happy.


  26. I am not sure if this helpful but our greyhound (6.5 years of age) was diagnosed in December with Osteosarcoma. We were devastated. We were going to let let the dog go naturally with just painkillers and not do anything radical. The lesion was in the right rear leg. We saw the vet oncologist and he recommended amputation and radiation we didn’t want to do that. I would have to drive far for the radiation. We gave him pain meds from our regular vet. His leg bothered him anyway so he ran around the house and up and down the stairs with one leg up to not put pressure on it. We decided to amputate in February. I was scared and did lots of research. Our vet did the procedure and amputated from the hip socket. It was 2 days in the vet hospital and they were wonderful and we spent so much time there with him. He came home and it was hard for the 1st 10 days(harder on us to see his sad eyes becuase it hurt). At 2 weeks he was doing great. Once they took the staples out he was much more comfortable. It is now almost August and they just x-rayed his lungs and heart and it looked great. His lymph nodes are good. He likes his walks(shorter now-about 15-25 minutes). We are lucky. Our vet recommended we give him power mushrooms(Chinese medicine herb and K-9 Immunity-buy on Amazon). Our vet recommended this instead of the chemo drugs. I wish we wouldn’t have waited until March to start those because I hear glowing reviews from users. Originally we were told if didn’t amputate he would live 2 months, (we would need to put him down due to the pain), 4 months with amputation and maybe a year with radiation. We chose amputation, not immediately and he is a lucky dog who doesn’t know he is handicap. We did put down some rubber backed bath mats in our down stairs like stepping stones pattern. We have tile down stairs. I am not sure if our story helps. Our vet feels we may get a year or two out of him because he has seen it in his practice with those supplements. We will see. We just look at everyday as a gift and joke he is past his expiration date. He is happy, and healthy and loves life.


    • Kristen – Wonderful story about your boy! Thank you so much for sharing it!


  27. This site really helped us! My Mary (10 1/2 years old) was diagnosed April 17 with OS tumor in her upper right humerus. On April 27 I started her on Artemisinin 200mg per day. We were totally torn on what to do and agonized over the decision for the next couple of months. I’ve lost two greyhounds before – one to OS at 10 1/2 years and the other to a liver tumor at 11 1/2 years. From April to July Mary’s limp became worse and worse and we knew that we could not wait any longer. On July 19 we amputated the leg, leaving the scapula intact as no cancer was detected in that area and her margins were clear. She was up and walking the day after surgery. The first two weeks we noticed all the symptoms you suggested in your site, (anxiety, whining, panting, phantom pain) so it was very comforting to read this and other posts (again and again). We live on the beach and she has to go up and down the two flights of stairs. We have wraps on her three remaining legs to protect her from knocking into the steps as she finds her balance, but she’s doing great, learning to manage the steps, walk, run, etc. She’s on a pretty healthy diet. I cook a big pot of dark meat chicken, sweet potatoes, lots of broccoli and chicken broth. Sometimes my husband eats it too 😉 Incidentally I’ve found this is cheaper than most high end commercial dog foods. I give her glucosomine treats and a few fish oil capsules each week. The artemisinin is a great supplement – I think it is prolonging her quality of life and possibly longevity. We are not sure yet about chemo. Her alkaline phosphate levels are in the normal range. Will make a decision on chemo in the next couple weeks. Mary’s got her ups and downs but I’m glad we decided to do it. She’s out of pain now and still herself. It’s such a personal decision and each dog is totally different. But with Mary, we really were not ready to let go because she is so full of spirit and life. She’s also very stubborn minded, curious and independant – good qualities for her recovery. Thank you so very much for this site. It helped greatly in our decision making.


  28. Thanks so much for all your advise and support. 5 months post op and Buddy is doing great….Gets tired very easily, but no infections and great appetite! 1 more chemo treatment and then we are done with that….


  29. Just got an osteo dx yesterday on our 10 yr old boy Trader. His lung X-ray looked good and he’s already getting around on 3 legs due to pain so we are strongly considering amputation as he seems a great candidate. I’m so glad I found this site, your experience, advice, and pictures are so reassuring!


  30. Hi everyone.

    My Franky (greyhound) age 9 1/2 has just been diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his front left leg.
    Its in the top part of his leg only but I was told that if I went for amputation they would have to take his leg and shoulder.
    My vet has said he is against doing this as he doesn’t agree with front leg amputations and said that they can’t get around very well anymore. He has also said that a chest xray would be a waste of time because it will probably be too early for anything to show up and this would likely happen 3 months after surgery.
    He has suggested steroids and tramadol and to just monitor his condition. He has said he will do the surgery if I want him to but it’s obvious he thinks it’s a bad idea.
    I’m so torn about what to do, especially after reading this article and all the lovely reviews.
    I know this could essentially kill him but I can’t just sit back and watch him die either.
    Could really use some advice right now please x


    • Trudy – If you do an amputation, they do take the entire leg including the scapula (shoulder bone). However, most dogs get around EXTREMELY WELL post-amputation. Whitey had his amp at age 11.5 and after about a month was doing so well that he could dig holes in the yard with his one front leg. Apollo was 9.5 and he walked out of the vet on his own without help the day after surgery. He was unsteady for a week or so, but within a month was running again. Yes front leg amps are harder than rear legs, but most dogs do fine.

      A couple things… It does not sound like this vet has much experience with leg amps. If at all possible, I would find someone else to do the surgery. Preferably a specialist at a clinic with OVERNIGHT CARE. The first night or two right after surgery are rough and he will need monitoring.

      Before surgery, you definitely want lung x-rays. If it is already visible in his lungs, then there is sadly no point to do the amputation. You should also do x-rays of the other front leg (wrist and shoulder) and the back legs (especially knee and upper thigh) to make sure you can’t see any signs of cancer in the other limbs. If everything else is clear, then you should be a good candidate for amputation.

      Ohio State is still doing the free chemo drugs for greyhounds. But the Greyhound Wellness Program there may be winding down (Dr Couto has left), so request them ASAP if you are going to want them. I would definitely suggest doing chemo if you do amp.

      I’m not sure where you are located but there are a few clinical trials going on right now for dogs with osteosarcoma. There is a study at the University of Pennsylvania, one at Auburn, and one at the University of Minnesota. If you are located close to any of those places, please check into them (or let me know and I will find the contact info for you). You will need to make contact with these places PRIOR to amputation if you hope to participate in the study. They are developing cutting-edge treatments for cancer.

      If you would like to talk with someone who has had a TON of experience with greyhound leg amputations, contact Dr Couto at his new consulting practice: http://www.coutovetconsultants.com/

      Do not hesitate to ask for help! You don’t want to be going through this with a vet who is inexperienced or not on-board.

      If you do decide to opt for no amputation, you just need to find the best drug combo to manage his pain until such time as it becomes too much or the limb breaks. There are a lot of drugs out there besides Tramadol (which can cause dysphoria in some greyhounds) so don’t be afraid to try different things and ask questions there too.

      Wishing you and Franky the best. (I have a Franky as well in my pack.)
      Jen


  31. Hi Trudy,
    I am so sorry for your situation. My feelings and thoughts align with Jen’s post. The only thing I would add was if everything was optimal for an amputation also look at the temperament of your dog. That was what was posed to me as well when I called my rescue for advice. My dog was easy going and in 3 weeks he back to normal personality wise. He got up on his own hours after surgery and went potty by himself. He didn’t want help. My situation was different because it was a rear amputation. But it is 2 years since his amputation and he is happy and doing well. He doesn’t even act “handicap”. My vet recommended I use k-9 immunity, Power Mushrooms (Chinese medicine tablets from amazon), EFA’s and glucosamine. My pooch was amputated at 7 years and is 9 now and very active ( for a greyhound). My vet was optimistic and had good results with his recommendations. The veterinary oncologist recommended amputation also but felt confident we would only get 2-4 months out of dog with an amputation. We had our home vet do it and followed his advice and we have been lucky. Maybe bring all your results/tests elsewhere for a second opinion. Good luck and my heart goes out to you.
    Kristen


  32. Thankyou so much for replying. I have spoken to my vet again today and he just doesn’t feel that Franky would be a good candidate for amputation.
    I have also rang the greyhound trust and spoken to the lovely lady who looked after him for a year before he came home to me snd she has also said she wouldn’t go with amputation.
    Franky is a big softy and can get easily depressed and I just don’t think he’d cope very well.
    He’s 10 in April and I just feel that the best road for us is anti cancer meds and painkillers. He isn’t completely lame so is still going for a walk and doesn’t seem to be in much pain yet.
    I just wanted to say to all of you who have a dog in this situation good luck and nobody knows your dog like you do. You really do know best!
    I’ll keep you posted about my Frank and I’m just going to make everyday special and cherish the precious time I have left with my big gentle boy ♥


  33. Thank you! My 13 year old Husky has a scheduled amputation for his right front leg and this blog was very helpful in easing my fears and preparing me for the post surgery recover. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!


    • Good luck with everything and I wish you and your pooch the best.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >


  34. My greyhound Millie was recently diag with osteosarcoma in rear leg, the vet said she could survive 6 months with amp or only 2 month, I am devastated, she is nearly 10yrs, she has a haematoma which the cancer has caused which in turn is causing Millie much discomfort, and has recently began bleeding profusely. I know amputation is a personal choice, I just don,t know which is best, she is my baby and I want whats best for her, reading this site fills you with inspiration, as well as others experiences.


    • I am glad this blog is here for us. Our dog was given 2-4 months to live after amputation. It has been 3 years and he is still going strong and happy. All the vets call him their miracle dog. Every situation is different. Good luck with everything. Sent from my iPhone

      >


  35. My dog recently just got his leg ampuated and i wondered if when he goes in to get his stitches removed will they keep him overnight? And will they sedate him for this?


    • My dog only stayed over for surgery. The stitches were a relatively situation. I thought it would be worse but it was simple and he felt better. It has been 3 years since my dogs surgery and it has gone well. He is active and happy. No regrets. Hope that helps.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >


  36. My dog it two days post op. I’m wondering where you got that harness that you’re helping hold him up with in the one picture. My vet suggested a towel under the dog for support, but she is not having it. She prefers to go along without it of she’s going to get up. Ty in advance!



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