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We recently learned that our beloved 10-year old Australian Shepherd, Samba, has osteosarcoma in her front left leg. Our choices are either palliative care for a few months or amputation/chemo. Everything about her is great except she has some arthritis (the worst of it in the same leg) and, of course, the pain from the cancer. Right now, we intend to amputate. It's the only way to remove the pain and keep her. But, we are somewhat overwhelmed with the decision and, frankly, expense and we hope to understand more.

We know some dogs who have three legs. They have been chipper, upbeat, and playful. But, they were also young and a little smaller (say around 40 lbs to Samba's 50). We are wondering if anyone can share their experience with amputation in aging dogs, how they adapt, how you would judge their quality of life.

Also, if anyone would kindly share cancer survival stories, too. Her oncologist says that 50% of dogs with this cancer survive a year or more after this aggressive treatment. But, the doctor didn't know the break out of the less successful 50%: types of dogs, ages, how long they lasted, etc.

Thanks much!
 

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I'll chime in, as I just lost my boy to bone cancer recently. We chose palliative care and he lived a couple months longer after the diagnosis before we euthanized him. He was hobbling but still in great spirits when he left.

I will say that for MY dog, he was still able to do 10+ mile hikes, go backpacking, and enjoy life to the fullest when he was 10 years old. If I had known when he was 10, I would have amputated for sure. But he was already 12 when the diagnosis was made and although internally (bloodwork) and externally (energy, coat, etc.) he was very healthy despite the cancer, I couldn't do it to a 12 year old dog and I thought it would be too selfish of me. My understanding is with the palliative care route, it's not the cancer that necessarily kills them but the pain they will be in until we/they are suffering. My dog got gabapentin, rimadyl, CBD oil, and hydrocodone. We started with rimadyl and gaba, then added hydrocodone when r+g weren't working as well. We increased doses until the very end. I was spending about $400-500 a month on drugs the last couple months, and my dog was 65-70 lbs. Every dog responds differently to medication, but we saw no sedative effect with the hydrocodone at all. My dog still wanted to play tug, beg for food at the table, sniff around outside (no walks though), cuddle, grumble at my other dog... even on his very last day. But the limp was always there no matter what drugs he took, which was understandable.

I hope Bellapup chimes in, as I believe she chose amputation when her dog was 10 years old. And her dog is 12 and thriving right now. I imagine she would have more to say about the amputation and chemo route.

Best of luck to you and your dog. No matter what, the road ahead is not easy and I wish you well.
 

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Thanks, Canyx, for your response. My wife read your note and it had a big impact on her thinking. I was already leaning strongly toward surgery. You and BellaPup (whom I had written privately) locked me in.

It happens tomorrow. I hope to occasionally update here what happens so other can read about it if they face this. In the meanwhile, if anyone has advice on how to help a tripawd, I would love to hear it!
 

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Thinking of you guys and sending positive, healing thoughts to Samba!

Hang in there. It will be a big adjustment, but most dogs do pretty well at figuring the tripawd thing out for themselves. :)

I'm not sure where you're located, but right after Bella's surgery, the biggest issue besides stairs was the ice and snow. I also have hard wood floors - there are now runners and area rugs all over the place to keep her from slipping. I also modified my bed so she could get up and down easier.

Another thing I ended up doing was getting some old t-shirts and a couple doggy sweaters and sewing up the right arm to help keep the large shaved part of her body warm.

I'm glad you got the sling/vest to help out! Just be sure you don't over-use it. Samba will have to work on strengthening his remaining limbs and core. Dogs carry I think like 65% or more of their weight on their front legs.

Let us know how he does!

eta: oh, a ramp for the car. That was very helpful until she was healed enough and steadier on her feets.
 
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