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I am about to have my dog's leg taken off and I am not sure I am doing the right thing


Posted by kathrynt

My dog has been limping for the last six months and her rear leg, (where our ankle would be) is so swollen and for the last month she has not used the leg at all. We have taken her to the vet many times and they are not quite sure what it is. At first they thought it was a torn ligament and maybe some arthritis. Now they are suspecting cancer, fungus, or a severe anti inflammatory disease. The dog has not used her leg in over a month; she just holds it up and hops. The doctor said even if they do surgery to try to fix it, she may have issues with it forever and she may always limp. I don't know what to do. I am scared for her... I am attaching the radiologists new report from Friday 10/25

Findings:  Orthogonal views of the right tarsus were obtained.  The current study is compared to prior radiographs obtained in September 2010.  There is persistent significant soft tissue swelling noted over the tarsal joint.   In the dorsoplantar view, there is persistent chronic active periosteal bone remodeling visualized along the lateral aspect of the distal fibula and the reaction extends to the calcaneus at this time.  There is early remodeling noted along the lateral proximal metatarsal joint space in the dorsoplantar view.  There is ill-defined heterogeneous medullary bone lysis noted in the distal radius and all bones in the tarsus.    Conclusion:  The radiographic findings are consistent with chronic active soft tissue inflammation and granulation tissue due to prior trauma/ligament rupture with associated periostitis and degenerative joint disease from chronic instability and disuse osteopenia.  Neoplasia such as a synovial cell sarcoma cannot be completely excluded with the progression of changes present.  Septic arthritis from trauma cannot be excluded. 
 
Answers (3)
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Because her holding it up suggests your dog is experiencing chronic discomfort from her condiiton and because there are possible causes of her problem that could have more far-reaching effects on her if they spread, from that leg to other parts of her body, I think amputation is a viable option.

Because we humans are bi-peds, we often have a highly negative response to amputations. However, most dogs adapt very well as long as they're not allowed to become overweight. This is because, as you might remember from high school geometry, it only takes three points to determine a plane. Consequently, a dog with three good legs can get around very well.  How well as pointed out in one retrospective survey of owners whose dogs had had amputations at a large teaching hospital in previous years. One finding that came as a surprise was the number of owners contacted who couldn't understand why they were being sent such a survey. Because their dogs got around so well, they forgot that they only had 3 legs.

Dr. Myrna, I wanted to update you about my dog and ask your opinion about her diagnosis. It was very comforting to read your reply before I made the difficult decision to amputate her leg. We amputated her leg about a month ago, and she is doing great! She is back to her old self and seems to finally be out of pain! I am so thankful. The biopsy results came back yesterday and it turns out it was Synovial Cell Sarcoma. Everything I am reading says this usually comes back and either attacks the lungs or lymphatic system. In fact, according to one website, even after amputation, she should have 850 days to live! Yikes! What is your opinion about this cancer? Should we expect to see it return in the next couple years or is there a chance it will not come back?Thank you again!Kathryn

 

Kathryn, the good news is that your dog is doing great. The not-so-good news is the biopsy report. As far as whether any cancer will return, the chance of that at any given time is 50/50. It either will or it won't. I don't mean to sound facetious but rather to point out that these odds are no different from the probability of anything bad happening to our dogs or us at any given time. Given that and the relationship between stress and cancer in humans at least—and I have no reason to think this isn’t also true in dogs—I’d suggest enjoying life as much as she is.

 

Your dog is telling you that she feels great and life is good. Share those sentiments with her instead of looking for signs of problems. Sure it’s going to be hard and it may take practice. But fear is your and her biggest enemy because of what it does to your physiology as well as hers. I agree with Machiavelli (of all people!) that when it comes to making a choice between love and fear, it easier to choose fear because that’s the safer of the two. But to stack the desks in your dog’s favor as much as possible and even though I realize how hard this can be sometimes, I’d recommend finding the strength and courage to choose to let your love of her and hers for you right now guide you rather than any fear of what might happen in the future. Even under the best of circumstances, our lives with our dogs are too short without giving fear such power over us and them.

 

The very best to you both.

 

Myrna

 

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