Bone Cancer in Dogs
FAQs about Amputation
- Decide on where your dog will rest once home and prepare the place ahead of time, if possible. If you will be using an x-pen, set it up ahead of time and put some favorite toys and things inside. If you have time, start feeding your dog in it. Keep the x-pen open so your dog can explore.
- Decide if you need baby gates. If so, put them in place ahead of time so your dog can get used to them.
- Use old blankets or quilts that can be easily washed.
- Slippery floors will need to be covered with non-slip rugs or runners. Rubber matting or treading is also an alternative.
- If your dog is used to sleeping on your bed, decide how you will handle that after surgery, and whether or not the mattress will go on the floor so your dog can still be next to you. If so, you may want to keep a leash on your dog in case your dog decides to try and get up.
- Make some changes before surgery, if you can, so your dog is not overwhelmed with changes at home. Your dog will have enough changes to deal with.
- If your dog is not used to walking on a leash or going potty on a leash, start as soon as possible. Use treats for every success.
- If you have stairs to negotiate, start using a harness or sling now to help your dog up and down. Use treats whenever possible. If you will need a ramp, consider planning for it now and get your dog used to it if you have time. (See below.)
- Write any questions you might have so you can discuss them with the vet and write down the answers.
- Paint the nails on the limb that is to be amputated. It is a good reminder for the technicians and vet as to which leg is afflicted, especially if there is no visible swelling on the limb.
- Make sure the hospital has 24 hour on-site coverage for direct supervision of your dog post-operatively. Under no circumstances should your dog be left alone overnight after amputation surgery. Otherwise, consider transferring your dog to an emergency veterinarian service overnight or ask your vet about bringing your dog home on the same day of surgery.
While Your Dog is in the Hospital
- Take the time to relax and have a nice dinner.
- Spend time with friends or family.
- If you have another dog or other pet/s, spend time with them as well. Your other pet will appreciate some quality time and it will help you focus on something positive.
- Walk around your home and make sure things are not moved around and that the furniture is still in the same place.
- Make sure nothing is on the floor that your dog might slip on. Use rubber matting to keep throw rugs in place, or consider using yoga mats, interlocking non-skid foam rubber pads or washable carpet runners.
- Consider starting a journal to keep track of your dog’s progress.
- If you have stairs inside or outside that your dog must use, consider how you are going to handle this. Use a harness to help your dog up and down the stairs; you can use a regular walking harness or purchase a special one.
- You can also slide a sling, towel or opened canvas tote bag under your dog’s belly or chest to help your dog with walking.
- Stand on the side of the amputation so you can be the counterweight when you help your dog walk.
- Use a short leash (12 or 18 inches) so your dog can’t get ahead of you. Even if your dog wants to go fast, he/she shouldn’t because weight distribution will be off and he/she may fall.
- Most of your dog’s weight will be redistributed to the rear if a front amp and vice versa. Going down may be harder than up because of gravity, but going up stairs will be difficult either way because your dog will literally try to hop from step to step.
- Use treats to control your dog’s pace if necessary. Put some on the stairs on your way up so your dog is encouraged to take each stair and gets rewarded for doing it.
- Consider getting a ramp or building one if you have deck stairs leading to the yard. Be prepared to walk your dog on leash for potty breaks in the beginning.
Post-operative suggestions for your dog
- Try to remain as calm as possible and think positive thoughts. Your dog has just been through major surgery and has no idea what has happened.
- If the wound has a dressing, there may not be leakage from the wound initially but have some extra towels on hand.
- Find out what pain meds and antibiotics your dog received before you brought him/her home and what time the next doses are due. Keep a written schedule of when the meds are to be given and check them off when you have given them.
- If you have supplements and other meds that need to be given during the day, get a pill box from the drug store and organize the meds.
- Have favorite toys readily available.
- Have special food and treats available. Your dog may not be hungry so go for the good stuff if you have to – whatever your dog likes best.
- Make sure your dog is drinking water and keeping it down. Offer the water often – your dog may not be able to get up and go to the water bowl right away. Offer the bowl to your dog even when your dog is lying down. Any vomiting should be reported to your vet.
- Consider getting a raised food bowl stand or elevating the food and water bowls in some other way. It might be easier for dogs to balance themselves to eat and drink without having to bend forward, especially for dogs with front limb amputations.
- Remember that pain medications can cause drowsiness, nausea and confusion in some dogs. Do not hesitate to call your vet for advice if your dog is behaving erratically.
- Get specific instructions if you come home with a fentanyl patch. It has to be handled carefully when removed. Use a rubber glove and flush it down the toilet.
- Consider using boxer shorts for rear amputation dogs if they seem bothered by the stitches – they go on backwards: the slit can be used for the tail.
Post amputation suggestions for other dogs or pets in the house
- Recognize that your dog will be getting lots of extra attention, so plan on some fun stuff for your other dog(s) or pets during your dog’s recovery. Maybe a visit to the park, a play date with a friend, special car rides or trips for ice cream, a new toy, a sleepover at Grandma’s, whatever works.
- Try to keep their routine as normal as possible and take into consideration their sleeping arrangements if they are used to sleeping with your dog.
Post amputation suggestions for humans
- Find out how to reach vet after hours or where the emergency vet is if you need them. Keep those numbers handy.
- Have several good videos or a good book on hand.
- Lavender candles (very soothing) or other fragrance you enjoy.
- Soft music to help all of you relax (classical music seems to be especially soothing to most dogs).
- Check in with your friends or members of your support group with updates.
- Be prepared for mood swings, in all of you. This is emotionally exhausting so be patient and remind everyone how much you love each other and that together you are all very strong.
- Keep in mind that your dog has had major surgery and might need assistance to go out for potty breaks. They may not be able to tell you when they have to go, so try to stick to their schedule as closely as possible.
- Pain medications and anesthesia can cause changes in bowel habits. It is not unusual for dogs not to go potty for one or two days. They should urinate within 24 hours of being home if they don’t stay overnight at the hospital, or sooner if they have been there for a day or so.
- Check with the vet or tech when was the last time your dog peed or pooped.
- If your male dog had a rear amp and that was the leg he used to lift, he may be confused. Most dogs adjust fairly quickly though.
- When they poop on their own for the first time after surgery, you will be elated! Bet you never thought you would be so happy to see dog poop, but it will bring a HUGE smile to your face !
- Some pain medications can cause diarrhea or loose stools as well. Keep track of the BMs and report to your vet if there are changes.
Behavior changes you may notice in your dog
- For some dogs (not all) the amputation brings on transient confusion while they regain their balance and try to figure out what happened. Be patient and try not to let your dog see how frustrated you are (because you will be frustrated).
- Your dog may refuse his/her regular food and may not want to take supplements or pills the way he/she used to. You may have to come up with alternatives to get your dog to eat and take his/her medicine.
- Most dogs can be excited and energetic immediately after surgery but may eventually develop post-operative depression within a few days. Sometimes it can last for approximately 2 weeks. During this time your dog may not be interested in familiar activities. He/she may seem unusually tired and there may be a change in appetite. Check with your vet about changes in behavior that concern you.
- Remember that you will be giving your dog lots of extra attention. You will find yourself watching every move, worrying about every move and trying to prevent anything from happening. Dogs are quick to learn how powerful all this attention is and sometimes that behavior can be self-rewarding.
Physical changes you may notice in your dog
- Seromas and bruises are expected to occur at the surgery site. A seroma is a collection of fluid that accumulates from the surgery itself, from residual fluids used to wash the wound during surgery and from drainage with the healing process. It is usually yellowish or blood-tinged. If you see drainage, report to your vet for advice.
- Check the wound often, note any redness, puffiness around stitches or staples and the characteristics of the drainage. Take pictures of it. Report any changes to your vet.
- Sniff the wound. A clean wound with clean drainage will have a clean smell. If there is any sign of infection in the seroma, the smell will change. You will be able to tell the difference. As your dog becomes more mobile, there may be more drainage when they are upright than when they are lying down, so at times it may seem like there is more drainage.
- Consider taking your dog’s temperature once a day if you can do so comfortably without any distress to you or your dog. Normal canine temperature is between 101 F and 103 F. Keep a temperature chart so you can report any changes to your vet. Keep in mind that subnormal temperatures can also be a sign of infection, and infection can occur without fever.
- If your dog has had a rear amputation, the wound may rest on the floor when he/she is sitting. This can cause trauma to the surgery site. It is very difficult to keep a dressing on a rear amp for a male dog because of their anatomy. Try to keep the stump from resting on the floor or carpet. Use towels or blue absorbent sheets.
- If they choose to lie on the affected side, it’s okay – if it is too sensitive or painful they will shift their weight.
- If you don’t have a dressing and there is leakage, you can use maxi-pads and sensitive skin tape to cover the wound temporarily. Skin that has been shaved, stretched and manipulated can be very sensitive, so use tape sparingly – it hurts when you pull it off, no matter how gentle you are.
- Front amp wounds may not spend that much time directly on the floor, so there is less direct trauma.
- The other muscles groups get overused after amputation, so there may be some soreness and tenderness in those muscle groups. Your dog may be reluctant to walk if the muscles are sore. Warm compresses to the other muscles may be soothing, and gentle massage may help. Gently rubbing the muscles on either side of your dog’s back or rubbing the chest can be very relaxing for both dog and human.
Most important of all, don’t forget the dog!
This may sound weird, but we spend so much time focusing on the wound, the pills, the drainage, vet instructions, bodily functions, the diet, the supplements that we may forget about the dog. Spend quality time with your dog, even if you are doing nothing. Talk gently to him, stop fussing for a minute and just enjoy him/her for who he/she is. They have been through a lot but they don’t know they are sick, they just know something is different.