When a dog is diagnosed with canine osteosarcoma amputation becomes a very important consideration that will involve you as well as your dog’s caregivers. Your vet can tell you if your best friend is a viable candidate for amputation surgery. His or her age, all over health, skeletal and muscular condition, such as: additional orthopedic problems, size and weight (overweight be an issue) will all come into play. But, all-in-all, most dogs do very well as tripawds, After recovery from surgery, they can pretty much carry on business as usual.
It is also important to realize that amputation is not considered a cancer cure, but rather pain management to improve your dog’s quality of life since 90% of all dogs diagnosed with canine osteosarcoma already have metastasis. The metastatic tumors may not be visible on a radiograph (X-ray) at the time of diagnosis, and, hopefully, your dog may be among the lucky 10% whose cancer has not yet spread, but for all practical purposes, amputation is undertaken to manage pain and to remove a limb that is no longer useful and interfering with the quality of your dog’s life.
That being said, some dogs don’t experience the same amount of pain that others do and, if necessary, pain can be managed with drugs, acupuncture and various other methods, such as:
- Bisphosphonates, a class of drugs, for instance, may be an alternative. They help with pain, slow down bone resorption and may also delay metastasis.
- A small tumor may be handled with limb-sparing surgery where the diseased section of bone plus ample margins may be removed and replaced with bone from a bone bank, among other options.
- And for intense pain, radiation can sometimes help.
Amputation as well as limb-sparing are major surgeries and come with all the risks that any operation would. That being said, and you make the decision to amputate, you should be aware of several post surgical situations, such as:
Bleeding.. This can happen if a blood vessel has been left untied or if a tie has come loose. If your dog’s wound is bleeding, contact your vet immediately. For slow bleeding, you may be advised to apply a pressure bandage, but for bleeding that is more than one drop a second, additional, and immediate, surgery may be necessary.
A seroma. A seroma is another surgical complication. But is not an urgent cause for concern. A seroma is an accumulation of clear to light pink fluid that can happen after surgery. It is not an infection which would smell bad and have a thicker discharge. Still, let you vet know what is going on in case the site needs to be drained. If left unattended, the tissue in the area could begin to break down.
Phantom Pain. If your dog lets out a sudden yelp, a high shriek, or you find him or her panting and shaking, phantom pain may be the issue. A nerve may still feel the leg as being intact. Gabapentin, a human drug, will be prescribed and will taken 2 or 3 times a day to control the problem.
Inflammation and Swelling. Alternating hot and cold packs should help.
Blood clots . Blood clots rarely happen, but when they do, they occur in dogs who have had cancer for some time. It is possible that a dog may not come through the surgery, or could pass away shortly afterward from a pulmonary embolism. If a clot lodges elsewhere in the body, other problems will arise, such as walking difficulties. An MRI could give definitive answers.