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My 8yr old GS, Hans, is an absolute beauty, full of life, energy, and love. He adores his toys, loves to fetch, and his favorite is to have his belly scratched by my boyfriend and I. Last week we found a growth on his back right leg and had xrays and a biopsy done only to discover the worst news yesterday that Hans has Osteocarcoma, bone cancer.

We've been told by the vet and specialist that this tumor will cause his leg to break, even by doing something as simple as walking. The vet has given us several options, one that we are considering is to amputate his leg to give him comfort to what could be his final months. Does anyone have any stories about dealing with a similar situation? My fear is he will not be able to handle his new life post surgery. The vet told us he does not have hip dysplacia and shows no signs of arthritis, so he should be fine with 3 legs. Hans is 100 pounds and I worry that he won't be able to get up on his own or even go to the bathroom.

Our ultimate goal is to give him the best quality of life and to eliminate any potentital pain that his cancer will cause, but is amputating just as painful and miserable?
 

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<span style="color: #3333FF"> He will be fine with 3 legs. Osteosarcoma is VERY painful...

I'm sure others with more experience will chime in.

{{{HUGS}}} to you and your boy!</span>
 

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I had a forever foster from work ( a 6 year old norwegin elkhound) whom came to us with some leg issue, we xrayed he had a huge tissue reaction to a plate that had been previously put into his leg for a break. We had to amputate his leg and then sent out biopsy off the tissue and it came back osteosarcoma. I loved him already always spending time with him at work so I said I'd foster him till his time was up. He lived about 7-8 months following his leg amputation. At that time, his spirit was gone, he wasn't eating much, he was having a harder and harder time getting up and walking on his own and that pretty much told me it was time and we euthanized him then. I did not put him through chemo or anything of the likes but I know they do have those options available.

Given your boy is in good health otherwise, I would say go through with the amputation, and get a few more good months with him vs. doing nothing and having him get sicker a lot faster. Also you may want to ask your vet about having chest radiographs done to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs yet or not. If it has they may say not to amputate as it would be more advanced.

Sorry for your news, but make the most out of the time you have left with him no matter what course you decide to take. I don't regret fostering my boy knowing he was going to die eventually, it was worth it.
 

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Sorry to hear about your dog. I currently have a young male being treated for lymphoma. I spend alot of time at the onology hospital as he has been getting chemo treatments since May. I have seen a bunch of dogs who have had amputations and are doing great! I would definately recommend that you pursue more information about this option.
 

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Oh My Gosh I am SO SO SORRY to hear that news......
I lost my Gracie 2 years ago to Osteosarcoma.........

I know this is a very difficult time for you- we were not even in the same boat, sorry to say..... Grace had bi lateral Hip Dyspasia and also another issue with a front elbow from a prior injury. We had no options at all............. I will ask her to say a special prayer for you....... as I will as well........ Best luck in whatever your decision. I am so sorry that this heartache has hit yet another GSD
 

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I was faced with this decision with Ranger. Ranger had EPI too and different other health problems. I was planning to do the amputation as soon as he gained enough weight/strength to go through this surgery. Unfortunately he had some complications with the "good" leg so surgery was not an option.
I asked the vet for the prognosis and he told me that a Great Dane he did amputation on got to live 6 years after the surgery and died of unrelated causes. That was the best case scenario. Osteosarcoma is very painful, so amputation is the best option.
 

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Unlike the posters before me, I don't have any personal experience with osteosarcoma in dogs. However, I want to address this sentence from the original post -

Quote:My fear is he will not be able to handle his new life post surgery.
Dogs adjust to amputation very differently from the way people adjust to amputation. Most dogs post-amputation get back on their feet and are able to live a happy normal life (provided there are no other medical issues), hardly even noticing that their leg is gone. Many are up within hours of the surgery and running around within the week.

If you're worried about his quality of life, I would say that amputation is a better alternative for a dog than pain unless the cancer has spread or there are additional medical issues. If all is clear except for the osteosarcoma in his leg, I would go ahead with the amputation. You may still have several years together.
 

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Hans


Oh, my heart breaks for you. I lost my dear Niki to osteosarcoma. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

I made a horrible mistake with Niki, I'll never forgive myself, I pray I can help you not make the same error I did.

I decided to do nothing except keep him comfortable with pain drugs, no surgery. What I didn't know was that there's no drug I could find that kept him comfortable including controlled narcotics such as Duragesic patches (extremely expensive) and methadone.

He was diagnosed in February and I finally got the good sense to have his leg amputated the end of May or first of June. By this time he was walking on three legs, not enjoying life.

The amputation went well. He was on morphine the day of surgery and the next day, BUT the third day he was taking Rimadyl. He was less than 48 hours post surgery when I accidently dropped the towel I was using to support him while walking in the yard. He hopped over the towel, found his ball, brought it back to me ready to PLAY BALL!!! After that he had to be placed under house arrest which included leash walking until his stitches were removed.

He didn't go thru the same problems human amputees have - he didn't have phantom pain, psychological problems, etc.

Within weeks after the surgery, he was doing every thing on three legs that he did on four. Go up and down stairs, run and play and hold his own in shoving matches with the other Hooligans BUT he could NOT run as fast as he used to. He got up on the furniture, chased trespassing chickens, and the best of all, he could dig holes, big beautiful holes any dog would be proud of, and play ball for hours.

RIN TIN TIN'S NIKI
May 5, 1994 - December 22, 2001


Taken in May 2001 just prior to the amputation.


Niki, the tripod, playing with his favorite ball!!


Good luck to you and Hans, you'll be in my prayers!
 

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A friend of mine has a dog going on five years post amputation. He adjusted extremely quickly after surgery. Never missed a beat.
Best of luck to you.
 

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I'm so sorry about your dog

Though I haven't faced cancer I have a friend whose Great Dane suffered. He didn't do the amputation right away and like your vet said could happen did, the leg broke while walking across the living room.
The amputation was done that day and he was much happier without the leg.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks to all of you for sharing your personal stories and/or sending support. It was greatly needed and we will be forever grateful b/c it has helped us make our decision. We are scheduling Hans' surgery for next week; please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I will post updates on his recovery.

Thanks so much!!!
 

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Amputation is an extremely tough decision to make, and IMHO you made the right one. I'll keep you and Hans in my prayers. Glad you'll be keeping us updated on Hans' condition!!! Give him some extra hugs from me and the Hooligans!!!
 

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I am so sorry. I wish you both the best. (( HUGS ))
 

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How's Hans?
Image uploading. Refresh page to view


I was in the Health section here & found your thread... I hope you and he are doing well!! It is an adjustment for all during the initial stages of 3-leggedness, but Hans should adapt very well.

Here is a photo of my late GSDx:
KaylaRoo the 3 Legged Wonder Dog!
[/img]

Notice the missing back left? And... notice the FRISBEE??!!
She was probably about 7 or 8 in this pic.

The Roo lived longer without her leg than she did with it. She lost her leg when she was just 4 and lived to be almost 12. It was a little rough going at first, but then it seemed all of a sudden she "got it" and was fine. All the kids in the neighborhood LOVED Roo--they were very curious and thought she was hilarious--and Roo didn't really care what they thought, she just appreciated all the pats, hugs, treats, and playing! She was a great dog!!!

I hope all is well with Hans.

~Amy
 

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This is something you might want to discuss with your vet or vet oncologist following surgery. I found this article a couple of years ago after I lost my GSD to another kind of cancer:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2002-07-24-cover-cancer_x.htm

Dog's tale of survival opens door in cancer research
By Erin Kirk, USA TODAY
Navy's cancer was back. Marion Haber knew that her golden retriever pup was going to die if she didn't act fast.
"Without surgery and treatment, Navy would have had three months to live," says Haber, a fourth-year student at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Boston. But traditional treatments, such as amputation, chemotherapy and radiation, would have meant Navy, then only 18 months old, wouldn't be able to swim at a nearby lake or go for long walks.

So Haber opted for an experimental treatment that eliminated Navy's cancer within 10 weeks without any of the side effects associated with traditional therapies.

Today, 16 months later, all traces of her cancer are gone.

Now, the same kind of treatment, named the "Navy Protocol" in honor of Haber's dog, is being tested elsewhere in veterinary medicine. And researchers are excited enough by Navy's success that they will begin testing the treatment in human cancer patients later this year. They caution, however, that it might be several years before they know whether the treatment, one of many avenues of cancer research, will work in humans. Even in veterinary medicine, Navy is their only total success.

The treatment is a cocktail of so-called anti-angiogenic drugs, which have been widely researched for more than a decade and work by starving tumors of their blood supply. Researchers say the three-drug combination, which Haber mixed into Navy's regular dog food, targets the cancer from many angles.

Haber, 24, knew about this form of experimental cancer treatment because she had worked as a research fellow at the Angiogenesis Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, Mass. Created in 1994, the foundation promotes research on angiogenic treatments by teaming drugmakers with scientists.

Haber persuaded researchers at the foundation to design a treatment for Navy. No one thought the pup had a prayer.

Haber had first found cancer in Navy's chest while practicing examinations on the dog in September 2000. That tumor was removed by a surgeon, who to be on the safe side removed extra tissue and five ribs, replacing them with three prosthetics. When the tumor appeared on Navy's leg just weeks after the surgery, Haber knew that was very bad news. That's when she sought the anti-angiogenic treatment.

Navy's treatment began on Christmas Day 2000. By early March 2001, her veterinary oncologist could not find a trace of cancer. "That's a remarkable achievement, for the dog to have no side effects and the tumor be gone," says Judah Folkman, the father of angiogenesis.

An entirely new field

Folkman, a researcher at Children's Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, discovered in the 1970s that angiogenesis — the growth of new blood vessels — plays a significant role in the development of cancer. Since his discovery, an entirely new field of cancer research has developed.

Doctors now are testing drugs that stop the growth of the blood vessels that tumors rely on for nutrients. They're known as anti-angiogenic drugs, and they deprive a tumor of its life source by killing the blood vessels that feed it.

Today, more than 50 anti-angiogenic drugs are being used as therapy for cancer patients. At least 10,000 cancer patients have been treated with anti-angiogenic drugs, and $4 billion has been devoted to angiogenic research to date. This year, the amount of money spent by the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry on cancer research is expected to exceed $10 billion.

The first clinical trial for cancer patients using anti-angiogenic drugs was conducted in 1992. In the late '90s, the popularity of anti-angiogenic drugs grew, resulting in many more clinical trials.

In 1998, when news reports suggested that anti-angiogenic drugs, such as endostatin and angiostatin, held promise that a cure for cancer was within reach, clinical trials using those drugs skyrocketed. Everyone wanted the "miracle drugs."

But researchers were chagrined that the news reports inflated the public's expectations. Folkman says those drugs should never have been painted as a cure.

Instead, he says, "the idea is to convert cancer into a chronic manageable disease."

Anti-angiogenic drugs are showing a great deal of promise in that respect. So far, researchers have been able to "freeze cancer in its tracks" in some cases using the drugs, says William Li, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation.

Doctors hope to stabilize the cancer while maintaining the patient's quality of life. The drugs have no documented side effects. They don't appear to make patients sick, and they don't cause patients to lose hair. That makes them an appealing option for humans — and their pets.

The field recently expanded to include veterinary medicine. Navy is viewed by some as a pioneer in veterinary oncology, and her success is raising awareness about cancer treatments for animals. And though Navy is only one dog, Folkman says the success of her treatment is important. Navy never had chemotherapy, and her cancer wasn't just stabilized — it vanished.

When researchers heard that Navy was cancer-free after receiving a cocktail of drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration — Celebrex, tamoxifen (sold as Nolvadex) and doxycycline — the treatment became known as the Navy Protocol.

Navy's treatment was designed using what researchers call a "multi-targeted" approach, meaning that each drug targets a different angiogenesis growth factor. These growth factors are like switches that "turn on" angiogenesis, signaling the body to grow new blood vessels that feed the tumors.

Using the Navy Protocol, doctors "sent in three smart bombs" to attack the growth factors, Li says. If the growth factors can't send signals to the rest of the body, angiogenesis can't take place. Then researchers can "pull the rug out from under the cancer," Li says.

What researchers have found by attacking these switches is a new method of early detection for animal cancers. Now, veterinarians can use a simple blood test to look for signs of the disease.

"If you see an elevation in an animal's angiogenic growth factors, that's a red flag to look for a tumor," says Chris Bonar, associate veterinarian at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Bonar collaborated with the Angiogenesis Foundation and Antony Moore, head of the Harrington oncology program at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, to design and monitor Navy's treatment.

Navy's treatment was practical and easy. Navy snarfed the pills down every morning in her food.

Today, Navy is living a dog's life in North Grafton, Mass. Technically, her cancer is in remission, and she has periodic checkups. She spends her days chewing on a rope or playing with a fuzzy monkey that squeaks. She is always up for a walk; her tail wags at the jingle of her leash. On Haber's days off from school, she delights in taking Navy to swim at nearby ponds.

High cost of treatment

Angiogenic therapy began with humans. Now, "an unexpected benefit is being able to treat pets," Folkman says. And pets need better treatments, just as humans do.

According to a Morris Animal Foundation survey, the No. 1 concern of American pet owners today is cancer. Domestic animals are living longer because of improved health care and nutrition, so they naturally develop more cancers.

The cost of treating animal cancers is steep: Pet owners spend from $2,000 to $9,000 to save their pets' lives, according to Jack Stephens, a cancer survivor and former practicing veterinarian, who founded Veterinary Pet Insurance, based in Brea, Calif. His company offers special plans that reimburse up to $8,000 for cancer treatment.

Navy's treatment, though experimental, cost $2,000. Haber says the cost would have been about the same had she opted to give Navy chemotherapy or radiation. Donations from Haber's classmates at Tufts helped pay for the treatment.

More veterinarians are specializing in the treatment of cancer in animals. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine certified five veterinary oncologists this year, bringing the total to 122 specialists worldwide.

Although the Navy Protocol appears promising to cancer-ridden pets, Li says, the foundation is not pushing the cocktail as the only way to treat canine cancers. Other anti-angiogenic drugs, such as Abbott Laboratories' ABT-510 and ABT-526, also are being used in pet clinical trials.

The benefits of these drugs can be seen in zoos, too. Cancer afflicts certain species of exotic animals, such as tigers, Tasmanian devils and polar bears, as often as it does people and pets, Bonar says.

Tigers in captivity are especially prone to mammary cancers, while Tasmanian devils can develop all kinds of cancers, and polar bears tend to have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer.

Recently, a polar bear at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo developed an angiosarcoma, a tumor of the blood vessel, on its paw. Because the tumor was aggressive, it needed to be removed surgically, and the bear was given a cocktail of anti-angiogenic drugs as a secondary measure.

The cocktail, similar to Navy's, consisted of Celebrex, Thalidomide and doxycycline. Bonar says he "mixed the medicine up with something sweet and tasty, like cherry pie filling, and the bear gobbled it up."

Later, the bear was euthanized because of an infection unrelated to the tumor. As he did an autopsy, Bonar found the beginnings of pancreatic cancer. He believes the anti-angiogenic drugs suppressed the cancer. It would have been in its acute stages had the bear not been on the drugs, he says.

Navy gets the word out

"Cancer is an artifact of captivity because our animals generally live longer than they would in nature," he says. "It's a disease of old age."

Bonar says he has seen lymphomas and uterine cancers in primates. But, he adds, laughing, "I haven't seen lung cancers because there are no cigarette smokers among my patients."

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Angiogenesis Foundation hope that exotic animals will be among those that benefit from anti-angiogenic therapies, even if the Navy Protocol does not turn out to be the answer.

Since Navy's success, the Angiogenesis Foundation is working to help pets and their owners overcome cancer on a case-by-case basis. The foundation continues to receive telephone calls from pet owners and veterinarians who have heard about Navy.

Over the past three weeks, the foundation has helped administer the Navy Protocol to a dozen dogs. There have been changes in the dogs' tumors, but Li says it is still too early to tell whether the results will be as dramatic as Navy's.

Meanwhile, Haber says Navy is quite a celebrity in the labs of Tufts vet school.

"I'm not even Marion anymore," she says. "I'm Navy's owner."
 

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Bmping this up. Does anyone know how hans surgery went???
 
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