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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I have an 11_yr old GSD who was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his front left shoulder four days ago. He is limping and clearly in pain, and I have about a week to decide what to do. I’m scared to amputate because I worry about him being able to get around after the surgery and also because he’s had TPLO surgeries done on both hind legs to repair his knees and those were fairly traumatic. Do you have any advice or insight about recovery and how your dog fared after the surgery? I know you said you would have done it earlier if you could have but do you think that would be a good choice for an older dog too? I’m so sad and worried about making the wrong decision. I don’t want to get the surgery to give him six more months if it would make him miserable.
 

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Copying and pasting my reply from the other thread:

My experience with osteosarcoma is that a very high percentage of the time it re-occurs within about 6 months, and the dog has to be put down anyway. I personally know of two dogs where this has happened, and have heard of many more.

Dogs do adjust very quickly to being on 3 legs. One of mine cut her paw very deeply on some glass, and within 24 hours, she was RUNNING on 3 legs, daintily holding the injured front paw in the air as she sped down the street! :eek:

She was still young when this happened, though and had not had problems with her hind legs.

You know your dog best - how is his health overall? My GSD who lived to 14 was in excellent health at 11 years old, and showed no signs of slowing down yet. If you think it's worth the cost to give him some more time, I say go ahead with it. But I'd do that knowing a re-occurrence was likely.
 

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At this age (WebMD lists it at 72 years in human years) to amputate a front limb.... only you can decide.
I am so sorry you are dealing with this.
 

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Firstly, I’m so sorry your boy has this diagnosis, my heart is broken for you.
Nobody can tell you what is best for your dog as you know him best. I can tell you what I would do if it were my dog. Any surgery for a senior dog is a harder recovery, the body is getting older and responds slower. This would be a major surgery but the learning curve afterwards may be even more difficult due to his previous surgeries on his back end. Osteosarcoma is a demon of a cancer and generally has already spread by the time the first tumour is found. I myself would not choose to do surgery if he were my dog, I would enjoy the time he has left but only if pain free. Be sure you are not making the choice solely because YOU aren’t ready to let him go. My Vet once told me it’s better to euthanize one week early than one week late.
If you decide you want to move forward with the amputation, I would first do a CT Scan to look for metastasis.
Again, I really am so sorry this is happening to your pup 💔💔💔💔 Hugzzzz
 

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I am just so sorry. My heart aches for you. The only right decision is what is right for you and your dog. None of us can tell you what that is. I can only speak for myself. If it were my senior dog, I would keep him comfortable as long as possible and let him go. But see? I am like that for myself. I'm old. I lost two friends recently to cancer - both stage 4 at diagnosis. They both went quickly. One chose to go into hospice immediately. The other chose to fight, finally went into hospice, where she died after one day. I am the go into hospice, keep me comfortable, and let me go kinda old lady. I would want the same for my dogs.

Sending hugs & prayers, and wishing you all the best.
 

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Just FYI - osteosarcoma is very painful. :'(

My husband had cancer mets to his bones, and those were the spots where he first noticed pain, long before the primary site (bladder) was diagnosed.
 

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I am so terribly sorry for this diagnosis. All cancer is horrible, but this one is especially awful due to the pain.

I lost my heart dog to osteosarcoma in 2013. He was about 11. He had a care team at a veterinary university (including vet oncologists, an acupuncturist, and a vet who formulated a low-carb home-cooked "cancer diet" specifically for him). There is no resource I wouldn't have pursued to get more time with that dog, if it could have been pain-free for him.

The pain control is IMPORTANT -- it's going to dictate how much time you have. You need a vet who is dedicated to ensuring that the dog doesn't suffer--"big gun" (expensive) veterinary pain meds are eventually likely to be needed because this is an awful disease. Some of them may be on a round-the-clock dosing schedule. The dose has to be managed carefully, and they may have a cocktail of meds layered on top of each other for this purpose. My regular, long-time vet was assigned the job of overseeing quality of life -- he left the "specialist stuff" to the specialists but he stayed in close touch with me about signs of pain and quality of life. I vaguely remember checking in weekly with him on that -- sometimes by phone or email, sometimes in person -- because he took this role seriously. A lot of that time is a blur in my memory, but I do recall hearing from him a lot to check in, and adjusting meds and doses as it progressed.

I strongly recommend that you decide now who your dog's veterinary advocate will be, and have a conversation about trusting that vet to be the voice of your dog in monitoring quality of life. There will come a point where the fight is over, and it is normal for the human whose heart is breaking not to have the objectivity to be able to let go. A trusted vet will tell you.

In my dog's case, he already had moderate HD and arthritis in his hips. His tumor was in a forelimb. Amputation wasn't an option because his hips couldn't carry the extra load, given his size. We were going to get him palliative radiation treatment (around US$3,000 at the time, available through our local university veterinary school's radiation oncology department). The radiation oncologist was confident my dog could get 6 more pain-free months with treatment. We also had a vet acupuncturist at the university who was going to do treatment on radiation days to help my dog. (Note: in dogs, radiation is always palliative -- not curative -- that's a difference between human and veterinary medicine that is critical to understand.)

To start radiation treatment, they required us to do a bone biopsy, in order to identify the kind of cancer cells with certainty. That needle, inserted under general anesthesia, weakened the bone that was already weakened by a tumor, unfortunately....and that ultimately ended our journey. We were going to start radiation the day after Christmas ("Boxing Day" for those in the UK). Three days before that, a day before Christmas, he tried to stand up and yelped, despite being on heavy pain meds. We rushed him to the vet and....we learned that he had experienced a pathologic fracture right through the part of the bone where the tumor was, along the path of the needle that had gone in for the biopsy. There's no recovering from that because the bone can't mend itself where the tumor is. While the vet had the dog comfortable on injectable pain meds, he told me it was time. We had to let him go.

It felt like fracture robbed us of our "extra" six months. If I had it to do over again, I would have said "no" to the biopsy. The fracture happened in the blink of an eye doing something totally normal--he was just trying to stand up after a nap. I carried a lot of guilt for not running to my dog faster to help him up, and for leaving him sleeping in the living room when I was in the kitchen, but the reality was it was going to happen no matter what we did: the bone was like a soft sponge in that spot and couldn't sustain the weight, so we were never really going to get those six extra months. Even if we'd started radiation, he'd have likely still experienced a fracture early on in the treatment.

Order yourself a copy of the book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, by Drs. Damien Dressler (a holistic vet) and Susan Ettinger (a vet oncologist). The book is a dialogue between the two of them, presenting both perspectives. It is helpful to know what questions to ask at oncology visits and how to be an informed care-giver. It's an invaluable resource -- it was recommended to me by folks at the vet school:

Good luck! This is a hard thing to be going through any time of year, but it will make this holiday season especially difficult. I am so sorry!
 

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Had one come down with this. I would have amputated except that it had affected his brain by the time it was noticed. Having moved from the US south a few months earlier, I wanted to make sure of the diagnosis as tick-borne diseases can have very similar symptoms. It was confirmed as cancer and as it was not just confined to the leg, there was no point in amputation. It was an awful experience for the dog and me. In cases where amputation or chemo is an option, I try to remember that 6 months is a long time in a dog's life. If a medical procedure will give them 6 months of quality life, I tend toward the medical procedure.

Whatever choice you make, it will be the right one for you and your dog.
 

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Magwart, pathological fractures happen in humans too. I know of a lady who was successfully treated with radiation for bone cancer, but it permanently weakened the bone, as the radiation killed part of it.

She suffered a fracture when she was deep in an isolated area of Africa, working as a missionary. She had to be carried for many miles on a stretcher in order to get to the nearest hospital

She needed bone grafts to mend the leg, and her recovery was long and complicated.

Osteosarcoma really is the pits... :'(
 

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damned, My grand mother had breast cancer in her back bone, which was found when it broke. My mom's 2nd time with cancer was breast that came back in her leg bone, which they found when it broke. My mom had radiation and chemo but the chemo was ruining her quality of life. She eventually chose hospice in our home. It was the right choice and she died well, if one can. When my big-boy was diagnosed with cancer it was interesting to see him go through some of the same things my mom did. Even though I was going to do the home treatments of diet, pain meds, herbs, etc, the end came very quickly.
I hope those of us who face this in our dogs have the wisdom to do the best for our buddies.
And in the meantime, I have to say, I may end up facing this struggle in myself someday.
 

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I had to quit chemo after only 6 of the 12 sessions, as it was affecting my breathing to the point I had to go on oxygen. I am starting to think some of the damage to my lungs was permanent, as I get SOB so easily. 😥

But I'm still pretty confident I kicked the breast cancer monster to the curb!
I hope so, too. Mom did great for 6 years after her first occurrence, with an active life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you all so much for these insights. I have just been tearing myself apart about what to do and whether I’m being selfish for wanting more time or selfish for wanting to not do the surgery and put him through that trauma. It feels like there is no good answer. It helps to hear others stories. I went on a tripod dogs website and after reading about so many Amazing amputation recoveries I felt like I would be a monster if I didn’t at least try, but I honestly don’t think my dog would recover that well considering how he reacted to his previous surgeries. He’s got a reputation for being a sensitive dog, if something is wrong he’ll let everyone know about it.
 

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Like I said, it depends a lot on the individual dog. At 10 years of age, Star chased a ball down a steep hill, and ran back with it, and repeated the fetch so many times I lost count. I finally took the ball away from her because I was worried she was exhausting herself!

I would have had no problem considering an amputation with her at that age. But I've also heard some GSD owners say they consider any years after 10 'a gift'.

You know your dog better than any of us. Do what YOU think is the right thing. Yes, I know, it's a very tough decision to make!

Been there, done that. Had to euthanize Star in May of this year. :'(
 

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Thank you all so much for these insights. I have just been tearing myself apart about what to do and whether I’m being selfish for wanting more time or selfish for wanting to not do the surgery and put him through that trauma. It feels like there is no good answer. It helps to hear others stories. I went on a tripod dogs website and after reading about so many Amazing amputation recoveries I felt like I would be a monster if I didn’t at least try, but I honestly don’t think my dog would recover that well considering how he reacted to his previous surgeries. He’s got a reputation for being a sensitive dog, if something is wrong he’ll let everyone know about it.
We are such odd creatures. No matter what we decide, or what the outcome, we feel guilty. The "if only", the "I should have", or the "I shouldn't have." Remember that whatever decision you make, you are making it with love. Therefore, it is not a mistake and you have no reason to feel guilty. I pray you are able to have peace with whatever decision you make.
 

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No need to feel guilty, but we do. And we make bargains with the air. If I am sufficiently repentant and cry and worry, can we have more time together? Of course it doesn't work and we know that but in the back of our mind, that process plays on and on. It is taxing.
So remind yourself to cherish the days you have. Make sure you both have joy. Take some beautiful photos. Smile together when you can.
 

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Me personally, I would let the dog go. I can not see trying to put them through treatment/surgery (there's no cure) or making them suffer. Let them go on a good note. It's not an easy decision, and one only you can make. Good Luck.
 
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