After my last post, I received a comment asking me to talk a little about my decision to amputate Greta’s leg and her mental state while adjusting to her new lifestyle. I hope she doesn’t mind that I share her comment before answering her question.
I stumbled across this blog very recently and completely by accident but how lucky that I did. We have a young (4years old) pit for whom amputation has now become a very real possibility. He has some orthopedic issues that make walking painful for him and recently he has gotten to the point that he is no longer able to tolerate the pain meds that made his issue bearable for him. We’ve had a couple of orthopedic evaluations done on him and are awaiting one more to be done in a couple of weeks at our local veterinary college… then we’ll have to make some sort of decision as he cannot go on as he is.
Clearly just living in daily pain is not an option but we’re a little on fence about amputation. He’s young, he’s vibrant, he’s active… I’d rather euth him than have him live life just getting by. It appears Greta may have gone through some mental adjustment to her new tri-pawed-ness and come out the other side a happy girl. I was wondering if you could share some more details about how that period was for Greta. I guess I may be worrying more than I need to… after all if my dog had to have an amputation due to an accident I wouldn’t think twice about it but somehow the situation we’re in makes it feel almost like a “voluntary” (for lack of a better word) amputation and that just bothers me more than I can say.
I want so much to make the right decision for him – the choice that is in his best interest not mine – and I’m almost paralyzed by the fear that I’ll make the wrong choice. Any info you care to share would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!
To put it simply, having Greta’s leg amputated proved to be the best decision I could have made for her. When I first adopted Greta, she was this little ball of energy with the most amazing personality. For the first year I had her, we did so much together – went on runs and long walks around the neighborhood, played countless games of fetch at the school down the street, had playdates and went to doggy daycare. Then, out of the blue, she began limping on her left front leg in late October of 2009.
Over the next couple months, it got worse and she lost that ‘spunk’ that she was known for. She seemed really unhappy and couldn’t do a lot of her favorite activities. We took her to the vet and she even had a biopsy, but the vet was unable to find anything to give a proper diagnosis. She prescribed some pain meds and anti-inflammatories, which helped a little as long as she took them regularly. One random day it just seemed to go away. We enjoyed two pain-free, awesome months together and it made me realize how bad things had been.
Then, the pain came back with a vengeance…along with a hard knot that continued to grow on her shoulder. Soon, there was absolutely zero sign of that fun-loving dog and it grew harder and harder to watch her suffer. She could barely get up and down the stairs and often times we had to carry her because she was in so much pain. Our regular vet was baffled and recommended we see a specialist, which was how we discovered her cancer.
When presented with all of the options, amputation seemed like the logical and ‘best’ option, but it was still an incredibly difficult decision to make. It weighed on me so hard to think of her living the rest of her life without a leg, but I couldn’t bear to see her in any more pain. I asked the oncologist, who had mentioned that she had several dogs herself, “What if it was your dog…what would you do?” She replied, “Without question, I’d have her leg amputated.” Decision made.
The next couple months were rough because of some complications after the surgery – illustrated by some of my previous posts like this ONE and the few that followed. Many of my posts concentrated on Greta’s medical status as opposed to how she was physically and mentally dealing with the loss of a limb. Honestly, after the pain subsided, she adjusted perfectly. She was going up and down the stairs instantly and it wasn’t long before we were able to take short walks around the block. Soon we were back to playdates and fetch and everything we used to do before, she isn’t phased a bit. Everyone who sees her can’t believe how awesome she is doing and how well she still keeps up with all her doggy boyfriends.
The whole process was pretty strange and humbling – in my mind I was terrified that she wouldn’t be able to cope with her loss or it would inhibit her physically, but in reality she has no trouble at all. When Greta woke up with one less leg, she didn’t worry about what the other dogs were going to think of her, she just dealt with what she had…as she’s been doing for her entire life so far. Dogs are amazing in their resilience…they aren’t self-concious beings, they are survivors. And given that they don’t get to make a lot of their own decisions, our animals rely on us to make the right ones for them. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have my little G back…this is a decision I would make a million times more.
I hope this helps my new reader with the decision that lies ahead of her. I’ll leave this post with the same quote that I included in my first post on this blog back in August…it made me feel much better when faced with the decision to take Greta’s leg.
“Allowing your dog to live a quality life, no matter how short or long, without pain, is a very dignified thing to do.”