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Discussion Starter #1
I know this is ultimately our decision, but I'm looking for a bit of feedback. Ginger's tumor has grown rapidly again. We have to decide quickly whether to amputate, repeat the surgery we did 2.5 months ago, or let her go. She is in incredible health at the moment, and has no issues. She's not on any medication and has always been a super healthy girl.

The backstory: a lump popped up on her right front leg in May, right before we were flying her cross country for our move. It was initially diagnosed as a lipoma after x rays, and the biopsy came back clean. Chest x rays were clean as well. At the end of July it started growing rapidly, and by the beginning of August it was softball size. We repeated the biopsy and again it came back clean. Bloodwork was perfect as well. Surgery on August 18 to remove the mass went well, and she healed quickly. However, the mass grew back and popped the stitches within 10 days. At that point, the pathology results came in and it's a soft tissue sarcoma. Our vet (young and inexperienced) told me it's most likely spread (but the pathology report says this type of cancer doesn't have a high spread rate) and she has maybe 3 months to live.

The tumor stayed fairly small for awhile, but now it is back to softball size, but it's completely open and visible since there is too little skin there to cover it. It's been 5 days since her latest vet visit (different vet than last time) and we have to make a decision. We were hoping to get a specialized surgeon to do it, and possibly do a skin graft to add extra room for the tumor when it grows back, but there are only 2 in the entire state and one hasn't responded to requests for his schedule. Our vet is going to try to reach out to the other one, but believes he is extremely busy and unable to fit her in. Which means our vet would have to do a basic removal, and we'll most likely be back in the same spot in a month or two. Ginger hasn't been showing pain until the past 2 days where she tries to lick it often. We keep it covered with bandages and topical antibiotics, so she doesn't get access to it, but it's definitely bothering her at this point.

Amputation was mentioned as a possibility, and while I'd ruled it out in my head, my husband wants to consider that as an option. But at 14.5 years old, is it really for her benefit, or ours. I just don't know. Any input would be appreciated!
 

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im so sorry you are in this position :-(
What I would suggest is to buy yourself a little time. Let the vet do the procedure for now and then hope the specialist gets back to you in the next few weeks. Amputation at her age would not be a easy thing to adapt to I would imagine. all the best of luck! keep us updated.
 

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At 14.5 I wouldn't put her through the trauma of amputation. That's just me. Tough decision. I wish her many good days ahead
 

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What I would suggest is to buy yourself a little time. Let the vet do the procedure for now

Totally agree.
 

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That's a tough one, and only you can make that choice. I wouldn't even attempt to suggest.

Can only wish you the best in what you decide.
 

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There are a few things to consider.

Her overall health. You say that other then the tumor she's very healthy, so that's a thing in favor of amputation, or more surgery.

The other thing to consider if amputation is being considered is how her other joints are doing. Does she have arthritis in her joints? How are her hips and knees?

A third thing to take into consideration is just how her overall quality of life will be after the surgery. If you opt to just go in and try to remove the tumor what's the chance of their fully removing it so that it remains gone? If they do not get clean margins then the chance of you ending up in the same boat in a few months time is pretty good. If they amputate, I'm assuming they will amputate above where the tumor is and that tumor will be fully removed, but does she have metastasis or not? If so what's the odds of those quickly growing and causing her problems?

I'm so sorry that y'all are going through this! I'll keep y'all in my prayers.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks so much, everyone. We didn't have any luck getting into the specialist surgeon, but it definitely needed to be removed ASAP, so our new vet is removing the tumor today. Ginger's there now. We decided to wait and reevaluate whether to amputate when it grows back. Due to the location (on her lower front leg) there's almost no chance of removing it with clean margins, but the vet said she'll be as aggressive with removal as possible.
@Rain - Appreciate your help! Her joints are in really good shape and she still regularly hops on the sofa (despite us telling her not to so she doesn't slip and hurt herself) and runs and plays. But winter is coming, and with it will be lots of snow. I know that in itself will cause some joint issues. As far as we know, it hasn't spread. She has no other lumps, and the chest x ray back in May was clean, but at the rate this thing grows, she could have something not quite visible yet, which is another reason I'm hesitant to amputate. I'd hate to put her through that for only another 2-3 months with us. At this point, I just want her to get through the holidays. Thanksgiving is her favorite since she gets a full turkey dinner!
 

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Well, just got a call from the vet and the specialist surgeon was actually in town and decided to stop by for a consult. The tumor is completely wrapped around the tendon, and is virtually impossible to remove. If we do nothing, she'll have a week or two left. If we try to remove as much as possible, they may not be able to stop the blood loss and we could lose her, and best case if they do stop the blood loss would be 2-4 weeks before it grows back. They did a mobility exam and bloodwork and both vets highly recommended amputation. So, that's what we're going with. Our baby girl will be a tripod. The vet says it'll be a rough 36 hours, but she'll have strong pain meds, and then she should adapt fairly quickly. Her bloodwork was apparently pretty impressive, which is always good to hear. This could get her another 6 months to even a year, so it's worth it since her quality of life is still at 100%. But it is pretty terrifying, man.
 

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Given the circumstances as you have described them, I would probably make the same decision you have. How far up will they amputate. Any chance for a prosthesis after the surgery. Its going to be a pretty intense process getting her used to missing a leg at her age. Keeping her around for another year or two, as long as she is not in pain and her quality of life is good, is the right thing to do. Your work is cut out for you, keep us posted on how she, and you are doing.
 

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Saying prayers to the powers that be, crossing all my fingers, and all my toes, for your sweet Ginger to get thru this with flying colors! Heal well little girl!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well, Ginger is now a tripawd! She's doing surprisingly well. She gets carried in and out since she can't manage the laminate floors and we weren't expecting at all to bring home a 3-legged pup, so we don't have rugs yet. Once she's able to be left alone we'll go get some. She hasn't had too much pain, but she was shaking from the cold (22 degrees outside) during the 5 min she was out for a potty break, but I can't put her sweater on just yet because it'll catch on the staples. But she warmed up quickly inside. She's fairly mobile outside and has gotten the hang of peeing without falling. She's sleeping most of the day, and we've been camped out in the bedroom. Her brother and sister have been very worried and are staying close to watch over her.



 

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Wow sounds like she's going to do great! And lots of TLC never hurts! So glad it's over for you and she is on the road to recovery!
 

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With dogs, it's only a disability if it's made into one. Amazing what they can overcome.

Glad to see your pup recovering, keep us updated :)
 

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I didn't have a chance to post before her surgery, but I wanted to share that I know of a senior (at least 10) lab mix who had a front leg amputated due to a large malignant tumor, and she was still doing well as of a few months ago, more than a year after her surgery. Her owners too were reluctant to do the amputation, but when they consulted with a specialist, that was the only option given the type and location of the tumor. Also, having had a dog who was missing a front leg, they really do adapt quickly, and do so much better than most people with the same :)

Make sure to keep and eye on her weight, as she's older, you don't want her too thin in case she gets sick, but extra weight is not good when they are less a leg, particularly the front legs because they bear more weight than rear. If she's less active due to decreased exercise, she could gain a bit, so monitor her weight. I highly recommend using a harness (I got her a ruffwear webmaster, and highly recommend it) for walking and steps, and you can "help" by keeping a light pressure on it to minimize impact on her remaining front leg when walking on hard surfaces. My dog was a tripod most of her life, and had wear and tear issues with all 3 remaining legs by the time she was old, but she was wild and crazy as a young dog, so I'm sure that didn't help. If she's not currently on a joint supplement, you may want to ask your vet if they would recommend one, as it's a good idea to try to protect her remaining legs- they do great with 3 good legs, but less so when one of those is gimpy.

Hope she continues to do well for a long time :)
 

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Hi guys! It's been 6 MONTHS since Ginger's amputation and she has done AMAZING. Winter was way easier to deal with than I thought it would be, as she had a softer cushion to land in if she fell while adapting. Now that the warmer weather is here, she hops around the yard exploring and gets around great! I am so, so grateful we went ahead with the amputation as she wouldn't be here if we didn't, and now even with 3 legs her quality of life is perfect. And we just celebrated her 15th birthday last month. And she got PIZZA!! She still has the occasional day where she takes a minute to get her bearings and get moving, but it's been a fairly smooth transition and way better than we ever expected. The people over at Tripawds.com were a huge help and Ginge even has her own blog hosted there now if you wanted to check it out! Ginger in Alaska - All about Ginger and her Alaska adventures
 

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Thanks for updating us! I'm so glad to hear about the happy ending, and that Ginger is doing great.
 

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Wow, so impressed with how Ginger has done with your help and support. Way to go Ginger!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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