Upon learning Bode’s diagnosis of bone cancer and amputation, we were encouraged to educate ourselves on amputation – everything from the surgery and recovery tips, what the area looks like post-surgery, items to have on hand to help with the transition, pain relief tips, side effects after amputation, preventing and managing pain, and more – in order to better prepare ourselves for what was to come post-surgery. A resource that has been crucial for us is a website called Tripawds. Tripawds has a wealth of information and access to a community of other pet parents of dog and cat tripods. Despite reading various articles, FAQs, and post-surgery tips on this topic, nothing quite prepares you for the moment you see your furry family member post-surgery. “Overwhelmed” doesn’t quite encapsulate the feelings.
Bode arrived at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Teaching Hospital (UT VTH) in Knoxville, TN on Thursday, January 5, 2017 in order for the Oncology Department to monitor him for the next 24 hours prior to his surgery the following afternoon. We received a call that his surgery began on Friday afternoon around 2 pm. A little after 5 pm, we got another call that Bode was out of surgery and in recovery. Per his surgeon, his procedure went very well, textbook-like, and that he was in recovery. She informed us that his entire leg was sent to be biopsied, and it could take up two weeks before getting the results. Per the veterinarian that was monitoring him post-surgery, there are certain hurdles/milestones that you want to see following surgery – attempting to walk (even if sling-assisted), urination, and hopefully (but not required), defecation. By Friday evening, Bode was up and walking on 3 legs while being sling-assisted. This was wonderful news! The next big hurdle would be using the restroom. For male dogs, this is challenging due to hiking the leg. However, Bode successfully reached this milestone since he has squatted to urinate his whole life! I have heard about a dog belly band that you can get if your dog has problems with incontinence or old age. These would’ve been perfect if he was struggling to urinate. Milestone 2 – Check! Bode didn’t reach and conquer defecation until arriving at home on Sunday, January 8th. This was great for his recovery now that he had met and conquered those 3 hurdles/milestones so quickly post-surgery.
Since being home, it has taken some time for readjustment for all of us. I think what helped the most for Bode was just being home with his pack, on his bed, with the smells he is accustomed to on a daily basis. There definitely have been some hard days, because, in case you didn’t know, you can’t rationalize with a dog. He doesn’t quite understand what happened and is still experiencing phantom leg pain. I know he’s still in pain and I’ve been doing everything I can to lessen the pain for him. I hate to see him suffering! I’ve even asked my friends and vet ‘what can I give my dog for pain?’ and I’ve found a few things that have helped. However, Bode exhibits more and more confidence with his new life as a tripod with each passing day. On Monday (3 days post-op), he was navigating our yard without any assistance. By Wednesday (5 days post-op), he was going down our two front porch steps on his own, but he was unable to go back up them without assistance. However, by Friday (one week post-op), he now can go up and down the steps without any assistance. In a week’s time, his strength has gone from being exhausted after little activity to gaining back his strength to participate in his typical activities – lounging in the sun, chasing the cats, waiting for Adeline to drop food from her high-chair, and a leisurely hop around the house.
Throughout his stay at the UT VTH, the entire Oncology Department staff have been absolutely wonderful to answer our questions, text us a picture of Bode post-surgery, and offer encouragement throughout this process. Our mood is pensive regarding the biopsy results, but we are also encouraged by Bode’s life post-surgery.
Thank you for everyone’s encouraging thoughts and sweet messages!