Day 5–Some advice for our veterinarian friends

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First, let me say that Dakota seemed to turn around remarkably yesterday afternoon. He decided when he’d had enough of being outside and got himself back into the house unassisted. This was amazing because it involves hopping up about a foot from the ground into the house. He has been up and around much more and seems happier and more settled. His appetite is still off, but I’m ok with that because I’d like him to lose a few pounds.

That being said, I think the veterinarian community should take a look at the information they are giving the families of new amputees and perhaps make some slight adjustments. I believe that a vet’s viewing lens into the new life of a tripawd dog is significantly different than the viewing lens of the dog’s family. I also believe that a vet does not want to discourage a family from giving an otherwise healthy dog a new chance through amputation and so perhaps colors the info they give out. In other words (what I’m trying to sidestep around here), I think veterinarians make it seem easier than it is.

I realize many people may either take offense to that statement or disagree or tell me they never experienced that at all. But I did. We were going to do this for Dakota, so we were not on the fence and needing to be nudged toward amputation. I said from the beginning that this was the only chance Dakota had at living a full life. He just turned 9; he’s not a youngster, but neither is he a doddering senior. I have every reason to want to provide him with the chance to live long enough to become doddering. But I feel like I was sandbagged a little on this.

After the surgery, when Dakota was struggling so much and seemed to have no will to do anything, I was really frightened. I was worried, terribly worried. It would have made things so much easier if the folks handling his surgery had just been up-front with me and said “the first few days will suck and he may act like he doesn’t want to go on living, but that will pass.” Instead, I was told over and over again how well he would do, how little time it would take him to be up and attempting to move around, etc. But it wasn’t like that for Dakota. It was hard, it was a struggle and it sucked.

When I contacted the surgeon afterward and told her how much trouble Dakota was having, she then told me how hard it could be. Only afterward did she become candid. She had couched some of her warnings in language that sounded more hopeful, more helpful. I know it’s because they see miracles every day and a dog able to hop around a bit a few days after this major surgery probably seems like no big deal. But it is a big deal. I guess I’m just putting out a request for a little more truth in advertising.

It’s hard. It can be incredibly variable. Just because my dog had a hard time doesn’t mean your dog will, and vice versa. It may bring tears to your eyes, and that’s normal. If he doesn’t sit up and eat a full meal the day after surgery and act like he can’t wait to get back to business as usual, that’s normal. If he has pain, that’s normal. If he follows you around the house with his eyes and seems to be pleading with you for help, that’s normal. If he whines softly when you give him love and cuddles, that’s normal. If it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through with your dog, well…it is.

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Author: Dakota Dawg

Dakota lived high in Colorado and was a member of the February Furballs. He lost a front leg to soft tissue sarcoma on 2-11-11. Dakota impulsively decided to see what the whole "rainbow bridge" business was about on 12-15-12 and before we could stop him, he was gone. But never forgotten. Never.

4 thoughts on “Day 5–Some advice for our veterinarian friends”

  1. Beautifully said……

    We are 2 1/2 weeks into this and it was extremely hard….the first 4-5 days were the worst then each day since then has been an improvement and its getting better and better every day….
    We stopped the meds at 11 days (due to anemia issues) and Riley started coming around and her personality started coming back….Day 18 (yesterday) was the the first time she had gone potty without me going outside with her (I didn’t stand at the window and watch her and say a million “please don’t fall” prayers – I swear) and today is even better…..she came up the stairs on her own right after she cleaned out the bowl of cat food just so she could tell me in no uncertain terms…I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!

  2. Well said Ma.

    After we started Tripawds, we learned that we should never tell people “all dogs do great!” Because not all do. Some don’t make it through surgery at all. But most do. Most will have some kind of side effects, but not all. Most will stumble and fall, but not all. Everyone’s experience is so different.

    So instead, we tell everyone “It’s not the right decision for everyone. The first two weeks can be hell, so be prepared. But for most dogs, they do adapt, they do great.” And so much of it has to do with the attitude of the pawrents as well. Without that kind of moral support for the Tripawd, it makes recovery so much more difficult.

    We encourage all vets to refer their amputation candidates here, so our pawesome pawrents can give the real story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. My family and I are bracing ourselves to go through this process. My surgery is tomorrow. We’re getting ready for an emotionally intense roller coaster for the next couple of weeks, but hopefully hearing stories like yours will help my parents understand that my post-op behavior is normal. Is your fentanyl patch off yet? My brother says that that seems to be the worst part for lots of the people he’s heard from.
    Thanks for sharing with my pawrents, and I hope you continue to get better!

    1. Well Lucky, even more good luck to you on your big day (is it today, or still tomorrow? I can’t tell since your post was right after midnight.) I hope your human friends remember to come back here and update us.

      Dakota did not have a fentanyl patch at discharge. It was removed the morning he left, or roughly 18 hours after his surgery. He takes Deramaxx for some mild arthritis or stiffness, so his Dermaxx was bumped up to twice his usual dosage and he gets 150 mg. of Tramadol 3 times a day. That’s it for his pain meds. And you know what? It’s been enough. The only time he’s made any noise from pain (besides his second day with us) was when his bulldog roommate bumped into him while acting like an idiot. She does that a lot, and twice we’e been too late to stop her from bumping him.

      The second day, we missed our window for giving pain meds and Dakota had to play catch up. Unfortunately, the schedule he’d been on at the hospital meant it was an awkward time for giving it and we were an hour or two late. Now that I’m in charge, though, he’s getting it every 8 hours like clockwork.

      Good luck, Lucky, and let us know how things went.

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