Osteosarcoma in a rottie

This is Tara. We were very shocked to diagnose her with a bone tumour two weeks ago. She’s only five. Tara presented initially with a limp which didn’t get better despite very strong pain medication. I was immediately alarmed. Rotties are over-represented when it comes to bone tumours.

An X-ray confirmed my fears. Delivering such awful news is very difficult during the pandemic. We have to wear PPE when showing our clients xrays; so our faces are covered; and we have to maintain distance.

Tara’s owner was devastated when I told him there are only two viable options – amputation or euthanasia. Chemotherapy doesn’t tend to work in these cases without radical amputation. These tumours are so painful; they present a huge welfare issue. It was hard to talk about it with social distancing in place.

Forelimb amputation in giant breeds is seldom the choice of many families; as these big dogs bear more weight on the forequarters. The prognosis even with amputation is still only months on average. Some dogs can outlive the textbook prognosis, but this is an aggressive cancer.

It’s a huge surgery to contemplate; and most families would decline the surgery; but Tara’s owner called me back that evening determined to do all he could to give Tara a pain-free life. He asked me to amputate her leg. He is Tara’s champion; she is family; and he wanted to help her.

We went ahead with surgery. This is an enormous procedure, which must be performed very carefully. The blood vessels in the axillae were are wide as my thumb; and each had to be securely ligated to prevent catastrophic haemorrhage. We also isolate off all nerves and inject them with local anaesthetic before transecting them. Melissa our nurse scrubbed in to help me hold and orientate the limb. It was a gruelling surgery; but it went perfectly. We gave Tara heavy doses of morphine, and other drugs, including suppositories and a slow releasing pain patch. She was like a lamb coming out of surgery; totally pain free and peaceful.

It’s two weeks later, and we were delighted to remove staples today, and see her getting around well. Her tummy is upset at the moment, and we gave her some medication this morning to help with that. We’re seeing her for regular check ups to make sure she is comfortable and adapting to life as an amputee. She’s amazing.

She was picky post operatively until we gave her some roast chicken.. all was well then. She’s a really gentle giant and we hope the surgery will give her a long period of good health. There may be a pandemic; but we’re still able to help when we are needed.

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