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Cheddar’s post-amputation recovery

Hey all! Thanks for everyone’s kind comments and engagement with our last post ❤️ we feel so thankful for this supportive and loving community 🙂 Today’s post will be about Cheddar’s experience following his amputation, and the Tripawds community certainly played a huge part in our preparing for that too, so we’re hoping this post can be our way of giving back and helping others who may be going through similar experiences!

Warning: This post contains graphic pictures of surgical incisions and blood.

We know it might be gross, but we believe that it will be more helpful for people to see what we saw and compare any similar things they’re seeing if they can see the full extent of what happened in our journey, so we’ve decided to not hold back on the pictures.

The night before

Cheddar’s amputation was scheduled for June 10, 2020. We knew that he probably would not be able to be in water for 4-6 weeks after a major surgery like this (because it messes with stitches healing up), so we gave him a bath the night before his surgery.

The amputation

The day of the amputation went relatively smoothly.  We dropped Cheddar off in the morning and were told to pick him up the next day — he would have an overnight stay at the hospital. The surgery itself was only about 90 minutes long, and the orthopedic surgeon called us after it was over in the middle of the day and let us know it had gone smoothly. Even though we hadn’t had Cheddar for that long yet at this point, it still felt weird to have him not at home that night!

Post-amp day 1

We went to pick Cheddar up right after about noon.

This is what his incision looked like on that first day (the stitches were the self-dissolving kind, so it looked less scary than we were expecting after seeing some other post-amp dogs on the internet while we were researching beforehand):

Day 1 incision

We were sent home with some additional Gabapentin and Carprofen (Cheddar was already on Gabapentin and Carprofen for several weeks before his amputation for the pain from his tumor and also following his incisional biopsy), as well as a Fentanyl patch which we were to remove after 72 hours, and a prescription for Prazocin that we had to get filled at our local pharmacy — Prazocin isn’t typically used for dogs so the vet didn’t stock it, but Cheddar was having trouble controlling the muscles used for urinating, so he was leaking pee a bit, and the Prazocin was supposed to help with that. They also gave us a sling to help him walk around with. He also got a double cone, because he was demonstrably flexible enough to get around just one (throwback to that time he chewed his biopsy stitches…):

Cheddar on his bed with two cones

We were actually surprised that he seemed to be on his feet and getting along with assistance from the sling for short distances (admittedly, somewhat stumble-y). As usual, he was very eager to go outside and sniff around. The vet explained that he would probably get tired very quickly as he was recovering, even though he was on his feet, but he would slowly get stronger as his muscles in his remaining legs grew to compensate for his newly missing limb. The first day, we walked up to the corner of the block by our house and back, a total distance of ~ 600ft. We were probably lifting at least 70% of his weight.

Also on the first night, Cheddar got up on his own and hopped onto his bed! It was just like 3 steps, but still we were very surprised. We know that every dog is different with recovery time so we felt very blessed that he seemed to be recovering so quickly.

Short-term recovery

We’ve compiled a playlist of Cheddar walking in his first week here — one video is 1 day. The first video is the day we brought him home from the amputation (you can see the fentanyl patch on his lower back!) it’s really amazing to see his progress just over a couple days:

On day 2, Cheddar was getting up on his own and getting around the house in short spurts without assistance. He was also able to eat out of his Kong. He was still leaking a bit of pee, but the Prozacin seemed to be helping compared to the previous day. He also seemed to be doing ok peeing and pooping, but we tried to support him when he was squatting so that he wouldn’t fall over (his balance still needed a bit of work). You can see a little of him losing his balance while squatting to poop at the end of the Day 6 video in the playlist above.

By day 3, we were starting to see bruising around his incision:

Cheddar's Day 3 incision showing bruising

We also started to walk him without the sling on the third day.

On day 4, we made it to the park near our house! Cheddar was sooo happy to be able to lie in the grass again!

We also gave him a boot to wear on his back foot — about a month before his amputation, Cheddar had broken a nail on his left foot and the quick had started bleeding. We’d made him wear a boot whenever he went outside for about 2 weeks after that to let his nail grow back and it was ok after that, but it started bleeding again now (maybe because of additional weight being on it?) — so we gave him a boot again. It might also have helped him get better traction as he was learning to walk on 3 legs again, and we noticed he was more bouncy on walks.

On day 5, Cheddar ran up the hill on his own!! This was no small feat for a rear leg amputee since it requires more strength/power to be generated from the single back leg, so we were super proud.

By day 6/7, the bruising around his incision had mostly healed up. But we found that the stitches near the bottom of his stitches (the end closest to his butt) had split open, making a hole!! Furthermore, it was oozing a little bit, which was worrying… where-ever he would sit down, he would leave a little crusty spot (ew D:) We made some time to go back to the surgeon for a checkup the following day.

Cheddar's incision with split stitches

On day 8, we went to the vet in the morning to get the hole in Cheddar’s stitches checked up. The vet told us that it looked ok, because although the outside had split open, it seemed that the inside had healed up for the most part. Apparently it is common for that spot to split open in stitches, because that part of the skin gets stretched a lot when a dog sits. But to be on the safe side, they gave us some Mupirocin antibiotic ointment to apply.

That afternoon (it’s always onto the next exciting(?) thing with Cheddar), Cheddar started passing blood clots and having bloody pee! 😱 He also had an accident in the house, seemed to be very down, and seemed to be straining to pee while outside. We were quite worried — it seemed to match the symptoms of a UTI, so we made another appointment (with our regular local vet this time) the following day to get him checked out.

Cheddar's bloody pee

Cheddar's blood clot

The local vet took a sample to run tests on, but a couple of days later the test came back negative for UTI bacteria. They did did say that sometimes blood clots can happen after surgery and get passed through the urine. It might also be that the Prozacin had had a harsh effect on Cheddar’s urinary tract. Luckily, it was pretty unlikely to be cancer metastasis or the like because we would have seen the nodules in previous x-rays. The vet told us to see if it got better in a week or so and to call her again if it hadn’t. The bloody pee went away after about 3-4 days on its own (to our relief), but we still don’t really know what its cause was!

Longer-term recovery

We are still working on longer term recovery these days, 2-3 months after amputation, like building more strength in Cheddar’s back leg and making him more confident in climbing stairs (he was always very scared of stairs, even before his amputation), improving his balance (if he were a cow, he would be a cow-tipper’s dream), and working on improving our own massage technique and flexibility stretching exercises with him.

Compared to the first week or so, Cheddar can now go a lot farther on walks (though he still gets tired quickly, and we stop for breaks often), and he has also stopped wearing his boot again (his nail has not started bleeding again again thankfully). He still has strong days and weak days, and there are definitely some times when he goes a little too hard (he loves running around outside when he’s excited) and he is sore the following day. We also got some cheap rugs and mats from Costco to go over our hardwood floors to help him with traction in the house (he was slipping quite a lot more after becoming a tripawd).

Woah, this post has gotten so long! After the last episode of blood in pee, there were luckily no more major surprises in Cheddar’s post-amputation recovery, so I think we’ll wrap up here for now. We definitely feel very lucky that Cheddar happened to recover relatively quickly and without major complications, but recognize that every dog is different and have different recovery stories. We just wanted to share ours in case it helps someone who happens to read about it, but we definitely don’t want to give off the impression that every dog will have a recovery exactly like this!

Until next time! 🧀🐶

One thought on “Cheddar’s post-amputation recovery”

  1. WOOOHOOO! What a fantastic review of his recovery days, thank you so much for all this wonderful detail. It will be soooo helpful for people to check out as they embark on their own Tripawd journey.

    I’m so glad things are working out well. That bloody urine would have scared the heck out of me. What a relief to know that it wasn’t serious!

    Love love love how much care and attention you’re putting into sharing his story. Thank you! Give that boy some extra scritches and smooches from us. That gif is especially adorable!

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Cheddar the gouda boy is brought to you by Tripawds.