Why you shouldn’t be afraid of a leg amputation

Lucy, a sweet 6 year old Golden, started limping in her left back leg. Her family vet’s X-rays showed that something, most likely bone cancer, was eating her thigh bone (femur) away (see red arrows).









There weren’t a whole lot of options: the best course of action was to sacrifice the leg. Before that, we ensured that her blood work was normal and that chest X-rays did not show any spreading of the (presumed) cancer to the lungs.

A few days later, I traveled to the practice to perform the amputation. Everything went well in surgery.

The very next day, Lucy started to walk around on 3 legs. She was comfortable and started to eat nicely.

A week later, the biopsy confirmed the suspicion of bone cancer (osteosarcoma). The next step was to discuss chemotherapy, which is recommended in the case of bone cancer.

With amputation alone for confirmed osteosarcoma, the average survival is 3 to 6 months. With amputation and chemotherapy, we hope for an average survival of at least one year. When we recommend treatment, our goal is more about quality of life than quantity of life (aka survival time).

Amputation is typically needed because of severe trauma or cancer – most often bone cancer. No pet owner ever opens a bottle of champagne when their pet needs a leg amputation. Yet it’s very important to understand and believe that virtually 100% of dogs and all cats do great on 3 legs. My most surprising patient, Gator, was able to swim in the pool with 3 legs (and a life jacket).

To this day, I have never met a client who has told me that they regretted their decision to amputate their pet.  As long as we are on the same page, and we all decide as the pet’s advocate, we typically get good results, regardless of the amount of time left.

In other words, we would rather have 3, 6 or 12 months of quality life, than 3 years of misery.


When loving pet owners hurt their pet – badly

WARNING !!! This blog post is not for the faint of heart!!!

Of course you’ve heard of a pet who got hit by a car.

How about about a pet hit by his or her owner?

Do you find this shocking?

Do you think that this could never ever happen to you?

You’d be surprised how often this happens. It actually happens all the time! I fix these patients up regularly. They occasionally have what we call soft tissue injuries: to the lungs, the intestine or the skin. 

Most of the time, they have orthopedic injuries, i.e. broken bones, often in the pelvis. 

Sadly, some pets never make it…

How does it happen?

Occasionally, it happens when “pet meets car,” for example when a dog runs to greet his owner. 

Most of the time, it happens because the pet (cat or dog), sleeps under the car. And as you can imagine, the owner who is about to back up never suspects that their pet is sleeping under their car. 

So this is a reminder to never assume.

Always make sure you know where your pets are before you drive away.


When should you spay or neuter your cat?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently published their guidelines on the age to spay or neuter cats. The official title of the document is “Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization Recommendations for Age of Spay and Neuter Surgery.”

This is a highly controversial and debated topic (even more so in dogs). There are many opinions out there. Many people have an opinion on the subject, often based on dogma or personal beliefs more than on science.

The AVMA put together a group of various veterinarians (from corporations, private practice, vet schools and associations). They also included non-veterinarians: Steve Dale (behaviorist and journalist), a lady from the Philanthropy for Animal Advocates and the Chair of the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

So I think it’s fair to say that there were many cat lovers and cat advocates on the team. So what are their conclusions? I quote (I only added a few definitions):

“Current recommendations for the age to sterilize (spay/neuter) cats are arbitrary and inconsistent. Adoption of evidence-based guidelines is expected to limit confusion among cat owners, reduce the risk of unwanted litters, and maximize health and welfare benefits. (…)

The following key findings and proposals emerged from a review of the currently available scientific literature and group discussion:

1. Recommendations for the optimal age to sterilize cats may differ from the age to sterilize dogs.

2. Current scientific evidence documents benefits of spaying kittens before the first estrous cycle, including the following:

. Decreased risk for mammary carcinoma (aka breast cancer).

. Elimination of reproductive emergencies such as pyometra (aka an infected uterus) and dystocia (aka difficulty giving birth).

. Avoidance of unintended pregnancies that may occur as early as 4 months of age

. Potential decrease in behavioral problems linked with cat relinquishment.

3. Current evidence does not support an increased risk for cats of complications or long-term adverse health effects with pediatric (6-14 weeks) or juvenile sterilization (>16 weeks).

4. More controlled prospective research specifically examining different ages in sterilization in cats is needed.

As new information becomes available, the recommended age for sterilization of cats should be revisited.

5. There is potential to increase the number of sterilized cats and reduce the unplanned/unwanted litters of kittens if veterinarians routinely schedule this surgery for client-owned cats at the end of the kitten vaccination series.

Given the known benefits of sterilization and the lack of evidence for harm related to age at which the procedure is performed, the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization calls for veterinary practitioners and professional associations to recommend sterilization of cats by five months of age. This provides veterinary practitioners with a consistent message that may increase veterinary visits and spay/neuter compliance while reducing the risk of pet relinquishment and unwanted offspring.”

Bottom line: spay or neuter your kitten by 5 months of age. Simple!

Do you have ticks?

I’m not a physician, but I wanted to make you aware of an important study.

Researchers have recently shown that chances of finding a tick on a human doubles if they own a cat or a dog. This puts you at risk for diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme disease (there are others). A friend of mine was actually just diagnosed with Lyme disease.

So what should you do?

They recommend simple things:

. Check all pets daily for ticks.

. Check all humans daily for ticks.

. Talk to your vet about serious tick control

A great way to cope with losing a pet

Broadway, a sweet 4 year old Lab, had TPLO surgery to address a torn right ACL in February of 2016. Then another TPLO on his left knee in October 2016. Both times, he recovered well.

Then weird things started to happen: strange breathing, regurgitation (which is different from vomiting) and back leg weakness. Early signs of laryngeal paralysis and GOLPP (Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy) were suspected. Until things started to get worse. His quality of life deteriorated progressively.

After consulting with several specialists (in surgery and neurology), his incredibly loving and unusually dedicated owners reluctantly decided to humanely put him to sleep on May 25th, 2017.

Broadway’s owner wrote:
“Words cannot begin to express the loss I feel in my hear and in our home. To the amazing staff at the Animal Therapy Center; our committed and compassionate staff at HanoverView Animal Hospital, and Broadway’s devoted, caring and patient surgeon Dr. Phil Zeltzman; we are thankful and blessed that Broadway was cared for by each of you and extremely grateful for all of your help during this past year and most importantly during the last few months.

May he always know how very much he was, and remains, loved and that I would have gone to the ends of the earth if it meant he could have recovered and lived a long, healthy life. Until I see him again….”

The story could stop here.

So to cope with the grieving process, Broadway’s owner had a brilliant idea you may want to remember when you’re in a similar situation. She created a beautiful video collage to honor her best friend’s life. It’s long, but every picture exudes love, and the end is priceless. Grab a box of tissues before you click!