Lucy becomes an amputee

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 away (femur). The blue arrow shows normal bone; the red arrow shows bone that has been either eaten away or that has created a mass.

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 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 best advocates, 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.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Minnie has a tumor in the jaw bone

Minnie, a 9 year old beagle, had a cherry-sized mass behind her upper canine tooth.

The mass had been present for a while and kept growing. Is it generically called an epulis, an unfortunate name that doesn’t mean much. An epulis can be benign or malignant. It can be unimportant or extremely aggressive. So it’s a very misleading name.

She was referred for surgery at Mountain Shadow Veterinary Hospital ( ) .

After a physical exam, blood work and chest X-rays (to check for spreading to the lungs), it was decided that Minnie was a good candidate for anesthesia and surgery.

Part of her upper jaw (maxilla) would have to be removed in order to hopefully “get it all.” Surgery went well.

Even though pet owners are typically horrified when such an invasive surgery is recommended, pets don’t look as grotesquely disfigured as they imagine.

The most amazing thing is that most dogs eat soon after surgery, sometimes the evening of surgery! In Minnie’s case, she ate the day after surgery.

About a week later, the biopsy came back as ameloblastoma, which is a “locally aggressive” tumor. What it means is that the tumor eats the bone away. This is the other reason we need to remove so much tissue (bone) around the mass.

Even though a large portion of her jaw had to be removed, Minnie has recovered very well and can now enjoy life again.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

How Callie was saved by love and dedication

Callie, a very cute kitten, had a rare condition called a cleft palate.

This is an abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth that allows food to go into the nose. This causes gagging, choking, severe sneezing, infections of the nose and difficulty breathing.

In addition, affected pets don’t thrive. They are typically malnourished because it’s difficult to feed them enough to help them grow.

When her owner reached out to me to help with the surgery, Callie was only 6 weeks and weight only 1 pound. Her incredibly dedicated owner had already been through a lot, since she had bottle fed Callie from birth.

Doing surgery to close the “hole” in not recommended in such a young kitten.

Callie at 6 weeks of age

So we agreed that we would try to hang in there until Callie is older and stronger. She needed to be a better candidate for anesthesia and surgery. Until then, family members had to take turns to feed Callie slurry every few hours.

Long story short, Callie grew stronger and eventually had surgery at Brodheadsville Veterinary Clinic ( when she turned 8 months. On the picture below, Callie is on her back on the surgery table. The red arrow shows the normal part of the front of the roof of the mouth. The green arrow shows the hole in the back part of the roof of the mouth, ie the cleft palate.

Callie made it through surgery with flying colors and woke up smoothly after anesthesia. The picture below shows the stiched-up opening.

Once home, she immediately started eating whatever was put in front of her. There was no sneezing, coughing or gagging.

Callie’s owner writes: “It was so amazing! I can hardly find words to describe how it felt to see her eat like a normal kitten.” She quickly put on a pound.

About 2 weeks after the surgery, bubbles started to come out of Callie’s nose after eating or drinking. What happened is that one tiny area didn’t heal properly. This can happen, and we had discussed that possibility during the consultation. So we did another surgery, minor this time, to close the tiny pinhole.

“Since that second operation, she has had no problems eating or drinking anything. She seems to prefer dry food over wet, now that she doesn’t have to worry about gagging it up.”

“She just turned 1 year of age and now weighs about 9.5 lbs. She is a happy, energetic, precocious cat that looks like a kitten and we can’t imagine life without her.”

I love Callie’s story because it’s such a perfect example of how one loving human can dedicate so much time of energy and save one tiny kitten’s life.

Many, many people would have given up. But not Callie’s owner. She is now rewarded with a beautiful, healthy cat who can enjoy life.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Penny gets a new lease on life

Penny, a 7 year old Labrador, was in deep trouble.

She couldn’t go on walks or function normally. She was suffocating because of a condition called laryngeal paralysis (aka “lar par”). This meant that her larynx (or voice box) was paralyzed and didn’t allow her to have enough oxygen on board.
Her owner wrote: “Lately, Penny has had several episodes where she had great difficulty catching her breath, especially after exercise or excitement. The last one of these episodes was severe enough to make her tongue go bluish for a short time.”
She had surgery at Brodheadsville Vet Clinic ( in Brodheadsville, PA, in order to open up her larynx with permanent sutures (tie-back surgery).
Three days after surgery, her owner writes: “Overall Penny is doing fantastic! Her breathing is immensely improved and our hardest problem right now is keeping her calm.”

She recovered smoothly and two months after surgery, she could go on walks in the woods again.

Here is her story in video:

As I always say, laryngeal paralysis is not a death sentence. With the proper care, patients can have a normal, happy life.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Gilda didn’t act her age…

Gilda, a 4 year old female mastiff, was brought to the emergency clinic for vomiting, depression and lack of appetite.

After the veterinarian did a thorough physical exam, he recommended taking X-rays of the abdomen (belly).

The X-rays confirmed the suspicion: a blockage of the intestine by a foreign body, likely cloth. Pets can eat all sorts of crazy things, such as toys, sticks, rocks etc. Puppies (and kittens) are the main culprits because they are inexperienced and silly. And because they explore their environment with their mouth. However, Gilda was not a young pup, so her foreign body was a little unusual. What compelled her to swallow it?

Surgery was performed and sure enough, I pulled a large, twisted up piece of fabric out of her intestine! It was about the size of a hand towel. A biopsy of the intestine was taken before closing the belly.

Gilda recovered smoothly in ICU. She later went home, feeling much better.

After a week, the biopsy results came in and confirmed my suspicion of irritable bowel disease (IBD). This condition is somewhat similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans. It is often the reason why adult dogs (and cats) swallow a foreign body. They feel weird, and they are compelled to eat things they shouldn’t. This is called “pica” (pronounced pie-ka). Classic signs of IBD may include vomiting and diarrhea.

Long-term, Gilda’s owners’ main focus will be to “puppy-proof” the house and the yard at all times, and to only feed a prescription diet to keep the IBD under control. Sometimes, medications are required to treat IBD.

Fortunately, Gilda’s future looks good.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified