On March 6, 2013, our Akita cross dog, Sampson, was diagnosed with bone cancer in his left front leg. He underwent amputation the next day.
As a large breed dog almost thirteen years old, Sam had some hurdles in front of him following amputation; namely, he was already arthritic and painful in his remaining limbs. We decided against chemotherapy post-surgery; instead, we focused on maintaining Sampson’s quality of life in as pain-free a manner as possible.
Our veterinarian, Dr. Houstoun Clinch at TLC Veterinary Hospital, recommended that we contact the Sport & Strength Department at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. Their rehabilitation programs would help to increase Sampson’s mobility and build his muscle tone while keeping Sampson mentally stimulated.
The therapy team at AERC of MN was excellent with Sam. John Nielsen, CVT-VTS (ECC), CVPP, CCRP, the technician who runs the program, really tailored his treatment to our goals and to Sam’s abilities and his personality. Many dogs that go through rehabilitation are working dogs—agility, flyball, hunting, or herding. We are just about as far from that as you can get, but John did a great job finding the right workout for Sampson. Sampson is not the most athletic, graceful, or fast dog on the underwater treadmill, but he definitely earned an “A” for effort! Our normal routine included laser therapy, stretching and massage, cavalettis, wobble board exercises, the underwater treadmill, and other exercises to do at home. Check out this video of Sampson on the underwater treadmill!
In providing palliative care for Sampson, I often feel like a little girl plugging one leak in the dam, only to find another sprouting elsewhere. We start a course of medication to address arthritis, and we cause stomach distress and weight loss. We add steroids to boost his appetite, but the pain meds aren’t compatible with the steroids. We change pain meds, but the new ones aren’t quite as effective, so we try something else…and around and around we go.
It has been five and a half months since Sampson’s amputation. He is happier, more alert, and eating better than he has in the last year and a half. His pain medication dose is very low, and we’ve drastically cut the steroids, too. I absolutely believe that physical rehabilitation at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, along with great care from our family vet, have made all that possible.
Sampson and I have been together for thirteen years. He is stoic, stubborn, and recalcitrant; goofy, peculiar, and particular. He is everything I ever wanted in a dog and never expect to find again. What I want for Sampson is for his remaining days to be as normal and as happy and as wonder-filled as possible. What brings him joy might be as simple as an endless supply of cardboard paper towel tubes to gnaw on, sparring with his canine sister, chasing bunnies, or breaking into the litterboxes for an afternoon snack! And sure, it can be hamburger for dinner instead of kibble, if that’s what he wants.
—by Megan, Sampson’s mom