Update on Gus: Good News For the Little Guy

If you dear readers remember from last winter, Carolyn and my Saint Bernard “Gus” was having some medical issues. He had a bump on his leg that looked a lot like cancer. We biopsied it and the results came back with no trace of cancer, but they were inconclusive. We treated him for osteomyelitis (bone infection) and hoped for the best.

Since that last column, a lot has happened with the little guy (I call him “Little Guy”, even if he weighs 130 pounds). He seemed to respond ok to the medicine, but in March the lump began to grow again. At first it didn’t hurt, but by April he was painful on that leg. We upped his pain medication, which helped at first, but then it wouldn’t stop the pain. Carolyn and I had to make a decision: remove Gus’s leg or put him down.

Since the biopsy was inconclusive as to whether he had cancer or not, the first step we took was to look and see if there was a spreading cancer. Since osteosarcomas (bone cancer) typically spread to the lungs first, we took radiographs of his chest to see if there were any metastases in his lungs. We held our breath as the the computer downloaded the X-rays. And praise be to the Lord, they were clean!

Radiograph of Gus's lungs

Pictured: A normal, healthy dog lung. Just like you want to see it.

With cancer being quite unlikely at this point, the next step was to remove the bad leg, the left front. I’ve done a few leg amputations before, so I was comfortable with the procedure. However, this was no ordinary amputation. For one, being Gus is a giant breed dog, there was a lot more cutting to do. His blood vessels were bigger, so even smaller vessels in the muscle could cause substantial blood loss. Most importantly, he was my dog. I had to remind myself to stay focused on the task at hand and not think about it being my puppy I was putting under the knife.

The surgery took longer than I expected, but in the end the leg came off nicely. He lost more blood than I wanted him to, but we ran a bag of fluids into him and by that evening he was feeling pretty good. We kept him on pain medication for a week and a half post-op, and each day he did better and better. By the time we took the stitches out two weeks later he was like a whole new dog. The pain was all gone and he would run almost as fast as he did when he had four legs! Which is faster than I can run with two legs.

It has been eight weeks since the surgery and I can say that Gus is as happy as ever. Long term, we are a touch worried because he has to bare so much weight on his right front leg. That’s why he will go on joint supplements as well as a low energy diet so he can stay as light as possible. Otherwise, he’s back to doing regular doggie things like he should. And Carolyn and I are quite thankful for that blessing.

Jake and Gus hanging out in the back yard



4 responses to “Update on Gus: Good News For the Little Guy

  1. Poor doggie, glad he is okay. Does an animal with 3 legs just learn to balance automatically? Maybe you should get him a doggie artificial leg. PS Jake looks like he is missing his right arm.

    • It takes them a little bit to figure it out, but you’d be surprised how fast they learn. Within a week they can run on 3 legs. And yeah, my sister noticed that, but the rest of the picture looks so good I hated to retake it. We just look like we match 🙂

    • We sure are relieved. We’ll continue to keep an eye on him so he continues to do well!

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