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Prosthetics: Should Tripawds Just Be Tripawds, or Bionic Dogs?

Recently, my friend Sami sent me a news story about advances in prosthetics for Tripawds. I wasn’t able to post that video here, but I did find another one on YouTube.

As you know, Tripawds usually get along fine on three legs. We can run, jump and play like other dogs, and we honestly don’t care that we are missing one of our spare limbs. We here at Tripawds are dedicated to showing humans this is true.

So when I heard about these new prosthetics for dogs, I had to wonder; are these prosthetics really necessary? Who are they really for, dogs . . . or their humans?

I know that prosthetic tests being done on dogs may eventually help humans and other animals that can’t function with missing limbs, and that’s a good thing. But if these prosthetics become a mainstream thing in veterinary medicine, how will that affect Tripawd acceptance in the eyes of humans?

Most importantly, how do you all feel about prosthetics? Would you get one if you could?

48 Responses to “Prosthetics: Should Tripawds Just Be Tripawds, or Bionic Dogs?”

  1. I have a beautiful dog whose leg was amputated by a lawn mower. The emergency vet talked me out of keeping the remainder of the leg which I could kick myself for. He is left with his shoulder that he tries to use all the time. He is just 14 months now and this happened at 10 months. The ortho vets I have spoken with say that while he will adjust well he will more than likely have some serious issues as he ages. Disc problems in his back and joint problems in his remaining foreleg. I see that he gets around but it is a lot of effort. I use to take him down town with me all the time but the pavement tears at his paw and he has to move at a certain pace. We used to go hiking all the time and he never tired, now he tires after a relatively short time. How much research have you done into dogs that have lived their entire lives without a foreleg and age without issues? Do you have any information or case studies on this. Other wise to say that a dog will live just fine with out 4 legs is ridiculous. He will have some good youthful years and may have some very uncomfortable latter years. I personally don’t want that for my dog. I have a design that I think could work for dogs that have a full amputation but I need to find someone that can help me work out the kinks. I think it would be much better than the carts as they are cumbersome and quite wide. Just to be able to fit my dog with something that he could use on long walks I think could help him a great deal.

    • Do you have any information or case studies…

      Only the personal accounts of more than 4,000 members who have been through amputation for their dogs. please post in the discussion forums for feedback from others and feel free to contact us if you would like assistance in finding members who may be able to assist with testing your device.

    • lisa colagrosso August 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      I have a 9yr old cairn terrier. The vets at Banfield in Pets art’s were the reason. Because of an unnecessary surgery, my pup’s leg died and had to be amputated just below her right front elbow. Needless to say, I was going to hit Banfield to cover the bills of all of this! Orthopets is the only company I know of that make prosthetics for animals.They are here in Denver, so I did everything for this poor dog to try and regain some sort of normal life.We went through prototype after prototype trying to get Abbey to walk in her new leg,and to keep it on! If you have terriers then you know they do what THEY want…regardless ! This went on for a year. We tried everything and Abbey wanted nothing to do with it and would maneuver out of it! Finally after all of that, we decided there was nothing more we could do.We called it off.
      Its been 3 years since that horrendous surgery and Abbey is fine. It hurts my heart to hear her hopping around, she gets tired easy and her weight is a struggle. I think it bothers me then it bothers her.Being my tough terrier she would point her furry little middle finger at me and tell me to leave her alone.They are one tough breed!! I carry her when I can and she spends a lot of time inside but all in all she is a very happy dog! As for the prosthetic? Its in a drawer..never used. I’d say let the dog be what they know!:-)

      • Thank you so much for sharing your story Lisa, it’s extremely valuable input especially for folks who are considering it. For more info about prosthetics and dogs check out “Pardon My Faux Paw”. Give your pup a big hug from all of us! Thanks again.

      • Hi, this is a reply to Lisa. I know this is an old thread but Lisa, I have a very dear friend whose dog lost her leg for the same reason as your beloved terrier–an unnecessary surgery, the leg lost due to terrible complications. Would you mind telling me if you took any legal action, if the responsible vet practice covered the resulting bills? Still in early days with my friend’s cattle dog mix, and she’s still pretty shattered Matilda had to go through this. This site is a godsend, though, already.

      • In response to your reply…I rose hell with the vet. I told the chief surgeon that he better remember my name because he will have nightmares about me. I even contacted the president of Banfield and told him how upset I was. I told them I would take pictures of the injured leg/paw dying and I would stand out front of the store and tell my story to every single customer walking in if they didn’t address this issue. I called into a radio show that had an attorney answering questions. .they put me on the air and explained that I couldn’t sue for any more than what the dog would cost basically to replace…sad as that is. I guess here in Colorado pets are concidering property and that is all I could do. Nothing for suffering etc. I went on to call the vet every day to keep it fresh…Banfield ended up refunding the cost of that surgery and all the subsequent surgeries and I made them cover the prosthetic. ..after all…they needed to make whole what they broke. They did all of it with not a single problem and I did as best I could to give my furry first born baby a wonderful life. I haven’t taken her in to see another vet and she is happy and healthy. But, it’s painful for me. We are our pets voices. We have to be their advocate. …I would fight for her on a dime. Tell your friend to keep the anger…go forward and fight for what is right! Good luck….the pup will do great!

      • I just have to say I am going through the same thing. My dog broke her leg and we found out the doc put her cast on too tight and she lost blood flow to her foot. We are struggling on weather we try to save it or amputate. And if we amputate do we do the whole leg or just to the knee so she could have a prosthetic. She is a 7 yr old chihuahua/pug and it is her back leg.

      • Best wishes in the decisions you face Lisa. Every dog is different, but too many times we have heard from people who put their dogs through multiple painful expensive surgeries trying to “save the leg” only to end up amputating anyway. Please review all our posts about prosthetics to be prepared for that decision and contact Orthopets if you are considering going that route.

  2. my pitbull is a puppy and had a level injury in his front left leg. I want to know how much I want to pay for one prothesis for him, and when I founded one for him here in Puerto Rico.`

    • You may find your pup does just fine without a prosthetic. In act, most do better off on three legs than trying to cope with something attached to one. Prosthetics also require ample remaining limb fr fitting, and the best ones are custom made by specialists. Unfortunately we have know idea where you might find such an expert in Puerto Rico. Please post in the discussion forums for much more support and advice from members.

  3. I have a 4 year old lab that we adopted that was already missing her rear right leg her leg is all the way amputated there is just a little nub would she even be able to get a prosthetic or would she be better off with some kind of wheeled device. Thanks.

    • Without much of the limb left, a prosthetic is likely not an option. Check out the News Blog post with Tripawd Tips for Using Wheelchairs and Carts or consider these big dog strollers in the Gear Blog. Post in the discussion forums however, for advice from members to help determine if a cart is actually necessary. At just four years old, if your pup is otherwise healthy he should do just fine on three legs! Thanks for asking.

    • Our dog recently had his leg completly taken off also,he’s a Beagle and has no problems whatsoever getting around on his three legs.It doesn’t even bother him, he can still outrun me lol

  4. Our yellow lab had her hind leg amputated at the upper joint 10 years ago. She was great, didn’t even realize it was missing. But now that she is getting older her remaining leg gives out and she flops on her belly. She has weighed 50 pounds for 8 years, so it is not her weight. I am looking for a prosthetic leg for her now to help her get around. That or a rear wheel chair. She gets around fine most of the time, but is having trouble with stairs(she has a ramp also) and cold weather.

    • Prosthetics are tricky… expensive, experimental, and they only work if enough leg is left to attach them. Consider checking out Doggon Wheelchairs for Tripawds, or Eddie’s Wheels. Thanks for asking and best wishes for your pup!

      • my 5 year old Australian Shepherd just had her front leg amputated..she is getting a prosthetic from K9 Orthopedic – they have been great and she will have her new leg in a few weeks.

        I agree with the Admin.. you need to check with your surgeon and the prosthetic folks on what is best for your dog. my girl still has her elbow but not much else… below.. K9 orthopedic was able to create a leg that will work for her long term.

      • Thanks for the feedback! Please consider sharing more details and some photos in the discussion forums, or by starting a blog for Buddy!

  5. We have a 4 month old lab that was hit by a car and had his back leg amputated a week ago. I built him a ramp to get on and off our deck. He refused to use it. Got down the steps with ourt a problem. Its amazing how well he has adjusted in one week. I think I have decided not to get him any kind of help prosthetically. He is happy and getting around fine.

    • Thanks for the feedback Chris! Please consider sharing your pup’s story in the discussion forums.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for joining us here. We’re sorry about your pup but it’s good to hear he’s getting around just fine. It’s funny how humans think that tripawds need prosthetics when they learn they’re going to lose a leg, but for most dogs, prosthetics are unnecessary. About the ramp…lots of dogs will refuse to use ramps at first, but in the end it’s really good for their joints, especially as they age and arthritis sets in. If you train him now, it will be second nature to him by the time he’s an adult. Here are some tips that might help. Meanwhile, do let us know how he’s doing in the discussion forums.

    • Our Beagle was just also hit by a car and had to amputate his back leg.It has been 2 days and he seems to be getting around fine. I was wondering how was your dog still doing without getting any prosthestics.

      • Jerry loved life on three legs for nearly two years and would have lived longer had cancer not taken him from us. Thanks for asking, please post in the discussion forums for more amazing stories and feedback from others.

      • Have a back leg amputated is easier on dogs then having a a front leg. Front legs hold 60% of their weight. I gave Clementine a prosthetic because I wanted to help her long term with her good leg. she gets around great without it but when I take her out she wears it because she gets tired faster without it.

  6. Hi…i found a cat in the street that was bleeding and had no foot…i took her to the vet and th vet is trying to save her leg,but she steps on it of course and the blister is always there,and even if skin grows on it i guess is not strong enough to function as a paw…
    we are waiting….her leg is a bit short of course and i wonder if that is also good for her….i am in Cyprus and the vets here never had such a situation and guess they are waiting fo nothing…i don’t know…the kitten is 2 months old,sheis always playing on the leg whic has bandage…what shoul we do??some people says we should go creative and create her a protesis…i am confused here….

    • Hi Karina. You are so sweet for helping the cat. I know of some dogs who have had a prosthetic paw made and it does take a while for them to get used to it. I don’t know about cats. But we have a member here who actually makes prosthetics, and she is currently training a new dog of hers to use a prosthetic paw. Her dog’s blog is here and although she hasn’t posted in a while I know she’ll reply if you comment on it. Prosthetics though, are quite expensive. Amputation could be an option, we’ve had some cats here do really well on three legs, like Henry, and Nemo. Let us know what you decide to do, keep in touch OK?

  7. My baby was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left rear leg 2 days ago. I’m devastated and trying to find what to do that is best for her. She is a Rotweiler who is 12 yrs and 3 months old. She is in very good shape for a older dog but having only 3 legs I’m worried will create to much strain on her hips and her other rear leg and even her spine. I’ve just started researching and hoping to get some solid advice and options for an older dog. She’s my best friend in the whole world. Help! Seems like a prostectic would help keep her balanced and a better option not to get one if possible because of her age.

    Thank you for any of your suggestions!

    • Robert, we are so sorry to hear about your Rottie. Your fears are valid, and lots of us had them at first. But if your vet believes she is a good candidate for surgery, then that’s a great sign. If you are still uncomfortable a second opinion is priceless. Make sure the surgeon is knowledgable and has the facilities to handle amputation. See our review of “Vet Confidential” for tips about what to look for:

      About her age; we have dogs as old as 14 here, and lots of our senior dogs include big pups like yours. As long as a dog is in good shape and isn’t overweight, they usually do just fine.

      Prosthetics are new and not always useful to the dog, but if this is something you want to consider you’ll need to discuss it with your surgeon as the amputation has to be done in a way to allow a prosthetic to fit properly.

      We recommend visiting us at the Tripawd Forums to talk with others who have been there.

      Many hugs going out to you. Good luck.

  8. My Niki had her amputation today and I’ve been researching prosthetics for her she’ll have a bit of a stump that quite possibly we can fit her for a leg. My hubby’s a bit of an inventor and he’s working on a scheme for a leg that may actually function for her. It’s not about the looks here it’s about the fach that she weighs 100lbs and at 4’11” and 120lbs it’ll be very difficult for me to lift her in and out of the car when I have her out with me. My hubby works evenings so the walking and driving her places falls on me and when he’s not around to help what am I supposed to do for her. Standing up her back reaches my hip os that doesn’t leave me much leverage to lift her when needed. And if it’ll save her back then I’m all for it. We amputated to relieve the pain of bone cancer only to have her develop back issues due to the amputation makes no sense if there’s something we can do to help her not to do it.

  9. Hanson is a two year old pug who was born with a deformity and is a tripawd. He has only a stump (with a couple of nails on it), on the right front. For two years he has managed to get around even better than his two sisters, and get into more trouble as well. Unfortunately, now that he is full grown, we are noticing that the one good front leg he has is turning inward so he hops with it using a “scooping” motion. Also, we notice that his back is curving a little. He also tires more quickly. We are now looking into prosthesis for him because we feel, because he thinks he can jump from anywhere etc, that he will injure his only front leg. The three pugs do get a lot of attention, of course mostly Hanson, but it’s not about looks or attention, it’s about his health. His sisters would finally love to go for a walk with him, without him tiring one quarter of the way.

    • …we notice that his back is curving a little.

      This is one of the reasons we recommend amputation, even for pups born with deformities. By attempting to keep using the shorter leg, Hanson may have developed spinal issues, because his back is not meant to twist so much every time he steps. But we are not vets. Please consult Hansen’s doctor, or consider getting a profession al opinion in our Ask A Vet discussion forum. Thanks for commenting and best withes to you and your pack!

  10. I am looking into a front leg prosthetic for my dog who had a front leg amputation 4 weeks ago, leaving a 2″ stump from inner elbow to stump end, and measures 6″ on back of leg from elbow point to stump end. My dog gets around great, but its exhausting for her. If a prosthetic would help her I’d certainly like to find out where I can get one. I’ve been checking out websites, but don’t feel comfortable with anything I’ve seen so far. Does anyone know where to get a well-made front leg prosthetic that will actually work? Thanks

    • We normally recommend against prosthetics, since as you suggest, many don’t actually work. But with such a limb remaining your pup may be a good candidate. You might want to consider contacting a veterinary prosthetic specialist. Some of the most advanced resources in the industry for veterinary prosthetic research and development include the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center. You will also get much more advice and feedback in the Tripawd Discussion Forums than we alone can provide here in the blog. Start a new topic about prosthetics with any questions and to keep everyone posted about your findings.

    • Hi ! I just wanted to tell you there is a company called orthopets in Colorado that specialize in prosthetics for any animal! Look them up on orthopets. Com or Facebook. My 6 ye old terrier had to have her front leg amputated due to a botched surgery at banfield ..its a fabulous process..they are so conscious about the overall health of your best will love them! My sweet would rather go without her prosthetic ..I will blame that on being a stubborn terrier…but it is a wonderful option to such a heartbreaking decision!

      • Thanks for the feedback. Search this blog or the discussion forums and you’ll find we’ve written about and linked to Orthopets quite a bit. The majority of comments mention similar results, so your pup’s “stubborn” reaction may not be breed specific.

  11. Pamela Davies April 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    The only reason we would look into a prosthetic device for our three legged pit bull, Bella, is to help her remaining front leg with the weight bearing strain and the eventual, potential future problems this might cause. We couldn’t care less about her appearance; it’s what makes her special and unique and she gets a whole lot of inquiries and attention from her “condition”. Wouldn’t ever hesitate adopting a tripawd again.

    • Right on, Pamela! We agree, and can see how prosthetics could be useful for dogs with hip displaysia and back problems. And yeah, the attention tripawds get is just mind-blowing, isn’t it? Gotta love the way we are making impressions on people, one hop at a time!

    • monday, april 13, my pit mix, Abby, was diagnosed w/osteosarcoma in her front left leg. Wednesday her leg and shoulder were amputated. She is doing AMAZING physically and her beautiful spirit has returned! She will be undergoing chemo beginning in May. Although she is not overweight and is quite fit for her age (10-11ish I got her from a shelter so I don’t truly know her age) I, too, am concerned with the stress on her other front leg as she ages. I want to make the rest of her life as full and healthy as possible. I am also curious about immunity boosters, etc… Love is blind…it’s not the package it’s the contents. I can hear her coming to check up on me now! Time for some lovin’s!!!

      • Thanks for the comment Jodi! You should really consider posting your concerns in the Tripawd Discussion Forums. You will find much more advice and help there than we alone can provide here. But you may just be surprised how good tripawds are at building up strength in their remaining legs.

  12. How successful would this be in a very large (tall) dog? A Borzoi who is extremely tall and requires both front legs just to sit or stand from a laying down position may need amputation at or just below the shoulder after a viscious attack by a German pointer.

    Any idea of the cost of the prostetic and rehab and the time it would take for the dog to full adapt to a protetic device?

    • I say skip the prosthetic and amputate! Just search the discussion forums for all the wonderful things our three legged friend Borzoid has to say about life on three legs!

      • That’s really great, but my great dane of 4 yrs just had an amputation and now after 6 months is not walking, does not want to get up and falls. Yet for the first 6 months she was doing well. I would appreciate a device to help her walk. Have you ever carried a 135 lb dog back from a walk after they fall and afraid to get up. If we love are dogs and go to the extreme of amputation how is a prosthetic anymore extreme. Let me see, my baby unhappy on the couch, putting her down ( which she has beaten cancer 6 months now) or letting her enjoy the next years with assistance. It’s not a tough decision. If your dog is your life, you will do all.

      • Thanks for your input. Bless you for taking such good care of your pup and best wishes for finding the help you need.

  13. I think if Sammy had been able to have a prosthetic leg, he may have been able to live longer, because his back wouldn’t have been torqued like it was… but that was my Sammy. A special boy with a lot of problems.

    I do think most prosthetics are for the people, putting themselves in the dog’s place. But the thing is: Dogs just don’t have the self pitty we humans do. They just get on with life… Oh, to live like a dog!

  14. JB, you are a saint for taking on the responsibility of your beloved MinPin. How long has he been a tripawd? Perhaps he just needs more time?

    We really suggest talking to others in our Forums, for more advice and tips on how to help him get used to life on three legs. You’ll get lots of great advice there!

    Thanks a bunch for finding us.

  15. I have a MinPin who lost his whole back leg do to lack of care from his previous owner after a car accident. He has some balance issues and I am doing research now to see if there is anything that can be done to help him out. He can run ok and jump a little but has a very difficult time climbing and can not turn around on things that are very soft or uneven.

  16. You know, I never thought of it like that. That makes a lot of sense.

    Say Hi to Eisen, by the way. Hope he’s doing great!

    Jerry, Rene & Jim

  17. Expense aside….I like the idea of having a choice. Eisen is too big and too heavy for me to pick up and getting in & out of my SUV is tough. It would be much easier for him to balance on and I think overall would cause less stress and strain on his legs and joints. Also, he might not ‘wipe out’ as often or at all….

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