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What to Know About Remaining Leg Surgery on a Tripawd

Just a few years ago if your Tripawd injured a remaining leg, your vet probably would have dismissed the idea of surgery. Things are changing. Remaining leg surgery on a Tripawd is not unheard of, nor impossible to manage.

Remaining Limb Surgery on a Tripawd
Frankie is healing from cruciate repair surgery.

At the 2018 Western Veterinary Conference we wanted to know more about remaining limb surgery on a Tripawd so we reached out to one of the nation’s best veterinary surgeons, Dr. Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. We asked the star of Nat Geo WILD’s Animal ER show:

What should we know about remaining limb surgery on a Tripawd?

Overcoming FHO, TPLO, THR and Other Orthopedic Surgeries 

In our community you’ll find many examples of members whose Tripawd injured a remaining leg and needed a surgery like a TPLO. Some needed a FHO while others needed a hip replacement. Check out our article “Remaining Limb Surgery Recovery for Tripawds” and you can read about Tripawds such as Frankie, who underwent a cruciate repair surgery and Ziggy, who needed surgery to correct an angular limb deformity. There have been many others and each year the list gets longer and more Tripawds prove they can recover beautifully when given the chance.

Agreeing to an orthopedic surgery for your Tripawd is scary, but as long as you know how to choose a great vet, your Tripawd has as good a chance at a full recovery as any four-legged animal. Each day vets like Dr. Beale expand the boundaries of orthopedic medicine to help thousands of animals live happier, better lives – no matter how many legs they have. But, there are things you need to know about recovery and life afterward.

Tripawds Can Be Good Surgery Candidates

First, be aware that just because your dog or cat has three legs, they shouldn’t automatically be dismissed as a candidate for orthopedic surgery. If your vet sees things differently, get another opinion from a veterinarian who specializes in orthopedic surgery. “We get excellent results doing surgery on Tripawds,” says Dr. Beale. “We expect a very good outcome.”

But Recovery Will Have Its Challenges

Next, it’s important to have realistic expectations of what recovery will look like. “When performing surgery on a Tripawd, they’re going to be at a little bit of a disadvantage,” he explains. Minimally invasive surgeries allow for the best chance of success, so always work with a surgeon who takes this approach. “The less invasive we are, the less pain they are going to have and the quicker the recovery,” says Dr. Beale.

Recovering at home can be tricky for a cat or dog that only has two good legs. A Tripawd will need more assistance, and staying on top of pain management needs is a must. A great surgeon will follow current veterinary pain management protocols, and explain how to use cold (and later hot) therapy to minimize swelling.

Dr. Beale explains that “We want to do a very good job with pain management to keep these patients as comfortable as possible so that they’ll be able to use their legs more quickly.”

Remaining Limb Surgery on a Tripawd
Ziggy probably had the most complicated surgery we know about.

And Preparing for the Future is Critical

You will also need to prepare for long-term arthritis management. Veterinary studies show that joint surgeries can result in long-lasting inflammation that eventually leads to arthritis. “What we want to do is provide long-lasting anti-inflammatory therapy on a daily basis,” says Dr. Beale.

Many joint health supplements are available to help decrease inflammation, but it’s best to stick with those supplements that have been clinically studied by the veterinary community. The green lipped mussel supplement called Antinol has been extensively studied, and shown great results with Dr. Beale’s patients. When used in conjunction with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and regular check-ins with an animal rehabilitation therapist, your Tripawd’s joints can stay healthy and mobile, and arthritis is better managed for the life of your dog or cat.

Overcoming an injury to a remaining limb on your Tripawd isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. If you suddenly find yourself in this situation, please visit our Tripawds Hopping Around Discussion Forum topic. Others in our community have gone through the exact same thing, and can offer support from diagnosis to recovery and beyond.

Edited 09/08/20: A recent study about Tripawds undergoing TPLO surgery concludes that whether a dog is a front or rear leg amputee, “The weight distribution and posture of Amp is not impacted negatively by TPLO.” See: Stance and weight distribution after tibial plateau leveling osteotomy in fore limb and hind limb amputee dogs.

Recommended Reading

Remaining Limb Surgery Recovery for Tripawds
Tripawd Health Tips to Avoid Injury to Remaining Legs

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9 thoughts on “What to Know About Remaining Leg Surgery on a Tripawd”

  1. We have Penny the tripawd since 2017, We rescued her a year after her surgery. Penny has been found on the streets with damaged back left leg, that had to be amputated. Now She is strong, fit and full of life Border Collie cross. Unfortunately her remaining back leg has been injured 3 weeks ago and we were told She will have to go throw either FHO surgery or a total hip replacement. We struggling to make a decision. Our surgen told us that Penny’s size and bone structure can be an obsticle in her recovery from THR, on the other hand FHO can lead to some mobility limitation. I’m wondering if anybody has been facing similar decision? What helped to make a final call? What was your experience with your tripawd recovering from those procedures?

    Thank you for all the help,

  2. My 3 year old Rottweiler had bilateral cruciate surgery in January 2019 as poor genetics gave her bad knees. The surgery and recovery went well. However 6 months later she just stopped using her right hind leg. The surgeon who preformed the surgery told us that her knee was “end stage” and it is what it is. I contacted Cornell University Companion Hospital for a consult. To my surprise, yes the right knee needs a complete replacement but it is the left rear knee that needs TPLO surgery as the original surgery failed and the femur slipped behind the tibia. Worst they’ve ever seen. Now I my girl is faced with surgery and a recovery that leave her with no rear limb for a time. Any words of advice?

  3. Thanks. We do not have a Board certified orthopedic surgeon here however we have a specialty vet surgeon who does lots of FHO but not on tripods of course as they are rare…especially small dogs! I have an appointment with him in 8 days. I have been doing research however not many answers.

  4. Our 60# pit bull/lab mix has osteosarcoma of her right front leg. She has had cruciate surgery on one back leg and is developing arthritis in that joint and had a hip replacement on the other back leg. We are concerned that having a front leg amputation would place too much additional weight bearing on the back legs causing increased pain and advance her arthritis. This would not be quality of life enhancement Any experience with this type of decision making dilemma?


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