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Real Life with an Older Tripawd (Part One)

When you have the good fortune of sharing your life with an older Tripawd dog, you’re bound to face some challenges together. In this first of a two-part series on caring for an older Tripawd, here’s what we have learned so far with Tripawd Spokesdog Wyatt Ray.

older Tripawd dog Wyatt Ray
Wyatt has been on three legs since he was a puppy.
Don’t miss Part Two of Caring for an Older Tripawd

The Impact of Life on an Older Tripawd Dog

We barely scratched the surface of living with a senior dog when cancer took our Chief Fun Officer Jerry. He was only ten years young, and we had so much to learn about how to care for an older Tripawd. 

Tripawd Chief Fun Officer Jerry G Dawg
Jerry only spent two years on three legs.

Then came Wyatt, who lost his leg as a puppy, through neglect by a previous human. Life has been good to us, and Wyatt has not been touched by any serious illness. But at eleven years old, the wear and tear on his remaining back leg is taking a toll despite our best efforts to minimize the impact.

Young Tripawd Puppy
It was hard to picture that some day, he would slow down.

Recently in the Discussion Forums, @effi brought up an important topic: the cost of care for a three-legged dog. She wants to adopt a Tripawd, and said:

I’m a little worried about the financial aspect of owning a handicapped dog . . . I was wondering about additional support my Tripawd might need. Physiotherapy or hydroptherapy for example. Maybe you could share your experiences with me as well?

Since it was 2018 when we last reported on Wyatt’s state of health, we think it’s time for an update. Wyatt is officially a “Geriatric Tripawd” now, and in a nutshell, this is what life with our older amputee dog looks like:

three-legged older dog
He sleeps more, but with one eye open.

We can’t say that life will look like this for all senior Tripawds. All pets are different. Wyatt is a German Shepherd, with genetically bad hips and a low-slung stance that makes being a Tripawd extra challenging. Not all older amputee dogs will require this level of care. But we can say with certainty after talking to other parents of three-legged senior dogs, his situation isn’t unusual. 

Tripawd parenting means being extra careful.

From the time he was a puppy, we have done our best to manage Wyatt’s circumstances. We treat his arthritis with high quality, vet-approved supplements, prescribed exercises and pain management. But some days it feels like no matter how good we are about caring for his needs, this dog pays the price of one less leg. For example, just today, his back leg buckled mid-stride, for no apparent reason. Wyatt didn’t seem to notice, but it broke our hearts.

three-legged German Shepherd runs
Wyatt will keep going if we let him.

Each walk requires us to be prepared. We often take his wheelchair along, just in case he needs the help. A five to ten minute self-propelled stroll is about all he can do without tiring out. At that point, if he still looks mentally energetic, we might put him into his wheelchair for a little more fresh air. The wheelchair allows his back leg to tap the ground for momentum, but with little pressure on it. But if he looks tired, we head home instead.

Wyatt sees a rehabilitation therapist several times a year. It costs anywhere from $150 $300 depending on what they do for him. Back at home, we do our best to follow his therapist’s prescribed daily exercises, like cookie crunches and paws on steps. But some days he appears too weak to do them, so we back off.

On his less active days, we work out his mind instead of his body. He loves brain-games like his favorite Kruuse Activity Mat

He’s just like any other older dog, really.

Wyatt’s life isn’t much different than that of an older four-legged dog. He sleeps more now, but in true German Shepherd fashion, it’s always with one eye open. His fur is whiter and his reaction times a bit slower, but we think that he’s aged pretty darn well for a three-legged dog who has spent eleven years on three legs. We are so blessed.

— end of part one — 

Stay tuned for Part Two of our series,
“Life with an Older Tripawd.”

15 thoughts on “Real Life with an Older Tripawd (Part One)”

  1. I loved reading about Wyatt, thanks. He is so handsome!
    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience of Wyatt as a geriatric tripawd. What I love so much is the personal touch and the honesty. You don’t sugar coat the effects on a dog’s body living with only 3 legs. You make me want to do everything I can for Jake. Now I can’t wait to read part 2!

    Reply
    • Aww thanks, I”ll tell Wyatt what you said. We only want to be honest about what to expect as a Tripawd ages. It’s not bad, it’s just different and an honor to be able to help him when he needs it most. Jake is going to have a long, healthy strong life thanks to you!

      Reply
  2. Reading about Wyatt is helpful for me as I have 10 1/2 year old Bonz a English Lab who is 2 years into his amputation of a rear leg. Bonz has always been active, hiking and swimming with our other dogs. Recently, I have noticed that he tires more easily on our regular 2 1/2 mile walks and sometimes will have problems getting up stairs for bed. Even without the amputation, I remind myself that he is aging. To make things easier I have reduced the days when we go the full 2 1/2 miles to half routes of shorter but different lengths. During the winter when we don’t worry about snakes, we tend to take walks in the back country. During the summer, we walk on a paved trail. I have begun to consider purchasing a stroller that would accommodate his 75# although I’m not sure he would agree to use it! We use a very simple sling to help Bonz getting up stairs when he seems to need it. I have also added a Twister Step to the back of my SUV to assist him getting into the car along with the sling. He gets that these things are designed to help him and will wait for me to wrap the sling around his waist before trying to step into the car.

    Reply
  3. My Cooper (front leg amputee at 7 months old) turns 9 years old this coming November!
    Hard to believe. All of a sudden they are seniors. We already pamper him and try to make him slow down in terms of playing fetch (his favorite). He’s still able to leap into the car like a kangaroo, using those powerful, muscular hind legs. He is an amazing creature.

    Reply
  4. Thanks guys, Awesome advise.
    Aksel_Rose has always needed extra grip for smooth floors. She likes her grippy boots.
    She will wear one on her remaining hind leg almost everywhere we go outside of the house. At home I am the master of the carpet runners. They are everywhere!!
    Although Aksel is only 4.5 y.o. we always need to think ahead and be prepared..
    Our fur-kids are everything!!!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to Part II. With TriPod turning 9 in January he is definitely a senior dog now. So hard to believe…. I’m sure it was just yesterday that he was a puppy. Thank you for all you do. I am now looking into getting him some front “wheels” to take some stress off that front leg. Any thoughts on a good place to look?

    Reply
  6. This is so interesting. Our Nico is 12 yrs old Boxer and had his rear leg amp 8 days ago. His rear leg does buckle at times like Wyatt’s, especially on our slick hardwood floors. Thanks for the wheelchair idea, it may come in handy. Best wishes of health to Wyatt.

    Reply
  7. Wyatt really hit the jackpot with his pawrents. I love the attention that you pay to his needs on the active, and not so active days. Thanks so much for sharing. He really does well as a GSD tripawd. Mitch had 4 legs and did not get around nearly as well. All that hard work has really helped him as he goes through his golden years.
    Lots of hugs and love to you all!
    Jackie and Huck

    Reply

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