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My Tripawd is Depressed, Now What?

If you think your Tripawd cat or dog is depressed, you’re probably not imagining it. Amputation surgery recovery is not easy for pets or people. Thankfully, it’s only temporary. But here’s what you can do about your Tripawd’s depression today.

Tripawd is depressed
Maggie the Pug showed signs of amputation depression too.

What We Know About Depression in Pets

Canine cognition researchers and veterinarians learn more about animal emotions all the time. Non-invasive, humane Functional MRI studies on dogs help researchers like Dr. Gregory Burns prove that animals experience many of the same emotions as humans. In this video Dr. Burns discusses how dogs express their emotions: 

Animals exhibit a full range of emotions that often mirror our own. From grief to joy and everything in-between, they show depression signs similar to humans’. For example, a UK study showed dogs depressed when their owners overuse their smartphones and ignore them. 

Research about cats and depression is thin. But it’s only a matter of time until it catches up with canine cognition research.

Depression Signs in Dogs and Cats 

Many years ago if you had said “My Tripawd is depressed,” we would have said “No, that’s just pain medication side effects. Dogs don’t get depressed!” After all, there was no clinical diagnosis for doggie depression then, and there still isn’t now. But just because cat and dog depression hasn’t been scientifically proven yet, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. 

If you suspect your Tripawd is feeling down, these depression signs in otherwise healthy dogs and cats might confirm it:

  • Not wanting to eat.
  • Sleeping more than usual, tired.
  • Clingy behavior.
  • Extra vocal.
  • Unusual and aggressive behavior.
  • Toileting in unusual places.

Recovering Tripawd dogs can show these signs too. These depression signs in dogs and cats don’t necessarily mean your Tripawd is depressed. It could just be side-effects from pain medication if your dog or cat is on them.

When Your Tripawd Is Depressed, Here’s What to Do

If you feel as sad as your new Tripawd looks, that’s to be expected. You may regret your decision to amputate, too.  Those feelings are normal, everyone has them. But check out the Tripawds Quality of Life Survey results. When recovery is over, any feelings of regret disappear for the majority of Tripawd parents.

For now, here’s how to help a cat or dog with depression.

  • Call your vet. Share your dog’s depression symptoms. Let them know you are concerned. A change in his pain medication schedule and dosages might be needed.
  • Arrange a visit by your pet’s favorite people. Spending quality time with someone your pet adores can make everyone happy.
  • Play interactive brain games. Work your Tripawd’s mind, not their body. Brain games tire out dogs faster than ball throwing.
  • When physical activity can resume, arrange a play date for your Tripawd. Make it short and sweet. Take things slow and monitor for over exertion.
Atticus showed depression signs too.

At the two week mark we were all concerned by his depressed behavior. Once we got cleared, from 2-4 weeks we were on the move! Dog park, wine tasting, beach trip! We packed a lot in, and he loved it. At four weeks post-op he was enough back to his old happy self that we started chemo. @meganandatticus

It only makes sense that a new amputee cat or dog gets depressed.

Animals can feel sad when they are unable to do things they enjoy. We do too. Amputation recovery is temporary. Always remember that.

On to Maggie- she was a little Pug who was 7.5 years old when she lost a rear leg to cancer. Surgery went well, pain well managed and no complications. Mag was an absolute slug for about 6 weeks- only getting out of bed on her own for food or potty breaks. She wouldn’t play with toys, wasn’t engaged on walks (mostly a stroller after the first two weeks of recovery), and wouldn’t engage with her little sis quad-Pug Tani. She was grumpy so I was grumpy- I think we fed off each other. It only occurred to me much later that my attitude affected hers. I was sure I had made a terrible mistake by choosing amputation. About the 6 week mark she finally came around and got back to herself. — @krun15

One More Tip for Depressed Tripawds

Stay upbeat through recovery. Animal behavior research shows that animals mirror our feelings. Keep a positive attitude. You have the power to make recovery easier! This period in your animal’s life won’t last forever. Dogs and cats do get their sparkle back. Not always at the same pace, but they get there.

Lean on the Tripawds community. Post in the Tripawds Discussion Forum topic Treatment and Recovery for help.


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13 thoughts on “My Tripawd is Depressed, Now What?”

  1. My dog (catahoula mix 6yo), Zoe just got her leg amputated one week ago. It was such a tough decision but after 3 surgeries to correct extensive damage in her back leg her pain level was still so incredibly high. I know that we did everything that we could but still feel pretty guilty, especially now because she seems so depressed. she is usually so hard to keep still and so food motivated but now she will hardly move and getting her to eat has been a battle. How long does this last? I don’t know how to help her at this point. Hearing similar stories has given me some hope that she’ll be feeling better soon. It’s been months since she has been able to play or really be a dog at all so I can’t wait to get her back to doing her favorite things.

    • Shannon, please come and join us in the Treatment and Recovery Forum. We’d like to hear more about the pain medication she is on. Usually, it’s a matter of getting the meds dialed in. Many dogs come home under-medicated, which delays recovery and makes it harder. We will look for your post in the Forums.

  2. We recently amputated the front leg of my 11.5 year old husky due to hemangiopericytoma. It was a really tough decision for us to make, given his age and the fact that he has arthritis. Today is his fourth day back home. He’s been having a good appetite and been wanting to move around a lot, but is unable to do so without assistance. He spends most of his time asleep or lying down and it breaks my heart to see him so sad.
    He wasn’t as active anymore when we decided to amputate (probably due to his age), but still seems so frustrated now that he can’t do what he normally could.
    Seeing him like this has made me overthink and leaves me feeling overwhelmed. I hope he’ll be able to walk like he used to, but what can be done to make sure he’s as happy and comfortable as possible in case he never regains the mobility he once had?

    • Lee, we are sorry to hear about your pup. This is a tough time during recovery so please join us in the Forums where we can better support you. Remember, this is normal behavior and in time you will see his sparkle return. Ask yourself where you would be at this point in recovery if you were his age in human years … probably not doing as well as he is right? But it gets better! Also, check out Calpurnia’s story, and the stories of other older Tripawds, for some inspawration!

  3. Hello,my dog mini schnauzer Molly 10,5 years had her right hinde leg amputated almost 4 weeks ago (this Friday is 4 weeks). since the op, the leg healed nicely and she was walking better and better, but she has not started eating properly after op and hasn’t really been eating at all… we have medication for nausea, for apettite and steroids amd now anti sickness also, but nothing seems to help. she will eat some banana, apple, dog biscuits, carrots, but no food, no chicken, no rice, nothing she would scoff before.. she stared to be very weak, can hardly walk on the remaining leg and is wasting away, we don’t know how to help her… she is definitely depressed, will sit or lie in corner, facing wall, staring at the wall, away from us (2 adults, no kids) with blank expression… she won’t interact, get excited etc how long until it gets better? does it get better? we regret chopping it off, but we wanted to give her a chance to be here. longer, vet said up to a year generally… she has malignant sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma… we carry her to park so she walks a little, she is happy in the park, barks at others, sits in grass, but she turns for worse once back home…
    she needs to eat… what to do, any advise please?

  4. My dog Bert had his front right leg amputated a week ago due to cancer. He has done really good until yesterday. He would not get up from his bed and even peed on it. When I had to make him move to clean the bed he growled and snapped at me. I got him to go outside with me and praised him lavishly. Today his just seems so depressed. I have read all the stories here and I am encouraged.

    • Hi Lisa. I’m glad the article helped. Please let your vet know what’s going on, sounds like Bert is having some pain happening, which is not unusual but needs to be addressed. Join us in the Forums where we can help you better OK?

  5. My 8 years old German Shepard was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right back leg and had it amputated on Friday. It was a difficult decision because she is already living with arthritis so obviously we were concerned how she’s going to cope. At the moment, she seems really down. First night I slept or rather try to sleep with her on the floor but she kept crying and was just restless. Today there’s not much movement from her. I know it’s only day 2 but I feel so overwhelmed and starting to wonder if I made the right decision. I have no one really to talk to about my feelings and I’m trying my best to be positive around her but it is very difficult. Thought that posting here may help soothe some of that anxiety I’m feeling.

    • Hi Anna! I’m sorry about your GSD. I have loads of questions for you and the answers may help her start to feel better sooner. Please please join us in the Discussion Forums so we can all give you feedback and support. It’s pretty normal for a dog to be restless this early on but it can also be a sign that her pain control needs some fine tuning. That’s worth calling your vet as soon as they are open. See our list of the Best Amputation Pain Management Medications, and compare that against what you were given for her. And again, post in the Forums so we can guide you in a conversation with your vet OK? See you there.

    • Hi Anna
      I had doubts to about our 7 year old Airedale that had cancer on his back leg and had to have it removed in November last year. We were lucky that he was happy to sleep on his own for 2 weeks until they removed the stitches. We then let him sleep with our other 2 dogs. He didn’t seem very interested in either food or water for a good couple of weeks and that made me start to worry, but my vet assured me that it was OK. 3 months on and I am glad that we did take the decision to remove his leg. He has good days and slow days when he doesn’t want to do much as the other back leg is stiff but we have him on you move tablets which seems to be helping. He is happiest when we take him on a short walk with our other dogs and take him to our local town every 2 weeks where we go for a coffee and a doggie sausage where he gets so much attention. I think the thing I have noticed most is that I do believe he sometimes get depressed especially at the moment with the cold weather and dark days I hope as the weather gets warmer and he can enjoy the garden his moods improve but I don’t think he will ever be one of the 3 legged dogs you see chasing balls. But I still have him and he loves his cuddles. Bear with it, it does get better and you will have your faithfully friend still, wishing you both all the best


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