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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament tear in remaining back leg
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9 April 2010 - 7:02 am
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I have a 4 1/2 year old lab mix that is missing one of his back legs. He was adopted from the Humane Society. He washit by a car and the owner dropped him off there. He was about 1 year old at the time. When he was 2 yrs. he awoke and couldn't walk at all. Had him xrayed and it show arthritis on the knee. After some pain kilers and sedatives he was up and going within two days. He is now 4 1/2 and having trouble with this leg again. Had hime xrayed again and the arthritis has not advanced much. Vet thinks he has a Cranial Cruciate ligament tear. He has only worked on one, one legged dog with this before. I am concerned about the outcome since this is his only back leg. Recovery would be two months. If it doesn't work out then what?

Anyhelp advice appreciatedcrying

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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9 April 2010 - 7:54 am
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Thanks for asking, we're sorry to hear about your pup. Be sure to check out Jerry's post about three-legged Chuy who went through multiple leg surgeries after his amputation. Swim therapy also worked great for him ...

When a Tripawd Needs Another Leg Surgery

Swim Your Tripawd to Better Health

Good luck! Please consider registerring so your posts appear immediately without requiring moderation.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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9 April 2010 - 11:24 am
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Hi there,

I'm sorry your little fella is going through this.  Chuy's diary is great to read like admin pointed out.   

I have a 3-legged dog from a birth defect.  Her's is the front left.  She had both back cruciate ligaments to tear within a 1 and a half of each other.  I know exactly how you feel!   There is nothing scarier to see your baby not being able to walk at all with only 2 legs.  My heart still skips a beat thinking back to those days.

Comet had TPLO surgery each time.  It's a surgery that put a plate on the side of the knee.   Surprisingly when she recovered, she did very well and has since.  I was told once that is done, then the arthritis will stop getting any worse.   I seem to actually take comfort in knowing that her knees are so much more stable now.

TPLO is really the only route to take if you have a 3 legged dog.  But I can't stress enough to get a very, very good vet to do it.  I had one of the leading experts do Comet's.  I was lucky in the sense that he makes trips to Vegas to do surgeries even though he teaches in Iowa.  There can be complications if you don't have an expert in TPLO's do it.    Complications that can show up years later.

The recovery is hell.  I can't sugar coat it.  It was one of the hardest things I've every endured in my life.  I read horror stories about TPLO's but mostly because the owner's let the dog romp around on the leg.  You can't let them do anything for 8 weeks until that bone is healed.  And it even afterwards, you still need to be cautious for another 4 weeks.  I think I finally stopped worrying about about 4 months. 

I can give you some tips on how to get through the 8 weeks of recovery hell when you get closer to a surgery. 

Here's a pic of what TPLO looks like.  This is Comet's xray (she had her surgeries in '05 and '07 - this is from '09)

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  Best of luck and keep us updated.

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Wesley Chapel, FL
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13 September 2009
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9 April 2010 - 5:26 pm
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Hi Sparks,

Sorry to hear about your baby... That really sucks! You should look into getting a harness to help him get around while he's healing from his 2nd surgery... Maybe even find a used doggie wheelchair  to use until his other leg has healed?

Keep us posted on his progress!

Angel Jake's Mom

Jake, 10yr old golden retriever (fractured his front right leg on 9/1, bone biopsy revealed osteosarcoma on 9/10, amputation on 9/17) and his family Marguerite, Jacques and Wolfie, 5yr old german shepherd and the newest addition to the family, Nala, a 7mth old Bengal mix kittie. Jake lost his battle on 11/9/2009, almost 8 weeks after his surgery. We will never forget our sweet golden angel… ….. CANCER SUCKS!

Member Since:
22 August 2008
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10 April 2010 - 8:50 am
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I would definitely fix the knee.  Depending on the weight of the dog and surgeon preference the options are a TPLO, a TTA, or lateral stabilization sutures.  I would consult a board-certified surgeon.  If surgery is not performed the leg will get weaker and arthritis will progress.  Is your dog on any joint supplements?


Member Since:
1 January 2010
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10 April 2010 - 9:49 am
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We don't have anything to add except to say that we wish you well as you make this decision for your pup. 

Sending lots of positive thoughts your way,

Holly and Holly's mom

Holly joined the world of tripawds on 12/29/2009. She has a big little sister, Zuzu, who idolizes Holly and tries to make all of her toys into tripawds in Holly's honor. And she's enjoying life one hop at a time!

Member Since:
16 May 2009
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11 April 2010 - 6:22 am
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I don't have any experience, but it got me thinking.  All of us dread something happening to the 'single' leg, whether front or rear, don't we?


I'm wondering if it would be a good thing to use a cart temporarily, during recovery, to give them some mobility and exercise without letting them use the repaired leg?  It's something I've thought about, should Sid ever damage his left hind.



Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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11 April 2010 - 12:46 pm
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I'm sure Pam would have the best advice since she is a vet. 

I did want to add – I bought a velcro ankle wrap for Comet's front working leg and ask my vet about using it.  He told me not to.  He said it would give the leg a false sense of strength and she could hurt it.  He highly recommended keeping the leg strong on it's own. 

When you have to do TPLO, you can't let them walk on it.  It's a broken bone.  The plate can come loose.  It comes casted for the first few days but I would have liked the cast to be on for a lot longer.  I think if my vet had understood the difficulty, he would have put another one on after the stitches were out.  But then again, that cast was like $150!

Here's Comet's first TPLO, the day after surgery.  I took these pics because of the bruising and eventually rushed her to the vet.  She was fine, just bruised.

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The 3rd pic is of Comet's second TPLO.  It was the same ortho vet did it.  But I was hysterical because my brother had just died a  few weeks earlier and I pleaded with him to not let anything happen to her.  I was very, very upset.  So, the ortho vet, I believe tried to make me feel better by making her so darling!  Plus, there was no bruising on the second surgery.  He must have been so gentle. He was the one who wrote all over her cast.  So, kudos to Dr. Hoefle for making the second surgery easy on Comet's mommy!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Member Since:
5 April 2009
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11 April 2010 - 3:54 pm
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This is all very good info. Shelby was diagnosed with (forgive the lack of medical terms) the ligament slipping in and out of her knee cap on her remaining right side leg (back). She sort of skips thru life instead of truly walking on the leg all the time. Eventually the arthritis will develop. 

The main thing we do is lift her in and out of the car instead of letting her jump (use the RuffWear harness), and we have a Radio Flyer wagon for her to ride in instead of letting her walk too far.

I agree that the right surgeon is of maximum importance!  Take Care,


Mesa, AZ
Member Since:
27 April 2009
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11 April 2010 - 7:20 pm
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If I were you I would go ahead with the surgery, but make sure you have one of the best orthopaedics surgeons.  Chuy is missing his left frt. leg and had FHO surgery on the left rear last year in May. FHO = Femoral Head Osectomy = they cut the head of the femur off where it goes into the hip socket.  It was a grueling recovery, and took tons of physical therapy, but he runs and plays like nothing was ever wrong now.  We still take him to the physical therapist once every 3 weeks, just so he can swim in the big pool! 

Got off track there....Having a 2 legged dog is difficult and you will need to help them walk every time they go out.  You will have to be there for them constantly and nurse them, clean them, feed them...wait you already do all of that!  It does take alot of time, patience and can be stressful for the human.  I found out that just letting Chuy be Chuy was the best thing. 

Keep us posted on how he's doing.

Chuy & Eleanor

Chuy, showing everyone that Tripawds do everything 3 times better than regular dogs!

Chuy's Short Stories

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