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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Advice about amputation following RTA please
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9 January 2010 - 1:28 pm
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Hi everyone, what a fabulous website this is!

Ok sorry this is a bit long but here goes. A week ago tonight my parents' lurcher, Billy, was hit by a car. His front right leg was degloved and there was also some damage to the bone, ligaments and veins too. His vets have said he has about a 50/50 chance of keeping that leg and we won't know for about 6 weeks whether the leg is viable. In the meantime he needs to have his dressing changed three times a week under at least sedation as it's very painful for him. If his leg can be saved he will need skin grafts and probably a plate to his ankle.

My mum was devstated to hear that he might lose his leg but is adjusting to the idea. Tonight she asked my opinion on something and I said I would come here and ask the opinion of you guys, who obviously have experience on these things.

She asked me whether she thought it was fair to put Billy through all these dressing changes, skin grafts etc on the off chance that it would save his leg. The vet has already said that his recovery from an amputation would be far quicker and less traumatic than recovering from having the leg treated. Billy is a typical lurcher, not tolerant of pain and easily depressed. He has hardly eaten for a week and spends all his time sleeping and moaning. He has lost all interest in everything when usually he's the sort of dog you can't keep still. I'd like to think this will improve but with three sedations a week and heavy painkillers I'm not sure that it will. Is fighting to keep his leg really the best thing for him or are we just doing it for us?

What do you think? Should we be doing everything possible to keep his leg or is his life going to be affected so little by the loss of his leg that he's better off losing it and being able to get on with his life? I've seen three legged dogs so I know they cope well short term and I'm told lurchers are a type of dog which copes particularly well, but I'm not clued up on the long term implications of amputation. Would he be likely to suffer joint problems later in life for example?

For info Billy is a 27kg, 7 year old entire male lurcher. I say lurcher but I have no idea what he could be crossed with as he looks to be about 95% greyhound to me. He's very muscular and is usually an extremely energetic, bouncy sort of dog. He was hit by a car when he saw a fox in the park and chased after it into the road Whatever That said he lives with cats and has very little prey drive. I suspect he just wanted to play with the fox Confused

Obviously my Mum intends on discussing this with her vet on Monday to get his opinion but we'd be very interested in the input of those who have been there and done that 🙂



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9 January 2010 - 1:48 pm
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Hi Sarah

Welcome to you and Billy! But sorry you needed to find this site. On the bright side, take heart that you and Billy will get past these problems. You aren't also faced with cancer, although I doubt that is much consolation now.

Certainly there have been many dogs with severe injuries following their clashes with cars. You can probably find some of these in the archives if you search the forums and maybe other people will highlight a few of their names. Some of these dogs underwent numerous limb-sparing surgeries but eventually had amputation, and then things worked out well for them.

I haven't heard of skin grafts for dogs. The path needed to save his leg does sound complicated and uncertain. But that is not to say that you should go the amputation route. Only you and Billy can figure that out. I did have a friend with a springer who had a plate put in his leg as a puppy. Although he always limped, he took huge 4 hr walks with his owner for the rest of his 13 yrs. But he did not have the skin issues you mention; it was simply a break.

What we can say is that most dogs indeed recover well from amputation and will resume their happy lives. It takes most dogs about 2 weeks to get past the dopey on pain-killer stage (but some leap out of the vet's office and never stop – others lay around a few weeks longer). There have been some dogs who did not recover, but I'd say they either had complicating conditions (very old with certain health issues or were giant dogs somewhat susceptible to heart problems, or complicated by chemo). Those are definitely in the minority.

Although most of our 3-legged dogs resume active and happy lives, they do not necessarily get back to taking the huge walks they might have taken in their previous 4-legged life. For example, Tazzie and I would probably walk about 3 km rather than more than 10 km, but we only had a couple of months after amputation due to metastases. Your dog is a youngish 7 yrs old with nothing that should  hold him back, so I imagine he might resume the longer treks typical of a non-cancer dog.

Ahh, I don't know what you mean by a 'lurch'. But I think I read on this site that greyhounds are susceptible to bleeding issues that need to be monitored during major surgeries. I suppose your vet is doing that now.

Why don't you register on this site? Then your posts will appear without waiting to be approved.


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9 January 2010 - 3:08 pm
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Expect the site to be a bit slow today. Lots of 3-leggers are having a Big Tripawd Pawty in northern California, the lucky dawgs! (So you see, 3-leggers have even more fun than other dogs. They have their own pawties!)

I understand your concern about joint problems down the road. We are all a bit careful on that one, and start by making sure we take Glucosamine Chondroiton. It is bound to be a bit tougher on the other joints, but limping on four legs can also be tough on the other joints. In the scheme of things and given what you say about Billy's current condition, I'd say joint issues down the road are the least of your worries. The goal is to get Billy back to his happy self!

Some of the non-cancer tripawds you should meet include: Comet (something like a 10 years as a tripawd, now 13 yr old), princess Shelby, Chuy. There is someone who had a BIG BASH with a car earlier this year (I mean last year). Was that you, Rocky?

Codie Rae and Wyatt Ray Dawg are three leggers for reasons unrelated to cancer, but they are rear-leg amputees and rather young.

Mesa, AZ
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9 January 2010 - 6:41 pm
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Hi Sarah & Billy,

Our dog Chuy lost his left front leg due to a car accident.  He's younger than Billy, but Chuy is doing just fine.  He had to have FHO surgery last spring on his left rear leg and is back to 110% now.  He runs, plays and goes for walks just like a 4 legger!  You can read more about him on the following link.


I'm sure that Billy will do fine if you decide to go ahead with the amputation.  Keep us posted on how he's doing and what you decide on.

There is another dog named Angel that lost a leg due to auto accident.  She lost a rear leg, but you may find some useful information in her forum.


Eleanor & Chuy.

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

Chuy's Short Stories

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9 January 2010 - 10:28 pm
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Hello – glad you found the site.

Put you and your mom's fears to rest.  Trying to save the leg is a personal decision.  But if it doesn't work, he'll be fine!  I 've had a lab/corgi mix (39lbs) since she was a puppy who was born with a deformed and useless front left leg.  I have had her offically 11 years this month.

The biggest problem you'll have is spoiling him! Mine is rotten but adorable.

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.

Here and Now

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9 January 2010 - 10:32 pm
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Billybo said: Should we be doing everything possible to keep his leg…

Thanks for joining the discussion Sarah, we're sorry to hear about Billy but gald you found us.

Every dog is different of course, but way too many times we here from new members who had put their dog through multiple painful, costly surgeries only to end up amputating anyway. If he is strong and healthy, he should recuperate from amputation within a couple weeks.

For what its worth, Jerry's friend Finnegan was three legged Irish Wolfhound who lived a happy healthy life for two years after his amputation from bone cancer.

Best wishes in the decisions you face.

Kirkland, WA
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9 January 2010 - 11:06 pm
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Every dog is different, but my dog, Captain Jack, never once missed his 4th leg.  Turns out it was just getting in the way.  He did have to re-learn how to do things (ie: chewing a bone, giving high-fives, etc), but he did it and does everything he did pre-surgery plus more (he's a jumper and i tend to let him jump higher now because I can use his ruff wear harness to help him down…he also chases squirrels and stalks dogs in the park, which he never did before).  We were at the dog park the other day and he actually lifted his leg to pee on a bush – I've NEVER seen him try to lift as he is a squatter, so for a brief couple seconds, he was actually a bi-pawd.  You may have a rough first couple weeks, but after that it's totally not an issue.  Having a tripawd also makes snuggling easier, as there is one less leg in the way.  Good luck in your decisions!!

<3 Laura and Jackers

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10 January 2010 - 9:11 am
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Hi Sarah, I have to admit I don't exactly know what a lurcher is, but I love to see a picture of yours.

Did your vet give you an idea of the approximate  length of time for recovery if you did choose to go with the surgery/skin graft option? Based on how you describe Billy, I wonder if an amputation would be the better choice for him if it meant a shorter “down” time. Of course, every dog is different, but most here are up and doing well 2 weeks post amp.

My dog Rocky lost his front right leg in August 2009 due to cancer, and he gets along just great without it! He was around 96lbs pre-op, and is now at 88 lbs.  I try to keep him on the light side to make hopping round easier on his joints. He is also on a Glucosamine Chondroitin formula which also helps keep him loose and limber.

I know you and your family have a lot to think about, and I know you will do what you think is best for Billy. Keep us posted with what your vet says on Monday.


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10 January 2010 - 9:35 am
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“Billy is a typical lurcher, not tolerant of pain and easily depressed. He has hardly eaten for a week and spends all his time sleeping and moaning.  Hed has lost all interest in things…”

“Billy is a typical lurcher, not tolerant of pain and easily depressed.”

“The vet has already said that his recovery from an amputation would be far quicker and less traumatic than recovering from having the leg treated. “


Only you and your parents can decide what is right for Billy but I can't help but feel from your post that you know the answer and maybe you just need reassurance.  If that is the case, please know that dogs can live good productive lives on three legs.  Yes, there are some issues to be concerned about.  Like Michelle said I would suggest a glucosamine Chondroitin formula. My Emily was a back leg amputee and could still run like the wind.  She also like to jump on the trampoline.  A three legged dog still has fun and enjoys life.

I know that it is hard to think about voluntarily removig your dog's leg but believe me all Billy ares about is losing the pain.  Dog's don't have the same emotional issues with amputation that we do.  Listen to your vet.  If he can save the leg, great.  Just be sure that the cost (emotionaly for Billly) is not too high a price to pay.

I will be praying for your family and Billy.  I can tell he is loved and you will do what is right for him, no matter what choice you make.

Debra & Angel Emily

Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Livermore CA
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10 January 2010 - 1:01 pm
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Hi Sarah

Since I have Chart Polski, I know what a lurcher is.  But the Chart is not the Tripawd.  Cemil, the Anatolian Shepherd, is.  I can tell you that losing a front leg is not a serious issue for him.  Hopping around takes more energy than it used to (he's 148 lb) and it puts a strain on his back, but that can be helped with supplements.  As you've heard, the first two weeks are “hell”, but after they recover from the major surgery and get off the pain meds, they return to their normal selves.  They have to learn new ways of doing a few things, but they're certainly capable of that.  Your respect for Billy will increase greatly as you watch him figure things out.  Mechanical things, not ways to avoid pain.  The pain will be gone.  And he'll be able to run again.

There are some greyhounds on this site, as well as borzoi–their stories might help you. 

Good luck with decision-making.  Please let us know how it's going.

Mary and Cemil (and Radzi, the Chart Polski)

Cemil and mom Mary, Mujde and Radzi….appreciating and enjoying Today

Cemil's blog

Here and Now

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10 January 2010 - 2:07 pm
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cemil said:

There are some greyhounds on this site…

If Lurchers have some of the same operatory issues as Greys, you may want to review this report about post-operatory bleeding in Greyhounds when considering your decisions.

Madison, WI
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10 January 2010 - 4:20 pm
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I probably can’t add much for useful info and I’m sure you’ll here from more members who are more knowledgeable on some of your specific questions. It’s a really tough decision.

My new boy Gerry was my foster dog shortly before his amputation and it wasn’t certain initially whether his knee injury could be repaired or not. I was told by the shelter that the vet did rule out being able to repair the knee with surgery and thus they went with amputation. However, even before the vet’s ruling, I know the shelter was seriously considering amputating anyway because Gerry is claustrophobic and can’t be crated (he busted out of several at the shelter – thus he needed a foster asap!), and my understanding was that recovering from a knee surgery, really required being able to MAKE him limit his activity. So, unfortunately, I would agree that sometimes, for some dogs, even if the leg, knee, etc. can be repaired physically, the psychological toll of getting them through what needs to be done is too heavy.

That said, though recovery from amputation is (as I understand it) going to be quicker and less stressful than what your parents’ dog would go through otherwise, it will still be a long two weeks. So it may take time to get full reassurance that the amputation was the better option. Though some dogs will show you the day you bring them home, how much happier they are to have the painful leg off!

Best wishes and good luck to your family!!!

Gerry has been a tripawd since 12/16/2009.

He was a shelter dog with a mysterious past and an irrepairable knee injury.

Videos and pics of Gerry's pawesomeness can be found at:

Wesley Chapel, FL
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10 January 2010 - 5:43 pm
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Hi Sarah,

I'm sorry to hear about Billy's accident and painful treatments. I can understand why you would hesitate about doing an amputation… but it sounds like Billy is going to be going through alot of painful treatments to try and save his leg… Is Billy on pain meds now? What kind? Sometimes pain meds can also make a dog depressed and feel loopy…

The decision is up to you… You know your Billy best… But as you have already read from several Tripawd members here… the amputation takes about 2 weeks to recover from… My Jake (a 10yr old golden retriever) was able to start swimming and playing 2 weeks after his front right leg amputation… His was due to osteosarcoma (bone cancer)… and unfortunately, he died just short of 8 weeks post op, when his cancer spread to his spine. But for most of those weeks, he was happy and pain free, and enjoying his life…

Keep us posted on Billy and his treatments… Sending you lots of good thoughts and prayers!!!

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!

10 January 2010 - 6:12 pm
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Hi Sarah,

Sorry to her about your mom’s dog Billy. I am her because my Supai was diagnosed with Osteo, we didn’t have much choice on whether to amputate. If your Mom is concerned that Billy won’t handle the pain and all that is involved with saving the leg tell her not fear the amputation. Our dogs are very resilient and aren’t hindered by self pity. The trauma pain is more then the amputation pain and the dogs quickly adjust.

We all know how burdensome this decision is, tell your Mom to trust her heart for she is Billy’s best advocate and he will always be her best friend whether is has 4 paws or 3 paws.

Good Luck

Shaun & Supai.

13 January 2010 - 8:39 am
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Hi everyone

Huge thanks to all of you for taking the time to reply, it's so nice to have so much support 🙂 Apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

First up, I guess “lurcher” must be a UK term. It's basically a greyhound cross. I don't have any full bodied pictures of Billy to give you a proper idea of his size and shape but this is the best I have anyway Enlarger

Anyway, I'm delighted to report that Billy seems to have turned a corner now. He has started eating (albeit very much on his terms. Cat food, ham, sausages = yes, dog food = no Laughing) and the vets are actually very pleased with the progress his leg is making. He had the dressing changed on Monday without needing any anaesthetic and isnt due to have it changed again until tomorrow. The amount of ooze from the wound is a lot less and there are even some signs of healing. Billy has been much more mobile and even got up and hopped over to see us when we visited him at the weekend and wagged his tail and gave us lots of kisses.

So I think he is through the worst now and we are all feeling a lot more positive about his recovery. Thoughts of amputation are on hold again for now since he's coping much better and his leg is making good progress. It's very reassuring to hear all your comments about how well they cope though. At least we know if he does need to lose his leg, he'll be just fine Cool

I'll pop back again and keep you updated as to how he gets on. Thanks again for all your advice and support Laugh


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