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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.

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Can he avoid amputation? Front foot is bent back! No pain
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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
31 January 2020
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31 January 2020 - 6:49 pm
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14 pound 3 y.o. Shih Tzu has front leg bent back 90 degrees at wrist and cannot straighten. No pain. Scheduled for amputation in 1 week.

His range of motion starts at foot at 90 degrees (foot pointing rearward) and he can bend it to pads touching back of leg. He does balance on wrist sometimes.  He walks with foot up until he gets tired, then it drags and bleeds. Joint is not sensitive to movement or bending, just cannot straighten.

I would like to put prosthetic on bent up leg instead of amputating.

i put toilet paper roll over bent up leg and it keeps from scraping.

i put 3d printed oval cylinder (sock and padding inside) on bent up leg and he gallops (half of time so far) with both legs together, no discomfort. He only rarely will walk on it if just walking.  Don’t know if training could help to increase use.

He carries most of weight in front and i am very concerned about so much weight on good leg long term if amputated.

he is also scheduled for neutering at same time and I cannot figure out how to pick him up with leg wound too.

Recommendations? Amputate or not, professional prosthetic, training to use it, …

any advise helpful.

The Rainbow Bridge

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31 January 2020 - 10:25 pm
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Hi and welcome! Thanks for joining. What is you dog’s name?

Was he born with this condition? And have you gotten more than one opinion? If not, it would pay to have a board certified orthopedic vet see if he is a good candidate for a prosthetic (it sounds like he might be).

See our posts about prosthetics for more information.

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Forum Posts: 3
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1 February 2020 - 9:38 am
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I am fostering for a shelter that is SOOOO BUSY.

i am first time there and don’t want to bother them too much with things they already looked into. since I haven’t notified them of my ideas yet I prefer not to give name. The shelter manager is too swamped. I talk to her assistant who isn’t really in the loop,

he was a filthy, fleebitten, skinny, intact stray who very oddly is the best house trained dog I have ever had (over 30 fosters so far). He was TERRIFIED, SHAKING and struggling when picked up. Lots of pill pockets later he is not scared, but ?

I chatted with tripawds Michelle (so helpful) and decided to insist on talking directly with veterinarian. I will call shelter Monday.

the wonderful thing is he is such a happy dog and shows ABSOLUTELY no indication of any pain.

Tips on picking up neuter and amputation at same time?  If he gets amputation (everyone thinks likely best thing)

We have 3d printer, could you send a picture of something we could mock up and try him on?  We started with a toilet paper roll and he fit so well. Just slip on and off. We went from there to something he (sometimes) used to gallop

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 27267
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1 February 2020 - 12:41 pm
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Oh I’m so glad Michelle was able to help you last night! I’m sorry I missed you in the Chat. 

Here’s what I didn’t get a chance to mention earlier: if a dog will have a prosthetic device in the future, the amputation surgery has to be done with that in mind. The reason is so that the vet can leave enough limb so an artificial device can attach to it. If too much of the leg is taken, and no stump with joints is left behind, the dog will likely not be able to use one later.

Many times, rescue dogs will get their damaged leg amputated quickly in the interest of the animal (to eliminate pain) and to keep costs down. A second opinion costs money and I can’t blame rescues for taking the less expensive way out. But all too often, we encounter rescue dogs who only needed a paw amputated but the entire leg was taken.

An amputation under these circumstances is kind of a shame, because many of these rescue dogs would have been great candidates for a prosthetic limb, provided that the right future pet parent could be found to pursue this course of action. See, as long as a dog has two joints left on a leg, they can be a great candidate for an artificial leg. Our Wyatt Ray was one of those dogs. He really only needed the paw removed but the rescue vet took the entire leg, and changed the course of his life forever.

And while dogs can do well on three legs, a dog with an artificial leg can reduce the risks of joint pain and arthritis that Tripawd dogs are more susceptible to having.

Here are some things to keep in mind about prosthetics , however:

Prosthetics take time, patience and money. A pet parent has to be willing to make that investment in order for them to be successful. They are few and far between.

Designing your own DIY prosthesis is NOT a good idea and here’s why. I know we see them on TV and the Internet all the time, but what we don’t see is the long-term damage DIY devices can cause. Without a good understanding of animal physiology and biomechanics, an untrained prosthetics maker can do more harm than good and cause long-term damage to the dog’s body. I know your heart is in the right place but I would not attempt any more devices right now. What you can do in the meantime, is try no-slip dog booties or socks to cover up the area that gets damage. 

As for amputation and neutering at the same time, that is not at all uncommon and not a problem from what we see in our community.

If you think you want to foster this dog, I would take him to an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation. If you are not going to, you can try mentioning your concerns to the rescue and see how that goes. It may or may not fly since they have their systems in place and limited funding.

I hope this helps! Let us know what you decide to do.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 3
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1 February 2020 - 6:09 pm
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I fully understand your point about a jerry rigged prosthesis, but if I can cobble up something that shows that “even this junky thing helps him run, avoid injury, arthritis to other side, …” then I have a great argument for prosthetic.

if I cannot show something that helps, then what is point of fighting for something that won’t help. They do good work and have thousands times my experience in legs, adopters, surgery, …

i am guessing that training has to be done to use the p.  I thought I could do that and prove that it should be considered.

if I was keeping him I would go to University of Pennsylvania. But if I keep him it limits my ability to foster next special needs.


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