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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I’m not sure if I’m posting this in the right spot or in the right way. I’m very confused by the website, but I’m sure somebody will tell me.
Hello. My name is Penelope. I have a three-legged part-dingo camp dog (a feral domestic dog from a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory of Australia). she is the love of my life. I never like dogs before I met her and we’ve been together for 10.5 yrs as of this month. She’s on the small side of medium size and now weighs about 13 kgs so she’s not a big dog.
Three years ago my neighbour’s 2 dogs were being walked off-lead and got into our yard and mauled little Corny to within an inch of her life. They tore her to shreds. She fought but the dog that was the instigator was completely mad (she was consequently put down after this attack).
Corny was in hospital for 3.5 months. She lost her front leg. They took off her adorable little tail. And she nearly lost a back leg. She had gone into organ failure by the time I got her back to hospital for the second time and from that point she stayed there until her back leg was operated on.
However, when she came home she was regurgitating 3, 4 times as night. I lived in a tiny house on wheels so every time she regurgitated I had to get up and clean up and comfort her and put her back to sleep. It was like having a newborn in the house. I became so exhausted I was beside myself with the constant re-traumatization this regurgitation was causing and the subsequent lack of sleep.
I went to the vet in desperation and asked for help. They gave none. In fact, the vet blamed me and told me I was causing it to happen by pandering to her every time it did happen! If you’ve smelled dog regurgitation you’ll know it has to be cleaned up straight away in an enclosed space.
I was furious. I tried feeding her different things, I tried feeding her at different times and in different ways – I tried EVERYTHING to help her get better (her stay in hospital set me back about $17,000 alone). Eventually, after trying feeding her 6 times a day, taking her with me to uni (I’m doing a PhD so I’m a full-time student and money is tight) eventually, after another 6 months or so of experimentation I got her back to two meals a day. I discovered, however, that she could no longer digest fat, bone, or anything outside her normal diet. If she does eat anything untoward she will regurgitate night and day for up to 3 days. It’s horrible for both of us.
So we’re now in a city in a small bedsit so she is contained (which is tough if I have to go anywhere for several hours – she’s stuck inside) but it does mean that she can’t eat anything she couldn’t and she’s safe. Better bored and safe than traumatised I say.
And with her missing leg and all, I don’t want her to over-do it so we have walks in the morning and play outside during the day. I dread to think how we’ll both cope when I have to get a job at the end of this year.
Anyhow, I have learned that if she lies flat or nearly flat for any length of time she will eventually regurgitate. If she eats the wrong thing, she will regurgitate. If she eats too much, she will regurgitate, if she gets too excited or too scared – she will regurgitate.
The most recent vet we saw said it was likely to be nerve damage caused by her front leg amputation. So here’s my question: has anybody else experienced this with a dog that has been in hospital for a long time, or had multiple (countless) operations including an amputation? I’m not sure if it’s nerve-related or if she has mega-esophagus – or both.
It’s been a huge journey and it won’t end until she shuffles off this mortal coil, which will be one of the most awful days of my life, but it will also be a huge relief because the restrictions her care places on my life are enormous and exhausting. I can’t go anywhere because her care is all day, every day. Making sure her head is always elevated when she’s inside (and outside when I can manage it) etc. She’s the love of my life so, what else would I do! I don’t resent her for it. I adore her. She’s the best person I know. She makes me laugh and we play and she still chases rabbits like she has 4 legs (she even caught one a while back). Every time somebody asks me what happened to her leg, however, I have to say “dog attack” and a conversation usually ensues and I am reminded every day of that horrific 3.5 months, of beginning the grieving process only to have it interrupted when they “fixed the holes” and took her front leg off. But with no regard to the long-term consequences for either of us, least of all me.
If anybody does read this and might know of somebody who has had a similar experience with their dog, I’d love to hear from them, if only for moral support. I now have to think about getting her teeth cleaned under a general anesthetic because she can’t eat bones anymore. I loathe the idea of her going under again but it may be the only way. Unless I just leave her teeth be. Not sure. Something to discuss further.
Anyway, thanks for reading if you’re the one person who read this. I appreciate it. It’s been tough. But she’s happy and has her dignity and everybody loves her. All my neighbours love her, even the ones who don’t like dogs have warmed to her charms.
Our afternoon sit down in the sun. Who's that gorgeous girl? pic.twitter.com/qyrrRPS3eO
— Matthew Flinders' dog (@RedFiddler) June 14, 2017
Hi Penelope and Corny, welcome! We are happy to help you navigate around the Tripawds Community. Have you seen the Tripawds Start Here page? It’s a tutorial on getting around.
First of all, Corny is just ADORABLE. She is so very lucky to have a dedicated and loving mom like you. Most people wouldn’t have been as tough as you, what a long road you’ve traveled together. I know you and Corny still have major challenges but she has come a reallllly long way! Although we don’t have an experience like yours, we will absolutely be here for moral support. I can only imagine how lonely and frustrated you feel. It’s similar to those here who have had difficult amputation recoveries. Medical challenges are really, really tough, especially when you don’t get any answers from those who are supposed to know. You are in a community of people who get it.
Meanwhile, about what the vets have said to you:
the vet blamed me and told me I was causing it to happen by pandering to her every time it did happen!
OMG that is CRAZY! No need to go back there for that kind of abuse. We also live in a tiny home on wheels and know exactly how stinky dog vomit and poo is inside a small space. I can’t believe a vet would say that.
The most recent vet we saw said it was likely to be nerve damage caused by her front leg amputation.
I’m not a vet so take it for what it’s worth. But Tripawds has been around since 2006 and we’ve never seen a situation like Corny’s that was caused by nerve damage from a front leg amputation. I suppose only a neurologist or vet surgeon would know.
I’m not sure if it’s nerve-related or if she has mega-esophagus – or both.
In all likelihood it’s megaesophagus I’ll bet. Again, not a vet here. But the symptoms are so similar. Have you had her screened for it? Some Tripawds have had this condition or similar ones, as a quick forum search reveals:
I found the second post from our fairy vet mother Dr. Pam quite interesting:
If this is the case has your vet checked for megaesophagus? This can usually be picked up on a chest xray as opposed to hiatal hernias, or IBD which often needs endoscopy to diagnose.
This is not something that is normal after an amputation, even for deep chested dogs. Did anyone say if he regurgitated post-op? If so he may have an irritated espophagus or stricture and that can sometimes be seen with a barium dye study.
If this is the case has your vet checked for megaesophagus? This can usually be picked up on a chest xray as opposed to hiatal hernias, or IBD which often needs endoscopy to diagnose. This is not something that is normal after an amputation, even for deep chested dogs. Did anyone say if he regurgitated post-op? If so he may have an irritated espophagus or stricture and that can sometimes be seen with a barium dye study.
If you haven’t already, I would have her checked for it. Megaesophagus is a lifelong condition but I know people who have managed it well through use of a Bailey Chair (see Johnny’s story).
Also have you tried changing her food consistency? In the post Dr. Pam is mentioned in, she suggests:
Feeding him in an elevated position or trying different food consistencies (canned vs raw vs soaked kibble) can help. Some dogs can also respond to a novel protein such as venison or duck or even a hydrolyzed diet like Royal Canin HP.
I hope this gives you some hope and comfort. Stay tuned for feedback from others OK?
14 February 2016
Didn’t Novak have something similar?
Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016. Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016. Lung mets August 25, 2016. Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016. Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.
Wherever they are, they are together.
Thank you so much Jerry. And thank you for such a swift response and welcome.
I will look into the conditions you mention. Bells are going off from Dr Pam’s comments. Corny had her whole back end ripped to shreds so it could also be an intestinal-related problem. She does do very smelly wee now!
I’m so glad I found you all. Somebody in Twitter sent me a link to an article about Tripawds.
Great to have found you.
17 November 2016
Corny is a sweet, beautiful girl and she’s so lucky to have you! And to still be so kind after all she’s been through is a true testimony to her huge heart – and yours!
I have limited experience with megaesophagus, but from what I understand it’s something they’re usually born with. We rescued a puppy, Ikey, who used to regurgitate his food – x-rays showed the early stage of mega (it was starting to stretch) but the reason behind it was a heart valve defect. One of his arteries was literally pinching his esophagus to a very narrow point. When he ate regular food, it would pile up, stretch his esophagus, and eventually while a little might make it down, most would come back up. The poor puppy was literally starving. But surgery fixed the artery and because we had turned his food into soup and held him up during meals, his esophagus actually went back to its normal size and he can eat anything now. I know that’s not the normal megaesophagus story, because they usually can’t be fixed, but maybe an x-ray would show the problem…and maybe the problem is something constricting his esophagus that can be fixed! It could be scar tissue pressing on something from all the surgeries?
An x-ray might give some good insight as to what’s going on in there. We wish you the best!
Tracy & Zatoichi
Tracy & Warrior Angel Zatoichi 💓
Zato was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in October 2016. He triumphed through radiation and amputation with dignity and grace. After living a life of love and happiness, Zato earned his angel wings on February 19, 2018. Read his story here.
22 December 2016
Hi Penelope and Corny,
I don’t have any experience with what you guys are going through, but I just had to say that Corny is sooo pretty (I love her ears!) and she is so lucky to have a dedicated human like you. I’m glad you found this website and I hope you figure out whatever’s causing the problem!