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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Hi all! I’m Linda and I’m fostering the sweetest pit mix for his daddy through Dogs On Deployment. This sweet pup is named Patchy and he lost his right front leg after being hit by a car. I’m caring for Patchy while his daddy is deployed in the Middle East and expect to have him for 8-9 months.
Patchy has been through so much! His owner was deployed in May 2015 and left Patchy in the care of some friends. In June Patchy somehow got loose, ended up being hit by a car, had his right front leg amputated and spent an extended time in the hospital recovering. At some point he was moved to another state and the friends were no longer able to care for him. His owner contacted Dogs On Deployment and he was placed in a foster home on a Weds. A few days later on Saturday, his owner was contacted and told the the foster’s cats didn’t like Patchy and he needed to find a new foster. I got a called from his stressed out owner that Saturday evening and a few hours later Patchy was home with my family. That was about ten days ago. He is the sweetest boy!! He understandably has some anxiety after experiencing so much loss in such a short time. We definitely will be able to provide him with a home and stability until his daddy comes home.
Patchy is approximately 3-4 years old. He was adopted from a shelter and is some kind of pit mix. He’s a big boy at 70 lbs and is in good health and gets around great. He isn’t overweight but my vet would like to see him lose two-three pounds to get him a little leaner.
My biggest concern with this sweet boy is keeping him safe in the car. Patchy LOVES riding in the car and looking out the window but he looses his balance so easily with only his front leg to balance on. I’m so scared he is going to hurt his good leg! I could crate him but he really dislikes being crated and I feel terrible putting him through that when he’s been through so much already. He gets anxious when he’s separated and, driving a mini van, the only place for the crate is in the back of the van. Keeping him safe is the most important thing, but I was hoping someone might have some helpful hints about how to allow him to ride safely in my van without crating. I was thinking a seat belt harness might provide some stability, but I’m having trouble finding something that would fit him without sliding around and causing injury.
Really grateful to have found this forum!
18 October 2009
Wow, what an awesome program! Wonderful that you are able to foster Patches until dad gets home, it must be such a relief for dad to know his pup will get great care.
I don’t really have any ideas for you but Patches behavior sounds like my newest addition, a small pug/beagle mix I adopted who lost her back leg after getting hit by a car. Elly doesn’t do crates and does not like being separated from me in my truck. She was 10 months old when I got her, probably her 4th home! So much change is really hard on these pups. Elly likes car rides but whines most of the time because she wants in the front seat. I hope Patches is at least quiet I the van!
Actually, I wonder if the Ruffwear Webmaster Harness could be used with a seatbelt attachment? Good luck finding a solution!
And maybe some more pics when you get a chance?
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
28 March 2015
I do think this is a problem for tripawds! I suppose if they’re willing to lay down it works OK, but our Ellie never wanted to lie down in the car (she was too nervous).
One suggestion is to get some big foam blocks (the kind you can get from fabric or upholstery stores) and build him a “bumper room” in the back of the van. The blocks need to be large enough to be wedged into position so you might have to duct tape several together (I think they’re usually about 3″ thick max).
Active 10+ Pyr mix suddenly came up lame with ACL tear in left rear leg. Scheduled for a TPLO but final pre-op x-rays indicated a small suspicious area, possibly OSA, which could have caused the ACL tear. Surgeon opened the knee for TPLO but found soft bone. Biopsy came back positive for OSA. Became a Tripawd 9/18/14. Carbo6 with Cerenia and Fluids. Pain free and living in the moment. Crossed the Bridge on 7/12/15 after probable spread of cancer to her cervical spine. A whole lifetime of memories squeezed into 10 months. Here's her story: Eloise
OK I’m back, let’s see if I can keep my word about proper typing!
Well, Patches is one very lucky dawg to come into your care, that’s awesome. I didn’t know about that foster organization and would love to help spread the word. If you have some photos of Patches I will put him in a Tripawd Tuesday feature. Here’s how to add images to Forum posts.
I’m glad to hear that the vet mentioned he need to lose weight. Even one pound on a Tripawd, even a half pound, is too much, especially on a front legger. Once we learned that one pound of fat on a dog is the equivalent of 5 pounds extra pounds on a human, we are huge advocates for keeping Tripawds slim and trim, slimmer than you think. It does so much good for their joints, especially as they age. Check out our Tripawds Nutrition blog for diet ideas and our e-book Loving Life On Three Legs , and work closely with your vet to drop those pounds.
Now, about riding in the car. That’s a big deal, we totally get it. There’s good and bad things about keeping him loose in the back of your van. The good thing is that when a Tripawd tries to balance in a moving vehicle, it’s actually helping to strengthen their core muscles, which is the #1 thing you can do to help a Tripawd stay strong. See:
The problem is it’s not the safest thing in the world, especially if you got into an accident and Patches ran out in the commotion. Now, there’s a lot you can do to help him ride safely. Check out these Forum discussions about seatbelts and restraints.
While we love the Ruffwear Webmaster harness for Tripawds, we do not recommend using it as a seat belt restraint. It’s not approved for that use and can do more harm than good in a serious wreck. Ruffwear does sell a restraint harness, which we haven’t tested yet and don’t know how they’re rated, so if you try one let us know.
2 April 2013
We have a cross-over, Ford Escape, and Murphy goes in the back seat. I put down the one seat, and he will normally lay down for a little bit in the back seat, then he goes into the far back area and lays down. In our neighborhood he likes to be standing up and, of course, trying to stick his head out of the window, especially if my husband is driving lol. I normally will tell him to lay down or at least to sit, and it only takes him falling once before he does.
Donna, Glenn & Murphy
Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs
Wow this is something I haven’t got to yet as Leo is only little however I do use a seat on the front seat that the dog sits in, and helps my pug cross as its just attached to the collar, but the seat is actually the thing pinned down by the belt as opposed to the dog. We had a situation when I went up the back of someone’s car. I had bruises but Peggy was still attached and happy in the dog seat without being strapped in.
Great idea about the weight we were told also about Leo as long as he only had puppy fat and nothing more he was ok so we are careful and no training treats allowed until he’s much more mobile!
Proud Mummy to Leo the Trio
I’m glad you and Peggy were OK, that’s super scary to be in an accident like that!
Yep, being extra careful about weight is critical for all pets but especially Tripawds. Keep Leo leaner than you think he needs to be and you’ll do fine. Your familiarity with the breed will help you decide if he’s putting too much weight on or not. What a bonus for Leo to have such experience helping him along in life.
Yeah Although Dad is a tall strong looking collie, Mum is lean always no matter what we feed her shes just got that super lean shape! Leo is the leanest out of the pups Boris (nick name) is heavy set and you can tell hes going to take after Dad.
I weigh Leo every fortnight at the vets as well on their scales, as ours are rubbish and i cant get him to sit on the kitchen scales lol. So we believe hes gaining around 400grams a fortnight which is pretty good although his brother is doing 390 per week! Lol 🙂
Proud Mummy to Leo the Trio
This is the ones we use for Leos Mum she sits snug in there but hasnt tried to escape and shes in the front of my van! 🙂
Proud Mummy to Leo the Trio
Thank you for all the replies. I’m so sorry for being late in responding! Between windstorms with multi day power outages and Christmas, it’s been crazy here.
I haven’t found any solution to Patchy riding in the car. The problem is that he is a wild man in the car and wants to run from window to window and check out everything that is going on. Horror of horrors that he should miss seeing something! He is a big, strong dog at 70 lbs and my worst fears are that he’ll hurt himself. So far none of the harnesses I’ve looked at would be appropriate to use as a seat belt. Missing a front leg makes fitting a harness so difficult!! Loved the idea creating a foam lined confined area for him in my van, but that just makes him want to jump and join in the action even more. He is five years old but still a puppy at heart
We had terrible news today. I had to take Patchy to the ER tonight after he started limping on a hind leg. I’d planned to take him to my regular vet but then he fell and was trying so hard to walk on two legs, so off to the ER we went. Worst fears realized. Vet believes he has torn a ligament in his knee and will require surgery. It was heartbreaking calling his owner and giving him the news. The poor guy is station in Bahrain, had to go through the horrible ordeal of his dog being hit by a car and suffering major trauma in addition to the loss of his leg, and now this. His owner already faced huge medical bills in June (over $7,000) and now he is facing a possible surgery estimated at $5,000. He was able to talk with the vet and we’ll have to see what happens when we see the surgeon this Thursday. I feel so horrible for Patchy and his daddy. Meanwhile Patchy is on anti inflammatory meds and confined to a crate. 🙁
I would love any help in getting the word out about Dogs on Deployment. It really is a wonderful organization and such a great way to be able to help out our military. I’ll have to get some photos of Patchy up. http://dogsonde…..yment.org/
I’ll let you know what the surgeon says on Thursday. Meanwhile I’m going to look into wheels for the sweet boy so he can get some weight off his rear and give his leg a chance to heal. Any advise is greatly appreciated. Patchy is such a sweet boy.
Oh bless you both! Poor Patchy seems he’s one of them who gets into trouble without even trying!
Its such a nightmare for you as his fosterer and having to tell his daddy what’s going on to!
I think the organisation sounds fantastic and I will put it on Leo’s Facebook page as well (not that he has many members but I am happy to share it as its a very worthy cause!
Keep us posted and we all are rooting for Patchy and of course you!
Proud Mummy to Leo the Trio
Welcome back and Hoppy New Year! We know what you mean about the craziness!
It’s good to hear from you, but I’m sorry about the recent vet visit and the news. Take a deep breath though, if the ER vet wasn’t a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, you can’t really take that kind of diagnosis as 100% certain that’s what you’re facing.
I’m glad you’re seeing the ortho doc, but do get 1 more opinion from a certified rehab vet if you can. Many times surgeons will jump to a CCL tear surgery without considering rehab therapy as an option. Read over this article “Treating Soft Tissue Injuries” before your appointment then ask the surgeon if they can refer you to a rehab vet. If so, the Tripawds Foundation will pay for the first consultation, see this “Vet Rehab Reimbursement” post for details.
Keep us posted OK? You are doing such an awesome thing for this dog and his dad.
Thanks for the advise and the informative article. The vet we saw yesterday said he feels pretty confident we’re dealing with a torn ligament, but obviously can’t tell without investigating further. Because of Patchy being a tripawd, he felt it was best to see a specialist immediately so we could explore every possible treatment option. We have an appointment with the surgeon on Thursday for a consult. We worked with this this doctor this last summer when my dog Kona injured her shoulder. Kona was a surgical candidate but the doctor felt she was a good candidate to try rehab first. We spent six months in a brace doing rest, then rehab but it was so worth it as we were able to avoid surgery and she is doing great now. Her approach with Kona has me feeling confident that she won’t immediately recommend surgery without exploring other options. They do have a full rehab center with an underwater treadmill and we did most of the exercises mentioned in the article. They weren’t on the list of providers on this site, but one of those listed is close by in the event we need a second opinion. Thank you!
Meanwhile poor Patchy is miserable. He is on anti inflammatory meds but is obviously in pain. He just doesn’t seem able to get comfortable. He accident was pretty traumatic and, as a result, he lost more than just his leg. The vet believes they removed most of his shoulder blade too and his chest has a fairly large concave area. He prefers to lay on his left side, keeping his amputation site up. It’s obvious his leg really hurts because he keeps trying to shift around and can’t decide if he should lay on his left with the bad leg or his right which puts him on his amputation site. Breaks my heart watching him try to balance on two legs while he tries to get comfortable.
Spent most of the day reading and researching so I’m prepared when we see the surgeon. My biggest concern right now is the stress on his two good legs while his third one heals and how we’ll handle mobility during that time. Talked with Eddie’s Wheels for Pets about the possibility of a cart and looked into leg braces. Lots of questions for the doctor!
I’m sorry for rambling. Thanks for reading this far! With zero tripawd experience before, I feel like I jumped right into the frying pan! Thank goodness for this site!!