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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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Forum Posts: 22
Member Since:
7 January 2009
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7 January 2009 - 8:03 am
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Two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided that we would finally get a dog of our own.  We went to the SPCA and found Bear (now Beans), who had been hit by a car about two months ago, and then surrendered. He's such a beautiful boy! His previous owners did not care for his broken paw properly and by the time he came in it was severely infected.  The SPCA cleaned him up well, but he still has nerve damage in his left leg.

Beans!Image Enlarger

He's 9 months old, and for the past two months (approx.) he has been hobbling around with his left front paw in the air, and has refused to put even a slight amount of weight on it.  The SPCA said that his leg would probably have to be amputated, but that they want to wait and see whether or not it will heal. 

Apparently people who looked at him before we did were afraid of the prospect of having a tripawd dog! Silly them, if they had done any research they would've known what we know: three-legged dogs live a very fulfilled life!

His right front leg has been steadily gaining muscle mass over the past month, as he has been unable to use his other leg.  His left front leg, however, looks like a chicken wing.  It is atrophied from lack of use. We have to call his vet (at the SPCA) today, and ask her about when his leg should be amputated, but I'm afraid that she'll postpone it. I'm not in a rush to have his leg amputated, but he's really not using it at all (even for balance), and it just gets in the way.  If he bangs it on the ground to often from walking, it starts to bleed, and we are afraid that it will get infected!

He's a beautiful dog, and we'd love to help him save his paw, but we're at a loss for what to do.  Does anyone have any advice for regaining muscle mass or nerve activity?  Or should we just have it amputated?  We went into this knowing that his leg would probably have to be amputated, so that wouldn't come as a shock for us.  We just want to do what's best for him!

Forum Posts: 428
Member Since:
16 February 2008
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7 January 2009 - 10:34 am
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Bless your hearts to bring Beans to your family so that he can be properly cared for and be loved.

Not knowing how much damage been done to his paw, I cannot really say whether it should be amputated.  Perhaps find another vet (who will eventually be Beans' regular vet going forward) to re-assess his paw. 

Swimming is a good total body workout, and it also can help strengthening muscles without putting too much stress to the joints.

Jerry has posted the Top Ten Questions about Amputation and Bone Cancer in his Tips & Resources page.  It has answers to the most common concerns (it is fortunate that you can skip the questions about bone cancer).

Hope this helps!

Surrey, UK
Forum Posts: 25
Member Since:
8 December 2008
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7 January 2009 - 11:37 am
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Just wanted to say, good on you for taking on a 'disabled' dog.  I really respect anyone who adopts a special needs dog.  My four were all easy, gorgeous, in full health – I like to think I would have taken them on if they'd had bits missing, and that it was just the way it happened.  (I fell in love with a deaf greyhound girl when we were getting no 3, but we needed a male to balance out our two bitches).

As far as amputation goes, I'm with Genie: get a second opinion from a different vet. It sounds like Beans would be better off without the useless leg, but it probably needs expert advice.  If you know other dog owners, perhaps get a recommendation for a vet that puts animals' welfare first.    The cynic in me feels that the original vets may possibly be aware that they'll make a lot more money from continuing care than from a straightforward amputation…

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 25230
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25 April 2007
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7 January 2009 - 12:50 pm
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Mr Beans is Beautiful indeed. If you don't hear from “tazziedog” send her a private message about the possibility for rehabiliting the leg. But if it were me … I'd say get rid of it! There is no need to wait, but since it's not cancer you have the pleasure of not having to rush either.

Bless you for adopting Beans in his current condition, and thank you for joining the forums!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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7 January 2009 - 1:55 pm
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Bless your heart for taking in Beans! I hope you have many years to share with him!!

As an owner of a tripawd who's leg was removed for other than cancer, my opinion is to take the leg off as soon as you can & let Beans start living like the dog he will become! Don't spend a year trying to get it back, like we did. It's not the money that bugs me now, but the year of living I took away from Calamity.

Once that leg is gone, life truly begins!

Janie & Calamity

Forum Posts: 22
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7 January 2009
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8 January 2009 - 8:47 am
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Thanks for your support! :)

We found out yesterday that he did not, in fact, break his paw (as we were initially told).  In the accident he had two nails ripped off.  Instead of taking him to the vet, the previous owners attempted to bandage the foot themselves and allowed it to get wet.  This led to a massive infection, and eventually caused extentisve nerve damage in his foot.  By the time the SPCA got a hold of him, he was no longer using his paw, even for balance.  It was the size of a baseball, and rampant with bacteria!

How could anyone let that happen to a poor puppy! He was only 7 months old at the time.

I spoke with the vet tech (I have to call the vet on Friday), and she said that they gave him a one-month deadline, so that means that he has until January 17th to start attempting to use his paw again.

The swimming idea is a fantastic one, but he has open wounds still (the areas where his nails were haven't healed), and I don't think that we can get them wet.

My cousin is a vet, and she will be his vet going forward. I'm going to speak with the vet at the SPCA on Friday, and we'll go from there.  The SPCA is paying for his surgery, so she has the final say, but I'll get a second opinion if she wants to post-pone it.  He keeps stepping on his useless foot and causing it to bleed.

I'll definitely look at the top 10 questions and answers, thanks for pointing them out!

Erin and Beans

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