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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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Having trouble coping with desicion to amputate:(
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Member Since:
3 January 2012
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3 January 2012 - 2:26 pm
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Hello my name is molly and my fiancé and I have decided that amputation is best for our Daisy! Daisy is a four year old lab mix that we have had since she was a baby! On Saturday Dec 31st 2011 daisy was hit by a car:(. We rushed her to pet emergency and they stitched up a couple deep cuts and cleaned up some of her rode rash, the big injury is a dislocated right elbow that we have had 4 different vets try to put back in. Our next option is surgery, that is completely out of price range because we are expecting our first baby any day now!(dec 31st was my due date)!! Also we would have to travel at least four hours out of town to have the surgery done and I cant really travel to far right now. So we have decided that having her leg removed will ease all her pain with still being able to have her here with us. My fiancé is being really strong but me on the other hand feel as though I am stealing something from her and I cry whenever I think about doing it! Her surgery is scheduled for this Monday and I am so nervouse for her and for us.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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3 January 2012 - 2:55 pm
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Hi Molly, thanks for joining us here. Wow! You have a lot going on right now, I can't blame you one bit for being so nervous about this.

I'm so glad that Daisy is otherwise OK. As long as your vet thinks she is a good candidate for being a Tripawd, you shouldn't worry (ok, easy to say....!). Please don't feel badly about the decision. If it helps at all, we've had many members here spend thousands of dollars trying to fix their dog's orthopedic issue, only to resort to amputation when nothing worked to fix the issue. Daisy wouldn't want you to go into serious debt over this, because that would only make you upset and unhappy, and that's not what she wants for you or her pack.

Read through the Tripawds Dog Blogs, look at the videos here and see how well our members get along on three legs. That should bring you some comfort. Also check out our Required Reading List for some quick tips about creating a healthy, safe environment for your pup.

With you being so close to welcoming your newest family member, your fiance should be ready to care for her during recovery. Generally dogs need two to three weeks to fully recuperate, so make sure that he has plenty of help and can care for her. Other than that though, as long as you keep her slim and safe, she will have a great life, you'll see!

Ask all the questions you need to feel better about this, there are lots of good people here ready to help.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

3 January 2012 - 4:22 pm
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Hi Molly,

Welcome to Tripawds.  Sorry you found yourself here... but if you have to amputate this is the best place to be!

What you are taking from Daisy is a painful leg that may or may not heal.  But what you are giving her is a two or three week recovery time, and then on with her life!! 

All you can do is make the best decision you can for Daisy and your family.  Unfortunately that involves fiances... we all wish we had endless funds to throw at our vets, but that just isn't the case.  You guys are doing your best... I've heard lots of stories of people abandoning their pups after an injury.  You are doing everything you can for Daisy now, and she will reward you with a happy tripawd hop!

Your Fiance is going to have a lot on his plate with Daisy's surgery Monday, and a baby due any time!!  Once Daisy is through the recovery period she will do just fine.  Don't get discouraged though if she has some down time after coming home from the vet. Many dogs kind of crash and are not really themselves for a week or two. 

January babies are the best, but I might be a bit biased...laugh.

Good luck with the baby, and with Daisy's surgery.  We would love to see a picture or two (when you have a chance).  And be sure and keep us posted on both fronts!!


Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
3 January 2012
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3 January 2012 - 4:27 pm
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Thanks for all your support and we will def keep everyone posted and add some pics!!:)I do understand that we are doing something good for her and allowing her to live a long pain free life!

San Diego, CA
Member Since:
29 October 2010
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3 January 2012 - 6:04 pm
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Goodness, you do have your hands full!

As Jerry said, many people try to go the surgery route and end up at amputation in the end anyway. And you should not feel guilty about considering your finances in the decision. Daisy will most likely do quite well as a tripawd, once she gets past the recovery period.

Sorry you had to find us here, but you won't be sorry you did. Lots of experience here for when you need answers or just need to freak out a little. We've been there and understand what you are going through.

Please keep us posted about how Daisy does. Good luck with your non-furry baby!!! 🙂
Jackie, Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Member Since:
3 January 2012
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3 January 2012 - 7:59 pm
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We are having some mixed feeling from one of the vets that tried to put daisys elbow back in with no success. They say that they don't think daisy would be a good candidate because of her age and size. Daisy is a four year old lab mix and weighs 83lbs. Iv looked online at many resources including this one and every thing I have read says nothing about her not being a good candidate! What does everyone else think!?

knoxville, tn
Member Since:
12 February 2010
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3 January 2012 - 8:38 pm
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gayle was a lab mix, weighing about 70 lbs when we found a soft tissue sarcoma in her right wrist.  she had just turned ten.  she had her right front leg (including scapula) removed february 2010, and went through five rounds of chemo that spring.  gayle did very well on three legs.  she was with us for almost 22 months, losing a battle in december to a second type of cancer (oral melanoma).  your pup is young, fit and healthy - don't doubt that daisy can do well as a tripawd. 


charon & spirit gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Orange County, CA
Member Since:
2 January 2010
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3 January 2012 - 9:03 pm
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If your vets are all recommending it, and everything you read online is agreeing with them (including all of us here who had to make the same decision at one time or another), then trust their judgment and your own. Karen said it best - the only thing you're taking away from her is a life of chronic pain and uncertainty. That's the price and the payoff of amputation for a dog - they lose a leg, but in very little time you'll see it just doesn't matter.

There will be a rough month of post-amputaion recovery, during which time you'll probably be posting here second-guessing yourself and wondering if you made the right decision. And all of us will reassure you that you did, and we'll give you all the advice you need to get through it. And once the wound heals and she learns to move on three legs (which will happen a LOT faster than you think it will), you'll be amazed at how well she adjusts (she'll adjust a lot faster than you will). She'll run and play almost as fast and hard as she ever did, and she'll be the center of attention when you take her anywhere. When our dog Max became a tripawd, he quickly realized that for some reason, everyone suddenly wanted to pet him, hug him, and most importantly, give him treats. He turned into a shameless mooch within a month, and used to put on a pathetic show that made my wife and I roll our eyes in disgust as he suckered everyone he met into giving him a bite of whatever was handy. Amputation didn't slow him down a bit, and it won't do so for Daisy, either. The tough decision you just made is the best chance she has for a long, happy, pain-free life.

Post here often after the surgery - as I said, the first month can be rough, but we've all been through it and know all the tricks to get you through it as well. Just remember this above all else - you're doing the right thing, no matter how hard it might seem.

3 January 2012 - 9:04 pm
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Does she have any other health issues- bad hips?, knees? Four is pretty young to have arthritis.

If she is otherwise healthy I don't see 83 pounds to be a limiting factor.  I know two giant breed dogs who are doing fine, both cancer survivors and front amps.  Queen Nova the Great Dane is more than 3 years past her amp, oh and is also blind.  Cemil, an Anatolian Shepard is almost 3 years out.  Cemil lives in my town so I get to see him every month or so.  He gets around fine- takes his time, but he is really big- 150 lbs.

Lots of dogs here around Daisy's size.  Is the vet worried about amputation because 4 is so young?  Nova and Cemil have been hopping on on front leg for 3 years each. Cemil just turned 6.  My tri-pug Maggie was a three legger for almost 4 years.

Based on what you say about Daisy, and what I have seen here it seems like she is a good candidate for amputation.  You guys have to decide what is best for Daisy and you.


Karen and the pugapalooza

Madison, WI
Member Since:
5 December 2009
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3 January 2012 - 9:23 pm
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If Daisy is overweight for her size, it'll be important to help her slim down once she's ready for exercise again following her recovery (which will be surprisingly soon).  It's harder on the joints to be a chubby tripawd over time.  Though I know labs vary in size and 83 lbs could easily be a trim weight for her for all I know.  But four definitely isn't too old, we've seen much much older (10 and 12 year olds, as I recall) dogs do great on three legs. 

You know, I felt like sometimes vets I had in the past would sometimes get a little nervous at the last minute that they hadn't made me aware of all the risks going into a major surgery and treatment.  It would seem like they were suddenly more concerned about something or other than they were originally for no particular reason.  My best guess regarding this phenomena is that maybe when I put on a brave face like I'm not worried at all about the procedure, they worry they didn't go over everything and then overdo it, haha.  Maybe it's just my perception, or just the vets I've had though.  Just a thought...

Another possibility is that maybe that vet hasn't had that much experience with tripawds of various ages.  After all, there are still plenty of dog owners out there who don't even consider the possibility when an amputation becomes necessary, which I assume could limit a vet's exposure.

Good luck and remember not to lose focus on your health while all these stressful decisions and things are going on.  We highly recommend that even when people aren't pregnant - so it goes double for you!  It sets a good example for Daisy anyway big-grin

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:

Member Since:
3 January 2012
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3 January 2012 - 9:36 pm
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Thanks everyone for your great advice. Daisy is lab mixed with mastiff do she's about right when it comes to her weight! It's is not our regular vet that says she would t recommend amputation for daisy it is another vet that usually had great success with putting dislocated joints and things back into place. Our regular vet understands our financial issue and thinks Daisy will adapt well after surgery! I think maybe I'm just thinking to much about the what ifs. The accident happed on Saturday and since daisy can put no weight on her front right leg she already walks on three, and just in these few days she's already walking out to go potty by herself ( of coarse we are right by her side just in case)! So we are already very proud of the strength and progress she has shown! I'm just worrying to much and need to listen to all of you and my fiancé and stop worrying about this and think about getting this baby out safe and heathly!

In your heart, where I belong.
Member Since:
9 February 2011
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3 January 2012 - 9:41 pm
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I'm also scratching my head over the size and age concern from one of your vets. Age isn't an issue. Four is nothing. My Dakota celebrated his 9th birthday with an amputation. He weighed about 85 pounds when he was first assessed and is down about 10 pounds from that now (how much does a leg weigh?).

Since you are feeling a bit conflicted but realize this is the best thing for Daisy, know going into this that there is a very good chance that Daisy will have some rough days over the first couple of weeks. For us, it was the third day home after surgery. On that day, I wondered how I would get through this. Dakota refused to even try to get up. I had to haul him outside with a sling and he just laid on the ground and did nothing. No attempt to stand. No acknowlegement of my presence. No raising his head to look at me. I honestly thought that if the dog had thumbs and I had a gun, he'd shoot himself. Within a couple more days, he had climbed out of his pit of despair. 

Much of this doggie depression can be from the pain medication. It is necessary, or course, to treat the pain. So we have a necessary evil with a very slim margin for error. A tiny difference in dosage can mean the difference between a dog wanting to shoot itself and a dog that is alert and aware. If Daisy seems to fall into the pit of despair, don't question your decision. Instead, reassess the pain medication or dosage. There are several choices so there is no reason to stick with something that doesn't work well.

If Daisy has problems that really worry you, don't be afraid to call the vet. You aren't bugging him. You are getting what you paid good money for. Their service doesn't stop when the leg is gone. Never be afraid to make that phone call. Never apologize. If your doctor lopped off your leg and you hurt a lot a few days later, would you hesitate to bark for attention? Nope.

Send pictures because we are suckers for them. And the best one would be Daisy snuggling close to your new baby, of course! Welcome and here's hoping to very smooth sailing for you all!


From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at

Member Since:
14 June 2010
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4 January 2012 - 9:50 am
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I hope all is well there - you certainly have a lot going on!  On a silver-lining note, as long as you're going to be awake with a new baby, you might as well be awake with Daisy and vice versa, right?  wink

Just weighing in on the age/weight issue - Ajax was 75lbs and an 8 year old Lab when he had his amputation.  It was a rear leg, which I think makes the post-op ajdustment period a little bit easier, but just as an example, he walked out of the hospital, got into a yellow cab, go out of a yellow cab, went to the bathroom and then upstairs to his apartment.  The day after his stitches came out - day 13 post op- he snuck into our friend's pool and started swimming.  So please don't feel too guilty - you have every reason to anticipate having a super-happy and healthy tripawd after the intiial recovery period which feels long, but really isn't when you look at it in the grand scheme of things.

Member Since:
14 June 2010
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4 January 2012 - 9:51 am
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ps admin thanks for changing the avatar!  This one is much better for Tripawds.

Plainfield, Illinois
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14 May 2011
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4 January 2012 - 12:21 pm
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Wow, you sure have a lot going on!  You have found a great place to come for support and encouragement.  The first 2 weeks are the toughest, and make sure you get some sleep now- especially with a baby coming.  With a baby in the mix, being sleep deprived may make things seem like they are worse than they actually are, so it's okay to come here and vent and freak out (I have a 4 and a 2 year old, so I still remember being sleep deprived with a newborn!).  Make sure you take time for you- step outside for some fresh air, specially when the baby is crying and nothing seems to soothe him/her, and Daisy isn't acting like herself because of all the pain meds she's on.  It's okay to take a grown-up time out (that's also a good time to come to the forums and vent as well- we are here for you!).


As for the age and weight issue, Chili Dawg was a golden retriever and had just turned 9 when he had his amputation (front leg) and weighed 83 pounds.  He dropped to 68 pounds by the time his cancer returned, but he had no problem adjusting to life on 3 legs.  By the time his staples came out at the end of the 2 weeks, he was wrestling with his Boxer brother, and he was running around in our back yard after that.  Here's a link to a video of him in the backyard.


Looking forward to seeing pictures of both Daisy and your new little one 🙂


Jenna & Spirit Chili Dawg

Diagnosed with OSA: 5/2/2011 Ampuversary: 5/11/2011 OSA returned in hip: 8/26/2011
Chili Dawg crossed the Rainbow Bridge on 8/30/2011 & is now pain free. He was my heart dog, and I miss him every day.

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