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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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I need your advice, please.
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11 February 2010 - 8:08 am
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Hi All!

Wow what a great community! I was wondering if there’s anyone out there who has been through what we’re going through right now? Here’s our story:

My name is Mary & I have an almost 3 year old chihuahua, although I believe he is mixed with min-pin (& as I understand it, min-pins are a mix of Italian greyhounds and dachshunds, which explains a lot). When most people see my dog, they describe him as a tiny deer. He weighs about 4 lbs but his legs are long and skinny (I’d estimate around 7 or 8 inches long). In October of 2009 Siga jumped out of my lap and broke both bones in his front right leg, there was no question that the bones were completely broken apart. Siga needed surgery & the vet put 6 pins connected to an external apparatus into his tiny leg. He was completely “repaired” by the first week of December. On January 10, 2010, someone was sitting on the floor holding him when he jumped out of their arms & he broke his leg again in the same place as before, yet this time the damage was not as severe. Due to my fears of putting him under the knife yet again (& unfortuantely an attempt to keep costs lower than before) with the approval of his vet we decided to try and use a splint to heal his bones. Yesterday (about 1 month after the second break) Siga had x-rays done again. His bones are actually not growing back together and the ulna is depleating. I’ve asked the vet if Siga has bone density issues & she said “no, he has healthy bones, he just has small bones.” Also, whenever I ask her how likely it is that Siga will break his leg again she says there is no garantee, which is understandable but I feel that she is basically saying ” this will happen again & at any point.” If Siga has the surgery again, they may have to do a bone graft to build up the ulna again, but I’ve heard that bone grafts are an extremely painful recovery for humans, is the same true for dogs?

Siga absolutely loves to run, and he’s fast! Am I being unreasonable to consider amputating his leg? I’ve read over and over that dogs who’ve lost a limb can do just as much as other dogs who have not lost a limb. However, my dog has not experienced the catostrophic or terminal damage of a bad accident or cancer. Please give me some honest & thoughtful advice!

Kirkland, WA
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11 February 2010 - 9:19 am
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oh my gosh!  Siga certainly has had a busy last few months, hasn't he?  My dog, Jack has not had any bone surgery, so I can't offer advice on that part, but from what I understand, the more times a bone is broken, the worse it gets.  I even believe that osteosarcoma can grow while cells reproduce to heal the bone (not trying to scare you, but I did read that somewhere…just something to consider or ask your vet about).  Little dogs do well on 3 legs.  Little dog, Angel, had multiple surgeries for an accident and she's doing super!  The only thing I would think or ask about is the fact that once you amputate, Siga won't have that extra leg.  What if he breaks his good front leg again?  Is there a way you could help him get around while he's healing?  If you would like to see a tripawd that likes to run around do his thang on 3 legs, you can visit Jack's blog at  He is 40 pounds and a little past 8 months after surgery.  Good luck with your decisions!!! 

<3 Laura and Captain Jack

Wesley Chapel, FL
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11 February 2010 - 9:41 am
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Wow Mary! What an ordeal poor Siga has had to go through already!Oh My!

I'm really not sure what to tell you… except to get advice from an orthopedic surgeon, if you haven't already. Siga is so young and doesn't have cancer to worry about… I would probably worry about amputating his leg, with the remaining one already having had a break… If you're thinking about vet costs… well amputation will probably cost alot, so you might as well put those funds towards fixing the latest break. That's just my opinion…

I don't envy you for the decision you have to make. Keep us posted and good luck with whatever you decide to do!!

Angel Jake's Mom

Jake, 10yr old golden retriever (fractured his front right leg on 9/1, bone biopsy revealed osteosarcoma on 9/10, amputation on 9/17) and his family Marguerite, Jacques and Wolfie, 5yr old german shepherd and the newest addition to the family, Nala, a 7mth old Bengal mix kittie. Jake lost his battle on 11/9/2009, almost 8 weeks after his surgery. We will never forget our sweet golden angel… ….. CANCER SUCKS!

Las Vegas, Nevada
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11 February 2010 - 10:57 am
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Oh no, Siga!  That's some serious business!  But I love the photo with the cast!

I'm with Jake's mom.  I don't know anything about breaks. So I would go to a ortho vet.  It's their speciality and they know so much more and have seen so many more cases than a regular vet.  They don't cost that much more either.   As a matter of fact, I've spent less at my ortho vet than regular vet because he can diagnose from experience opposed to running more tests.  (mine goes to one for an infection of neck discs)

Please keep us updated on your minny (more like a micro) deer!

Best wishes – Siga!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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11 February 2010 - 11:00 am
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Hi Mary and Siga

Welcome. Gosh what a start to life little Siga has had. Do other dogs know he is a dog and not a little deer? I hope so.

When I first read your post, I though it said he had broken both legs. But it only says he broke both bones in one leg, unless I am missing it (obviously Jack and Jake thought the same thing). If he only broke the one leg, that is definitely better than having broken both legs!! (no kidding, eh?)

Most of us on this site would say 'full speed ahead' with the idea of an amputation. Little Siga should have no trouble getting around on 3 legs, in fact, I doubt you'll notice much of a difference with a dog that small. Of course, the worry in your unusual case is the added stress to the small bones in the other legs.

Obviously, jumping out of people's arms has to be curtailed as much as possible, although it does not sound as though he was much off the ground in either case. Can an orthopedic vet give you any suggestions about avoiding a similar problem in another leg?

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11 February 2010 - 11:12 am
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I’m so sorry! Poor little guy!

I really don’t have much to add, as I agree with everyone else … the dog would do more than fine (fast running and all!) on three legs. But I would be terrified he would break the other leg, and then what? I would talk to an Orthopedic Surgeon about the pros/cons of all your options.

I don’t envy your decision. Wishing you the best!!

-Gwen & Harley

Amputation on 11/10/09, due to Histiocytic Sarcoma in left elbow. Angel Harley earned his wings on 06/24/10.

The Rainbow Bridge

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11 February 2010 - 11:48 am
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Siga and Co., thanks so much for joining us here, welcome. Siga, you DO look like a tiny deer! What a cutie pie! I'm so sorry you've been through so much, it sounds painful. But what a trooper you are!

Ok, so I noticed that you are in Colorado? Are you anywhere near Fort Collins? Because if I were in your paws, I'd get over to CSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and have those pawesome ortho docs there take a look and give you their opinion. You can't go wrong with CSU, the know their stuff and all the latest tech. But if you're not near there, I would say definitely have an ortho look at it next, so you don't waste any more time. And of course let us know what happens OK?

Hey we hope to see you this spring when we have our Colorado Tripawds pawty, probably in Longmont. Even if you're not a Tripawd by then we'd still love to see you!

Take care and good luck.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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11 February 2010 - 8:13 pm
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Thanks everyone so much for all your thoughts and kind words! Sorry if I made it confusing, yes, Siga has only broken his right front leg. I know I have a lot to think about with all this. I also forgot to mention that since Siga broke his leg the first time he has been seeing an orthopedic surgeon. When I talked to her tonight she sounded pretty positive about amputation. She noted that the surgery might not be successful either.

Laura, thanks so much for the heads up about osteosarcoma, that definitely makes amputation more reasonable. Siga is healthy now (minus the perpetually broken leg), and it would be devastating for that to happen after Siga got all fixed up.

I’ve thought about heading up to Ft Collins to get a second opinion (and I think maybe a more honest one). The pawty sounds fun, Siga needs more socializing opportunities!

This is such a hard decision, but all your comments have made it slightly easier. And I welcome more thoughts too! I don’t want to keep making him go through surgery for my own benefit of having him here because I can’t stand to be without him when he keeps suffering. I’m trying hard to keep his best interest in mind, and not my own. Thanks again everyone!

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11 February 2010 - 9:22 pm
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The CSU suggestion sounds great. That is the first place I'd head if I were facing this bone cancer thing again (I know you are not facing that, but it is still a good place). They also give free phone consults, but it would be more informative if they had the records and the dog right there.

I can't see why amputation would not be successful, other than the normal risks of surgery. It does not seem like you have much choice, given the leg did not heal properly. But it would be great to get any tips about how to keep the other leg strong. Is your vet or orthopedist very concerned about his 'good leg'? That is not a major worry for most of our dogs (although most take glucosamine to reduce risk of arthritis), but most of our dogs are here due to cancer or injuries, not breaks from jumping.

12 February 2010 - 8:46 am
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Thank you again everyone for all your thoughts and insight! I really appreciate the help, this has probably been one of the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my life thus far.

I’ve decided to go ahead and amputate his leg. I feel that the surgery to repair it again may not be successful and he will break his leg in another three months again, what kind of life is that for my poor Siga?!

I don’t know if I’m making the right decision, and I can’t help but feel as though I’m doing an injustice to Siga sf-cry . I will keep you all posted, his surgery is next Tuesday…

12 February 2010 - 8:58 am
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You are making the decision with all the information you have and with Siga's best interest at heart, right?? 

Then you are making the right decision.  One of the things we preach around here is no regrets.  We will never know what would of happened if we had chosen another path.  Obviously that is MUCH easier said than done- and we have to remind each other when we have doubts.  But that is one of the great things about this community- there is always support!!

Good luck with the surgery and recovery.  Check out the posts on what to expect.  Most of us had some bumpy times the first two weeks, but almost no one has regrets about amputation.

My tripawd Maggie is a pug- so I can tell you that small tripawds do fine.  Mag is a rear amp which is a little different.  There is a recent thread on small dogs amps you might check out as well.

Karen and the pug girls

Here and Now

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12 February 2010 - 10:46 am
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sigaandme said:

…what kind of life is that for my poor Siga?!

Agreed. If it's any help, we often hear from people who put their dogs through many painful expensive surgeries only to end up going foraward with amputation anyway, at which point their dogs recover quickly and begin enjoying life again.

Many members have found the book Without Regret to be very helpful in coping with their decisions. You can read Jerry's book review in the Tripawds Amazon Selections blog.

Best wishes for a perfect procedure and quick complete recovery, we look forward to following Siga's progress.

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12 February 2010 - 11:56 am
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Just so everyone knows what is going on, here is some info:

Ununited fractures can be divided into: (1) those in which there is still some attempt at repair of bone—delayed union; and (2) those which are in a fixed state of physiologic inertia—nonunion. The etiologic factors are local and not systemic. In cases of delayed union conservative measures may succeed in stimulating metabolism of bone at the site of fracture, but not in cases of nonunion. Operative measures, preferably the use of an autogenous bone graft, are necessary in the latter cases. Operation should not be undertaken in the face of draining sinuses or of evidence of inflammation. The bone graft should be as large as possible and must be held firmly clamped to the fragments. Multiple chips of bone packed about the site of fracture are of great aid. Fractures of the neck of the femur can be dealt with successfully without arthrotomy in cases in which fibrous union has occurred. The method consists in overcoming the shortening with traction , securing anatomic alignment, and inserting a large piece of autogenous bone, such as a fibular segment of such length that it extends from the trochanter well into the head. This procedure could be called “blind” insertion. It probably is not suitable in cases in which no fibrous union is present; then open operation is preferable. Fractures of the lower end of the humerus are the most difficult of all humeral fractures to deal with and are best treated by the “onlay massive” graft.

I would say, based on this amputation is a good alternative. But, I would make sure I did my best to try and build him up nutritionally so that this HOPEFULLY doesn’t happend again, to his other leg.

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13 February 2010 - 8:51 am
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It sure sounds like the best decision there is. I'm sure Siga will be fine on 3 legs.

Any info a vet or nutritonist can give you on strenghtening his other bones would be grand, or advice about avoiding dangerous situations for the little dog who thinks he is a rabbit that likes to jump.

17 February 2010 - 7:20 pm
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Ok Everyone, I wanted to give you an update. Yesterday Siga had his surgery, and I still was anguishing over my decision. However, after I talked to the surgeon, he told me that it was good to have the limb removed because it was getting worse, and reiterated that it was not healing at all. I physically felt the relief from that!

I was afraid that when I saw him I would not be able to keep my composure, and I wanted to be courageous for him. However all the people at the animal hospital were telling me how happy he was this morning and what a love he’d been. When I saw him I was not sad or scared.

Anyway, on to the real important stuff: Siga! He’s doing great! A little groggy from all the drugs but he wants to walk around (he is suppose to be confined for 14 days). I took a video and sent it to my friend who showed it to his friends, one didn’t even notice that Siga is now a tripawd, that’s how natural he is! He’s having a little trouble getting his balance, especially when he’s trying to get comfortable.

I cannot say enough how thankful I am for all of your support, confidence and advice! No regrets! I guess it’s time for Siga to start a blog and talk about his new crazy adventures!

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