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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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Joint vs bone amputation
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Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
6 February 2017
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6 February 2017 - 8:32 am
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My girl Aspen will have her back leg amputated this week.  Her knee was shattered by a bullet when she escaped our property.  She was missing two weeks and came back nearly starved and infected because of the wound.  Now that she’s a bit better/stronger, it’s time for the surgery.  The emergency vet told us that if amputation was needed, it would probably be done at the joint (hip), however our regular vet plans to cut the bone between the hip and the knee.  While I understand that this will give her better balance, to my layman’s mind, it seems much more painful and invasive.  Could I hear from a couple of different views?

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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6 February 2017 - 11:52 am
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Aspen and family, welcome. We’re so sorry that you have to be here. It is truly miraculous that she survived, what a truly strong warrior you’ve got there. 

Since Aspen doesn’t have cancer, you don’t have to worry about getting “clean margins” around a leg tumor. With that in mind, you have options for amputation surgery. The first type the vet described would not give you a choice of whether or not to use a prosthetic limb in the future. The second one might. However, the second one could become problematic and have healing complications. Here’s an article on the subject:

Partial vs. Full Leg Amputation for Pets, What’s Better?

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Livermore, CA

Forum Posts: 3524
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6 February 2017 - 11:44 pm
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I’ve had two rear amp pups, each had a different type of amputation.

My first, Maggie, was a pug who lost her left rear leg to mast cell cancer.  She had what was called a mid-femoral amp, which is a bit of a misnomer in my mind as only a small piece of the the femur was left.  The ‘stump’ was wrapped with muscle and could not be seen although you could feel it.  You could see the muscle moving when she moved her stump. Although her prognosis was poor Mag lived almost 4 years post amp and never had any issues with her stump.

My current Tripawd is a pug mix, Elly, who was hit by a car at 7 months old and lost her right rear leg as a result, her amputation took her entire femur.  Elly is now just over 2 years old so has been on three for almost a year and a half.

In my opinion the mid-femoral amp is by far the better surgery (assuming only a small piece of the femur is left).  Maggie had a good sitting base and was more comfortable sitting on hard surfaces.  Elly’s hip bone is very prominent and she will not sit on hard surfaces, she does not have a good sitting base.  Elly is young and very strong and has excellent balance- we work on her strength and balance every day. Maggie was a lazy pug who was older at the time of her amp, 7.5 years old, but I think her balance was intrinsically better than Elly’s.  Mag’s gait seemed smoother too, but since I can’t really compare them side by side I can’t prove that.

I do remember discussing the type of surgery before Maggie’s amp with the surgeon.  He said that the mid-femoral was an easier surgery and that the surgery would be faster and easier on Mag. Honestly I don’t think I really had a hand in deciding what type of surgery- I was pretty overwhelmed with the thought of amputation and the cancer diagnosis.  I adopted Elly 2.5 months after her accident and surgery so I wasn’t in on that decision either.

I had this conversation with The Oak Town Pack a couple weeks ago- they have 3 rear amp GSDs.  We agreed among ourselves that we would choose the mid femoral amp if it ever came up in the future.  You could PM Martha and ask for her opinion- she posts as Codie Rae.

What day is surgery?  Good luck!

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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7 February 2017 - 8:36 am
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Our Murphy also had a mid-femoral amp covered by a good amount of muscle. It never gave him a bit of problem. Unlike Maggie, we never noticed the stump moving, as his amp was due to nerve damage caused when he was hit by a car. He was always able to sit squarely.

Here is his x-ray, taken before the hip replacement, that shows how much (or how little) of the femur was left.


Kathi and the Turbotail April Angel…and the Labradork

Murphy is a five year old Lab/Chessie cross. He was hit by a car on 10/29/12 and became a Tripawd on 11/24/12. On 2/5/13, he had a total hip replacement on his remaining back leg. He has absolutely no idea that he has only three legs!

UPDATE: Murphy lived his life to the fullest, right up until an aggressive bone lesion took him across the Rainbow Bridge on April 9, 2015 and he gained his membership in the April Angels. Run free, my love. You deserve it!

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7 February 2017 - 10:32 am
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Hi, sorry that you are going through this, but wow, your dog is really strong to have pass through this. I had the same question with Novak’s amputation, witch one to choose. After discussing it here and with ortho specialist, we decided to go with mid femoral amputation and I don’t regret it! Only one vet suggested the joint amputation saying that Novak would hurt the stump. But no, it helped him in so many way. First, the muscle/nerve is working, he use the stump a lot, for balance, to sit, even to swim, to get from sit/down position to standing position. Protestic is not really an option, they need 2 articulations to really work, thats what I was told by the company who makes the protestic(in Canada). Anyway, Im really happy with the mid femoral cut, Novak has a big cushion of muscle to protect it and a lot of fur LOL

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8 February 2017 - 8:56 pm
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So any update? When his her surgery?

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