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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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New puppy, bum leg!
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Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
1 January 2021
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1 January 2021 - 9:21 am
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Hi! I am eager to get some support from people who have been through a situation like mine–it’s very overwhelming and sometimes very distressing.

We adopted a little pittie baby (she is 17 weeks old) from a new england rescue org just about 2 weeks ago. I adopted her knowing that she had sustained a fracture to her left rear femur at the growth plate–but I was assured by the rescue org that she had successful surgery to pin it, and that she was expected to recover with little more than eventual arthritis. I agreed that giving her glucosamine daily wouldn’t be too much of a burden and was happy to pick her up from transport. 

THEN, when we got her home, we noticed her leg was swollen, and she wasn’t using it. We made a vet appointment as soon as we could, and our vet recommended amputation. Since then, I’ve consulted 3 other vets and they all agree, the leg should go. Either the surgery didn’t actually take, or else the transport moved the pins around and another surgery is more likely to leave her with lifelong pain. We are waiting for the vet to squeeze her in for the surgery, and THANKFULLY the rescue org will pay for her procedure.

In addition to the regular puppy blues (I DO NOT KNOW HOW PEOPLE DO THIS MORE THAN ONCE IN THEIR LIVES, and I do not know how people handle HUMAN babies, sheesh), feeling exhausted all the time because of worrying, and general 2020 distress (hopefully this new year will be less of a mess), now I am totally freaked about being able to give her the life she totally deserves. She is a great little dog, and I love her so much already.

We live on the second floor and have been carrying her up and down, the stairs are definitely too much for her with her injured leg. Our entire apartment is hardwoods, and we have 2 cats (I’m not sure how that figures in, but it feels like a complication). Neither my husband or I will be able to sustain carrying a 60 lb (that’s how much her mother weighed, apparently) dog up and down the stairs multiple times a day, and I’m scared that our lives have been blown up by this situation I’ve accidentally trapped myself in.

Any words of wisdom, support, promises that everything will be okay, tips, tricks, warnings, etc etc etc will be very very appreciated.

Thank you!

Melissa (and Pyrrha, the soon-to-be tripawd). 

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 28738
Member Since:
25 April 2007
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1 January 2021 - 12:15 pm
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Hi Melissa and Pyrrha, welcome. Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away! 

I’m sorry you found yourself in this situation but rest assured you’ve come to the right place for information and support. All is not lost, and Pyrrha will grow up to be a happy, healthy puppy thanks to you. 

First, look at it like this: the accommodations you will make for her life change are things that are quite identical to what you would do for any four-legged senior dog. Of course you would do those for any dog right? Things like adding traction to your slippery floors, monitoring her activity so she doesn’t hurt herself, and making sure she stays slim slim slim. So, you’re just practicing for her old age now. By the time she gets to be a senior dog, you’ll have all of the necessary adjustments down and be ahead of the curve. Now, this isn’t to say that she’s going to act like an old lady now: not at all! She will still have a puppy personality and once that bad leg is gone probably be even crazier than before, she’ll be so happy the pain is gone!

I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information so right now I recommend that you check out our What to Expect articles , Jerry’s Required Reading List , and our e-book Loving Life On Three Legs .

Also, be sure to get a consultation lined up for a canine rehabilitation therapist. These experts can coach you on her needs during recovery and beyond, and it’s really good to form a relationship with one so that as she grows you’ll have someone to turn to IF she needs extra TLC. The best part is the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit !

A few more articles for you:


How to Raise a Tripawd Puppy: Nyaya’s Story

Finally, do get pet insurance for her NOW, so that any future orthopedic issues will hopefully be covered. 

Don’t worry, you can do this. She will grow up to be a healthy, happy puppy dog thanks to you and you will learn so much from her! I know this is NOT what you had in mind but there’s a reason she found her way to you. You will love her even more because of it. 

Keep us posted on how things are going and ask any questions you’d like, we are here for you.

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

Forum Posts: 4009
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1 January 2021 - 1:59 pm
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Hello and welcome.

First- I applaud you for keeping your commitment to this girl even with this unexpected twist.  I know of people who have given their dogs back for much less.

My current Tripawd lost her rear leg when she was 7 months old after being hit by a car. I adopted Elly when she was 10 months old and fully healed from her surgery but still full of puppy energy!  Elly is a Pug mix so is smaller than your Pyrrha will be.  We live in a split level house so stairs are part of our daily routine, Elly can do stairs just fine on her own.  In a perfect world I would help her to ease the long term wear and tear on the one back leg but that’s not practical.  I have taught her the ‘wait’ command so if I’m running down stairs and then right back up she doesn’t follow me.  And as she has gotten older and more confident away from me she will often wait on her own at the top or bottom of a staircase until I call her to come with me.

We have a combination of tile, vinyl and carpet in the house.  The vinyl is only a couple years old, I had carpet removed from our upper floor (where all the bedrooms are) because of my dad’s health.  It is a little slippery, Elly has learned not to try and run on that floor.  We do have some rugs scattered around but again because of my dad I can’t put down as many as I would like (he trips on them). 

Once Pyrrha is healed up you can start training her on the stairs.  For long term I would get a good harness like the RuffWear WebMaster Harness or Flagline harness .  Both of those styles have handles on the top so you can help her on the stairs without having to carry her.

To keep her busy and burn some energy food puzzles and games are great.  Check with your surgeon about what type of activities she can do right after surgery.  We were told Maggie (my first rear amp Tri) was only allowed short, leashed potty breaks for the first two weeks.  When my Pug boy Obie had his knee surgeries the surgeon allowed him to play some food games but only after a couple weeks.  BTW- the restrictions after his knee surgeries were 8 weeks long!!!

Elly is now 6 years old and doing great.  We work on her core strength and balance nearly every day through training, games and exercises- I try to do something different every day.  A great way to bond and challenge her mind.  Scent games are really fun too- I’m constantly amazed how tired she gets after ‘sniffing’ for a while.

Here is a video I made showing just some of the games and puzzles:

I hope she gets her surgery soon so she can get rid of that painful leg and get on with her new normal!

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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