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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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Newly adopted, severely disabled
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Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Member Since:
3 April 2022
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3 April 2022 - 6:25 am
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Greetings!  I just adopted a 6-8 year old tripawd hound mix (Pookie).  He has a tragic backstory, and had a severely mangled front leg amputated.  I read a lot about tripawds and thought I had an idea of what to expect, but the rescue agency either hid the extent of his disability or was unaware of changes at the foster home. I was told he enjoys walks and had adapted well to the missing leg (his surgery was 6 months ago).  It turns out he has been carried pretty much everywhere since then.   He has no motivation to walk because of how his foster mom cared for him.  He is able to lurch very short distances, but face plants every 2-3 feet.  This is painful to watch and not a situation I am prepared for long-term.

The first available new-pet vet appointment is a month away.  I need advice on how to help him become more independent.   Aside from the issues inherent with being a tripawd, it seems clear that his muscles have been allowed to atrophy.  I will be buying a walking harness as soon as my local pet store opens in a few hours.  What are some first steps I can take to help become more mobile?

Thanks for helping a newbie!

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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3 April 2022 - 2:24 pm
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

You are awesome for adopting Pookie! 

First thing I think of is that you need to get him to a certified rehab specialist.  They can help find out if he has problems with his other front leg and can help with exercises to build up his strength.  We have a program here that may pay for your first visit: Reimbursement for Rehab Visit.

Rescues mean well but they rarely have the experience or resources to properly help a new Tripawd.  Heck- when my first Pug became a Tripawd way back in 2006 I had no idea what I was doing!  All the vets said was: dogs do fine on three- let her do what she wants.

Now I know better- walks don't build strength.  A Tripawd needs a strong core and strong legs to be comfortable navigating life on 3.  I adopted my current Tripawd when she was 10 months old, she lost her rear leg after being hit by a car at 7 months old.  She was 2.5 months post surgery but not at all strong when I got her home.   I immediately started working on her core and leg strength.  Elly plays food games, does food puzzles, and we do exercises as well as trick and obedience training.  I try to do different things every day to keep it fun and keep her engaged.

Here are some exercise ideas from our gear blog.

And the e-book Loving Life On Three Legs focuses on fitness and rehab.

I know you don't want to wait a month to help Pookie- just be cautious when you try any of this stuff.

And finally- here is a video I made a while ago showing just some of the food games and puzzles that entertain Elly.

You may have to do some modifications since Pookie is a front amp.

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

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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3 April 2022 - 3:36 pm
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Hi to you and Pookie! Thank you for adopting him! smiley_clap

You are so smart for posting here and asking great questions. I know it seems like Pookie has a daunting situation right now but you're on the right track to help him get strong and stay injury free. 

Rescues have their heart in the right place, but we see these situations a lot. I wish rescues would point every potential adopter to our What to Know When Adopting a Tripawd articles, before they adopt. Not to discourage Tripawd adoptions, but to give people a realistic picture, from folks who have been there themselves. There is a lot to know about amputee dogs and keeping them injury free. Old school thinking says "just let them be a dog," but we add the disclaimer "within limits." By coming here, and teaming up with a rehab therapist, you'll learn how to find the appropriate limits for Pookie.

If you'd like help finding a rehab therapy center, I'm happy to help. Just PM me your location. You may be able to get in before that first vet visit (and ideally they'll have a vet in the practice so you can do both things at the same time). 

Try not to get discouraged. Pookie found you for a reason. In the meantime, as Karen suggested, interactive brain games will do tons to help his mind stay busy and that's even more important than physical activity during all stages of a dog's life. Also, consider dog strollers for him. They are awesome ways to help a Tripawd (even fit ones) go places with the pack. Sniff a little, ride a little, walk a little... we think they're an awesome tool for all three-leggers (cats too!).

Please let us know how we can help OK? And we would love to see him! Here's how adding images to the Forums works:

  • Upload pics to a photo sharing site like or your own Tripawds blog (https://tripawd...../supporter). Pictures and video have to be hosted (live) somewhere other than in the forums.
  • Once the photo is uploaded somewhere, right click and copy the Image URL or just copy the image if you’re on a phone
  • Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself) in your post. It should automatically appear. 

If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Member Since:
3 April 2022
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14 May 2022 - 9:37 pm
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[Image Can Not Be Found]Thanks so much for your responses!  Wanted to share an update about Pookie (I actually went back to the name he came with, Mookie).  After almost 6 weeks he has really come out of his shell.  He enjoys cuddles and the backyard, though he struggles to get around.  In addition to the amputated front leg, Mookie has a congenital deformity in his remaining front leg and pretty severe kyphosis.  My vet recommended a rehab specialist, and at our first visit she outlined a comprehensive plan to help stretch and strengthen.  As a result of the visit, I'm also in the process of getting Mookie some front-end support from Eddie's Wheels.  Their engineer is off work for a few weeks, but I'm optimistic Mookie will be learning to use his wheels by the end of June.  I'm having a total knee replacement at that time, so he and I can learn to walk together.  I'm looking forwards to one day being able to take him to the conservation areas that my previous dog loved for 15+ years.  I'll update you on his progress!  Thanks again for the support and love.

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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15 May 2022 - 3:32 pm
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Mookie's back! YAY!

I'm sorry your pics didn't show up. Email them to me and I'll share, can't wait to see him! 

He is so fortunate to find his way to you! I love that you consulted with a therapist, and that the wheels are prescribed in consult with one. Don't forget the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit OK? We love hearing about how visits go for our members and always learn so much.

Yes you will both learn and get strong together, what a team smiley4In no time at all you, Mookie, and your angel dog will be back in the open spaces and enjoying life to the fullest.

Please keep us posted and let us know how things are going. I'm so glad you updated!

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