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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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Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
19 August 2020
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19 August 2020 - 11:13 am
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Hello! New to tripaws. My soul puppy Luna had a traumatic break at the elbow joint when she was 4 months old, we opted for surgery to try to save her front right leg and she’s been on pain meds ever since. Had a second surgery a year ago to remove some hardware, and she was still limping and in a lot of pain. She’s walked an entire block maybe 5 times in her almost 3 years. Monday morning she got up and her front leg was angled a bit funny so we rushed her to her surgeon to find that she has terrible arthritis and degenerative joint disease at the elbow joint. Vet gave us three options: medicate as we have been until it’s too painful for her, have another surgery to fuse the bones together, essentially getting rid of her elbow pain but leaving her with even more restricted mobility(arthrodesis), or amputation. 

She’s missed out on being a puppy to surgeries and recovery and I want to give her a pain free, happy life. She deserves the world. We’ve decided on amputation and I need some help knowing that she’ll be okay. A front leg seems harder for pups to bounce back from… I’m just starting research on care pre/post-op and things we’ll need to replace or adjust. 

Any other front leg tris?

The Rainbow Bridge

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25 April 2007
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19 August 2020 - 11:54 am
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Hi Luna’s mom, welcome! Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away.

You two have fought a long battle over that bad leg, I’m so sorry! It’s super smart of you to take her in for an evaluation, and now that you find yourself facing amputation, at least you have a plan to help you move forward and allow Luna to enjoy a better quality of life. In most cases, that’s exactly what happens. Once that bad leg is gone, animals feel such a huge sense of freedom in a life without pain (human amputees report the same experience!). I think you’ll see such a pawsitive shift in her personality, it will be amazing for you both!

For now, we do have loads of resources to get you started on that road to recovery and beyond. Check out our Jerry’s Required Reading List , and the Tripawds e-books library and our What to Expect series too. Others will chime in here so feel free to ask any questions you’d like.

Both kind of Tripawds have their own challenges in different ways. Front-leggers do have it a little tougher though, because there is so much extra weight on the front end. I don’t know if your vet has recommended it yet, but canine rehabilitation therapy is such a great thing to do for any Tripawd. You’ll learn so much about what she will be capable of, things she shouldn’t do, and how to keep her feeling good. The best part is that the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so please take advantage of the program OK?

We look forward to following along on your journey, let us know how we can help!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Raleigh, NC
Forum Posts: 170
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19 August 2020 - 4:42 pm
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It takes about two weeks to recover from the visible signs of the surgery.  Weight loss and physical therapy take longer.  Being painfree is priceless.

I knew a young greyhound named Boki who had a horrible break.  After multiple surgeries with plates and revisions, it just would not heal and she was in constant pain.  Her humans decided to go with amputation and the dog was in much less pain dealing with the amputation than with the break.  She was a very happy dog after that and lived a long and normal life.  

Front leg tripawds really do need to be lean and all tripawds need to have a strong core.  You need to encourage digging to keep the wrist strong.  Please see a physical therapist and don’t forget that Fenzi Dog Academy self-study course on life with a Tripawd.  Many of us did the course when it was a live course about 5 years ago.  It does not replace seeing a PT but it helps you understand a lot more about your tripawds needs.

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23 August 2020 - 8:59 am
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Wow my heart goes out to you.  When our 3 month old pup was attacked by dogs who broke his femur in 3 places we were given 3 options: surgery to repair, amputation, or put him to sleep.  We agonized.  The surgery would require 8-12 weeks confinement and may not be successful, but could hopefully restore his leg.  The recovery from amputation would be much easier but he would lose a leg forever.

We concluded that we just could not see keeping a young pup confined in a crate other than potty breaks for weeks before even knowing if the surgery had been successful.  We consulted numerous friends who began telling us story after story of happy active 3 legged dogs.  It seems they are everywhere!  We chose amputation 6 weeks ago.

His recovery was pretty much a done deal by the end of 2 weeks.  He was walking on 3 legs before he left the clinic the next day after surgery.  The hardest part for us was just really keeping an eye on him.  The hardest part for him, other than the initial pain, was wearing the dreaded cone to keep him from chewing on the stitches.  When the stitches were removed after 2 weeks, we had our puppy back.

So, you tried the surgery with the rods and pins.  You gave it a shot, and  your dog has been on pain meds ever since.  I suspect that amputation would be a huger relief to her as well as you.  Good luck


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23 August 2020 - 3:33 pm
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Can only dktto the insight and knowledge the others have shared.

While I’m certainly sorry it took a crisis  to get you to this point, I’m very relieved that Luna can now be pain free and live a quality  life!  

It’s time to move forward and focus on the great future Luna will now have.  Can’t  undo what been done. 

Do you have an Orthopedic  Surgeon lined up?  (ou’ll want the surgery to be done at an pvernoght fully staffed clinic if if at all possible.)  They are really good at assessing  her remaining  three legs.  Sounds like there ,at be a little extra wear and tear as they’ve been bearing  more weight than normal of she’s been limping for five years.

Recovery  is ,no picnic for a couple of weeks.  It is MAJOR surgery and rest, short leashed potty breaks, more rest and good pain  meds are the norm for those two weeks-ish.  You may actualy be pleasantly surprised  at how well she adapts with the pain gone.  

Yes, I have a front legger.  I adopted him that way about six years ago. He’s approximately  seven or eight years old.  He DEFINITELY  lives each day to the fullest and does not hold back at all.  The years have brought some wear and tear and arthritis, but that’s  been mostly on his back legs.  There have been many times he has over done it due to “circumstances  beyond my control”  and that has hastened some of his arthritis, etc.  IE, an unauthorized  escape adve ture for four days and found several miles away after traveling  thru uneven wooded acres.  He’s a Coonhound)

But my goodness,  just to know your Luna has hardly not even walked a block in five years….just doing a half of block pain free will be the best freedom adventure  evvvver!

We are so looking forward to following Luna as she gets to be the Luna she was born to be!-   You have taken such good care of her and clearly you love her deeply.

We will be here by uour side every step of the way to help ypu navi thru recovery and onto celebrating  all the glorious  days ahead for Luna!!


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

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