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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We have an almost 9 month old Goldendoodle. We just found out he has a curved femur and needs surgery. It is a complex surgery they say. We have had somewhat conflicting advice. So I am here trying to get more input to make the best decision for our dog. Our dog is not showing signs of pain. He doesn’t whine or yelp at all. He runs normally. Every once in a while he limps which led us to asking our vet to look at his leg. The x-rays showed the issue. One surgeon says there could be multiple surgeries to fix the issue. The other says probably just one, but can’t guarantee. The other option is amputation, or leave it alone until it gets worse. But they say he will heal faster being a puppy is something is done now. Please give any advice on either. Surgery will be a minimum of 8 months being confined for him to heal properly, they say. Would you do the surgery? Would you amputate. I want the best quality of life for our dog. Does either affect or can affect his life expectancy?
Hi Deb and family, welcome. I’m sorry to hear about your pup’s condition. It’s really smart of you guys to act so quickly though. Dogs are masters at hiding pain and that occasional limp is definitely a pain signal when he’s tired at at his weakest. Sounds like things will only get worse if something isn’t done.
Your situation reminds me of Ziggy, a member in Australia who had an angular limb malformation that needed correcting on one of his remaining limbs (he was already a Tripawd when the surgery happened). If this is indeed the same type of surgery, then here are my thoughts about it:
Do you have pet insurance that will cover it? This kind of surgery is expensive as you already know. And the associated costs will add up over time. If your dog is insured for the procedure, you’ve already won one major victory.
I would not have anyone do this type of surgery other than a board-certified veterinary surgeon with plenty of experience in angular limb corrections. Yes, this is a complex surgery and not every vet has the kind of experience I would want for my dog, if my dog was in the same situation. As you can see, Ziggy had his done with the team at the University of Queensland. And Belle had a similar surgery, also done at the Queens Vet Teaching Hospital in the UK. I would be happy to connect you with their people if you’d like to talk to them.
If you live near a vet teaching hospital, I would go there for another opinion. These orthopedic experts are practicing the newest techniques and procedures, and you can rest assured that they will give your pup the best of care. If you are able to cover the cost, a consult with Colorado State University’s Orthopedic Medicine and Mobility Teamwould be well worth your money. They are world-famous, and our experience with them for Wyatt Ray ‘s ortho needs has been amazing.
Should you decide to do the correction, there will be plenty of rehabilitation therapy involved, for a long period of time. I’m not sure how long, but I’m guessing no less than six months of regular check-ins. So you need to consider that too: do you have the time, money and physical capabilities to help your pup get through the rehab? Following through with the team’s orders is as critical as the surgery itself for success. When it is a success it’s awesome, you’ve just given your dog a shot at living a full life on four legs.
Surgery isn’t right for everyone. So, if you decide to amputate, you’ve gotten rid of one problem for now, but the downside is that amputation creates a set of other challenges that will affect the rest of his life. Here are the downsides…
Yes, Tripawds do have great quality of life, but there are other things that happen as a consequence of living on three, instead of four legs For example, Tripawds are more prone to arthritis over time. You’ll need to monitor activity to make sure your dog doesn’t overdo things and stamina and strength is something you will also need to focus on building up and maintaining in order to minimize the effects of osteoarthritis on a senior Tripawd dog. Tripawds are also prone to cruciate tear injuries. As a result, the costs of care, if you are good about pursuing regular rehab therapy as he ages, will add up.
If you decide to amputate, see if a prosthetic limb is a possibility for your dog. The surgery will need to be done with that in mind. If you have the time and money to invest in a prosthesis, it can make all the difference in your dog’s mobility, and lessen the downsides that come along with living life on three.
I hope this doesn’t make things even more confusing for you. Let us know OK? I know you’ve got a lot to think about! And by the way what is your pup’s name?
His name is Cosmo. Thank you for the information. We do have a vet school, Texas A&M, that just looked at his x-rays. They are backed up due to Covid, but are getting us in for a consult at the end of August-first of September, when they can fit us in. We do not have pet insurance. I have had dogs all my life and have never carried it nor have I ever had a dog with any serious condition. So I didn’t get it when I got this puppy. I wish I would have now!!! I think the hardest thing with doing the surgery is the downtime, trying to keep him confined for 2+ months. He is very active. Keeping him contained after his neutering has been difficult for us and him. That was only 2 weeks, so 2 months seem difficult, especially for him. The other is having to have multiple surgeries if the first one doesn’t work. Do you know of any statistics on life expectancy after surgery vs. amputation. I want the best quality of life for him. Sorry if I am repeating myself from first post. Thank you again for the advice.
22 February 2013
Jerry covered a lot of of information and gave you great insight. Based on the concerns you just now expressed in the post above I’ll say thos about amputation.
It is ONE surgery and has about a ,two week recovery period. During that time you want to keep him on short leashed potty breaks and then back in for rest. As he continues to recover in that two week period he can roam around the house, sit out in the yard under a shade tree and wait for a squirrel to come bay. No chasing though.
And yes, as Jerry said, tripawds can be prone to arthritis. Joint supplements can help, as well as avoiding a ,or of jumping up and down on things. And cruciate issues can pop up. That said, I have a four legger who is six and she has some start of ,arthritis, as well as a full blown cruciate. Point being, those things can also happen with four leggers and may not ever happen with three leggers! We use the phrase “crapshoot” a lot around here!
Stay connected and know that we are here with you!
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!
Hi Deb & Cosmo, some thoughts for you:
We do have a vet school, Texas A&M, that just looked at his x-rays.
Gig ’em! We love the Aggies, and in fact they have a terrific rehab team we interviewed before. If you decide to go there, Cosmo will be in great hands. Also, there is a world-renowned boarded vet surgeon, Dr. Brian Beale, in Victoria if you want to consider having him look at Cosmo’s situation. He may be able to get in sooner, and is now at his own specialty practice, BVSE. I would trust him for a surgery like this.
Do you know of any statistics on life expectancy after surgery vs. amputation.
No, unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any. It’s yet another reason why we hope that a big donor can come along and fund a Tripawds Lifetime Study some day, so that we can have stats like this.