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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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Tripawds with Deformities of the Leg
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Las Vegas, Nevada
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6 March 2010 - 2:49 pm
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Okay, it seems we are getting a few people coming in with leg deformities from either birth or an early accident.   And there really isn't a topic on it that I could find that dealt with the long term effects. 

So, I thought I'd offer up my experience for those new coming into the site since I've dealt with it for more than a decade.

Background:

Comet, a mix of possibly lab and corgi (approx. 38lbs) was born in late 1998 and has a congenital birth defect of the shoulder and front left leg.  The shoulder is dislocated and the elbow has no developed movable joint.   The leg is smaller and sits up against her chest.  The leg has no nerve sensation.  In my heart, I believe she was born with some type of dwarfism which is why there is a problem with her leg.  Her body and legs just don't seem to go together.

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Comet was scheduled to remove the leg in February 1999 but came down with pneumonia that lasted a couple of months.  We didn't put her through the surgery since she had been so sick and then we realized she like to use the leg as a paddle by using her shoulder movement.  The leg is straight and the  paw is limp.  But she moves the shoulder.

However, I would highly recommend getting the leg removed.  I wished I had.  I believe the leg is causing some strain on her neck and surrounding muscles.  The problems seemed to develop with age. Plus, I am constantly concerned about the gimpy leg!  I'm always having to watch out for her to make sure it doesn't get caught on something since it won't flex.  I'm afraid of wire crates because the paw is too small and could get caught up in the wire.  It's been a needless worry but as a senior dog, I really hate to put her through any more surgeries.

Not to scare anyone but with a front leg deformity, I think the chances of tearing a cruciate ligament in the back knees are high.  Comet has used her back legs to the point her muscles are overly large (see x-ray).  She blew out her 1st back knee at the age of 6 and then about 1 year and a half years later, the other knee.  She had a TPLO done on each one.  The TPLO is best surgery for 3-legged dogs.

X-ray of the hardware used in a TPLO to stablize the knee.

Comet has lived a very normal dog life! She does everything a 4 legged dog would do, other than she hops to get around.  Since we have a 2-story house, she still climbs the stairs.  She jumps on the couch.  And when she was smaller, she would jump on the bed.  She doesn't walk very far but she did when she was younger.

I have worried about the working front leg getting injured and have been afraid she may step in a hole.  But she seems to knows how do deal with where to walk and it's never been a problem.  She does fall on her face some but only more with age.  But that happens to all of us with age!

Hopefully these tidbits will help anyone that has a dog with a deformed leg.

Comet's mom

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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6 March 2010 - 5:02 pm
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Thanks for starting this topic! From the looks of that x-ray, maybe we should call Comet “RoboDog”. 😉

Las Vegas, Nevada
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6 March 2010 - 6:50 pm
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I know!  At least I can see what I paid for!

Admin, could you kindly fix my topic misspelling!  “Twipawd”! 

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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6 March 2010 - 7:21 pm
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cometdog said:

Admin, could you kindly fix my topic misspelling! 


Done. I didn't even catch that, but I often catch myself spelling tripwad. Way Confused

The Rainbow Bridge



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7 March 2010 - 3:37 pm
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This is really informative, thanks so much. We'll be sure to tell people to hop on over here when necessary.

It's interesting that you would recommend removing the leg. We have talked to some physical therapists who think that it really is better to limp on four legs, which caught us by surprise. They felt that that if a dog is bearing any weight at all on the bum leg that it's worth keeping. Not sure where they would draw the line, but your feelings about keeping a bum leg long-term shed some light on that theory in that it doesn't always apply.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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7 March 2010 - 4:45 pm
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Wow!  That is some interesting x-ray!  You didn't tell us we had Comet the bionic dog!

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

Winnipeg
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7 March 2010 - 9:37 pm
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Great topic. It does seem a few newbie dogs in your situation have arrived.

I love the 'breed description'. “Mixed Canine”. That kind of covers it all, doesn't it? Better than “Mixed Canine x Feline”, I suppose.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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8 March 2010 - 11:50 am
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Shanna, I like to think of her as the 6 Million Dollar Dog!  Because that's what it's felt like in the pocket book!  But she is so worth it! 

It's interesting that you would recommend removing the leg. We have talked to some physical therapists who think that it really is better to limp on four legs, which caught us by surprise. They felt that that if a dog is bearing any weight at all on the bum leg that it's worth keeping.

I should clarify, that Comet's leg isn't really a leg.  It's  just a deformed bone with tissue attached at the shoulder.  It doesn't bend and it can only be moved up or down through the shoulder joint.  It's a permanent hand shake!  “Hello, nice to meet you, my name is Comet!”.

All the vets keep telling me that she has a bad neck.  And then after this paralyses of the left side of the face, it's got to be the left strain from the leg.  And then when you feel under the leg, there is so much tightness at the chest area.  I know when I rub that area, it feels good because she goes into la-la land!

I'm just got so attached to her leg because it has so much character.  But with age, it's just dead weight and has no purpose.  Even the ortho vet said recently, it looked like it got in her way.  I felt ashamed that I fell in love with the “look” of her with that messed up leg.

Image Enlarger

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Sunny California
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8 March 2010 - 2:56 pm
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Good Topic! Rosie is a ‘genetic defect’ tripawd baby (her family tree didn’t fork, so to speak). She was born with a bent front leg and part of her paw growing out of the elbow. You can see pics at http://www.wcma…..7994#Rosie Since it was ‘dead weight’ and was also lacking in circulation to parts of it, it was decided that she would do much better with it off (especially since she is going to be such a big girl). At this point in her puppyhood (~5 mo), she is a pretty typical mastiff pup. Runs around like her little monkey butt is on fire, then collapses in a heap and sleeps it off. I really think she has no concept of ‘missing’ anything, since it was never a weight bearing leg for her. I do worry that her front shoulder is in for some trouble down the line due to her ‘compensating’ with her front leg (by centering it under her chest, thus altering her shoulder alignment). But at this stage, we will just take it as it comes and try to do as much preventative care as we can.

Cheers,
K

Las Vegas, Nevada
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10 March 2010 - 11:35 pm
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K-

Didn't they remove Rosie's scapula? 

I've never had to worry about the shoulder part even tho Comet's is deformed with it being a bit center to her chest.   But then again, I never worried about much except whether that deformed leg would get caught on stuff.  (like standing on her hind legs with her front ones on the couch and not being about move the gimpy leg out of the way when she got down) 

But I do think Comet's body is pretty messed in general.  When I got her as a puppy, I had her completely xrayed.  She is a little Quasimoto and I wasn't even for sure she could live a normal life!  I was so nervous the vet would say she should be put down.  But he didn't and yay for me!

Her hips twist to the side as you can see in xray where the TPLO hardware should be even on both sides.  One vet told they thought she pulls the right back leg under her body to balance herself.  Her right leg muscle is almost twice as big.  I think the left back leg is just used to balance.  So, I have basically been told she walking on 2 legs.  Plus, she has those extra toes! (another thing I didn't amputate after being told to do!)

    

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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11 March 2010 - 2:23 am
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What a cutie pie Rosie is!  She looks like trouble waiting for a place to happen.Oh My!

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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8 May 2010 - 2:27 pm
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Hey Comet, we found you!  I’m Buddy, a tripawd from birth too!  Good to see the topic here, mopm is keeping my leg since it does not have problems and I still uses it.  Our county vet says leave it alone unless it is bothering me… I tend to agree.  Our blog is wkfryer.tripawds.com

My pawrents are learning to use the site, not sure how to put a link in.  Mom had initial concerns with me as a puppy on the stairs.  Without a front left paw I would “slide” down the stairs if they did not watch me.  Then I taught myself to lean on the wall as I came down….smart me.  Mom will try to post a video of me on the stairs (if she can figure it out).  Thanks for the topic cousin comet!!!!

 

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8 May 2010 - 7:23 pm
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wkfryer said:

… not sure how to put a link in.

If you include the entire url for any link in a post it will automatically convert to a hyperlink, like this: http://wkfryer……ipawds.com

Or, follow these instructions for adding hyperlinks like this one to Buddy’s Blog. (Hint: Select text to link and use the Insert / Edit Link tool.)

Buddy is obviously smart like Jerry was – sliding down the wall for support as he learned to hop downstairs . Brilliant dogs must think alike! big-blink

Portage Lake, Maine
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8 May 2010 - 8:16 pm
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Good topic, Cometdog.  I’ve seen pics of you and some history but this was nice to read it all!

I would be like your Mom worrying about your deformed leg all the time!  I do know a front leg tripawd, though, that has been one for 12 years or so, and she tilts her head sideways now….I have to wonder if it’s just all due to being a Tripawd for so long?  Like you having your deformed leg for so long and now has a bad neck? 

I remember one of the rehab video’s that Admin did one of them talked about how the Tripawd’s spine gets all whacked out…and rightfully so..  all stands to reason.  All the more reason for PT/massage…  Now I wish Maggie would give ME a massage!!

Tracy, Maggie’s Mom

PS interesting on the comment about TPLO being the best for Tripawds…what about TTA?  That probably wasn’t out when CometDog had hers?

Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13

http://maggie.t.....t-24-2013/

Las Vegas, Nevada
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9 May 2010 - 3:24 pm
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 keeping my leg since it does not have problems and I still uses it. 

Hey Buddy – it’s Comet’s mom –  I loved the video!  You are so, so, so adorable!

I can easily write that I would remove the leg if I had ‘do-overs’ but I still don’t know for sure if I could.  I love her leg!  Just like you do.  Even friends and family say to me, “I’m so glad you didn’t remove it but it’s so much a part of her character.”.  She’s like Buddy, she uses it.  Not to walk, because it doesn’t work or bend and the paw is limp, but to get attention.   She can still move that shoulder and can make it go up and down a little bit.   When she doesn’t get what she wants, she’ll start knocking over stuff with her gimpy leg! 

Plus, I can’t image picking her up without it.  That deformed shoulder blade fits snugly up against my chest when I carry her. 

 

Maggie,

I haven’t hear of TTA.  I just know of TPLO and then the plain ol’ suture one.  I had a really good seasoned ortho vet that still teaches at Iowa State come to Vegas to do the surgeries.  I was told her ortho was one of the best in the country and lucky for me he is licensed here and comes to Vegas to do ortho surgeries.  He now has a satellite office here with a staff of amazing speciality vets. 

Regarding the neck, she supposedly had a neck disc infection, too.  It’s very hard to diagnose. I had a neuro vet clinic examine her.  Two vets spent an hour on her.  They couldn’t give me a clear answer on her neck without a CT scan (they said).  I was a little frustrated because they were more fascinated with her shoulder and leg deformity and really made me feel like they wanted to run her through a full body CT for their own benefit as an test patient to help them learn.  I wasn’t going to pay the $4600.  Her new ortho said that would have been unnecessary (a biopsy of the disc is the only way to tell, not a CT)  He put her on a cheap antibiotic for life which got the pain out of her neck.  She is so much better. 

But she does have a slow growing ossifying epulis   in her bottom jaw which has made all of her bottom teeth crooked.  And she had Horner’s Syndrome  (paralysis of the facial muscles) which has finally cleared up.

 

 

 

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

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