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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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Tripawd life expectancy
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Forum Posts: 26
Member Since:
13 October 2009
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6 November 2009 - 3:55 pm
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Hey! So I’ve been wondering…I know most here are dealing with cancer issues in relation to amputation and recovery but does anyone know how many in this community are here due to accident/infection causes? Without the worry of cancer relapse, it seems the concerns are about weight, mobility, exercise, diet etc, the goal being to provide the best life possible while preventing complications like dysplasia, arthritis or further limb damage. I wonder, though, what impact amputation might have on an otherwise healthy animal? My Sully was about 9 months old when he had his surgery.

Thanks,

Patrick, Sully and the packsmiley1

Here and Now


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6 November 2009 - 4:42 pm
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Great question! I have no answer for you. All members have the ability to enter such details in their Forum profile, and now on their Tripawds Blogs if they have one. Compiling this information from nearly 1000 user accounts however, is beyond the scope of our volunteer efforts. Hopefully we’ll get an idea from those who reply to this topic! Thanks for asking.

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6 November 2009 - 8:21 pm
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Emily's amputation was from cancer and so cancer mets were what I feared and what I expected to be her cause of death.  However, it is hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis that is laying her low and if the adequan shots don't work will be the reason we have to let her go.  Therefore, even for a healthy dogs there are conditions that can be aggravated  by amputation.  So although you are spared the worry of cancer it is still important to keep Sully's weight under control, feed him good quality food and give him a good joint supplement.

Debra & Emily

12/1/09 – Just to clarify: It turned out that although Emily did have ostearthritis and hip dysplasia the cancer had spread to her spine and that was what her main problem was.  I do still stand by my advice, however.

Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Forum Posts: 176
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19 November 2009 - 12:20 pm
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Sid is an ex-racing greyhound who shattered his hock at the track.  They tried to fix it, but when the vet got in there, he said there was nothing left to wire, so he lost his leg.

It's been two years since the amputation.  When we took him on a few months back, he couldn't walk very far without tiring rapidly. Now, with daily walks he's a very strong dog.  His muscles have developed nicely, and to sit (which he does by choice) he'll often just tuck his remaining hind leg under him and take the weight on the front ones.  I've actually seen him lift that back leg off the ground one time, for a few seconds, when he cracked it on a doorstep on his way inside. 

My point is that for an otherwise healthy dog – Sid is only five – I believe it's very important to keep their limbs strong and supple with enough of the right type of exercise. I wouldn't put him in for flyball or agility, I think that would be asking for trouble, and put too much stress on his legs and his back, but daily walks, and the occasional run are essential for overall health.

I've seen it happen that dogs who get very little exercise and are in 'soft' condition, will sometimes injure themselves far too easily, even breaking limbs in the garden (yard).  

On the other hand, I don't want to overstrain his joints and store up trouble for later, so I'll be interested to hear what other people say.  He'll get joint supplements very soon, I think, though he is young.  Anything to keep him strong!

We are prepared for the fact that we may lose him sooner than if he had four legs, simply because if he does get back or neck trouble, or severe arthritis, it will be that much harder on him.  🙁

Here and Now


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19 November 2009 - 1:57 pm
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Thanks for joining Jay! We appreciate your input, you provide some great advice.

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21 November 2009 - 6:47 am
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Thanks!  I actually joined a few months back before we got Sid with a thread called 'Thinking of adopting a tripod'.  And my husband has told me I should make myself known to you, because you use his forum software.  So, hi from him, too.  Smile

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21 November 2009 - 8:43 am
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sachabear said:

it seems the concerns are about weight, mobility, exercise, diet etc, the goal being to provide the best life possible while preventing complications like dysplasia, arthritis or further limb damage.


Patrick, Sully and the pack,

From a pure logical point of view, I think that you have this one “nailed”.  One would only have to watch them hop around to understand that there has been a change in the “suspension” and the stresses of walking.  My experience has been that dysplasia is more breed and weight dependent than arthritis.  Standard Poodles are nominally slimmer than Rotties, Retrievers, and Shepards and are more like Dobies but that also depends on the individual dogs and owner.  (We pay a different price for these narrower chested dogs, it called torsion and it is really bad!)  Cherry has usually been on the smaller size for her eleven years before her amputation due to cancer.  She was obience trained to compete (which she absolutely loved) to perform three foot high jumps and six foot broad jumps on a frame that is only 22 inches at the shoulder.  Thus, slim to keep the stresses down.  Now twelve and one year post amputation, I try to keep a little more weight on her primarily because I want that weight “in-hand” when she gets sick or the cancer returns.  Otherwise, I would keep her on the slimmer side.  During most of her life that was 45-48 lb and now 42.6 lb on her last visit to the vet.

Did not want to write a novel but did anyway.  Pay attention to the weight, neutrition, and exercise (limit the joint jaring) and I would expect that you will have a “normal” life expectancy.  You might want to consider some of the joint supliments as a preventative.

Thanks for joining and let us know how its going,

Bob & Cherry

Here and Now


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21 November 2009 - 2:11 pm
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Jay said:Thanks! …my husband has told me I should make myself known to you, because you use his forum software.


So, you must be the mysterious Mrs. Swordfish! Winker We've been waiting to hear from you.

Thanks so much for sharing Sid's story! Please feel free to send us a photo, along with any other details you care to provide about Sid and we'd be happy to write about him – and the connection we share – behind the scenes in Jerry's blog for all our readers.

And on behalf of the entire Tripawds Blogs community, please be sure to thank Andy again for all his hard work and ongoing support.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Forum Posts: 4344
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24 November 2009 - 4:03 pm
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I can speak from experience…my 3-legged little girl is 11 years old and still fairly healthy.  She is 39 lbs and has had a congenital deformed front leg that has never functioned (it is very small also).  It was supposed to be removed but she got kennel cough and we decided she could move the shoulder and paddle toys with it – therefore it stayed on.    So, she's been 3 legged for 11 years.

She did have both knees goes out and has TPLO in both. She has a bit of arthritis in her hips, but not too bad.  And she has diskospondylitis (spell?) in her neck (infection to the discs).  She is on antibiotics for that for the rest of her life. 

She still goes up and down the stairs.  She can't jump in the car anymore but periodically she'll jump on the sofa! 

I would say the hardest part of dealing with a 3 legged dog hasn't been the physical part, but the mental part.  When they lose their fight or flight ability, they are spooked so easily. That has been my struggle for 11 years.  Plus, she came from a dog “hoarder” where 22 dogs were fround in a house.  Even though she was just a baby, she still can't trust strangers and it takes a long time for anyone to touch her.

I did a horrible job in raising her.  I have tried to protect her so much that I think I have made her social abilities so much worse.  I just wanted her safe and secure.  She is such a doll with loads of personality but no one ever gets to see it.

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.

Forum Posts: 418
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30 November 2009 - 11:00 pm
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Hi, this is Shelby's mom (aka maid).  Shelby's amputation was due to injury, and she was a partial tripawd before receiving healthy surgery by the rescue agency to remove the leg at the shoulder.  Consquently, she learned to walk with her good leg bowed out while trying to touch the ground w/ her partial.  Anyway, we take her to a chiropractor every 8 weeks to realign her back due to her odd gate and the added stress of being a front leg amputee.  We have modified the house to make it easier on her and avoid any extra stresses — raised food and water bowls, carpet runners on the wood floors, a ramp up to the bed.  We also lift her in and out of the truck by her Ruffware harness.  She can do many things on her own, but the extra protection will give her less pain in the future and more comfort now.  Hope your 3-legged kid is happy and healthy for years to come!

East Bay, CA
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1 December 2009 - 12:34 am
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Shelby, you princess. Of COURSE you have your people trained to have everything just so for you. I wouldn't be surprised if you get hand fed in that bed of yours either! I dare say, there's someone standing by to brush those golden locks on command! You know, not every tripawd has such devoted servants as you do! Winker

May 2001-Jan 21, 2010.....I'm a dog and I'm AWESOME!..... Always.

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