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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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Whats best for him?
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Member Since:
18 August 2020
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18 August 2020 - 8:49 am
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My family and I are really struggling with what to do with our tripod...his name is Duke, he became a tripod in January, so 7 months ago, after find out he had osteosarcoma in one of his front legs. It was a hard decision, but even at 10 years old duke is very energetic and has the attitude of a puppy, so we knew he would want a fighting chance.

He adjusted great and has lived so happily since then. He is a shepherd mix weighing in at 80lbs. About three days ago he woke up and could barely walk his back legs were like jello, and he would try to walk but woukr tumbke and fall, we had hope it was just his arthritis acting up due to the rain, but noticed his legs were not stiff at all, it was almost as if he didnt feel them.

So off to our local emergency vet we went. They said thay he has some kind of nerve damage either along his spine or in his brain. They said it was one of three thinhs, either he has a tumor somewhere along his spinal cord, he had a stroke that lead to a blood clot somewhere, or he has a slipped disk. They told us we had three options, get an mri to find out what is really wrong, but with his medical histoty there assuming its cancer (the mri would cost over 3,000$, but they said that they would have to put him under with anesthia, and because of his medical history, size and age, they said that he might not wake up from the mri), or we take him home with medicine and pray he gets better, or we consider his quality of life and possibly put him down.

We brought him home, and have kept him in a room on our first floor, he has on a helper harness that we use to move him when necessary, to go outside but even when we ge toutside he lays down to go potty. He is very stressed over not being able to walk, because he is so high spirited and determined to be health, so he keeps trying to force himself up to walk and just ends up falling. He crys a lot and tries to move himself around, he sleeps only a few hours a night now because his main focus is fixing his legs, its like he believes if he pushes himself enough his legs will work again. And we have no idea what the best option is for him. 

A life where he can not move is not a life for him, he currently needs 24/7 care and you can tell he hates being so dependent on us. But he is also so strong willed and energetic that putting him down seems like a crime, no way is he mentally ready for that, so we have no idea what decision to make for him.

We just want whatever is best for him, but we feel like no matter what option we choose it eont be the right one. He clesrly wants to keep fighting, but us knowing he might not ever recover makes us wonder if putting him through the fight worth it. Any words of advice? 

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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18 August 2020 - 9:18 am
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Hi Missy and Duke, welcome. Your future posts won't need approval so post away. I almost moved your post to "Hoping Around" because this does sound like it could be a temporary mobility issue and not end-of-life, at least I hope. 

I'm sorry to hear about Duke's mobility issues. This is a tough situation and you are asking great questions. Here are some things to consider:

How long has Duke been like this? Has your regular vet seen Duke yet? Oftentimes ER vets don't have the entire health picture of a dog, and will jump to worst case scenario, putting pet parents on edge and assuming it's the end of the road. Don't do that yet if your regular vet hasn't seen him.

Next, I would want an opinion from a neurologist or orthopedic vet, whichever your own family vet thinks would be best. A second or even third opinion can give you a clearer picture of what's going on. A canine rehabilitation therapist may also need to be involved to get the entire scope of his condition. Hopefully this is something as simple as arthritis being aggravated, or a pulled muscle, so try not to think the worst. I know it's hard, seeing your dog with such limited mobility is emotionally draining. 

Finally, be sure that your vet gives Duke appropriate pain medication while you wait for a final diagnosis. If he is restless and anxious, these are likely pain signals and he could probably benefit from pain control.

I hope this helps! 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Raleigh, NC
Member Since:
29 April 2013
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19 August 2020 - 2:58 pm
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Although I don't know what you're going through, I have found myself in very similar situations.  First and foremost, it has to be about him and you obviously already know this.  You know his personality best.  Some dogs are divas and enjoy having staff.  Some dogs cannot handle the idea of someone else doing anything for them.    Some dogs are able to adapt and just get that this is the new normal.  Dogs that are in pain have a harder time adapting because they're stressed out about being in pain and I think they are confused about why are you assisting them.  I'm speaking from experience here.  With Nixon, he adored being carried around and worked with us on various mobility aids while it took him 5 months to recover from an FCE.  Cookie freaked and refusing to use any human assisted mobility aide when she started having bouts of of paralysis.  She had Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy and then got OSA.  Because of the GOLPP, I didn't amputate and she reached a point where she couldn't stand at all and needed her bladder expressed.  She freaked out about bladder expression and for her, I knew it was time to let go.  She was 13 and tired of going to the vet.  Tired of tests.

I agree with Jerry's recommendation about getting a specialist to give a second opinion.  General Vets only stay on top of current research for things that interest them.  On average, new research takes 17 years to become accepted and applied.  A General Vet is only good for the material that was current the day they attended class.

If it is an fibrocartilaginous embolus/emboli, the moving around is a good thing.  If it is a slipped disk or a tumor, the moving and falling is probably not a good thing.  For horses, we have these amazing "stretchers" for them that allow a horse to be suspended but they can walk without having to support themselves.  Eddie's wheels makes something similar for dogs called a quad cart.  If this is a temporary condition, a quad cart could help with mobility and the feeling of independence your dog needs.  What did the vet say about deep pain?  what drugs are being used to help with the pain?

You have to give yourself permission to make mistakes.  There are no wrong answers and you can only make judgement calls based on the limited information you have.  Go with your gut and trust your intution.  Intuition is information which your unconscious mind then processes to come up with “hunches,” “gut feelings,” and premonitions.  It isn't a fluke.

On The Road


Member Since:
24 September 2009
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19 August 2020 - 3:02 pm
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Ingrid, it is soooo good to see you here sharing your wisdom and experience, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I love your suggestion of a quad cart!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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