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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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How do I help my newly tripawed to lose weight and get motivated?
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Member Since:
20 December 2015
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27 February 2016 - 4:27 pm
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Hi everyone,

Our 14 year old Australian cattle dog/border collie mix, Boo had her right front leg removed a couple months ago and seemed to take it well in the beginning. Now, however, she seems to have decided that all she wants to do is lay in bed all day and all night. We have to force her to get up to go out for potty (she fights doing even that and we frequently have to help her all the way to the end of the yard so that she will finally get the idea that she needs to do more than urinate by the time she hobbles back again). She is healthy and alert, but has no interest whatever in doing anything for herself. When we use an assist harness she can run like the wind (sometimes we can't go that fast ourselves!) but even with rubber-soled shoes and a front leg brace to help strengthen that supporting leg, she won't budge unless we  make her. We bought a garden cart (sort of like a kid's wagon that can be pulled) and put a big pillow in it so we could take her on "walks" with the rest of our dogs (we have 9 total), and she seems to enjoy the change of scenery, but she just doesn't seem to care about doing anything solo.

She was already overweight before surgery because the cancer and old age were slowing her down, but now she is actually gaining more weight despite reducing her diet. She is such a couch potato that I'm afraid unless I put her on bread and water (not really, of course) she won't burn enough calories to lose weight -- And the weight is making walking difficult for her without assistance. I am aware of the necessity to get her trim, but HOW?!

Any ideas for how to help her lose weight and/or get her motivated to get out of bed? With so many other dogs to care for I simply don't have time to devote 24/7 to her alone and she really needs to do some things for herself. what-everHelp?

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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27 February 2016 - 7:33 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry Boo is having trouble.  Has she been checked by your vet to make sure there are no physical problems.  Was the amputation due to the cancer? What type of cancer?

It is not uncommon for a new tripawd to tweak something which makes hoping uncomfortable.

I'm a little confused about the running like the wind- do you mean she will do that now with a harness or was that earlier?

As far as losing weight- I swear by green beans.  I use the no salt added canned kind.  They are filling and have almost no calories.  You substitute green beans for part of the regular meal. You can get some other ideas for diets in the Nutrition Blog.

Do you have access to a certified rehab vet in your area?  They can do wonders with a Tripawd with mobility issues. 

You can also try some food games, and use food as a motivation to get her moving outside.  Don't feed her stationary meals- make her earn them by walking to a different room, or outside. Or use a kong or a tug-a-jug to feed.  That is assuming there are no physical issues.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Member Since:
7 January 2016
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27 February 2016 - 10:08 pm
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Have you tried some kind of water activity?  I know Trinity had issues with weight management immediately post op due to her not feeling comfortable with getting around.  It was difficult to even do a walk around the block with her; granted we had a lot of other issues that probably contributed to our difficulties.  When I took her in for a follow up, I was scolded that she needed to lose 10% of her body weight to get back to "goal."

We tweaked her diet, but that only kept her from gaining "new" weight.  After some issues with our prior doggy park, I took her to a new one that had a water feature, and she took a running leap into the pool.  Not going to lie, I just about had a heart attack as she flew through the air, landed with a huge splash, and then disappeared underwater.  I was getting ready to go in after her, when she popped up, swam halfway back to me, barked, then turned away as if to say, "COME ON, MOM, he water's fine!!"  We ended up making that "our" park, and by our next check-up, she was within her goal weight range.

Trini's mom, 

Norene, TN
Member Since:
21 October 2014
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8 March 2016 - 11:39 am
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I don't know if this will make a difference, but I notice when I put anything on Meesha, like a shirt, dog blanket (horse blanket for dogs), or even the inflatable e-collar, she will act like a zombie until the offending accessory is removed. Then she runs around doing zoomies.

What is Boo's demeanor when she doesn't have the brace and/or booties on?


Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.

"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."

- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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8 March 2016 - 12:57 pm
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Wow 14 is amazing! Really glad to hear she's doing well otherwise, that's pawesome.

I think a lot of times we are so used to being around our dogs that we miss signals that something else is causing odd behavior. When was the last time she had a vet checkup? I think that is the place to begin. Your vet can work with you to determine if there is something going on, like a thyroid issue, or a pain issue, and help find a solution. Many times when sudden weight gain happens it's a medical issue, could be any number of things but the only way to find out is to have a vet take a look. At hear age she should be seen at least 2x a year for normal check-ups and more often if something is going on.

Use care with the kinds of exercise you do with her, and any diet changes, until you talk to your vet.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
20 December 2015
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10 March 2016 - 1:08 pm
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First thanks everyone for your considerate replies -- I so appreciate them. Second, let me apologize for not replying sooner. I'm new to this forum and I thought there would be an email notification or something if anyone replied. I was waiting for that, and I kept thinking no one saw my post. I've been too busy to spend much time browsing the net lately, but finally decided to come have a look round here (should have done that earlier, I know!) to see if I could find anything. Anyway ...

Boo's cancer was a huge fibrosarcoma tumor on her upper right leg. The doctor originally hoped to save her leg, but after getting in there, she decided that to ensure she got all the cancer, the leg would have to be sacrificed.

Unfortunately, Boo was already a bit overweight because she had been resisting exercise as the tumor got larger and larger -- apparently it caused some pain, but it was also just so massive it created balance issues when walking. Then after the surgery, she gained more weight because she was sore and simply would not get up to do anything. We had to assist her even to go out to potty or get a drink. Now she is healed, and capable of getting up and going out on her own, but still won't get up unless we insist upon it. I think we are partly to blame for catering to her instead of waiting her out, but when we know she has not pottied or gotten a drink for several hours and she still shows no signs of moving, we cave in and make her get up rather than wait for her to volunteer. I think she has only once or twice gotten up on her own and a couple of times she wet her bed. (Thank goodness I anticipated that and had a rubber sheet beneath her blankets.) Of course, the longer she insists upon being a couch potato, the more weight she gains -- despite my cutting her food down to where she eats no more than our 20 lb. beagle.

One good sign, that ironically occurred just as I sat down to write this, is that a few minutes ago, she got out of her bed and hobbled about 2 feet over to an armchair and jumped up into it!!! It was always her preferred snoozing spot until she had surgery, but this was the very first time she acted as though she wanted to be anywhere else but her bed. I take that as a very encouraging sign that she may finally be getting bored enough to do something about being bedridden. clap

By the way, the "runs like the wind" reference was after surgery. We have found that when we walk her out to potty, she is fine with doing it on her own as long as we go with her, but she will only urinate and head back in. To get her to do her other business, we have to get the support sling under her and force her to walk to the bottom of the yard. We remove it so she can chose her spot (then stand guard so she doesn't immediately make a beeline for the house). She completely resists the idea of defecating for some reason, so when she sees the sling, she turns and hops as fast as she can to get away from us. Then after going potty, as soon as she feels the support of the sling again, her legs go into overdrive and she literally runs at top speed in whichever direction she's facing. It is very hard to keep up with her at those times. It's like she's saying "OK I'm done, let's get outta here!"

The question is, since she obviously can get along on those 3 legs if she wants to, why doesn't she want to? Is it pain, depression or just old age?

On pain -- she doesn't seem to have any acute pain, at least, because she doesn't whimper, lick her scar area or do anything remotely like a dog having pain issues. She does tuck her tail under her when she is forced to do more than a casual potty, and that concerns me that longterm walking may be uncomfortable for her, but otherwise she seems relatively relaxed and happy. Sometimes when it is nice out, I get her out into the garden so she can sun herself while I work. She will sit there looking around and smiling as if she truly enjoys herself -- not at all like a dog who is suffering. Sometimes she even gets up and sniffs around in a limited space before sitting back down.

All of the potential therapies (especially hydro) I have looked into are either too expensive for our limited means or, more importantly, too far away or just plain non-existent. We live in a remote area with the nearest three towns not even having a vet. All of those towns are over a half hour drive from us and those of any size (as in more than 5,000 people) are over 45 minutes to an hour away.The vet we took her to for surgery is an hour and a half away -- and that is the closest we could find who could do this sort of surgery. I'm thinking we are going to try to build a pool for her this summer, but that will be awhile off.

I would love to try her with games, but we simply have no easy way to do that. We have 9 dogs -- all of whom we love dearly -- living in the house with us; divided into 3 groups to prevent fighting. (4 are rescued pitbull mixes -- all brothers who get along in pairs, but not all together.) Boo lives in her group of 5 others -- all but one are elderly -- so one-on-one activities are difficult if not impossible. They get along perfectly, but the young one of the group is very active and food oriented and would never let her have a chance. I may have to isolate her for an hour every day for activities like that, but as I already switch/rotate groups through the house about 6 times a day, I have so little time for anything else it seems impossible to find a spare 5 minutes!ugh

I do think I will try the green bean diet. I already cook all my dogs food, so that is not difficult. I just hope she will enjoy eating green beans and not feel as though she is being mistreated when she sees the others eating. Of course, I offer lean chicken, grains and other healthy fruits and vegetables as well. I think motivating her to exercise may be the biggest challenge.

Anyway, time to go walk a couple of bored pups before the next rotation. Thanks again for your help! I will keep you posted if she starts perking up a bit.


One last thing I almost forgot to mention. She doesn't mind the shoe since I never leave it on her except to go out, so that isn't a problem.

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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10 March 2016 - 9:14 pm
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I'm new to this forum and I thought there would be an email notification or something if anyone replied. I was waiting for that, and I kept thinking no one saw my post

Oh my gosh no apologies necessary. To clarify, you must subscribe in order to get email notifications. Scroll down to the bottom of this forum topic and hit the subscribe button. See:

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I love that Boo got out of bed when you were writing your post. She's saying "Hey Mom stop talking about me!"

The question is, since she obviously can get along on those 3 legs if she wants to, why doesn't she want to? Is it pain, depression or just old age?

On pain -- she doesn't seem to have any acute pain, at least, because she doesn't whimper, lick her scar area or do anything remotely like a dog having pain issues. She does tuck her tail under her when she is forced to do more than a casual potty, and that concerns me that longterm walking may be uncomfortable for her, but otherwise she seems relatively relaxed and happy.

Yep, that's the million dollar question. In her case, I'm leaning towards some kind of pain based on what you are describing. Being overweight is a lot of work and to then be overweight and suddenly on three legs, it's asking the body to do a lot. And it takes a toll after a while, which is probably why she's done less and less these days. It's not impossible to overcome though, we've had many dogs of all ages in the same situation. You are right to be concerned and so awesome for trying to figure something out when you have so many other dogs to care for.

Tail tucking is a common pain indicator. So is laying around. Not interacting as usual. And being quiet. Try to think of it like this: when we humans are in pain, do we constantly yelp out? No of course not. We soldier on despite the pain. Dogs are just as quiet about their pain, they don't want the pack to know. It's a misconception that they will always cry out when in pain. Here's an article for ya:

Is Your Dog or Cat in Pain? Here’s How to Know the Signs.

Now that you've explained your remote living situation, we understand completely. In fact, we're working on a similar issue with a new member in Mozambique. Follow her topic to find out ways you can work with your pup to help her get strong:


Oh one more suggestion. Again, I'm not a vet, but please don't put her in a pool until you know what kind of issue you're dealing with. We've seen injuries happen that way with a few members and I'd hate for that to happen to your sweet pup.

Does this help at all? Let us know OK?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Maputo, Mozambique
Member Since:
4 March 2016
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11 March 2016 - 6:35 am
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I was just about to comment that boosmom's situation sounds somewhat similar to mine, then I saw Jerry's reply. I have no advice as I am very new to this, but just know that you're not alone!

However, from what you've described, it does sound like your doggie might have some other issue going on, maybe unrelated to the amputation. If this continues, whenever you get the chance, please take her to the vet for a check-up.

Also, this forum is so helpful 🙂

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