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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Considering adoption of tripod Lab, concerns about stamina and activity level
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5 August 2011
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5 August 2011 - 9:31 am
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I'm new to tripods, but not to dogs, and am considering adoption of a 9 month old yellow medium Lab, about 45 pounds.  She's recently had a rear amputation.  I've done quite a bit of reading on tripods and am now aware of the special considerations like joint care, keeping weight down, and pad/elbow care.

However, I'm still trying to convince myself that she'll eventually be able to have the same stamina as a four legged counterpart.  I've seen countless stories and videos online about how tripods are just as capable physically of playing and running, but have read little specifically pertaining to stamina.

I run 5 miles 3 times a week, and like to go for long hikes on weekends and camping trips.  I'd love for the dog to be able to participate in these activities, but am wondering if it's too much to ask a tripod to learn to handle those types of distances.

Any advice would be appreciated.


Here and Now

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5 August 2011 - 10:19 am
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Thanks for joining! Since your question is not necessarily veterinary, we've moved your topic here to the Hopping Around forum. Your future forum posts will not require moderation.

The short answer is, every dog is different. And while some members may disagree, and there are many amazing stories of three legged dogs here, read any of our posts (Admin or Jerry) and you will clearly understand that tripawds do indeed have less stamina than their four legged friends. Of course, this will depend on the dog's breed and overall body condition, but the fact is three leggers must expend more energy to get around. And asking one to keep up with your for five miles would be torture.

Ask Borzoid or other members with greyhounds and you may get a very different answer. Ask the doctors at CARE and they would strongly encourage you not to make any three legged dog run that distance. Consider calling in during this Sunday's Tripawd Talk Talk Radio show and ask Bart's mom and vet. Bart is a three-legged AKC hunting champion Vizsla who also happens to be a three-year osteosarcoma survivor.

Bless you for adopting a tripawd. But as a rear legger, and especially as a recent amputee, it may take months for her to build up strength in the remaining leg. Moderation is key and core strengthening and balance exercises are a must. Please don't let this keep you from adopting the pup! Just reconsider the extent of stamina you expect from her.

5 August 2011 - 10:53 am
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Thanks for the reply.  I don't think I'm so apprehensive about adjusting my expectations as I am about not being able to take her on these activities like hiking and camping that are part of my lifestyle.  It seems unfair (and maybe not a good match), to consider bringing her into a lifestyle that is more active then she can handle.

My other apprehension is the design of our home, which is a tri-level with 60% wood and tile flooring.  It seems like the worst case scenario for a tripod.  I'd look into getting rugs to offset the slippery floors, but I'm still concerned.  She'd have to navigate 2 flights of stairs just to get to the doggy door and out into the dog run.  I'm sure she'd adapt, but I also wonder if someone who was less active and owned a single story home may be a better fit.

Here and Now

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5 August 2011 - 11:06 am
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Consider registering so your posts publish without requiring moderation.

These blog posts and forum topics may also help:

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San Diego, CA
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5 August 2011 - 12:19 pm
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I can only let you know what our tripawd's activity level/stamina is like for comparison, but she is also a young tripawd - only just turned 2. Generally, her stamina is great... as long as I take her to the beach/bay. We go almost every day for an hour and she runs the entire time, either playing with her friends or run/walking with me. On the days we run/walk we probably go 4 - 4 1/2 miles and she has no problems with that; doesn't lay down until we get back to the car and only stops for water breaks (note that even when I am walking, she is generally running ahead and then running back to me). However, having said that, by comparison, if we run/walk in our neighborhood (which is quite hilly) she can only go about 20 or 30 min, and she ALWAYS has to lay down and rest at least once.

I think the big difference in what she can handle is due to a few things: (1) the terrain - hilly v. flat (2) the temperature - she goes in the water and cools herself off at the bay and (3) the impact - concrete/asphalt v. soft sand/dirt

Based on my experiences with Abby, I don't think a tripawd - even a young fit one - could handle a 5 mile run on the streets. If you are running/hiking on a trail and there's a stream for cooling off, then maybe.

As for the floors, our house is all hardwood and she really does fine on it. We did have stairs at our prior house and she did fine on those as well, but they were carpeted. I'm not sure about a tripawd on slick stairs...

I think it's good that you are asking and trying to find a dog that will fit in with your active life style. It's nice that you would consider a tripawd, but maybe the dog wouldn't be the best fit for you. But better to ask now than to be caught in a situation that's not ideal for both of you.

Hope that helps.

Jackie, Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

The Rainbow Bridge

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5 August 2011 - 12:35 pm
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It's super smart of you to ask this question and says a lot about how much you care for animals.

I agree with Abby, a Tripawd would not be the best fit for an active lifestyle like yours. In fact we tend to tell people that Tripawds are GREAT dogs for couch potatoes! ;0

Seriously though, when I lost my leg, it took a lot of psychological adjustment for my pawrents to realize that our long backpacking trips and morning running sessions were over. I was OK with it, but they were sad at first. We found lots of other fun things to do together, but that kind of activity was out of the question.

And the same hold true for my legacy, Wyatt Ray . As an active Shepherd, he'll try to go 100 mph right now but for his health's sake, my parents keep a strict leash on how far he runs, plays, etc. It's not that you can't have any fun with Tripawds, but you do need to have a different kind of fun.

That Labbie sounds like a wonderful dog. If you don't adopt her, let us know and we'll put her in our Rescue Forum and try to help get the word out OK? Let us know.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 2
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5 August 2011 - 1:24 pm
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Thanks for all the helpful advice.  I've gone through much of the other forums at this point looking for related information.  My conclusion is that while I shouldn't expect extreme hiking or running stamina, it sounds like they can progress to be very active.

The difficult part is always assessment.  While I'm very active, my wife and I are also very much home bodies, and as such, a more mellow disposition at home is desired.  This is a bit of an oxymoron, as a dog mellow enough at home may not be able to do the long excursions, while a dog that can may be too hyper at home.  This particular lab is on the lower energy level for one this young, maybe partly due to loss of a leg, and partly due to personality.  It kind of seemed like a good hybrid.

She has the sweetest disposition otherwise, and is being fostered with help from a great no kill shelter, so I have no worry that if I don't adopt, she will still find an excellent loving home.

I'll continue to soul search...

Las Vegas, Nevada
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5 August 2011 - 1:43 pm
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I think it's wondeful you want to consider a three legged dog.  But as others have said, a three legged dog can't do what you want.  A three legged dog is basically a handicapped dog that can do a lot but it still is hampered.

I had a three legged for 12 years.  She couldn't walk more than 1/2 a mile even as a youngster and she was small.  She also blew out both back knees, which is common.  When she was a senior, she became very limited. 

I hope you continue searching for a shelter dog, but you really need a healthy, vibrant dog for your lifestyle.


Good luck in your search!

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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5 August 2011 - 3:27 pm
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Your prospective pup sounds a lot like one I recently met here. Hannah is 3-legged and one-eyed yellow lab and was about the same age as yours when she showed up this year, or maybe a bit younger. She was found up north and I don't think anyone knows why she is 3-legged and one-eyed. Someone told me how beautiful and incredibly sweet she was before they mentioned she was missing a leg or an eye. I tried to find her on the humane society website but guess someone else met her first.

Fast forward and my new quadraped, Paddy, met Hannah at the dog park. Dog oh Dog, did they play hard. I felt terrible for the way Paddy wrestled, attacked, chased, and basically pummeled Hannah (and she him) into the mud (yellow Hannah was covered with mud), but the owners were thanking me because they said she loves to play hard but hardly anyone lets their dogs do that. (And, yes, she was so sweet that I'm sure I would have adopted her in a flash if I had met her first.)

Having said this, they keep her from going up to the 2nd floor of their house, and she is fine with that. This was a big bout of play, but that is probably a lot easier on any dog than a 5 mile jog. Even wolves walk when they travel 5 miles on a hunt, they don't run or even jog that distance, although they might have fast chases over relatively short distances. Often they just lay around.

It isn't hard to find dogs that are laid back at home but eager for activity when outside. All my dogs have been that way.

Hope you find the right dog for you. This 3-legged lab does sound sweet.

Sebastopol, CA
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5 August 2011 - 5:19 pm
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HI there

Our Lylee has always been active and went hiking for an hour or more with 400ft elevation as a quadpaw.

Now as a tripawd she starts off very eagerly and runs out of steam very quickly. So we take lots of rests and just do part of the hike but she insists going up the hill part way! Her beach walks are great with lots of activity but with rests and not a lot of long walking.

She is almost 12 so a younger dog should have more stamina. And again it is an individual thing.


Lylee's MUm

Galt, California
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6 August 2011 - 1:52 pm
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I had a front amputee black lab and she was amazing.  Before her amputation, we took her everywhere, snowshoeing, backpacking, camping, hunting, you name it.  While she had the same zeal for life and the refusal to slow down, I just knew she would not be able to to the same activities, at least for long durations.  We continued to take her camping and hiking but we made adjustments for her.  We noticed, and read a lot on rehabbing, that the range of motion had no alternative but to change so her body had to completely adapt.  She was a bounce off the walls type labradork who continued to chase rabbits and swim in the pool but we had to make conscious efforts to slow her down once in a while to minimize the stress on her body.  My house is all hard wood and she got around just fine.  Some throw rugs and no slip booties never hurt but you would be amazed at what they are capable of.  If you do decide to adopt this pup, she will not dissappoint!

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6 August 2011 - 2:19 pm
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I have a 12 year old mix who became a tripawd about four months ago.  He's around 45 pounds.  Before the amputation, our standard walks were about 20-30 minutes twice a day, but he could walk all day if I could.  We are back to our regular 20-30 minute walks now.  He seems to be panting more afterwards though I'm not sure if it is the summer heat, his amputation, or a combination of both.  He actually seems to have it easier if we go faster, so I'm jogging on and off now where we used to just walk.  I think he would actually be able to go for longer if we jogged the whole time instead of walked.

6 August 2011 - 3:40 pm
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A Tripawd's ABILITY to run, jump, hike & jog should not be confused with what the appropriate activity level is for them.

Particularly, young, healthy three legged dogs will often be able to keep up with their four pawed friends and active humans….But you have to consider the long term wear & tear on their bodies.  Their shock absorbing ability is diminished. There skeletal system takes a thrashing. For example…rear leg amps often try to compensate for this by leaning forward, more so if they are experiencing any difficulties with their back limb or spine. It's something so subtle, you may not notice until after a suprisingly short time span, there is muscle wasting in the rear limb. It's takes constant vigilance.

Most dogs, as they age, are going to develop arthritis. Many very active dogs, an orthopedic issue. Anyone who has experienced this in any dog knows the struggle.. financially, humanely, emotionally…it is to manage. When a dog is missing their spare, the effects are exaggerated. Their energy expenditure is also multiplied with every step (often why they pant more).

It is up to us to constantly monitor their activity and impose limitations that may, in their youth, seem unnecessary. If you do opt to adopt this dog, consulting with a rehab vet and a veterinary chiropractor prior to imposing your very active lifestyle on her would be wise.

I think it's also worth considering, some of the experiences of the young dogs shared here, are dogs who have cancer…their lifespans are not what you are expecting from this traumatic amputee and therefore, long term expectations are different. Some days I allow my 13+ y/o Tripawd to run, jump twist and chase every male dog at the beach, knowing she will pay for it for a week….but she's 13 and has cancer…it's all a trade off…

Best of luck with your decision to do the best to meet both of your needs.

Pahrump, NV
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6 August 2011 - 11:55 pm
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I'm glad to hear that you are doing some "soul searching" to make sure that adopting a tripawd is a good match for you.  All dogs are different and have different activity levels, even if they are not tripawds. Check out Hurricaine Rosie's blog and you will find one of the most active tripawds around!  My Ranger is definitely a "sprinter" and not a marathon runner.  He is very active, but not for long periods of time.  Maybe you can take him out for a while before you commit to adoption and assess his activity level.  Good luck, and keep us posted!

Sadie is my 9yr old Rott/Shepherd mix. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right scapula 1/28/10. Our brave girl had her amputation 2/13/10 and her last chemotherapy on 6/6/10. Unfortunately, a tumor appeared in her back right leg and on 10/7/2010 Sadie's earthly journey came to an end.  On 10/24/2010 we adopted Ranger, a handsome Rott/Lab mix tripawd (got hit by a car) I think Sadie sent him to us.

Here and Now

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7 August 2011 - 12:33 pm
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littlemanjake said:

A Tripawd's ABILITY to run, jump, hike & jog should not be confused with what the appropriate activity level is for them.


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