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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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Couch questions
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22 August 2011 - 7:17 pm
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I'm asking for suggestions.  I have bought steps, but they were too narrow and not able to support our tripawd.  Capone is 80 pound lab.  I currently am putting large items on our couch when we're away.  I have a harness for Capone and have been assisting him up and down.  I don't want him to injure himself getting up or down and would eventually like to have our couch functional.   Just wanted to see how others have handled this situation before spending the money to purchase another set of steps.   Our couch is about 18 inches tall from couch to top of cushion.  Capone is probably a bit taller than the couch when he is standing up (this is a guess but I'm thinking around 20 inches or so at the withers.


Suggestions welcome.

Thank you,


Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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22 August 2011 - 9:12 pm
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Do you want steps for the couch?  Is that what you are asking?

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.

22 August 2011 - 9:20 pm
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My question is basically how have other people handled the couch situation?  I love to snuggle with him on the couch in the evening and would love for him to have access to the couch (if he wants) when we're away from the house.  However, I currently have stuff sitting on the couch not allowing access to the couch unless we're home, and I'm around to assist him up and down.   I don't want him to hurt/injure himself in the process.  HE biffed it once getting off and I'm paranoid to let him do it on his own.  

Just wondering if anyone would recommend steps/ramp for a larger dog weighing around 80 pounds?  If the steps are only in one place will they actually only use that one area to get up and down.  Just want advise from people?


Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom/advice. Sorry for not being clear in my first post. 


Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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22 August 2011 - 9:35 pm
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That's okay!  I just wanted to make sure you did want him on the couch!


Lookie there - admin linked me to something in my post!


If you don't want to buy steps, what about a upside down recycle bin (the old-fashion milk carton types)?  Or something similar.  Mine would jump on the couch fine.  I did assist her getting down as she aged.  (she was 3 legged all her life)  She knew if she couldn't bear her weight on her front good leg, she'd fall to her shoulder.  But I understand it can be scary at first to see them do all that by themselves.


You may want to train Capone to do it without hurting himself.   I know that one front leg is super scary but I think they understand they have to be careful.  I worried about everything with my Comet but for some very odd reason, I never worried about her injuring her front good leg. I guess because she'd fall to her shoulder or face instead of trying to put her full weight on it.

I know I'm not much help!  Maybe others will help with ideas!

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.

Member Since:
11 April 2011
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22 August 2011 - 9:43 pm
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I'm not sure this will be of help to you, but I was never able to teach my dog to use stairs when he also had the option to jump.

I had gotten Percy a step for getting onto the bed years before he was diagnosed with cancer.  He's a 50 pound mix.  He would only use the step to get on the bed when I made him (wouldn't let him jump up onto the bed).  Every time I made him walk up using the step, he'd give me a look as if to say "Why do you make things complicated?  It's so much easier to jump."  He almost never used it going down.  After his amputation, I was lifting him on and off the bed.  He scared me jumping off the bed once and I ended up taking the legs off the bed and the mattress is now just a couple of inches above the floor.

Can you rig up some sort of platform the length of the couch to put in front?  The step that I made for my dog was a foot stool with a piece of rug added on top using a staple gun.

Member Since:
1 February 2011
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22 August 2011 - 9:46 pm
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We put a bed right in front of the couch, so if the Woo doesn't want to jump up, she doesn't have to and she can still be close to me. When she first had her surgery, I was worried about her getting off and on the couch on her own, but she's got it figured out now, so I let her choose what she wants -- couch or her cushy bed.

Good luck!

Rio's momma

the Woo

~ ~ Rio ~ ~
Forever in my heart...

April 2000 – January 20, 2012
Diagnosed with Mast Cell Cancer in June 2007. Left rear leg amputated Feb. 8, 2011.
Mets discovered Aug. 31, 2011. Read more of Rio's story here.

22 August 2011 - 10:16 pm
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I have had a blanket in front of the couch since he has been home post amputation. He was using that a lot at first and didn't really express much interest in getting up on the couch.  However, this has changed.  We will be 2 months post amputation on the 7th of September.  A few weeks back, I had gone outside and left him unattended for about 2 minutes, and when I came back inside he was up on the couch.  Yesterday he was up on the couch 3 times. Twice with my assistance.  1 time without.   I asked my husband to watch him while I showered, so I didn't have to put all the barricades back up on the couch.  I came back downstairs (which we have a gate blocking) still not sure what we'll do about that situation. Baby steps for the nervous tripawd mom 😉 HA HA and Capone was on the couch.  I asked my husband if he helped him, and he said he just jumped right up there.  He also biffed it getting off the couch while my husband was watching him.

I really don't know that I can convince him to use steps up to the couch.   I've been taking him outside to potty in our front yard since the surgery to avoid using too many steps.  However, the few that he has had to maneuver around he does fine without any assistance. He almost seems annoyed when I try to help him around the house.   I'm just trying what I can to help him around.  He is 10 years old. Don't want anything to happen to his remaining 3 legs.

You should see the mess I have on the couch as barricades.  2 ottomans, and some stuff that my husband uses for music events (speaker stands/CD coffins) It's a riot and my husband thinks I'm being crazy.

I would just feel absolutely horrible if he hurt himself getting on/off the couch.  


San Diego, CA
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29 October 2010
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22 August 2011 - 11:01 pm
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Ah the husbands... Yes, I get that "you're crazy" things sometimes too... But that's another story...

Abby is quite tall so no worries with the couch, but I worried about our bed which is very high up. At first I kept her out of our room or insisted on helping her if I was there. Eventually I was getting the annoyed looks too. She sails up there on her own (we are almost ten months post amp and she's been doing this for ages now...) and then when she gets down, she does seem to be careful. She doesnt just leap off, she does this funny maneuver where she sorta lowers herself as much as she can and then gently steps down. It's hard to describe, she ends up with her butt way up in the air. Same thing with the car. I had borrowed a ramp, but she hated it and would just sail up into the car.

That probably doesn't help much. I think it's quite normal to worry about that remaining front leg, but I also agree that, similar to Comet, they seem to know themselves that they need to take care. I try to not worry about it, but I can totally understand being worried especially with an older dog. Hopefully Capone will be gentle with himself. If not... I guess youll get used to loading ottomans onto your sofa. 🙂 Or hopefully someone else has a good idea??

That was useless, eh?
All the best with Capone,
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!

22 August 2011 - 11:31 pm
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I have nothing useful to add…I thought Isabelle wasn't getting on the chairs or sofa for at least three or four months post-op. She very rarely ever did so in front of me prior to her amputation…a holdover from her previous life….but was frequently on the furniture when left alone. At some point I realized she had been doing so, probably from very soon after her amputation and managed quite well.
I just don't worry about it anymore.

I would be cautious about putting anything soft like a blanket or bed in front of the furniture as that might be too unstable a surface when getting off.

Stairs would be out of the question for my dog as well. She stubbornly refuses help with anything. Luckily she never spent too much time on the bed because the cats annoy her, but when it rains she wants to sleep with me. I have an antique bed that is quite high. I haven't come up with a good solution to keep her from getting off on her own and never sleep well when she's on the bed…..although I usually have to drag her off in the morning.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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23 August 2011 - 12:10 am
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I have an idea! 

Let Capone get on and off the couch and if you are there to see it, hold your breath or turn your head and don't watch!winker


I swear for the last 3 years of Comet's life (not sure why I didn't care the first 9 years!), I held my breath when she came down our stairs in our two story house!  I listen for the slow "clump.....clump.....clump....clump...clump...." !

The only person that ever fell down the stairs in 12 years ........WAS ME!!!!  COmet just "clumped" herself down the stairs around me while I laid there in agony!

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.

23 August 2011 - 12:17 am
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Hmmm.....was that around the time Freaky Ears started trying to trip her??????
Just saying...


Chicago, IL
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5 March 2011
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23 August 2011 - 4:29 am
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I don't know what kind of personality Capone has but Tate has been self-limiting.  He won't do anything he's not comfortable with.  Which isn't to say he doesn't biff it once in awhile - but sometimes that's just getting the hang of it.  If he won't do it then we have to help him and we pretty much know what those things are now. 

I got myself twisted in a knot recently worrying about a freak accident.  "Honey don't throw him treats, he could have a freak accident diving for it!"  But then I realized I have to let him be a dog, for crying out loud, that's why we did all this, so he could run around and play and swim and chase and whatever.  Well, except get on the couch.  He's not allowed on the couch.  If I let him on the couch, next thing I know he'd be telling me to bring him a beer.
August 16, 2006 to November 28, 2011
TATE ~ Forever in our hearts.

Portage Lake, Maine
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8 December 2009
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23 August 2011 - 6:49 am
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FWIW, my dog Maggie, eventually was able to get back up on her futon by steps 🙂  But it was a little while before she could.  Before that, I just helped her up.  I still remember the day she hopped up there by herself(rear leg amputee)...what a GLORIOUS day that was!!!  It's the little things..... smiley

Tracy, Maggie's Mom

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

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


Madison, WI
Member Since:
5 December 2009
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23 August 2011 - 6:42 pm
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Hmmm, I can see why you'd want him to take it as easy as possible at 10.  Especially if when he's getting up and down he's actually jumping.  I don't consider what Gerry does true jumping.  He walks up to the couch, hops his forelegs up onto the couch (he's a rear leg amputee) and then pulls his back leg up.  And when getting down, he goes gradually as well and stretches out his back leg while he's at it.  So I actually convince myself it's decent physical therapy for him, haha.  But, yeah, leaping on and off on a regular basis would freak me out too.  So steps sound good!  Good luck finding the best kind, unfortunately I don't have input on that.  BUT I have been training Gerry to use a ramp for the car that I bought.  He gets in and out of the car about the same as he gets on and off the couch, but ramps were like 50% off one day at our pet store, so I couldn't pass that up and I'm sure in the long run lessening that regular impact on his joints when we do car rides will be best for him.  We're taking training slow.  I recommend patience!  Gerry's doing well with his acclimation to the ramp, but I'm betting stairs are going to be a little harder than a ramp would be, but suitable ramps for indoors are harder to find.  With a car ramp, it's recommended that first you have them get used to walking on it flat on the ground (with lots of treats), then gradually raise it to higher and higher angles (as much as you can – with lots of treats), and finally you reach the height of the car and it's not nearly such a big deal!  So, for whatever that info is worth.  I guess with steps it would be first just treat him for going anywhere near the steps.  Then touching the steps.  Then getting a paw on the first one, etc., until he's made it up both steps and onto the couch.  Best of luck!!!

Just a fun side note – Gerry probably would have refused to live with me if he hadn't been allowed on the couch.  I got him with all four legs from the shelter, but the fourth was injured and I fostered him through the amputation (adopted him later).  The shelter initially feared he had severe separation anxiety, cause he would break out of their kennels and they'd find him sleeping on their couch in the lobby.  And I tried to limit him to one room at my house, but he got out an threw a little temper tantrum.  When I decided to risk it and let him have the run of the house – he was a perfect angel and just enjoyed "his" couch whenever I was gone.  During the first couple weeks after his amputation though I laid down the law, turned the couch to face the wall and put a chair on it, just until his incision healed.  That worked, except for one night, when while I was out, he somehow climbed onto a nearby little table (with all kinds of stuff on it – phone, stereo, etc.) and from there got himself curled up onto the little bitty space left on the couch that the chair didn't reach.  I can't believe he didn't get hurt doing that or in the process of getting him back out.  So, at least your pup isn't THAT couch crazy!  (We hope).

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Gerry has been a tripawd since 12/16/2009.

He was a shelter dog with a mysterious past and an irrepairable knee injury.

Videos and pics of Gerry's pawesomeness can be found at:

Plainfield, Illinois
Member Since:
14 May 2011
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23 August 2011 - 6:54 pm
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I have to echo Tate's mom.  Chili Dawg is 9.5 years old, and has been self-limiting.  He does the couch, slowly.  He's a front amputee.  He did the couch a week after his amputation- freaked me out.  Now he climbs up very slowly, and then hops his back half up.  To get off, he eases his one front leg off and then kind of slides off on his own.  At the beginning after his amputation, he needed a little extra encouragement/help to get off the couch, but once his staples came out and he got off his meds, he's been doing it on his own ever since.  He's biffed a couple times when he forgets to go slowly, but it's rare. 

Diagnosed with OSA: 5/2/2011 Ampuversary: 5/11/2011 OSA returned in hip: 8/26/2011
Chili Dawg crossed the Rainbow Bridge on 8/30/2011 & is now pain free. He was my heart dog, and I miss him every day.

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