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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Dante's spine is crooked
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Member Since:
9 March 2010
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17 March 2011 - 7:38 am
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I'm not sure if this is typical after a foreleg amputation, or if it's a result of having an amputation as a puppy - or if it has something to do with the neck surgery he had before his amputation (we still don't know why or what happened to his neck for sure, the other vet never released the information).  Or maybe this is just the way he's built. 

But, Dante's spine is very crooked. Almost in an S shape like you would see in a human with scoliosis.  His spine appears to start to the left of his neck (same side as his missing leg) and curves to the right, eventually straightening out towards his back end. It's REALLY obvious when his hackles raise. It's like everything is off center and out of place on his back. It doesn't seem to affect his mobility, YET, but I'm really worried it will in the future. 

We watched it as he grew, and it hasn't improved.  I worry mostly because being a pitbull he's got a lot of weight without a ton of size to support it. He's not overweight by any means - just the typical pitbull build. Lots of dog in a small, dense package. 

I recently read a few stories of Tripawd Pitbulls becoming arthritic and immobile by the age of 5 or 6 and it's got me quite worried.

Is this normal for his spine to be this way? Will it affect him in the near future?

The pups have their 1 year booster shots and yearly check up at the beginning of next month and we are going to consult our vet about it at that time. Unfortunately as good as our vet is, this is somewhat new territory for him. There aren't many tripawds where we live, and even less have been tripawds since 8 weeks old.  So he can really only speculate as to what he thinks is normal or what may be a problem in the future. 

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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17 March 2011 - 11:29 am
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Well, based on what we have learned from the good people at California Animal Rehabilitation, I would say that it sounds like something that is somewhat normal for a front or rear legger. Because front-leggers tend to put more weight up front, their neck and upper back gets a lot of stress put on it, which leads to tightening and that s-shape you're talking about. In one of these videos from CARE, I believe Dr. Waldman talks about this.

Dr. Waldman has told us that Tripawds will have more spinal stress than a quadpawd, especially as they age, but it's nothing that can't be prevented with regular stretching, strengthening and a little bit of caution to avoid regular, excessive hard play. Even if you don't have a rehab center near you, there are many things you can do at home with a little practice and some good guidance from an occasional consultation with a certified rehab therapist. Are you anywhere near one of these practitioners?

I hope this helps somewhat. We have the same worries with our own Wyatt Ray , who does hop with a slight curve in his body.


Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
22 August 2008
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17 March 2011 - 1:56 pm
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It is quite common for forelimb amps to develop the "S" shape and will be more noticeable on the big dogs.  Tazzie benefited quite a bit from acupuncture.  Also make sure to keep body weight lean.


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9 March 2010
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18 March 2011 - 6:45 am
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Thank you - I feel better knowing this is normal. I've scoured pictures and haven't been able to tell if others also have this so I wasn't sure if it's common. 

 We're in Canada, and in a smaller city - so we don't have much around us as far as rehab goes, although I do think I have access to acupuncture and I think it's something we're going to look into once summer rolls around and he's a bit more active than he is now. I'm also a human massage therapist, so I give him lots of massages (when he'll sit still for them - he's still got some crazy puppy in him!) I'd love to consult with a canine therapist to see what techniques I can use on him that I already know, too though. So I've been looking for one, but haven't had a ton of luck. If he were a horse, I'd be in luck - but no canine therapists to be found! We also don't have hydrotherapy, which I was really hoping to find. No such luck there either. We do have two larger cities an hour and a half - 2 hours away from us - so I'm going to start searching them to see if I can find anything, even just for one or two appointments to help us get on the right track with him. 


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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18 March 2011 - 11:29 am
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Oh my gosh as a massage therapist, he's got it made! Lots of those skills and knowledge translates over to dogs. A while back we posted about this downloadable tutorial, Dog Massage Secrets, that you may want to check out.

And yes, acupuncture was a huge help with Jerry. During his first session he let out big sighs of relief. It was obvious he felt good, and we wished we had been doing it since he was a lot younger.

Let us know what you find. We have lots of members living in rural areas, I'm sure they will want to hear how this type of care can be done in that situation. Thanks and good luck!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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