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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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Exhaustion and Fatigue
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1 January 2019 - 7:41 pm
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Our beloved Shepard mix (46 lbs. appx. 13 years old) went through a rear leg amputation the end of November.  She had originally dislocated her hip by slipping on our hard floor.  The vet put her sling on too tight and he killed her leg (despite us taking her in multiple times to make sure she was ok because I was worried that her paw was swollen).  Complete case of malpractice and I’m having a really hard time getting over it.  

Anyhow, prior to this she was very healthy.  She still walked a few miles each day and played fetch.  I have stuck to taking her for only one short walk a day now – she seems to be exhausted and too tired to do anything else.  She is no longer her happy self, I fear.  Although she does still get excited to go for that one short walk it seems that even she knows she can’t go very far.  Is this normal?  Was I expecting too much?  They reassured me that she would get around just fine and be herself and so far I am not seeing that.  She now sleeps most of the day away unless we are eating, which brings me to another new issue.

Annabelle has never been food motivated.  She was always motivated by fetch and outdoor time.  Well now food seems to be the only time she gets out of her bed.  She has turned into a beggar and is now food obsessed.  Her tennis ball obsession (which I don’t know if she will ever be able to play again) has turned into a food obsession.

I am really sad to watch my dog like this.  She seems exhausted all the time and is not herself.  I feel like I am watching her decline.  Is there anything I can do?  Thanks for listening.  

Livermore, CA

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1 January 2019 - 8:35 pm
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Hello and welcome.  Please consider registering as a member to take full advantage of this site and so your posts won’t have to wait for approval (after the first as a new member).

So, she is 4 or 5 weeks post operation?  It is not unusual for a pup to still be tired from not much activity this soon after surgery, especially a more ‘mature’ girl.  Getting around as a new Tripawd is exhausting.  My little Pug Maggie, who lost a back leg to cancer, took 6 months to work up to half the walking distance she regularly did before amputation.

It is really important for Tripawds to have good core strength.  Your girl might benefit from a visit to a rehab specialist vet.  She could be evaluated and they could help you come up with a good exercise program to get her as fit as possible.  And we have a program here that could reimburse you for your first visit!

You mentioned hardwood floors- do you have traction on those slippery floors for her? Traction is critical for Tripawds.  If you haven’t covered your floors where she walks then consider throw rugs or yoga mats.

When Maggie had her amp all the vets told me was that she would do fine on three legs.  I was sure I had made a mistake when she didn’t bounce back as fast as I though she should. She took her time but once she was used to the idea she hopped happily though life for almost 4 more years.

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


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1 January 2019 - 10:52 pm
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So sorry you find yourself here, especially  under the circumstances  that brought you here.  You’ve  come to the right place for support and information though.

As Karen said, getting around as a tripawd is exhausting at first, and especially  for your mature gal.  It is MAJOR  surgery  and it takes several weeks to get over the surgery itself.  It can take quite a bit longer for for a tripawd to adjust to the new gate.  Just like with “mature” humans, it takes longer to recover from surgeries. 

Has she been back to a Vet for a check-up (not THAT Vet)?

Is she on any pain meds?  What kind of pain meds did she come home with?  Many dogs need to continue  on some form of pain meds after the initial two to three weeks.  What was her activity  level like the first couple of weeks after surgery?  It should have been rest, rest, rest, SHORT leashed potty breaks and more rest.  No stairs,  no jumping, etc.  And as Karen said, no slip rugs are traction arr crucial  is you have hardwoods.  

When you say “short walk”, how far, how long, are we talking about?

I know it doesn’t  seem like it, but the fact that she does get excited  over food, is a good sign!!  It shows she’s  still engaged and alert and getting her nutrition.  Drinking., pooping, peeing okay?

We’ll look forward to your feedback.  Hang in  there!


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

2 January 2019 - 6:43 am
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Thank you both so much for your words of encouragement.  It really does make me feel better.  Annabelle was very fit before this incident, as she has spent her life as my active companion – climbing mountains, riding bikes and skiing with me.  She no longer did big 10 mile days with me, but certainly still got out every day.  rnRight now her walks are about 10 minutes (one a day) and that’s all I have ventured to do because it really wears her out.  She is still doing everything else – bodily functions and meal time are as normal.  For about two and a half weeks post surgery we really kept her quiet and just put for potty breaks.  rnThankfully we are at my parents’ house for quite some time right now and we don’t have floors to worry about there.  I am going to look into the rehab link sent in the response – thank you for that information.  She isn’t on any pain meds, but my sister in law is actually a vet and she is going to give us some Dasuquin this weekend.  She has looked at her over the holidays and said as far as post op goes that she looks good.  rnI’m hoping that it is just time and that in a few months she will be feeling much more her normal self.  Again – thank you for sharing- it is very encouraging. rnThe Barnes Crew


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2 January 2019 - 9:47 am
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Good to hear she’s  doing well with all the other “areas”.

Dasuquin(also Advanced Dasuquin)is good for joint health.   You might also ask her about Rimadyl (or something  similar as an anti inflammatory  as she probably  does have some arthritis.  It may not jave veen noticeable  before, but on three it  might  be  ore of an “owee” now).

Dogs are so stoic and hide  pain so well.  I would still check jnto some pain meds for awhile just to help her over the hump…Gabapentin,  or maybe Tramadol.  It certainly  wouldn’t  hurt to try for a week and see if that makes a difference.  Do you have any leftover from her surgery eecovery time?

Another thing you might try.  Do maybe two, or even three walks that last just five minutes.  I know, that’s really short, but it may be the approach she needs for now…shorter but more frequently.  

She’ll get there, just at her own pace.  Keep us updated.


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

The Rainbow Bridge

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2 January 2019 - 10:35 am
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KB, you’ve gotten some great insight and it sure sounds like your girl will get back to herself. Remember senior dogs do need more time than others to acclimate to life on three legs but that doesn’t mean she won’t get there.

Another idea, in addition to my absolute #1 recommendation to get to a rehab therapist…..Are you trying other activities with her throughout the day to help keep her brain sharp? Mind games and interactive games are so stimulating and really do add a spark back into a dog’s day, especially when they’ve been in recuperation mode. 

As pet parents of Tripawds, it’s up to us to rethink how we do activities together. Ball throwing, things like that are fun when a dog is young but not always the best thing for their bodies as they age. Just as a senior human wouldn’t typically try physically difficult sports s/he did as a youth, our dogs are the same way. 

Do check out our e-book, Loving Life On Three Legs , for more tips about keeping her active and engaged.

Also, please consider seeing a pain management specialist (who a rehab therapist may also be, or can refer you to). She probably needs more pain management than a joint support supplement, and a specialist can get her started in the right direction. 

Hang in there, register as a member so your posts won’t need approval, and keep us posted. We are here for you!

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