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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Front Leg amputee with double ACL tear
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Member Since:
25 August 2023
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16 February 2024 - 1:29 pm
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Hello, Our dog, Zoey, is a 10 or 11 year old shepherd mix who underwent a forelimb amputation back in October for a soft tissue sarcoma that was inoperable without taking the leg.  She did well immediately post-surgery, but has since regressed and a consult with an orthopedic vet revealed a likely acl tear in both rear legs.  They've laid out a number of options ranging from non-surgical to surgical with the caveat that while a repair would give a good prognosis, it would need to be performed in two separate surgeries with an expectation that surgeries + recoveries would last in the 4-6 month range during which she would most likely be unable to function independently.  Nonsurgical options included pain management with strict rest for 2 months (with the hope that scarring provides additional stability in the knees) orthotics, rest, steroid injections, and prp.  

Writing to see if anyone has had experience with any of these non-surgical options. Given her age, having recently undergone several surgeries (including the amputation), the cost of these surgeries and our dog's somewhat grouchy disposition (also a nutcase at the vet) we're unsure if surgery would be an option we want to consider.  Thank you for your help!


The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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16 February 2024 - 4:37 pm
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Hi guys, so sorry to hear this news. Ugh! It's not terribly uncommon for this to happen with a Tripawd. We do have a fair amount of examples of Tripawds who've had remaining leg surgeries, and there's even a study showing outcomes for these surgeries too. I'm sure many more people choose the non surgical route, we just don't hear about them as often.

Sounds like you have a great vet team. I love that they laid out all the options, not just surgery. Do they have rehab therapy in-house?

You may want to get a second opinion from another practice (I would), and a CCRT or CCRP rehab therapist / vet just to be sure this situation is what you are dealing with. 

What I can tell you is that non-surgical can cost just as much as surgery in the long-run, because of the visits and care involved. But I can see that with a dog like Riley how it would be just as worth it to avoid surgery. Our Wyatt Ray was the same way when it came to vet visits, I totally get it. The only thing is that Riley would still need rehab therapy to strengthen and ensure the cruciates don't get even worse. So there's lots of handling involved, and probably an equal number of vet visits if not more unless you can find a traveling therapist (they do exist!).

Did you see this thread about non-surgical conservative management of soft tissue injuries?

Member Since:
25 August 2023
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22 February 2024 - 10:51 am
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Thanks, Jerry. Appreciate the links to other relevant posts/info. I will check them out.

You're right on regarding the handling- we went for a brace consultation today, and while I like the idea of orthotics, our dog did not take to the provider. He indicated we'd need to sedate her in a vets office for any casting, handling, or fittings... No easy answers with a 3 legged dog with two bad knees who doesn't like strangers. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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22 February 2024 - 1:42 pm
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You are so welcome.

Yeah that's a tough situation and tough decisions that need making. I would say that whatever option has the least amount of handling involved over time might be the best way to go right now.

Also, consider that maybe sometimes it's not necessarily Zoey that is the issue, but the way in which she is handled at the clinic. The Fear Free Veterinary Clinic movement is gaining traction , and many more practitioners are learning better ways to treat dogs like her. Switching our Wyatt to a Fear Free practitioner made all the difference during his last years of life, I wish we had done it sooner.

You may want to consider seeing if there is a Fear Free Certified team you guys can work with. Here is a link so you can search for one:

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