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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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Front wheel cart, yes or no?
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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
4 April 2009
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4 April 2009 - 6:04 pm
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My 9 month old pitbull very recently had her front left leg amputated (due to abuse as a puppy her elbow was fractured and never healed correctly). She is learning about life as a tripod but still struggles with balance and mobility. We are considering purchasing her a custom made front wheel cart so that she will be able to run and go for long walks. We don't plan to use the cart for most day-to-day activities, as we think it's important that she gain strength on her 3 legs. My questions are (a) would using a cart only sometimes be hard to adjust to or confusing? (b) is she truly going to benefit from using a cart (I'm told that the cart might assist in preventing overuse of her right leg and also help to keep her spine straight)? (c) overall, will a cart help or hinder this young dog?

Obviously, we want to do what is best for our dog and we will do whatever it takes. Any thoughts/suggestions from those out there with more experience would be greatly appreciated. I am thankful to have found this forum and I look forward to your responses.

Thank you! 

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4 April 2009 - 7:48 pm
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Hi there – I'm so sorry to hear about your baby…who could ever, ever abuse a puppy? That makes me soo angry. Thank God she found you!

I honestly have no idea about a cart…I would talk to your Vet and see what they have to say – Pam (our resident Vet here on tripawds) will hopefully chime in. It may help because she is a pup and still growing, but on the other hand – you don't want her to become reliant on it. I'm not sure and I hesitate even giving an opinion. Zeus is 11 and adjusted very, very well to life on 3 legs, but it took him a few weeks to really get the hang of it.

How far along post surgery is she? If it's within the “2 week' window, she may still be woozy from the medicine (is she on any pain meds?) or just the trauma of the surgery. Let her rest and recover – this was a big operation…and see what happens when the stitches come out (again if you're still within the early stages of recovery – I can't 100% tell from your post).

Would love to help – can you elaborate more on where she is in her recovery?

Big hug,

Heather and Zeus

Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together


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4 April 2009 - 11:03 pm
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I do not think that a cart is a good idea, and should not be necessary.  Most dogs adapt quite well but you have to give them time to use and develop some other muscles.  Carts are best for animals that are permanently injured (spinal cord disease) or impaired in both front or back legs.

Ask your vet, just in case your dog has other issues but I think that your dog will be fine.

Pam and Tazzie

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5 April 2009 - 5:22 am
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Not sure how recent the amp was (poor pupper!) but in my experience, she should be able to adapt extremely well once she's learned to center her remaining front leg and built a little muscle. My 8 year old Rottweiler wanted to be *too* active at times even during the first week post-amp. And he'd had some orthopedic problems, surgery and muscle atrophy/arthritis leading up to the cancer diagnosis, so was weaker than normal. This is him six weeks to the day post-amputation:

I don't know if seeing a physical therapist would be useful? I think if I had a young tripod dog, I might seek out a good ortho/physical therapist for pointers, exercises to help strengthen and align the spine, that kind of thing. Maybe your vet will have a recommendation. I know a Viszla who had her rear leg amputated as a puppy, she goes walking and even running daily, and she is six years old now.

All the best to you and your pup, she is lucky to have you!

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5 April 2009 - 5:33 am
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Thanks guys for your feedback. To clarify, Gracie is 3 and a half weeks out from surgery. She is taking Rimadyl and Lyrica right now, her staples are out and she will begin water therapy (underwater treadmill) on Wednesday. She appears to be in pain at times and, to top it off, we just found out she has a luxating patella (slipping kneecap) but it's not serious. The vet recommends the cart b/c she is so young; vet believes that a whole life on 3 legs, especially missing the front one, will be rough on her joints. Gracie has not bounced back like many other dogs and we thought she would since her left leg had been chronically painful before the amputation. She sort of hops with her back legs rather than using them separately, I hope this will improve.

Again, any suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks so much!

Forum Posts: 132
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5 April 2009 - 5:49 am
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Did you see this thread? Another option, perhaps…

Not a vet, and my experience with tripods is limited to one. I do think the underwater treadmill and PT is a great idea; Cooper did that for a bit after his October ortho surgery. Although he's been quite active, considering, he did have days where he was stiff, I'm guessing from using his whole body differently, like the rear leg hopping you mentioned. I think that may be a lifelong gait for a front leg amputee, not sure.

Here and Now


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5 April 2009 - 8:51 am
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You may be surprised how well your pup will manage on three legs. Personally, I think a cart may cause dependency and hinder her from regaining strength. But I'm no vet … FYI: Pam (tazziedog) is. Thanks for joining he discussion!

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