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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Help - New Tripawd Owner trying to correct walk!
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Member Since:
17 February 2011
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17 February 2011 - 12:45 pm
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Hi everyone!  Wow, first of all, the Tripawds website is absolutely wonderful - a wealth of information and tips for owners, and from reading the forums, everyone seems just so lovely.  I am hoping you all can help me!


I just adopted Ellie a week ago.  She is an 8 month old hound mix (small, 30 pounds) with a back left leg amputation.  Her amputation was due to a severe infection from an injury she had when found as a stray.  Her amputation occured just two months ago on December 17th.  After her recovery at the shelter, she was adopted, only to be returned several weeks later on February 4th.  I adopted her last week, on February 10th.  


She is the sweetest thing ever and incredibly smart.  She has been able to navigate up and down stairs very well.  But I am very concerned, because when she walks, she completely dips/bows her back side, both her remaining leg and her amputation.  The foot on her remaining back leg when she walks points out instead of forward.  Essentially, she creeps along.  I know this cannot be good for her back hip or her spine/alignment.  I am just so nervous that her walking is not going to improve.  I had her out at a friend's farm this past weekend, and when she wants to run and play, she runs as if she has 4 legs!  But when she walks, she dips/limps.  


What can I do to correct this?  If anyone has any advice, I would really appreciate it.  I do not want her to have further complications/health issues down the road due to her walking like this, and since she is so young still, I figure the earlier the better.  Thank you all for any help!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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17 February 2011 - 1:01 pm
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laurens said:

What can I do to correct this?

Change your opinion about what you think is "correct" ...

All tripawds will change their gait to adjust for the redistribution of weight after amputation. It is also much easier for them to hop along with momentum than walk slowly.

We have also discovered that rear-leggers tend to take a bit longer to rebuild the strength in their remaining hind limb. It has taken Wyatt months to "correct" his walk, without dipping down in the rear, but the truth is he still tires easily and has an easier time running than walking.

So what can you do to help expedite rehabilitation?

Focus on core strengthening exercises . Walking does not build strength, only endurance. Do daily sessions of unstable surface work with Ellie using sofa cushions, a balance pad or balance disc. You might also consider building a homemade Buja board. And, if you have access to hydrotherapy, water treadmill sessions are very beneficial. If not, swimming is good exercise, but walking in water just deep enough for dogs to float is even better ... granted, not this time of year unless you are somewhere tropical!

Thanks for joining and best wishes with Ellie's rehab. Please keep us posted.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Portage Lake, Maine
Member Since:
8 December 2009
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17 February 2011 - 1:36 pm
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I can only ditto was "Mr. Admin" said wink

My dog is also a rear leg amputee and it took a LONG time to build her up... she's up to 40 minute walks now(not daily!)...but is basically a major couch potato..until I do her almost daily rehab exercises with her (using balance pad, disc, buja board as well as cones figure 8's and cavaletti's).  Check out her blog for some short video's on the exercises.  Doing reps of sits and downs and stands too.  Check out the Health blog on here of video's from Dr. Waldman too for rehab ideas. 

In my experience with my dog, a LITTLE goes a LONG ways...don't overdo either walks OR rehab exercises...

But yes, running is still much easier for her than walking slowly...goes along with the 3 legged territory I believe....


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


Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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17 February 2011 - 2:01 pm
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Welcome and bless you for adopting Ellie!


Yep, 3 legged dogs just walk different!  Mine was born with a deformed front leg and shoulder blade so her little 37lb body looked like Quasimodo!  She tucked one back leg under her body so it looked her hips were crooked and her front leg was centered.  I worried when she was a puppy that she was horribly deformed but found out, it's just the way she holds her body.  And when she ran, she looked like a rockin' horse!

She lived 12 1/2 years doing her Quasimodo hop! 

Just keep Ellie fit and trim and do what everyone recommended to strenthen her back leg.  And make sure she warms up her muscles before darting and running -so she doesn't risk a ACL tear in her knee.

Be sure to keep us updated on her!  She sounds like a love bug!


Comet's mom

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.

17 February 2011 - 4:50 pm
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Hi and welcome to Tripawds.

You are wonderful for adopting!

You have good advice already for going slow and strengthening.  I will just second what Tracy said about taking along time to build up strength and endurance.  My Maggie was also a rear amp- but a little pug.  It took her at least 6 months before she really got her strength built up.  She would 'wobble' when she stood still or walked slowly and usually would just sit down.  I never noticed a sink with her gait- but then she was already pretty low to the ground big-grin.

Working up slowly Mag was eventually walking a mile or more on her own on her three short pug legs. Luckily for me I could keep up with her 'fast' gait because she was so small.  

I also enlisted my massage therapist to teach me how to work on Maggie's back and hips when she got older.  She LOVED the attention and I think it helped keep her aligned and loose.


Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
14 April 2010
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17 February 2011 - 6:52 pm
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Welcome to the family, don't you just love trying to put all these pieces together!!!!!!! Gus was a front amp, so I'm just going to throw out a couple things that come to mind. First, there was a girl here last year that was a rear amp, and her dog bunny hopped for the longest time, I'm pretty sure it eventually got to be sort of normal, but it was several months. Is there a way to make sure her spine is ok, although it can't be to bad if she runs when she plays. Some people have taken their dogs for acupuncture, maybe that might help. Good luck, sorry I don't have more to offer, Kudo's for adopting Ellie, you won't regret it, Paws up, Spirit Gus and Dan 

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

Northeastern PA
Member Since:
19 September 2010
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17 February 2011 - 10:13 pm
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Welcome, and great of you to adopt.

Ellie's prior life sounds eerily like my Zula's...she was found as a stray in mid-Nov and had such a bad infection, they had to remove her right rear leg. They aren't sure if she was attacked by other dogs or hit by a car or what. We adopted her about a month ago, and she is also about 8 months old!

After having a dog who lived almost 14 years on 4 legs and got along ok on 3, we were amazed at how well Zula gets around - and fast! I always say, if you couldn't see one missing, you'd never know she has only 3 legs! But, I have noticed that when she gets tired and slows down, her limp/hop is much more noticable.

Congrats on adopting Ellie, and thanks for taking such good care of her!

Zack, King of Dogs, 1996 to 2010

Zack lived a full 14 years, even to the end.

The joy and memories he provided us will last a lifetime.

Surviving him is his sister, Izzy, a 12-year-old boxer mix quadpawd.
And the latest addition, Zula, an 11-month-old pit bull mix tripawd.

Member Since:
16 May 2009
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18 February 2011 - 8:03 am
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I adopted a rear leg tripod too.  He didn't dip at the back, probably because he lost his leg two years before I got him, but it did take a while to build up his stamina and strength for walking any distance, and he'll always find it easier to run than to walk. It's a little bit of a problem for us because my husband and I naturally walk slower than he wants to – he has such long legs! But we do our best!  way-cool


One thing I began doing recently is taking him to hydrotherapy.  He gets a lifejacket on, and gets to swim in a heated pool with a guy in there with him in a wetsuit to help him along when necessary, and make him rest from time to time.  I started taking him because, yes, they do walk oddly to compensate for the missing leg, and it does take its toll on the spine eventually.  Sid gets cramps.


The hydrotherapy really helps him to relax, and hopefully will also help to build up a little of the missing muscle mass on the side without a leg – the muscles along the spine on that side are weaker.  Since Ellie is so young, it would perhaps be worth it for her too, because it might help her muscles to develop a little more normally, which in turn might help to keep her spine stronger. 

Member Since:
20 May 2009
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18 February 2011 - 6:22 pm
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Tripawds walk?  I have heard that rumor but only saw Emily running or resting.

Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Member Since:
9 March 2010
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19 February 2011 - 11:17 am
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My tripod certainly doesn't walk. He's sleeping, running, or bucking around like a wild bronco. Nothing in between. He also runs sideways. 

Dante is a front Amp, so it's a bit different. However, he was only 8 weeks old when he had his amputation and while being young was on his side, it also meant not only did he get to be a goofy, awkward pup learning to navigate his environment, he had to do it on three legs before he was stable doing it on 4 legs! It took months for him to build up endurance and stamina, and I feared he'd never ever gain endurance or strength...we just thought since he was so young and never really knew any different, it wouldn't be too hard on him.

He's 14 months old now and crazy. He runs and runs and jumps and plays. He's no slower than the girls, and prefers to run everywhere. He does get tired sooner than the girls and will lounge around more than they do, but when it's play time he has no trouble keeping up and the way he holds himself is definitely better than it was and doesn't seem to be an issue for him now.

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