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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We rescued a tripawd and I figured he’d be more calm than he is. He is still a pup though. The paperwork that came with him shows him as 18 months old and he’s a lab so still plenty of energy. He’s a big boy too at over 90lbs! He’s not overweight though, just a really large frame on him. Anyway, I took him for a walk (run) last night and I just went down the street a ways and then turned to come back. He pulled me most of the way running! It was about 3/4 of a mile, but I think that might have been pushing it for him. I can tell he wanted to go further, but I wasn’t sure how much was too much? He’s a very strong dog and it seemed harder for him to go slower so I kept with the pace he set. Is there any reason not to walk him like this every few days? We don’t have a fenced in yard so all his bathroom trips are made on a leash. WE do run him around in the yard on the leash and he loves that. He loves this snow we have right now too. He even dug around in the ground for some moles we have in the back yard. He has endless energy, but I am nervous that he will over do it, but Ia lso don’t want to hold him back if it’s okay either. What has everyone’s experience been with this? Do you walk/run them, do you follow their lead or try to limit the activity? He loves to play fetch too and chase toys in the house. He is always playing it seems.
First off that is great that you rescued a tripawd! What is your puppy’s name? Is he a front or rear amp?
The thing about tripawds when walking is momentum is everything. It helps them propel forward. They can also become tired much more quickly since it takes more energy to hop on three legs than walk on four. How long ago was his amputation? Recovery is normally two weeks of restricted activity and then it takes a while to build their core strength and endurance back up. Sounds like your pup is way past that! With my Daisy I have to hold her back because I know her limitations. She is arthritic but when at the dog park will keep going and going (albeit slowly) to the other end and then not be able to make it back to the car. I can tell when she is getting tired because she will start to stumble.
I don’t think there is any reason not to walk him everyday if he enjoys it or run around the yard. The only thing I would limit would be allowing him to leap from heights such as out of the car or off the couch. That puts a lot of stress on the remaining leg.
Marla and Daisy
My Two Tripawds...Biscuit and Spirit Daisy
Thanks for your reply! We rescued Chance almost 3 weeks ago now. He already had the amputation (due to neglect of an old injury). The surgery was at the end of Nov. and so he’s about 4 months out from that now. It’s totally healed. He was with a foster family until we adopted him. He is just so full of energy! I had no idea he’d be this active so that is why I was questioning what we should be doing for him. He is missing his front paw. I posted pics on another thread. Oh and his name is Chance or Chancy as I like to call him. He’s a yellow lab and just such a sweetheart. He doesn’t like to get on the couch (he’s big so probably just not comfy for him), but he does sleep in our bed. Should we discourage this or just watch him? He gets in bed after we do adn then doesn’t get down till morning so just once a day he hops down.
2 December 2012
Our tripawd Dane sleeps with us, it’s his favorite thing to do! But for our concern, not his, we laid plywood in the frame and removed the box spring so it is lower. I was so concerned about him hoppin up and down, but it’s fine. He even still gives 3 legged hugs… And if you haven’t seen that, it’s quite a site to see a 6ft tall dog on 3 legs give a hug:) So I would say as long as you don’t mind him in your bed, then he will know his limits on jumping up or down. It’s great that he is that active! My lazy bum likes to take a rest mid-walk all the time!!
I wonder if my hubby made a step for him, if that would help some. He has no hesitation on jumping up and back down, but I worry if he hurts his other front leg, then he’ll be in trouble. We also have another lab and on occasion they both get in the bed. That is interesting. LOL We love them though so we deal with it. Funny now they work their way right into your heart.
That second post I typed Paw, but meant leg. He has a full amputation on his front left leg, not just his paw.
I didn’t mean that Chance shouldn’t get up on things just that you should limit him leaping off. That impact can be hard on his sole front leg. Daisy is a couch potato but never jumped off or on furniture. She kind of slides down off the couch. I have stairs for her to climb up and down from the bed. Had them before she became a tripawd because she waited for me to lift her up there every night. I got tired of hefting 80 lbs. of dog up and down on the bed! When I still had my dog Matti both her and Daisy slept in bed with me along with one of my cats on my head so I know what you mean ’bout how they work their way right in your heart. There was barely room for me in there!
Marla and Daisy
My Two Tripawds...Biscuit and Spirit Daisy
22 February 2013
What a great journey you are on and what a special and perfect companion you are for Chance! Good match for everyone!
My Happy Hannah limits herself—some days she feels like walking more and even puts a little short trot in a few of her steps…other times lots of sitting #nd laying in the sun. BUT… she’s far more mellow than your pup and has the wisdom that comes with being over 8 1/2 yrs. so she’s not going to exert herself and I’ve never had to worry about that!! And YAY for paw parents who sleep with their dogs! Can’t imagine not having that warm beating heart of a dog snuggling next to you.
Maybe some others will chime in who have more active dogs and can tell you if Chance needs to slow down—which I kind of doubt!
You are doing such a great job. I would guess monitor I g the actual pounding of jumping down would be all you would need to slow him down on.
The very best to you and this wonderful bond you two are forging. Your story is heartwarming
Sally and Happy Hannah
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!
Hi Chance and family, welcome to Tripawds! As you can see we’ve got a great bunch of folks here who can provide great insight into their own pack’s experience on three legs.
One place I’d recommend you begin your research is our California Animal Rehab Therapy videos and interviews. You’ll find lots of great tips on how much exercise is too much or not enough and what types of exercise to do.
When we first started our Tripawd journey we didn’t know much about living life on 3. Over the years we’ve interviewed rehab therapists who have taught us ways to prevent injuries. In general, what we’ve learned is that:
- Keeping a Tripawd slimmer than other dogs of their breed is critical for avoiding joint stress.
- Tripawds shouldn’t walk more than 15 minutes at a time. Instead of one long walk each day, take several short ones. The bathroom leash walks are perfect!
- If a dog sits down on a walk, that means they’ve gone too far. Walks should never be so long that they get to that point.
- It’s up to pawrents to monitor any dog’s activity to ensure that they don’t overdo things, but especially a Tripawd. Because three-leggers put extra stress on their joints, being vigilant about over-activity is critical to avoid future joint issues. In young dogs this can be very tough. They have so much energy and when they overdo things, the damage it causes won’t show up until much later in life. To avoid arthritis and such, start keeping a good eye on things now while your pup is young.
- Restricting things like jumping off furniture, out of cars, etc., is important too. That puts a lot of stress on any dog’s frame but especially a large Tripawd. Train him not to do it now while he’s young, before problems develop.
- Core-strenthening exercises are critical for building strong abs that can support your dog during all sorts of activity. By working on this area you can help him avoid future problems. Our Tripawds Gear blog has all sorts of ideas, just search for “core strenthening.”
I hope this helps! Thank you for adopting Chance and for becoming a member of this community. We look forward to hearing more about your adventures!
Thank you so much! I knew I could find resources if I searched, but I also wanted a few first hand accounts because sometimes those are just more helpful. I am going to take him for another walk tomorrow and give him today off, but he’s bouncing with energy right now. The walk yesterday was maybe 10 minutes and most of that he was dragging me (well and peeing on all the new poles and trees.. lol) I like the idea of doing the 2 shorter walks. I will see how that goes tomorrow.
ddorwart~Chance gets his front paw up on the bed, then works the back legs up too. It’s comical, but he does it! Then getting down he just jumps. This is why I wonder if the steps would help in that way so he isn’t landing only on that front paw. Trying to keep him off and allow our other dog up would not be fair. I will talk with my hubby and see what he can put together.
LOL Marla, there is barely room for me either!! haha My hubby gets up and leaves at 4am though so the last few hours are much better when the dogs can stretch out and I can have more room too. We also have a cat, but she isn’t fond of Chance yet so she doesn’t get on the bed, but she is now starting to walk past him and if he gets too close she hisses. I think she will come around eventually.
Sally, I think that was some of my concern since he is a puppy still really. Labs just don’t calm down till they are much older and I don’t want his spirit to drive him, but then wear his body out because it can’t keep up. I will watch for him to slow down or try to stop and sit during walks to guage where he’s at.
Jerry, thank you so much for those resources you posted. I will look over those sites for sure. I just want to do what is best for him, but also still allow him to have fun and be a young full of energy pup too. He runs circles around our 4 year old lab. She would rather sleep all day and having Chance is actually making her more active too.
Thanks again everyone!
1 February 2013
We built stairs for Shooter and made him use them and he goes right to them now to get on and off the bed. If he thinks about heading towards the edge we just say “stairs” and he goes right for them. Now even the quad pawds use them most of the time! He’ll figure out pretty fast how much nicer they are than jumping.
Spirit Shooter was a Miniature Australian Shepherd who was diagnosed with a MCT and had a LF amp 1/28/13 at 13-1/2 years old.
Shooter crossed the Bridge on 8/28/13, his 7 month ampuversary and two weeks from his 14th birthday.
Aww that just made me smile! I know dogs are SO smart. Funny how they can undertand just one word like that. lol I know for sure my four legged lab would use the stairs. She is SO lazy and would much rather have an easy option. It’s Chance who I think would still skip those stairs and jump. I am definately going to look into it!
27 December 2012
I was surprised how fast Jackson was (and is) on three legs. It’s momentum! Like you, all his outdoor time is on the leash. In the mornings, when I’m not quite awake yet, I still get surprised how quick he is! The pace I have to keep with Jackson is akin to speed walking. We do our same routes, but he’s no faster at them. I think it’s b/c he pauses much more on 3 legs. He doesn’t ever sit. It’s more like, he’ll hop a lot, then pause to smell the air or give that bush the once AND twice over! Inside, he still has all his energy. We play it out. Lots of fetch and chasing throughout the home. For us, it’s about quality of life and he’s the happiest ever to fetch or play chase. So we do. For your needs, it sounds like you’ve got it covered: try more walks, at shorter distances. Since he’s still so young, try to come up with games and activities inside that’ll get his mind going – have you seen those food cubes? Kongs with peanut butter in them? Have him do “tricks” (read: Jerry’s training and exercises) for treats! I understand your frustration with balancing his health with his energy! Do what you can. Oh, is he on a joint supplement? That may help you guys feel more comfortable when he really wants to get down and dirty and play hard!
ACL tear in right hind leg 12/5/12 and scheduled ACL repair surgery 12/21/12. Pre-op xrays revealed osteosarcoma. Amputation 12/28/12. Chemo (carboplatin) started Jan 10, 2013 and ended on April 5, for a total of 5 doses. He handled carbo like a champ! No side effects. We started metronomic therapy at his third chemo and have been also doing some holistic treatments. He's a lively, playful 10 year old huskie-boarder collie and a very proud member of the Winter Warriors! Our love. Our funny little guy!
This is a very interesting topic. I am glad the original poster posted this. This is something I have been wondering as well. Destiny is 9 months old and also an Australian Cattle Dog mix (probably with huskey/collie). I have only had her two weeks and been playing around with how much she should be “walking”. We kept it to about 20mins to a half hour but we found that wasn’t enough for her.
Tripawds shouldn’t walk more than 15 minutes at a time. Instead of one long walk each day, take several short ones. The bathroom leash walks are perfect! —> This is interesting to know. We tried this and I had my bed chewed. It was not enough at all.
I have walked her for over an hour and she has never “sat” on me or laid down. Maybe I have a freak of nature dog. I find exercise for tripods seems to be very case by case bases and just watching for warning signs is how to judge what is “too much.” At least from all the reading I have done, and from dealing with my dog.
I don’t let Destiny jump up on furniture or go sleep on our bed when we are home, however she will sleep there when we aren’t. At least I am TRYING to limit her jumping up.
I’m glad Destiny is doing so well and you’re regulating her jumping activity. At nine months old, she’s still full of a lot of energy and I can see why she can handle long walks. Her size is also a big advantage too.
Keep in mind that just like a human, as time goes on, physical activity gets more challenging for dogs, especially Tripawds. Louie’s Mom is just finding this out as he’s now 4 years old and really slowing down compared to his younger days.
We were surprised when PT experts told us about limiting walks to this length of time for all Tripawds, because we had always walked our own Tripawd Jerry and Wyatt for longer periods of time and we had seen other dogs like Bart the Vizsla hunting dog do very long field trials. But we later learned that the reason they recommend that is to slow down the aging process as well as joint stress. Even if a dog has energy to go on long walks when they’re young, they won’t always. Games like core-strenthening exercises can be more helpful than walking for keeping any dog strong, especially Tripawds.
@Jerry, I play tug with her and we are teaching her to “crawl” to help strengthen her core. Hmm, that is interesting to know. Once it warms up a bit more I want to take her swimming (have to find a life jacket for her first) so once I have her swimming I will probably shorten her walks quite a bit. Would using glucosamine as a precautionary measure help at all?