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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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How to help tripawd go down hardwood stairs?
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Member Since:
8 April 2021
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7 May 2021 - 12:33 pm
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Earl is now 3 weeks post-amputation.  He's been living completely downstairs since the surgery.  Yesterday decided to let him go upstairs.  (He normally sleeps in our upstairs bedroom.)  He did fine going up the stairs by himself, but I was really nervous about going down, as we have hardwood stairs and he lost his front left leg.  For the descent, I put him in his harness and thought maybe I could just be there to support him as he walked down, but he wasn't able to negotiate the stairs -- or maybe he was just too scared.  When he did try to take a step, his back legs kind of slid and splayed all over.  I basically ended up half carrying him down each stair by completely supporting his weight with the harness as he took each step.  There's got to be a better way.  Or is it unrealistic to hope for a front tripawd to be able to walk down hardwood stairs?  

arl 20210507_112311-scaled.jpgImage Enlarger

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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7 May 2021 - 1:02 pm
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Aww sweet Earl! You look so adorable!

I know it's frustrating about the stairs, and totally understand where you're coming from. When our Jerry lost his front left leg, we had 18 of them he had to negotiate just to go outside and potty. The steps had minimal traction and we always assisted him going down.

Realistically, it is not safe to allow a front-leg Tripawd to descend hardwood stairs. I'm sorry to break that to you. Front leggers carry so much weight up front (remember, the head weighs a LOT), that going downstairs is very scary and unbalanced without assistance. Try to picture yourself holding a kettlebell in one outstretched arm, and walking around like that, all day, up and down stairs. That's basically what a front legger is doing every day.

Even a fit rear-legger can have a hard time propelling up stairs (remember, a dog's propulsion is all in the rear and when they lose 1/2 it's hard to go up), and would eventually strain and injure their ilipsoas muscle. I know because it happened to our Wyatt, a rear-leg amputee.

So, here's my suggestion: 

You can add traction to your stairs! Check out this post:

Got Stairs and a Tripawd? You Need Traction!

In the meantime, it's going to take some careful, patient training to get Earl confident on those stairs. Ditch the dog boots inside, and consider adding Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips instead. They are much more convenient and easy for you and him.

I hope this helps. Keep us posted OK? 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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7 May 2021 - 9:19 pm
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So glad Earl is doing well at the three week mark.  While the hardest part of recovery is over, it's still early on. 

As Jerry said and explained, going down steps is harder for front leggers.  And once their confidence is shaken because of an unsuccessful  attempt or two, it's really hard for them to get over being fearful.  But using the grips, the harness and the traction on the stairs  should help.  I know how important it is for Earl (and you) to reclaim your nighttime ritual of him sleeping  with you  

Hope the toe grips and traction on the stairs can help build his confidence.  What kind of harness do you have? 

My Happy Hannah a rear legger, never could master going UP the stairs to my bedroom.  Almost her entire  year plus tripawd journey, I slept on a very cheap mattress on the floor with her downstairs.   A sore back came along with it.......but I would have had MIT any other way.

Oh, thanks for the picture!! A real smile maker!!  He is absolutely adorable!!


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!

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