Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is your home 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.
29 March 2019
Hi! Last weekend, I adopted a goofy little two year old tripawd named Rufus. I think he's a lab/terrier/boxer mix, based on his markings, though the shelter thought he was a collie/German Shepherd. No one has any real history on him, including how he lost his rear left leg. His former owner just dumped him. But regardless, the little 36lb dude just seems to have energy to burn.
But that's where I have a problem. I can't take him to the dog park to let him run, I learned today. He's sweet as can be to me and he's been great with my other dog, despite the fact my greyhound is significantly larger than him, and the shelter didn't mention any aggression issues, but when I took him to the dog park today, he went ballistic from the moment we left the car. He lunged and barked and snarled at every other dog there besides my own (thankfully there was a fence between him and the unknown dogs!). He ran like crazy, though, keeping up with my greyhound for a while (he was only interested in snarling and racing around the arena to bark at the other dogs through the fence, though.).
So I need exercise advice. Given the possible mix of breeds, this is little guy needs some way to work off his energy, and running around my backyard isn't really cutting it. I've been taking him out for about a mile walk each day, but he seems to want more. How far is it usually safe to walk a tripawd? What signs should I look for to know when he's had enough? Are unpaved trails better than paved trails for the joints/paws? I'm hesitant to push him too far because of the missing leg, but I know his possible mix of breeds need lots of exercise.
Also, are there any supplements or other things I could look into getting to help keep his joints and body healthy, given the fact he's supporting all his weight on three legs?
Thank you for any info, advice, or links you can share!
(Oh, and as a side note, I've contacted a professional trainer to help with the sudden aggression. NOT going to let that continue, if at all possible!)
Howdy! Congrats on adopting your little spitfire of a Tripawd!
Good move to have a trainer intervene, that's wonderful. There are a million reasons why Rufus would go off on others like that, and a trainer is the best person to help him realize that he doesn't need to be so protective of his pack.
Meanwhile about the exercise. It's so tricky with an energetic Tripawd. The most important thing to remember is that while he needs physical activity, it needs to be done in moderation and within the constraints of a Tripawd's limitations. He thinks he can do anything, and while he's young he certainly may be able to. But over time, that will catch up with him if you are not careful. Explosive activities, like chasing dogs at the dog park, are not the best idea for a Tripawd, especially if only done on the weekends.
So I have a tip: along with the trainer, get together with a canine rehabilitation therapist. They can evaluate Rufus to find out what he is and isn't capable of as far as activity, and how you can best work within those boundaries in order to protect his joints and muscles. We feel so strongly that this is a beneficial move, that the Tripawds Foundation may even pay for your first rehab visit . Please let us know if you have any questions about applying for the grant, or finding a therapist.
Meanwhile about his activity level....working the brain of a dog is just as efficient, even moreso, than working the body. Keep his brain engaged and I guarantee you will be that much closer to tiring him out. Things like interactive puzzles and nosework activities are so beneficial to any dog but especially a Tripawd who has energy to burn but it must be done safely. We have tons of tips in our Tripawds Gear blog about how to get started, as well as our e-books library book, Loving Life On Three Legs .
As for supplements, the Tripawds Nutrition blog has tons of helpful tips and articles, just hop on over there for some ideas to get started.
Got any photos of Rufus? We would love to see him!
29 March 2019
Hi Rufus's dad! (or mom? =)
I'm really glad I saw your post this morning. I, too, just adopted a tripawd (actually, today is our 2 week anniversary!).
He’s a 2-year-old, 51-pound black lab (maybe a mixed breed, but it’s hard to know) named Cooper who lost his back right leg. And man he is SUCH a joy! I'm already so in love with this big guy I can't imagine life without him.
But it doesn't seem like anyone told Coop that he lost a leg because after only 5 weeks out from his surgery, he doesn't seem to miss a beat! Which is why I was in search of some advice in the forums and found this post from you - I'm terrified that I'm not handling his situation correctly and not proceeding with the correct limitations that he needs.
He goes full-speed ahead almost all the time. He LOVES to play with my other dog, Sir Duncan the Loud (who doesn't have a missing limb but is still way more hesitant about life than Cooper with only 3 legs), and they play hardcore! I think Duncan is part greyhound and is the fastest dog I've ever had, but Cooper can usually keep up with him almost stride for stride. And they really enjoy running around and wrestling in the back yard with almost boundless energy.
Cooper hasn't seemed fatigued at all yet or in any noticeable pain. But then later I do notice that he's extra limpy afterwards, once he's been laying down for a while and then gets back up - and maybe almost a little stiff also?
So I'm not sure if I'm missing the signs over overworking or if he's just not "telling" me - or if he's still just so young that it isn't really phasing him at all yet? I really would hate to have to limit their play time, and I'm not sure how I even could limit their running in my back yard even if I wanted to. They both seem to be so overjoyed when they get to be free and play.
So I, too, would love to hear some advice from other 3-legged-pup parents on how they've successfully managed the health of the remaining legs for their buddies and how to monitor their exercise. Especially some guidance from any who also have a 2nd, fully-legged, companion at home to work around.
I've been trying to massage his leg and hip at least once a day if not more and he seems to really enjoy that. And I've invested in about $300 worth of (ugly) carpets to lay over my really nice (but slippery) wood floors to ease in his comfort. Plus I have been giving him Cosequin as well each day to hopefully help booster long-term mobility health, but are there other supplements or a different brand that anyone recommends or has had really good luck with?
ANY guidance anyone wants to offer would be greatly appreciated! And I’d be really interested in hearing about how you and Rufus start to settle into your lives together as time goes on also =)
I’m terrified that I’m not handling his situation correctly and not proceeding with the correct limitations that he needs.
He goes full-speed ahead almost all the time. He LOVES to play with my other dog, Sir Duncan the Loud (who doesn’t have a missing limb but is still way more hesitant about life than Cooper with only 3 legs), and they play hardcore! I think Duncan is part greyhound and is the fastest dog I’ve ever had, but Cooper can usually keep up with him almost stride for stride. And they really enjoy running around and wrestling in the back yard with almost boundless energy.
Cooper hasn’t seemed fatigued at all yet or in any noticeable pain. But then later I do notice that he’s extra limpy afterwards, once he’s been laying down for a while and then gets back up – and maybe almost a little stiff also?
So I’m not sure if I’m missing the signs over overworking or if he’s just not “telling” me – or if he’s still just so young that it isn’t really phasing him at all yet? I really would hate to have to limit their play time, and I’m not sure how I even could limit their running in my back yard even if I wanted to. They both seem to be so overjoyed when they get to be free and play.
Oh gosh don't be terrified. You are doing everything RIGHT by asking GREAT questions and being here. I'm so glad you are doing that, Cooper has a great mama on his side.
So yeah, the full speed thing is not good over the long term. I mentioned a little more about that in your other post so please hop on over and take a look. Meanwhile, what you are describing here definitely sounds like Cooper is getting too much playtime in. I would encourage you to check out our videos with Sasha Foster, one of the most famous canine rehab therapists in the world. Here's what she has to say about this topic:
You aren't missing the signs, you're seeing them pretty clearly. Here are some other posts about recognizing pain in pets:
18 October 2009
Hi Rufus McGoofus! Love that name!
And hi to Cooper too.
My current Tripawd is a little Pug mix who lost a rear leg after being hit by a car at 7 months old. I adopted Elly at 10 months old and she was full of puppy energy. Thank Dog for the Pug part of her- it slows her down a little
Although she was completely healed she wasn't very strong and didn't have much endurance. We started working on her core strength through food games and puzzles, and balance exercises. We did short walks and worked up to 15 to 20 minutes.
I highly recommend classes too- Elly was quite fearful and has severe separation anxiety. We started classes to help her become more confident, build strength, and look for things she liked to do. We regularly use trick or obedience training to work on core and to tire her out. Turns out the 'brain game' part of our activities really tires her out. One of our classes introduced us to the sport of Nose Work- a really great way to build confidence and burn energy. You don't have to play the real sport either- one of Elly's favorite games is 'search'. I have her sit and wait in one room while I hide treats in another room, then I turn her loose!
Here are some posts from Elly's blog on our activities:
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
18 March 2019
I’m amazed that I have now found through your post two other people who have adopted tripod dogs. I too am in your club and just as clueless about rehab. My tripod is a chihuahua, dachshund and possibly Pomeranian cross. Jake is the smallest dog I’ve ever owned. So learning about his personality, how to help my newly made tripod and how to live with a small dog are all things I must do. Rehabbing Jake is something I’m learning about so unfortunately I don’t have any advice there. Going slowly on walks and not going too far seems to be working for him. When I get my next check I’m going to purchase the Web Master harness .
Jerry suggested it and after reading up on it I like this vest. Just as you didn’t expect and issue with Rufus at the dog park I’m learning about how Jake deals with new situations and things like going for a walk. We both are dealing with steep learning curves for both having a tripod dog and who our new dogs are. We both have to learn what good and bad habits our dog has come to us with. Our new dog’s are learning about the ebb and flow our households are running on and how they fit into our packs. Once Jake was able to comfortably go off his pain meds he was also full of energy. I have three other dogs and two cats for him to play with. My saving grace has been that he doesn’t want me out of his site for long. When I go back inside the house he stops playing and comes in to find me. Congratulations and good luck on your new dog!