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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.


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newly adopted tripaw
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Member Since:
1 February 2024
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1 February 2024 - 1:50 pm
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    My family just adopted a front leg amputee. We weren't planning on adopting a dog for we already have a 4 year old German shepherd. My family instantly fell in love with 1 yr old Tater tot who had his leg amputated in December. Knowing that caring for tater was going to be a little different from our other dog we started to do some research.  Unfortunately you get so many different answers on what to do and buy to make life easier for him, its crazy.

     I came across this site and figured what a better way to get answers is from a site that actually focuses on tripaws. Now the questions. Should i have a harness and if so what is recommended. Socks, boots or both. Recommendations. Should he be allowed to jump on and off the couch? Or should I get stairs/ramp? And if so, what should I get? I know tripod should have a stable weight. So when training, what do people use instead of treats? Are there any toys that tater would enjoy more being an amputee. What questions did I not ask that I should have that would benefit tater tot. Thank you for your help. Keith

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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1 February 2024 - 4:49 pm
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Hi Keith, Tater and family, welcome! Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

Yes, you are right! Caring for a Tripawd is a little different for sure. Have you seen our articles about adopting a Tripawd? Our Tripawds Recovery Shopping List , while focused on surgery recovery, also has some info that you might find helpful. Our e-book, Loving Life On Three Legs , is also helpful and answers a lot of common questions.

I'll try to answer your questions here though.

Should i have a harness and if so what is recommended.

Not all Tripawds need a harness, but they make life easier if Tater will be going lots of places with you. The front-leg harness we recommend is the Ruffwear Flagline , because it rotates the least of any that we or our members have tried on a front-legger. Harnesses are also handy if you have stairs in your house. The Flagline has a top handle in just the right place, and it allows you to help Tater with things like getting in and out of cars, and with stairs (front-leg amputees should never go down more than a couple of steps without assistance).

Socks, boots or both.

Do you have hardwood floors? Putting down traction is a lot more effective and easier than socks or boots. No-slip throw rugs are essential. If Tater will frequently visit someplace with hardwood floors, we love Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips

Should he be allowed to jump on and off the couch? Or should I get stairs/ramp?

If your couch isn't too high, and he's a medium to large dog, it's not that big of a deal. But if he's say, a small dog, that's a tall jump. and jumping from any high surface is not recommended, especially for a front-legger. Rehab therapists tell us that even a four-legger shouldn't do too much jumping from high places, the impact takes a toll. It takes a huge toll on Tripawds over time. 

Pet stairs are your best bet for a Tripawd. They come in handy for all dogs too as they go into their senior years. Get Tater trained to use them and he won't want to jump after a while. 

Most dogs are not fond of ramps. They have poor depth perception, and ramps are scary because they can't tell how far their feet are from the ground. Many people here buy a ramp and it ends up in the garage because their dog won't use it. Some will though. But ramps are awkward and heavy. We tried one for our Jerry, and got rid of it after a while. The best way to avoid a ramp is just to keep a Flagline on Tater so you can help him down or up.

I know tripod should have a stable weight. So when training, what do people use instead of treats

Yes! And slimmer than other dogs of the same breed type. One thing I like to do is to put all of my Nellie's daily food allotment into a container in the morning. We use some for feeding, some for treats. If I give her high value treats instead, like when I want her to do some painting, I give her a little less of her daily kibble at mealtime. 

Many people find that their dog loves fruit or veggies, and use those instead of treats! 

Are there any toys that tater would enjoy more being an amputee. 

Having one front paw won't prevent him from doing too many things. He will figure out how to hold things with one paw. It won't be graceful but he will be able to have fun with the same kinds of games that your other dog does.

Here's the biggest thing you can do: set up an appointment with a canine rehab therapist. They can evaluate his current fitness level, and explain what his strengths and weaknesses are. They can then show you exercises you can do to help him strengthen, and explain the best ways to get fit and prevent injury as he ages. And, drumroll ... Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit too! So please take advantage of the program. It really is the best way to learn what his needs are, and how to help him age well.

I hope this helps! Please holler with any questions, we are here to help and look forward to getting to know you both.


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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1 February 2024 - 8:39 pm
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Just want to add my welcome to you and Tater Tot.  He clearlywon the doggy lottery when you told him into your home and heart.  Tripawds are so darn cute!

Jerry has gone I to great detail to answer all your questions, offer advice etc.  So I'll just say ditto!  


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!

Member Since:
4 April 2019
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3 February 2024 - 7:22 am
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Hi, just wanted to thank you and your family for adopting. Many senior and three legged pets are overlooked. It takes a special family to bring these pets into their home but In return you will receive so much more❤️

Would love to see a pic of Tatar.

My Beautiful Beloved Brownie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on February 26, 2019.  With all odds against him he lived an additional one year and eight days with amputation, love, and prayer.  I was honored to be his mom, and I have never been so proud!  He will live forever in my Heart!

Brownie Bubba Bell

04/01/2007 - 03/05/2020

"March Saint"

Member Since:
1 February 2024
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7 February 2024 - 10:48 am
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     Just wanted to say thank you for the really detailed information that you gave. It helped a lot. We are definitely going to take advantage of the canine therapy. Great site. I will continue to use as my go to when looking for information to help tater in everyday life. Thanks again, Keith

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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8 February 2024 - 10:52 am
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You are so welcome Keith! Anytime you have questions please holler, we are here for you and Tater!

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