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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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Realistic long-term expectations for mobility and stamina
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Member Since:
18 June 2008
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23 July 2008 - 4:20 pm
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I am wondering about how long it takes tripods to regain strength and stamina and if they ever approach where they were as four-paws. When the average medium- to large-size tripod is, say, a year out from the amputation surgery, what is their walking range (time and/or distance)?

Sumi LOVED going for long walks/romps in the woods prior to the loss of his leg, often 2-3 miles for a longer walk, with a shorter walk of maybe 1/2 mile in the mornings. Now he does at most about 1/4 mile, then we lay in the grass for awhile, then we turn around and go home, stopping to rest whenever he wants to (though part of me suspects this is merely a delaying tactic because he has ALWAYS dawdled when we are homeward bound, and it would be typical of him to extend his time out and about with any excuse or ruse he can find). We follow his lead, and some days, it's just a few blocks before he seems a ready for his first break, but he's always eager to go out again if we offer later in the day.

Sumi is not dealing with chemo on top of his amputation, so I think he's already doing pretty well. We've been trying to do the more frequent, shorter walks, but I am wondering if our days of walking even a 1 mile circuit are over for good, or if he will gradually build up a thigh, bulging with muscles like a bodybuilder, that will carry him for long distances with ease? I realize that he's only 6 weeks out from his surgery, but I want to be realistic about what we can expect in the longterm. Any reports from people who have dogs who have been tripods for awhile would be welcome!


Katherine and Sumi

Member Since:
16 February 2008
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23 July 2008 - 5:15 pm
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This might not be a good example you were looking for since Genie had been a tripawd for only 7.5 months.

Before becoming a tripawd, she used to trot with me for ~3 miles (to be precise, 5 km) in 35-40 mins without stopping. She was ~68 lbs.

First 2 months post-op, she only had 3-4 walks a day, each time we covered at most 1/8 mile (200m); she just went at her own pace hopping/sniffing.

Her peak was between 3 to 6.5 months post-op.   At 58 lbs, she constantly could stroll at her own pace for ~1 mile for each session.  

If you'd like endurance/distance, lean muscles is what Sumi need.  Bulging muscles, like those bodybuilders have, would give explosive power for short distance. 

Be patient, it has been only six weeks.   Sumi for sure will do better and better.

Hope this helps.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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23 July 2008 - 7:45 pm
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Every story is different, but while most of us make a quick recovery, please don't expect miracles.

I used to be a major hiking dog, with my own backpack. My last hike was about twelve miles just a month or so before my operation. Now I wouldn't dream of hopping that far.

A really long walk for me now is about a mile round trip. And that's if it's not to hot or I'm not too tired from the day before.

The best thing I recommend for us three legged dogs, is shorter walks, more often. Three to four 15 min. walks a day is much better for us than trying to walk for an hour.

Please remember to take water with you on your walks. And if Sumi stops often, pants, and needs to rest, sit down with him for a few minutes and get him to drink some water.

Also, keep in mind that we dogs don't like to show our weakness. We will overdo it. It's up to you to monitor Sumi's fitness and endurance.

It's easier for us to hop along at a quick pace than it is for us to walk, so we tire easily. But don't make it a race, 'cus we will try to win.

After my surgery my people kept me from running and playing at all for about three weeks. Then we started slowly with just brief walks – a hundred yards or so. We slowly worked our way up to longer walks. We probably weren't all comfortable taking a half mile walk for at least three months.

A year later I was comfortable walking a half mile or so, maybe a mile once in a while. But there is no "standard" range, time, or distance to expect. Please just take it easy and take your time. Sumi may just prove us all wrong and be running long distance before you know it.

My right leg beefed up to compensate for the extra weight, but my people didn't really notice it until about month six. But even then – as now still – they were careful not to do it with me.

The last thing Sumi needs now is a sprain, strain or bone spur from trying to go to far too soon...

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
25 April 2008
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26 July 2008 - 11:49 am
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   My Buster, is in the same situation. His amputation was in late April.  I try to walk him a short distance daily to improve his endurance. However, sometimes just crossing the street he will stop and lay down. He will pant heavily and just seem wiped out. Gradually, he is getting stronger & able to go a little further. I do notice the next day he does seems sore. I don't want to injure his spine or neck due to a walk. There is more pressure in these areas due to the way they move to compensate for their missing limb.....

  You know your dog better then anyone & when he has had enough especially with the hot , humid weather. Moderation is the key....Thank Jerry for the tip- A dogie water bottle will also help to replenish him. I think of our walks as therapy .... and patience goes a long way.

Best wishes,


Kim & Angel Buster

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
–Anatole France

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