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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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Run is the new walk?
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Member Since:
18 June 2008
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23 June 2008 - 11:34 am
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My very fit, vibrant 11 year old dog, Sumi, suffered collateral damage from the recent midwest flooding and became a tripod (2 in front, right leg only in back) last Tuesday. We kept him in the house except for bathroom breaks for two days, but have been doing very short walks with him a few times a day since then. However, he doesn't really walk anymore - he runs in front, hops behind, and he goes fast enough that I have to jog to keep up with him. Is this standard for tripod dogs? Should we expect that we will now go for jogs with him, or will he actually be better able to go more slowly as he builds up strength in that remaining leg and his back muscles? I suspect he goes fast partly because he's happy to be outside, but partly because it's easier to maintain momentum and keep moving if he's in more of a rolling gait. Even with his prior fitness level, he really has no stamina right now - we have to stop to rest after 2 blocks, at which point we turn around and head for home. I am sure he's still doing a lot of internal work to heal that amputation site, and I imagine it's also hard on that remaining leg to be holding and moving the full weight of his back end.

Thanks for any glimpses of what we can expect from others who have been down this road.
Katherine & Sumi 

Member Since:
16 February 2008
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23 June 2008 - 11:58 am
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Hi Katherine,

You are correct that it is actually easier to let momentum help them keep moving.

Frequent short walks is good, e.g. shorter laps, say, you lap home every 5 mins.  Send him home if he is obviously tired.  It will be boring at first, but as time goes, and you get a feel of how much distance he definitely needs a rest, then you can do longer laps.

Let him warm up first on leash before letting him go on his own pace.  Since he had surgery only last week, his remaining hind leg will need time to get strengthened.  The last thing you want to happen to him is an overworked leg muscles, or worse pulled muscles.

Good luck, and wish Sumi has a speedy recovery!


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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23 June 2008 - 2:51 pm
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My people discovered during my first "walks" on three legs that they now have to keep up with me. It is indeed easier for us to hop along at a quick pace than trying to throw our weight around slowly.

So yes, don your jogging shoes when going for a walk. But keep it short and always take water with you. If Sumi looks like he needs a break, please sit down with him for a bit. Now, more than ever, is the time to stop and smell the flowers!

And be careful ... as pack animals, we usually like to lead when running with others. So do your best to keep up without making it a race.

Thanks for joining the discussion forums, and thanks for asking!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
26 July 2008
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29 July 2008 - 10:44 am
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I am watching Radar do this now.  The faster gait is smooth and rolling while the slower is labored.  As we have an acre in the back that they normally run Radar is currently doing a circuit around the fenceline twice (at the faster gait) before tiring.  I feel this is a good distance for him at this point in time.

One thing I would be very interested in reading is if there have been any gait studies done on 3 legged dogs.  I have read studies done for Radar's breed (borzoi) and would like to watch and learn about the changes he goes through from a normal 4 legged gait to his current status.  Knowing what changes they go through in order to adjust would be most helpful for knowing where they will get sore and tired and which muscles are being worked (that weren't worked before).

Member Since:
16 February 2008
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29 July 2008 - 1:04 pm
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As a front-leg amputee, Radar's neck needs to thrust upwards in order to hop, his neck muscles/spine have to work a lot harder than before.

The hind leg on the amputated side would shift more towrards the centre of gravity, that would slowly change his spine to an "S" shape, or with a slight curve, which would change the balance of the whole structure.  Chiropractic adjustment could be considered.

His front leg might turn more towards to the centre of the body to maintain balance as well; hence, not only the elbow and shoulder bare a lot of stress at every impact to the ground due to the weight, but also due to the angle of the elbow/wrist are not pointing foreward. 

Massage his forehead, neck, muscles along the spine, hips, haunches, and even the base of the tail (it swings to the amputated side most of the time for balance while hopping)... of course, the muscles around shoulder blade, the elbow, and wrist/carpal tunnel.  Have I missed any?  practically, the entire body!

Member Since:
26 July 2008
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29 July 2008 - 3:02 pm
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Thank you Genie,

I wasn't really thinking about the neck/head carriage but can see that now that you mention it.  Borzoi have a naturally curved spine that is incredibly flexible to accomodate the double suspension gallop.  I hope the curve and flexibility help rather than hinder him.   I do worry about the pressure on the pastern of his remaining front leg.  Will watch for the tail carriage change too.

Member Since:
27 September 2008
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27 September 2008 - 4:04 pm
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My dog has always enjoyed running ahead rather than walkiing at our pace (we didnt train her well on the lead!) so there is no change now. She is a front leg amputee and can go very fast still.  I'll start massaging her neck / spine/back now - I am so conscious of her new gait possibly causing problems for her in the future.

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