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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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Be More DogWhat does it mean to Be More Dog?

Find out in Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now by Tripawds founders Rene and Jim. Learn life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Get the book and find fun gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.

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Stairs - what to expect?
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Member Since:
21 January 2013
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5 February 2013 - 11:03 pm
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Tomorrow marks Cassie's 2 week ampuversary and she is getting her stitches removed.  Yay!  She has been getting stronger by the day and is able to hop up and down a few steps no problem, but one thing we have yet to let her try is to go up stairs to our bedroom.  It's a doozy - 11 steps up to a landing, 90 degree with a step up to another landing then 90 degree again and another 4 steps.  Upside is that all the steps except for the very bottom (first floor) are carpeted.

I have watched many videos including Jerry's and was amazed by how quickly dogs learn how to negotiate staircases, so I have no doubt Cassie will be able to get used to it sooner than I think.  But none of the vids really cover some basic questions, like,

  • when is it appropriate to start letting her try going up and down stairs?  
  • Had any of those amazing dogs in the videos experienced tumbles in between successful clips, and if so, were there any negative consequences like developing fear? 
  • Do all dogs learn to brace against a wall as they go down the stairs and if so would handrail be possibly in the way?
  • Are most pawrents comfortable allowing their dogs to access stairs when the people are not around?

Cassie slept in our bedroom at night before the surgery, but since the surgery, we kept her to downstairs with a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. We found her sleeping on the floor in front of the baby gate one morning when we came downstairs, so I'm sure she will be very eager to start making the trip as soon as we let her.  

I am hoping we'll get an OK to start using RuffWear's harness tomorrow after the stitches are removed.  If anyone has any tips, suggestion on how we should go about stair training, it'd be much appreciated!

On The Road


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6 February 2013 - 10:08 am
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These are such great questions and they'd make a great blog post, so whatever answers we compile here we will turn into a post. For now I'll try to answer them based on our experience:

  • when is it appropriate to start letting her try going up and down stairs?  

Definitely after her stitches are out. The steps in your house do sound like a lot of work, so maybe you'd like to try it once a day in the next few weeks, at night?, to see how she does. Chances are she's going to do fine, especially as you coach her along by hanging onto the Webmaster handle.

  • Had any of those amazing dogs in the videos experienced tumbles in between successful clips, and if so, were there any negative consequences like developing fear? 

We personally did not, but we have heard of some dogs who were afraid of steps after amputation. Here's Bandit's story. Our Wyatt Ray was afraid of steps afterward but eventually with a lot of coaching he mastered them. Sometimes today he will pause and show some fear but he usually runs back up (it's harder for rear-leggers to go up than down, and vice versa for front-leggers).

  • Do all dogs learn to brace against a wall as they go down the stairs and if so would handrail be possibly in the way?

We can't speak for all dogs but this seemed to come naturally for me (front leg amputee). Wyatt Ray Dawg, a rear-legger, does not lean on the stairs.

The only way to tell if a handrail is in the way is to try it. I'm sure it will be fine.

  • Are most pawrents comfortable allowing their dogs to access stairs when the people are not around?

No, we always had a baby gate blocking our two staircases, even when we were home.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

Kimberly Friedman
3
6 February 2013 - 10:42 am
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Our Tripawd came to us 8 months post front leg amputation from an accident so stitches and initial healing aspects werent an issue.  We were told he got around fine, but couldnt do stairs.  He's about 80 lbs, shepard mix.  Our house has 2 sets of steep staircases, both carpeted, one with carpet at the bottom and one with laminate  "wood" flooring at the bottom. Initially we tried all kinds of awkward attempts to teach him stairs-- we even carried him, had him lean on us-- none of that worked.  Finally, we decided to let him figure it out on his own.  I put one treat one every step, left him at the bottom of the stairs and just sat at the top.  Within 5 minutes he had it.  He just hops up and doesnt lean on anything. he now will skip a few steps at a time and leaps up 12 steps by maybe touching 5 of them and gets up the stairs in maybe 1-2 seconds if that.  he never falls going up.

Down-is a different story. That was harder for him to conquer.  Still the best bet was letting him figure it out-- three steps at a time-- with a treat on each step- with me sitting on the 4th step to catch him if he fell.  There was alot more trepidation, it took longer, but within 2 days he had it.  He will stumble a bit going down the stairs maybe once every couple of months--- kinda takes a header where his chin will hit for a second but then bounces right back up-- usually that only happens when all 3 of my dogs are bounding down the stairs at the same time and he gets tripped up.

Here is the only thing--he has learned on his own to only go down the back staircase with the carpetted landing-- the front staircase with the laminate is a problem-- he will sometimes have his front leg slip out from under him when he lands on the laminate-- got hurt once when he landed in a spread eagle...healed in about 2 days-- but tough for a tripawd to injure his one and only front leg-- he just kinda laid around a bit for 2 days -he was fine by day 3.  since then-- he always goes down the carpeted landing back staircase even if the other 2 dogs chose the front staircase. 

We have another pseudo - tripawd.  He has all 4 legs but cant use one of his back legs from an ACL injury when he was a puppy.  he is a shepard akita mix about 100lbs.  the back leg issue doesnt seem to be as big of a deal as the front leg for stairs-at least for my dogs-- he just pulls himself up by his front legs and the back legs kinda drag behind  down the stairs is simple-- he doesnt really display any discomfort or abnormalities with stairs.

your questions:

none of my dogs lean or do stairs slowly or developed fears as they figured it out, altho my one dog will avoid the one staircase that is slippery at the bottom -- i dont consider that a fear-- i consider that learning from his past mistakes :)

my rear leg issue dog does have the run of the house/stairs when we arent home and i never give it a second thought

my front leg issue dog goes into a "safe room"-- a bedroom converted for him--- when we are gone but that is only because he will chew when we are gone - not because of the leg issue.

My advice, be patient and let him take the lead-- just encourage and reward and he'll get it in his own time with his own way.  But-- make sure the bottom of the stairs has some type of mat/carpeting/ that is secure to prevent a spread eagle slippery landing.

Good luck!  You will be amazed at what they can do! :)

On The Road


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6 February 2013 - 11:07 am
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Kimberly Friedman said
Our Tripawd came to us 8 months post front leg amputation...

Thank you for the feedback Kimberly. Please consider registering to take full advantage of these forums.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

New Haven, CT
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6 February 2013 - 11:33 am
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  • when is it appropriate to start letting her try going up and down stairs?  

We had to carry Jackson up/down stairs to get outside, and that was up like 12 stairs with 2 landings.  Too many and he's too heavy!  So, we basically lifted the babygate and I walked right next to him or straddled him.  He did the stairs on his own on like day 5 post-op.  He took them very slowly.  I was happy mom that he was so slow.  He seemed to know it could be tough.  Fortunately, the stairs are carpeted, so I think that makes a big difference.  After we were confident Jackson would go slow and he was confident in the stairs, we no longer straddled him.  The first time he did them all by himself, he was so proud of himself!  Very cute!

  • Had any of those amazing dogs in the videos experienced tumbles in between successful clips, and if so, were there any negative consequences like developing fear? 

Nope, no tumbles ever. Sometimes his back foot doesn't land on the right stair going up (up takes a bit more effort or finesse, for J), he'll catch himself.  This misstep never results in a whine or pain.

  • Do all dogs learn to brace against a wall as they go down the stairs and if so would handrail be possibly in the way?

Nope.  Jackson doesn't.

  • Are most pawrents comfortable allowing their dogs to access stairs when the people are not around?

Stairs were always off limits, with a baby gate , while we were gone or home for the first 2 weeks.  The gate was only lifted when it was time to go outside; he went up/down stairs 3x a day.  Now that staples are out and the cone is off, there's no baby gate .  He has free rule of his home.  So, on the day his staples came out, we removed the gate.  We also make sure to not throw a toy of his down the stairs during fetch.  Sometimes one will bounce down there by accident, but we can't control that.  He's darn good at the stairs!  I'll see if I can take a video and post.

ACL tear in right hind leg 12/5/12 and scheduled ACL repair surgery 12/21/12. Pre-op xrays revealed osteosarcoma. Amputation 12/28/12.  Chemo (carboplatin) started Jan 10, 2013 and ended on April 5, for a total of 5 doses. He handled carbo like a champ!  No side effects.  We started metronomic therapy at his third chemo and have been also doing some holistic treatments.  He's a lively, playful 10 year old huskie-boarder collie and a very proud member of the Winter Warriors!  Our love. Our funny little guy!



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6 February 2013 - 11:53 am
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When Sassy first came home we used a sheet as a sling to help go up & down the steps.  I got this idea from Zena & her Fizzle.  We made a few modifications to fit us but this is what it looks like

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sassymichelle-sm.jpg

Sassy is a proud member of the Winter Warriors. Live long, & strong Winter Warriors.
sassysugarbear.tripawds.com
07/26/2006 - Sassy earned her wings 08/20/2013

05/04/2006 -  Bosch, Sassy's pal, earned his wings 03/29/19  fought cancer for 4 months.

"You aren't doing it TO her, you are doing it FOR her. Give her a chance at life."

On The Road


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6 February 2013 - 3:44 pm
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What great examples, thanks folks! Keep 'em coming. Check out these other great examples of how Tripawds handle stairs in these Facebook responses:

  • Caroline Louise Murphy We have in our video, spot him! xxx

     
  • Rachel Burke My tripawd now basically yanks me down the stairs!! LoL
  • Sara Swan Well we started Jules on the stairs about a week after surgery, she wore her harness and we would hold the handle and at the beginning we also supported her with a hand on her chest just incase she was going to take a tumble we could grab her in time, thankfully that never really happened, we felt starting her on the stairs was important right away so that she would not have any fear towards them, we've since showed her to go slow and take her time and now she does it all on her own didn't take long! Most important part was holding her harness and showing her to take her time! Gd luck Cassie I'm sure ull get it down pack soon!
  • Alissa Dragan My girl literally used her head! She would put it on the stair & use it to push off.
  • Nanci Bliss-Kelley I have two rescue tripawds. One is a smaller Lab (60 lbs) who grew up with an atrophied leg so has never known anything different. Front leg was amputated just before we got him. He can RUN LIKE THE WIND! Stairs? NO problem! The other Retriever is 70 lbs and struggles more with her missing front limb. She can do stairs but I've also used a Ruff Wear dog harness with a handle to help her when she is tired. Oh yes, FYI, we have 28 steps to our front door that they must navigate. But they are happy pups who enjoy their home full of love and attention!
  • Lauren Amy My tri-pawd started off crying at the bottom of the stairs. I would put little pieces of kibble on each step to encourage him. When he was able I would sit at the top of a shorter stack of stairs and cheer him on, giving him tons of hugs and kisses when he reached the top! Now he gets excited when he sees stairs lol!
  • Tripawds Thanks! Keep 'm coming! Jerry was about a month post-op when this video was first made, showing how the Ruff Wear harness can help. Then he proves he can do it himself after learning to slide down the wall for support. Also notice how it was easier for him to go up as a front-legger...
  • Nanci Bliss-Kelley Going down the stairs is far more challenging. That harness really does help. AND I've found that the Ruff Wear harness stays in place despite the missing front limb. Other harnesses go wonky! Worth the price we paid for it!
     
  • Michelle Doner This is how we handled Sassy with the steps
     
  • Nikki Smale My pit has no problems with the stairs, or anything for that matter. She's a front leg amputee. She had her leg removed in December and now acts totally normal.
     
  • Shelley Rowan Going down is no problem with Rigley. He is 6 weeks post back leg amputee. we have 2 steps into the house from the garage. Piece of cake. Anymore than 2 he struggles with. We have 14 stairs to the basement. When its time to come up we just let him outside and he comes in from the garage.
     
  • Amy Tonkin Anderson Our 12 year old lab was amputated (front leg) less than a week ago. She was up and down the stairs the day after surgery without a problem - takes her time and we continue to encourage her. Sadie has done great and is happy to be pain free.
  • Christine Caes Zambor goes up without problems and perhaps I am more afraid than him. He is a Dogue de Bordeaux of 7 Year and we have a marber stair with a turn, I almost had a hearthattack when he had to Go down but he managed to get down safe. It was the first time after his operation in november but he does need to Go upstairs he Just did it.
     
  • Amy Tonkin Anderson Tip - if you do not have a harness, use a rolled up towel under the dog as extra support for you to hang on to while the dog manages the stairs.
     
  • Brenda Norton I used a soft kitchen towel rolled up and folded under Chino's tummy by her one back leg and helped lift her up stairs until she got accustomed to doing it herself. It really helped her to not be scared.
     
  • Rachel Hussey No stairs, but got wrestling footage.
  • Jane Geoghegan Meg does stairs the same way as before she lost her leg.... fast!! If she tries to go slow she gets unco-ordinated and stumbles. We tried to get her to slow down by using the harness but she's a determined girl and wasn't at all interested in our help!! She does about 10-15 stairs without any hassle but we won't let her do them if they're wet, we use an alternative route.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

New Haven, CT
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6 February 2013 - 6:12 pm
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Jackson on the stairs.  You'd never know he's zooming up and down those on 3 legs!  Zoooom!

 

feature=youtu.be

ACL tear in right hind leg 12/5/12 and scheduled ACL repair surgery 12/21/12. Pre-op xrays revealed osteosarcoma. Amputation 12/28/12.  Chemo (carboplatin) started Jan 10, 2013 and ended on April 5, for a total of 5 doses. He handled carbo like a champ!  No side effects.  We started metronomic therapy at his third chemo and have been also doing some holistic treatments.  He's a lively, playful 10 year old huskie-boarder collie and a very proud member of the Winter Warriors!  Our love. Our funny little guy!

In your heart, where I belong.
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6 February 2013 - 6:52 pm
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Dakota quit going upstairs to our bedrooms, for the most part, after his amputation. He could do it but it didn't seem worth the trouble. He'd go up maybe every couple of weeks. He never slept up there and our wood stove was downstairs, and that was his spot.

Almost a year after his amputation, we moved into our current home, a townhouse that enters at street level and immediately presents us with 15 stairs going up. When we looked at this place, Dakota was a huge consideration. However, I knew I could help him re-learn his confidence with his harness if it came to that.

For the first week or so, I made D wear his harness and helped him down. However, he was irritated at my involvement. As a front amp, going up meant he had to race up and I had no choice but to let go. The interesting thing was he would start on the left side of the steps and veer right to the other wall by the time he was at the top. Always.

Going down, he was much more confident once I took the harness off and got out of the way. He preferred that I go down first and look at him and talk him down, so to speak. It encouraged him, I think. 

Another interesting thing: D's leash had a lot of meaning for him. If he ever balked at going out to pee at night (sometimes he just didn't feel like it), I had a short leash of about 2 feet that I would clip onto his collar. Once he knew he had a leash on, he would go with me. I wouldn't touch it; it would just hang and it was short so it wouldn't trip him. If Cassie is devoted to what a leash means, you can use that psychologically.

We never put a gate up to block the stairs. The only time he ever went down on his own was when he had to pee and nobody was around. Dakota's post was always at the top of the stairs--always--so if I came into the room and he wasn't there, I knew to look down the stairs to see if he was on the rug waiting. He only did that a couple of times, but he patiently waited. 

Here is a picture to show you exactly what I mean about his post, and so you can see his stairs! This was taken about halfway up.

Shari

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From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at http://shari.tr.....pawds.com/

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6 February 2013 - 9:32 pm
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Thanks Jerry for cross-positing this to Facebook and everyone for sharing stories and great ideas!! Amazing how well Jackson is handling the stairs considering he is only a few weeks ahead of Cassieclap

I think we'll give it a try tonight and see how Cassie approaches it. Tips on using treats and leash as encouragement are very interesting and worth exploring if Cassie shows hesitation.  I have a feeling that she will handle going up better than going down, just as most front amputees.  I did put a rug at the bottom of the stairs to make sure spread-eagle accident can be avoided :)

I'll post her progress on this thread to help archiving more experiences for future pawrents!

New Haven, CT
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7 February 2013 - 6:06 am
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I'm excited to hear how she does.  Jackson was most hesitant and slowest when mom was right over him or right next to him....once I backed away and let him do his thing, he did the stairs beautifully and was so proud!  Be near your girl, in case..., but also give her the freedom and square footage to finagle new poses, postures, and movements.  She'll do great!  I love the idea of the rug at the bottom!  smiley

ACL tear in right hind leg 12/5/12 and scheduled ACL repair surgery 12/21/12. Pre-op xrays revealed osteosarcoma. Amputation 12/28/12.  Chemo (carboplatin) started Jan 10, 2013 and ended on April 5, for a total of 5 doses. He handled carbo like a champ!  No side effects.  We started metronomic therapy at his third chemo and have been also doing some holistic treatments.  He's a lively, playful 10 year old huskie-boarder collie and a very proud member of the Winter Warriors!  Our love. Our funny little guy!

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7 February 2013 - 11:25 am
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wow, this is just full of advice. :)

 

Good luck cassiee

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9 February 2013 - 1:46 pm
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Well, I said this in my blog post before too, but resilience of dogs going through amputation continues to totally surpass my best case expectations.  

On Wednesday night, Cassie was allowed to go up the stairs for the first time since the surgery.  I went up to the landing while Anthony stayed behind her.  When I called Cassie from above, she bounded up 2 steps at a time and got to the landing in no time! She took a short break there and up went the rest of the way.  No need for any support from either of us. Wow.

The next morning was her first attempt at going down.  She was definitely more careful going down and I held onto the harness lightly, but she crouched low and went down one step at a time.  Again, no hesitation.  Yay!

Clips below show Cassie going up Friday night (16 days post-op) and coming down this morning, after having a few round trips under her belt.

We are very proud of her! :)

On The Road


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9 February 2013 - 4:15 pm
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Oh Cassie we are proud of you too! I love these videos, it brings back a lot of good times. Scary for my people, but beautiful too, know what I mean?

Congrats on tackling those stairs!!!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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16 February 2013 - 7:45 pm
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Way to go Cassie! This is so encouraging to me. My Maggie is 4 days post op and she has 4 brick steps to tackle landing on a brick patio to go outdoors through her doggie door. She's using the main door for the time being and handles the steps ok with a sling that I made out of a canvas shopping back with a small towel sewed into the center. I'm going to be home with Moo for the next week but I've really stressed about those steps while I'm away. Thank goodness I have friends and family to come by early on to help her out and now after seeing these videos I feel much more comfortable about her future. I guess it's really me that needs the encouragement, Maggie will just do what comes natural to her!

Mic

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