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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Steep mobility decline
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Member Since:
14 May 2023
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13 June 2024 - 9:46 am
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Hi Tripawds community!

I'm having a bit of trouble finding resources, and would love any direction (or just support!).

Our now 12-year-old rear tripawd, Loki, has had a rough few months. He joined the Tripawd community March 2023 due to a Mast Cell Tumor on his back right leg. In April, he and I fell going up the stairs, so he had a somewhat acute injury, though even before that we noticed his mobility was declining a little bit. So we were eager to get back to physical therapy for him, since his previous physical therapist's office sadly closed in January.

We started working with a new physical therapist who's also a veterinarian. She didn't identify any specific injury/strain/sprain, but he had, unlike many pups she'd work with previously, tended to overexert himself. She noticed he often overcompensated carrying himself on his beefy front legs, so we were going to work on strengthening that back leg. However, he also ended up with a paw pad injury on his remaining back foot (was dragging that foot at times at the time), so we had him essentially on bed rest for a few weeks to prevent re-injurying that foot.

Once that healed in mid-May (yay!), as we tried to do gradual, gentle exercise, he hasn't really been up for it, and it's felt like two steps forward two steps back in recent weeks. He's more flexible now than he's ever been -- at physical therapy, he does a handful of very mild core exercises, but mostly passive range of motion and myofascial massage. And we try to do no more than 4 minute walks twice a day, plus passive range of motion/massage, a few just bathroom breaks, and the smallest bit of at-home physical therapy exercises. But even the little bit often seems too much, and his muscles are so tight. (He got stuck behind a chair two nights ago -- still don't know how he ended up there! But I wonder if getting stuck somewhere is making the past two days even worse than usual.) He needs help getting up, and isn't able to move much at all without support. We support him on his brief walks somewhere between 30% - 75%, try to gently challenge him, but it's been tough. 

It feels so hard to know whether it's arthritis and age catching up with him, overexertion from a few months ago still lingering, the humidity (which has been tough lately!), injury, overcompensating with his front legs so much catching up with him, or all of it and more. We're actually going to see if some physical therapy swimming could be a helpful addition, even just therapeutically to move in warm water for a little bit with another physical therapist office that does have a therapy pool, and we've ordered him some custom wheels in hopes that can be a rehabilitation tool (and if not, then at least he can enjoy a little independence again!).

He's still a hungry, social, even happy boy as much as he can be with super limited mobility. He enjoys porch sitting, and wagon rides. He takes pain medication (Carprofen, Gabapentin, Amantadine, Librela), and in March/early April had typical independence on leash walks, and was taking a K9 Nosework course he was enjoying. We had to sadly cancel the course, and hope maybe he'll be able to rejoin one sometime in the future if he's able to regain some mobility. But woof, it's been tough!

We're going to patiently keep at it all, whether or not he regains mobility, but would love any input anyone has to share.

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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13 June 2024 - 10:29 am
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Sarah, rest assured you are doing absolutely everything right to help Loki live his best life on three. Loki couldn't ask for more! Ongoing vet care, two PTs, nosework, at-home exercises, good pain control. YAY! These are all things that most Tripawds will benefit from at his age. 

One thing you didn't mention was acupuncture. Is there a vet in your area who can do it? It made a huuuuge difference for our Wyatt when he had an ongoing muscle strain injury. 

As someone who had a 12 year old Tripawd (Wyatt Ray was a rear-legger since his puppy days), I know what it's like to go day-to-day without being sure of what's causing the "meh" in our dog. Wyatt would have good days and bad days, and some days he would be a puppy again, and others he would lay around all day and sleep. It was a lot of ups and downs. When he was up, we made the most of it. When he wasn't, we tried our best to let him rest and engage his brain instead of his body.

Don't know if you saw these but we wrote about the experience here:


So my tip would be look into acupuncture, it's the one thing I see missing from your description that could really benefit him. Here's a good interview about it:


Also, please see my recent post about wheels. Although Loki is a rear legger, the same thoughts still apply:


Member Since:
14 May 2023
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13 June 2024 - 11:03 am
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I can't thank you enough for your reply, Jerry! You're so kind and these links are exactly what I'm looking for all around.

Loki had tried a little acupuncture last year, though only a few times (they were kind of present at the office really sporadically) -- his current PT does offer it, and we'll ask her about adding it to the mix. 🙂

And your experience with Wyatt is just so heartening and encouraging, too, and just the solidarity of being the guardian of an elder triawd. We'll also continue to do even more intellectual/emotional engagement with him on those more restful days -- food puzzle/slow feeder type things and more cuddling/pets. We've found while we can't really do Nosework right now with him, even a bit of "which of our 4 hands has the treat in it" seemed to excite him! 

We're working with our current PT about the wheels, too, and will make sure he's introduced to them well. We'll be heading out to Eddie's Wheels for his fitting once they're ready, so we're well supported all around to make sure his experience with them is as good as it can be.

Thank you again.sp_hearticon2

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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13 June 2024 - 2:31 pm
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I'm sorry Loki is struggling.

My current Tripawd is a little Pug Mix who lost her back leg at 7 months old to a car accident, she is now 9.5 years old. When she was younger Elly would occasionally overdo, but some extra rest took care of it.  About 2 years ago a weird accident resulted in an injury to her remaining hip, diagnosed as an iliopsoas strain.  We did rehab and got meds and a treatment program.  Unfortunately we have not been able to get her back to her fitness level before the injury.  I was warned by both my regular vet and the rehab vets that it would most likely be an ongoing issue for her. She can get around OK on her own but her daily activity level is quite diminished compared to a couple years ago.

A couple things I'm doing with Elly that you might consider and/or ask your vet about:

Elly gets chiropractic adjustments once a month.  I am a big believer in acupuncture, we did it with my last elderly Pug boy, but Elly has anxiety and fear issues, we don't feel at this point that acupuncture is right for her.  Her chiro adjustments are much faster than an acupuncture treatment.

Elly gets a muscle building supplement called Myos.  I have found it really helped Elly recover from her injury and does help keep her as strong as possible.

I have chosen to do adequan injections over librela, Elly gets two injections a month.  Based on your description of Loki librela is probably a better fit.

And this might be way out there but is a real issue for Elly- she can no longer empty her anal glands on her own which started after she hurt her hip.  Full glands for her are very uncomfortable and actually affect her mobility. We have to go to the vet every 4 weeks to have them expressed manually, sometimes the left one is empty but the right one (on the side of her missing leg) is always full.  If they don't get expressed they can get impacted then infected.


Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Member Since:
14 May 2023
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13 June 2024 - 3:55 pm
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Thank you so much for your kind reply, Karen, and your suggestions. It's totally not out there to mention anal glands -- Loki's have been troublesome recently, too. (He just finished a round of antibiotics, and that seems to have helped!) He's always needed expression help since he was little, but they've been a problem for him especially since his mobility challenges -- and I imagine also negatively impacting his mobility! Luckily we've got a good vet and are keeping an eye on them even more so than we had been, so we'll keep at keeping them emptied regularly. 

You're taking such good care of Elly, too -- I'll check out Myos, and will definitely ask our current PT about doing acupuncture. (Our boy has some anxiety worries, too, but needles aren't among them.)

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