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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Adopted Willow at between 6 months and a year old with a broken front leg. After trying a few operations the (front) leg had to come off.
Since then she has lead a full and active life and having three legs never slowed her down. We raw fed her, supplementing this last number of years with Yumove and salmon oil.
Nine years on from the op and she's been diagnosed with severe arthritis in her carpus joint. Shoulder and elbow look in great working order. She's on full time painkillers and we will see how she does on those for a week or two and think about starting laser therapy if needed.
The vet mentioned that he could refer us for an arthrodesis operation on her carpus (fusing the joint together). But having thought it over, I feel it would be unfair to put her through that at her age, the recovery with no "spare" front leg to use and the possibility of the op not working/complications (especially given the lack of healing/issues with her bones in the other leg when the operations were done on it when she was young).
So. I'm trying to work out what other options we might have. If others have gone through similar and what worked for them and their dog. Is a carpal brace a possibility for an arthritic dog? Or a front wheeled cart? Or am I clutching at straws for my old girl?
She's been on the painkillers a few days now and out for her first 20min walk. Waiting to see how she is this evening will be telling as to how well they will work for her.
Hi Evie & Willow, welcome. What an amazing pup you have there. Nine years on three and rockin all this time? YAY!
Fear not, we have some ideas. Right now, you need a board-certified specialist to help you keep from going crazy thinking of ideas. That's why they're practicing.
Have you checked in with a rehab vet? This is when you need multiple opinions to make an informed decision. Rehab vets as well as board-certified ortho vets are in the best position to assess and recommend solutions. If you're near a vet teaching hospital, that's an awesome resource for you as well. I'll share some links below:
Don't assume she needs a cart yet. A rehab vet can tell you. Also, as for a carpal brace, absolutely investigate that. Again though, you should work with a rehab vet to ensure a safe, good fitting. We have posts from OrthoPets about braces for Tripawds:
There are other options too, like stem cell therapy and acupuncture. This isn't an uncommon situation for a Tripawd, especially one who has been on three legs for so long. Breathe, find a professional to help guide you and know that you're not alone. It's truly an honor to meet someone who's been living large on 3 for so long!
P.S. Your future posts won't need approval so post away.
Thanks for your reply. You are right, I'm driving myself crazy trying to figure out what's best for my girl.
I've spoken with Orthopets (UK) and they feel that a brace would have minimal benefit for a dog in Willow's condition; so we are ruling out the brace as an option.
We are in Northern Ireland, no teaching animal hospitals close to us. The closest rehab vet is a 4 hour round trip in a car, and I don't drive. However my own vet offers laser therapy and I think they might also offer physio, I will check. When discussing with them they felt that beyond the wrist, Willow is in great condition other wise and well muscled. I asked about hydrotherapy; they felt it would do her no harm; but wouldn't be of much benefit to her. I'm wondering if physio would be the same, or would it offer different benefits to what hydro might have?
At the moment on the meds she's managing a 20 min walk with a little stiffness in the evening afterwards, so I'm going to reduce the walks to 15min. Thing about it is, she's so young at heart, she wants to keep going, chase rabbits/squirrels, socialise with other dogs etc, it doesn't occur to her at all that she should stop.
You've clearly done your research, it's obvious you love her so much.
I'm glad you talked to OrthoPets , but was she actually evaluated by an orthopedic vet? This is a time when second and even third opinions can make a huge difference, we see it all the time. Do you have access to an orthopedic specialist at your vet clinic?
When it comes to hydrotherapy, I'm not a vet, but I believe your vet's honest opinion about it is technically right. Hydro builds endurance, not strength, and it won't correct situations like this. But, as long as they are a skilled facility, it could offer her a huge outlet for her energy, and do wonders for her spirit too. Here's how to know if a hydro therapy is skilled.
Her walks may be too long. Rehab vets tell us it's always better to do two or three very short walks throughout the day than one or two longer ones. Try breaking the walks up into 10 minutes each, max. You may also want to consider a cart at this point, here is a post about how to know when the time is right for a wheelchair.
You can also try tiring her mind out. Have you considered fun activities like canine nosework and interactive games? They really do wonders and tiring out the mind is even better than tiring out the body, it does wonders! Here's some info:
One last thing: keep her slim, slimmer than you think a dog her size should be. One extra pound on a dog is like five on a human. The less physical movement she gets the more at risk of obesity, so use low-cal veggies as treats and keep those meal portions small.
Lastly, be sure to check out the "Osteoarthritis and Your Dog" DVD on our Tripawds Fitness page, it's extremely helpful.
Not yet been seen by an ortho vet; we are going to ask for a referral soon. Just absorbing the news and getting as informed as I can about the options we might have before we go there.
Good thinking on the hydro being an outlet for her; thankfully there is a lovely heated pool run by a qualified therapist about an hour from us, so it is an option. I'm going to try your suggestion of shorter, more frequent walks for her and see how we get on with that.
She does get stuffed frozen kongs to keep her occupied. I've stopped the treatballs though as I think following them along with a lot of weight down low on that front leg isn't gonna do her any favours. We do short stints of training/games during the day in the house. She'd happily lie and sleep all day, but her saluki x "brother" gets bored very easily, so she joins in with what's going on.
Yeah, I've always been very careful with keeping her weight down, thankfully it's not an issue for her.
I'm gonna read up on the links you have posted. Thank you so much for taking time to help and advise me. I think I'd be going out of my mind already if it wasn't for this!
22 February 2013
Hi Sweet Willpw! Lovely name for a lovely dog!!
WOW! You and Jerry have a great dialogue going on! Such valuable information shared!
They make some wonderful doggy strollers that you can take al k ng on walks too if she gets tired and wants to hitch a ride back.
Just curious what pain meds she's on and what arthritis meds have been tried.
Willow really is lucky to have you as her humans! You are a wonderful advocate!
Thanks for sharing your Willownwith us and we look forward to hearing more about her and h ow shee doing!
Sending best wishes and extra hugs!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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!