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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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Tripod on Stairs
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8 December 2014 - 11:53 am
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Our Leonberger mix, roughly 60 pounds, is now a tripod after complications with TPLO surgery.  Casey seems to be getting around reasonable well, but we are having some trouble with stairs…mostly going up.  We actually found out that she was comfortable going downstairs over the weekend when she joined us in the basement, so that concern was mitigated.  However, when we went up she basically looked at us from the bottom step.

The stairs are carpeted, but it seemed like she was afraid to get started.  FYI, she is missing the left hind leg and the surgery was 15 days ago.  Any thoughts on how to work on this?  I tried to help her with a belly band, but she really wanted no part of this and I ended up carrying her which is less than ideal.  Also, we want to let her go into the backyard by herself, but it involves about 15 stairs from the deck…two levels with a landing.

FWIW…she is still wearing the cone of shame until her stitches are removed on Wednesday and it is possible that that is interfering a bit with her maneuvering.

Here and Now

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8 December 2014 - 2:03 pm
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Hi Tom, please consider registering to take full advantage of this site, and your forum posts will not require moderation. Search these forums and you will find many members discussing what they have done to help their dogs get used to using stairs after surgery.

All front leg tripawds will have a harder time going downstairs, and rear leggers will find it more difficult going up. Focus on building confidence and strength with core muscle exercises and unstable surface work. You will find lots of information about this in the featured blogs and Tripawds e-books . It is still very early for Casey, so be patient.

Martinsburg, WV
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8 December 2014 - 2:47 pm
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Wow…Casey’s story is the same as my Leland’s.  My Leland was a 108lb Dobie boy and he went in for a TPLO on his left knee.  However, he came down with an infection that the clinic couldn’t get under control even with him being there for 4 days.  Also, the screws were not holding in his meniscus.  He was declining rapidly (he wasn’t eating and losing weight) and the surgeon told us our only options were to euthanize or amputate.  So after we sat with Leland for a while and saw a little bit of a spark and he tried to eat some for us we decided on amputation.

We also live in a home that’s nothing but stairs (split foyer) but Leland didn’t mind us helping him up stairs with the padded belly sling…actually he kind of expected it.  We were doing everything we could to protect his remaining knee.  Sadly though the cruciate ligaments went out in his right knee a little over 3 weeks after the amputation.  His health also started declining rapidly due to thyroid issues and an autoimmune disorder that was wasting away his muscles in his head and neck.  My husband and I couldn’t bring ourselves to put him through a 3rd surgery in 6 weeks and the surgeon was not confident with all the other health issues coming to light that we wouldn’t have to let him go anyway.  So we let our boy go on 6/30/14…4 weeks to the day of his amputation.

I’m not telling you this to frighten you and I pray Casey’s health is good.  I just wanted to let you know that you may need to work with Casey to get her used to being assisted up stairs.  It’s much tougher for hind leg amps going up stairs because they’re having to propel their weight in a hop to get up to the next step.  This would put stress on the remaining knee and it’s ligaments (I would imagine) and you really don’t want to go through a TPLO recovery on a hind leg amputee.

I will be keeping you and dear Casey in my thoughts and pray that her recovery continues to go smoothly.

Sahana and her Angel Leland


November 17, 2009 - June 30, 2014

May you finally be healthy and running free at the Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again my sweet boy!

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8 December 2014 - 3:53 pm
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Our Murphy is also a rear leg Tripawd.  He was hit by a car two years ago and had to have his leg amputated.  He also had a dislocated hip from the accident which didn’t want to stay in place.  After the fourth dislocation, we opted for a total hip replacement on his remaining leg.  He has taken quite some time to get comfortable with going upstairs, particularly the inside staircase in our house.  He would do outside, wide staircases with about a half dozen steps, but wouldn’t willingly go upstairs in the house.  We have a Ruffwear harness for him, and when it was necessary (not often), we would help him up using that.

All of a sudden, not very long ago, he decided that it was time that he went up the stairs.  I had a unique way of helping him (bouncing upstairs one at a time on my backside), and he took his time with each step.  As of today, we decided that we have created a monster.  Neither one of us can go upstairs without our shadow right next to us.  We actually have to catch up to him to make sure that he doesn’t take the top two stairs in one leap.

If at all possible, I would definitely recommend that you take it as easy as possible with the stairs.  When Casey is ready, she will do it.  If you have access to a canine physical therapist, I highly recommend that, too.  Most dogs stay pretty much at rest, just going outside to potty, until their stitches come out and the cone is gone.  If you can keep her from following you downstairs, she will probably be better off for the time being.

Kathi and Murphy

Murphy is a five year old Lab/Chessie cross. He was hit by a car on 10/29/12 and became a Tripawd on 11/24/12. On 2/5/13, he had a total hip replacement on his remaining back leg. He has absolutely no idea that he has only three legs!

UPDATE: Murphy lived his life to the fullest, right up until an aggressive bone lesion took him across the Rainbow Bridge on April 9, 2015 and he gained his membership in the April Angels. Run free, my love. You deserve it!


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8 December 2014 - 10:03 pm
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Yes, rear leg amputees have a much harder time going UP stairs…it IS very stressful on their remaining leg and requires a lot of strength building…ESPECIALLY in larfer dogs!

I had a large sturdy ramp built for my Happy Hannah as she had to go up and down about eight stirs to go outside. Going down…no problem…going up…she tried once or twice, but her remaining leg gave way the first time she tried and it was just too risky….and it scared her too.
One or two times…SEVEN months after her amputation she did go up the porch steps…highly motivated by food!

Happy Hannah was a 125 lbs. Bull Mastiff at time of amputation. She was never able to come upstairs and sleep with me in my bed again. For five weeks I stayed downstairs and slept on the floor by her. After that I brought a mattress and put it on the floor so we could sleep together.

Two weeks out of surgery is still very early. I wouldn’t push it at all. I know your dog wants to be with you…you may have to rearrange the way you live so you can alll be together!!

Please check into having a ramp built to go i n and out. I know some dogs don’t have any problem AFTER proper conditioning, maybe some rehab and physical therapy a d core strength building, etc.

Having been with SAHANA AND LELAND on their journey and the heartbreak they endured, I would just be very aware of the fact that these types of accidents can happen.

Would love to hear more about your gentle giant… too!!!

Sending lots of hugs tonyour big fella’!!

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!

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9 December 2014 - 12:19 pm
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Hi Tom and Casey,

Our GSD tripawd Serge is now almost 12 months old, and missing his left rear leg (amputated at 4 months)

Initially, (due to his size) both going down and climbing up steps required a great deal of encouragement and support. The belly strap was a bust from the word go…We used the RuffMaster body harness for initial support, up and down steps, and in and out of the car. (you can get the harness here, by the way..check out The Store..on this website)  He has sprouted so much,that he is now taller than our 5 yr old GSD Raven. We live in a bungalow, so he only has the front steps and the steps off the deck to negotiate. He now hops down the steps with no problems, but if he is really tired after running around outside in the fields with Raven, he will still sit at the bottom step, and wait for a “leg up”. Basically I lift his rear end (just put my arms around his waist) and he gets up with no problem. If he is not tired, he just hops right up. I suspect though, going up or down a real flight of stairs, would necessitate supporting him with his body harness, or he would take a major tumble…

BTW, the ‘cone of shame ‘ is a major hindrance, both in terms of vision, and confidence., Junk it if you can, and get hold of an inflatable collar (sort of like a circular life-jacket that you see hanging from the side of a ship). Their  vision is not impaired, and  Casey will be a lot more confident moving around. Serges’ confidence improved enormously when we got rid of that “plastic nightmare” around his neck. The inflatable also prevents them from getting at the wound, and it provides a nice pillow when they take a nap. Eating is a lot easier, because it doesn’t impair their mobility to the extent that you have to remove it. (Try that with the “satellite dish around their neck)

You are at the right place for help and support … I can certainly vouch for that !!!

Good luck


"No matter how eloquently the dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his master is poor, but honest".....Bertrand Russell

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