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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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12 October 2010 - 9:04 am
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Our five year old greyhound Pippa had her leg off on the 1st Oct. I am already taking her in the car to the local park so she can meet her friends. Its amazing how happy she is doing this a great source of therapy.My question is and I know there is no difinative answer but we do a lot of walking holidays.We usually walk 6 to 8 miles a day as my other dog is older and slower.Roughly how far could we go on 3 legs as I would like to plan some routes with transport home etc.Like I say I know there is probably no real answer but any help would be great.

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12 October 2010 - 9:23 am
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First it's probably not a good idea for a tripawd to do 6-8 miles as it is harder for them to do the same distance as their 4 legged counterparts.  It is much more stress on their joints since they have to "hop".  But that doesn't mean you can't take them for walks!!! 😀

Chloe and I did a K9 cancer walk which was 2 miles, with some flat parts, some hills and was paved in asphalt.  She has a lot more energy than most dogs her age and in her condition (being a tripawd) so we did the 2 miles with absolutely no problem.  Part of it has been my strength training with her: commands like sit, down, and stand.  I also take her on 1-2 walks a day to the beach and I think that the soft sand not only helps build strength, but endurance.  She is able to do 30-40 min continuously, most of that being on the sand which has more give (less stress on her joints) than packed dirt or paved road.  

I would just recommend you air on the side of caution if you do not know your dog's limits yet.  Better to do less than do too much and injure one of the remaining legs.  Like I said, it depends on their mobility: if they are just recently recovering (you are near the 2 week mark), if they are overweight or if they have arthritis.  These aspects can make a big impact at how mobile they are or how far they can go.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to discourage you from going on trails.  I just want to let you know that they do have limits now…

-Chloe's mom

Chloe became a rear amp tripawd on 7-29-10. Another tumor was removed on front leg 2-20-14. Found 3rd tumor on neck 2-2015, but she's still kicking cancer's butt at age 14. Chloe's blog

Here and Now

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12 October 2010 - 10:16 am
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Every dog is indeed dfferent. A greyhound should have better stamina than heavier dogs, but there are too many factors to provide a definitive answer about "how far" Pippa can go.

We strongly recommend you go about finding out slowly. Start with no more than a half mile, and not until she is thoroughly healed you are confident she is up for that. Maintain the same distance for a couple days before slowly increasing it, always looking for signs of discomfort. As Dr. Jessica Waldman suggests, if a dog sits down on a walk, she has gone too far.

Also be sure to focus on core strengthening exercises , walking does not devleop strength, only stamina. And always be sure to have plenty of water with you.

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Portage Lake, Maine
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12 October 2010 - 10:26 am
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I would air on the side of caution as well and take it VERY slowly to build her up.  My dog is almost a year after amputation and her walking distance has GREATLY decreased(and she has always been fit all her life and lean).  As far as miles, I don't know what it is but for time, she is up to half hour walk and that's her limit right now...although in the past couple of months I've seen a big improvement in her stamina so I may be able to increase that now.

I also do PT work with her and have since last winter.  See my blog for video's of Maggie's various PT work ideas.

Good luck with your girl!

Tracy, Maggie's Mom

Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13


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12 October 2010 - 11:54 am
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The advice above is excellent. I was able to do the walk Sunday with Chloe and her mom, and I will tell you that they both are extremely fit. Work at it, build slowly, and not to over do it. The normal body weight of a greyhound like Pippa, should be an asset as is the age. Cemil, who is a front leg amputee, gets around rather well, but attempting any lengthy walk would not be advisable with his very large size. However, Fortis is also a very big man and he does very well. Miss Cherry was extremely fit prior to her amputation with regular long walks, but those ended with the amputation and chemotherapy. She was always willing, but even just blocks from the house she would fall, and it was just not worth the stress on either of us. She was eleven the day before her amputation, and we did make circles around the RV park just outside of Yellowstone after the amputation and chemotherapy, but real long walks just were not in the cards.

I guess that I have come full circle to present examples of – just build slowly and see where it goes. At least in Southampton, you should not be getting the kind of heat we get in California. You did not say if it was a front or rear leg amputation, but I will tell you that here too, there is not clear cut difference about their ability to get around. The Ruff Wear harness is a big help for walking, getting up and down stairs, and traversing obstacles during the walk.

Best of luck to you and hoping that Pippa will have a full recovery.

Spirit Cherry's Dad

PS: One of my constant suggestions for those starting down this journey it to remember to treat the spirit as well as the body. If such excursions like this lift Pippa's spirits, then I too would work very hard to find some accommodation.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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12 October 2010 - 3:07 pm
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Welcome Pippa and family!  It sounds like everything is going pretty good for just getting the leg removed!  Glad to hear it!


Wow! 6-8 miles!   That would be about 3.5 to 5 hours at a descent pace?  OOWEE!  That's a long, long time to be walking!  I've never gotten more than a half mile out of Comet when she was a 3-legged youngster.     

I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure my vet told me walking isn't all that good on dog joints if you do it all the time and that's not speaking as a tripawd, that's a normal dog.     

Pippa will tell you how far but don't expect too much.  The hopping is like doing aerobics for us (without music!). 

Good luck with the rest of the recovery!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Grand Rapids, MI
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12 October 2010 - 5:59 pm
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Hi and welcome! 

Boo is a 10yr old greyhound with a front amp.  We USED to take long walks everyday...but those days are long gone.  We tried a few times post-amp but she would just keep pushing herself to keep going (she loves being out and about) until finally she would just flop down...anywhere!  ...and we'd be stuck where we were until Boo could limp back home.  (So sad - so stressful - for BOTH of us)! 

Since Boo loves going to the park so much we drive her to nearby parks daily.  (We switch them up to keep things interesting)!  The nice thing about driving to the park is once we get there Boo has enough energy to run and play...and when she's tired we hop back in the car and drive home! 

However, every dog is different.  You just have to start slowly, and go a little further each time until you find out how far Pippa is comfortable going!  It sounds like you have a superstar!  superstar  Up and taking walks just a few weeks after surgery!  Fantastic!

Boo became a Tripawd Warrior Princess on Sept 8, 2009. She crossed over the Rainbow Bridge 2.7 years later on April 29, 2012. Run free Angel Boo!

12 October 2010 - 9:33 pm
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Thanks for the replies guys.I realise that our long hiking days are over,but I don't care I still have Pippa and that is the main thing.

She is adapting so well and its now down to me to make sure she doesn't over do it.

Golden Girls
14 October 2010 - 7:42 am
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Enjoy your time with Pippa, no matter how long the walks. Keep us posted on her progress, and maybe post some pics?

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18 October 2010 - 4:19 pm
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My 2 cents is to take in all of the advice here, and then use your judgment and also Pippa's judgment.  I'll share our experience - I think it is the most like Chloe's.  I was actually going to post this separately again today.

My 8 year old black Lab had his right rear leg amputated July 19.  He always has been an extremely athletic and fit and strong dog, partly hereditary and partly from growing up in NYC where he (1) has had at least 3 hours of exercise per day in Central Park, at least 1/2 of which is off leash; and (2) has to walk everywhere, even a block or so every time he needs to use the bathroom.  Another advantage we have is that although Ajax had cancer, it was not bone cancer and the vets do not believe it has spread, so basically he has not been sick after the amputation and has not had the challenges of chemotherapy.

Anyway, here is what we did yesterday, almost 3 mos. to the day after surgery:  we went out to a mountain and did a 2.5 hour hike.  The first part was a "scramble" which we didn't know was going to be there (we were slightly misinformed by the person who planned the hike).  Fortunately, we had his Ruffwear harness on.  Here's what happened:  Ajax made his way through all the parts of the scramble that were even remotely possible for him to do, finding his own best route.  There were several parts that we would not have taken him on if we had known about them, that were not terribly appropriate.  BUT - with the Ruffwear harness and my husband hauling him over the rough parts, we got to the top.  We had to rest A LOT on the way, and i would not choose to do this particular hike with him again, but once the climb was over, he had a rest and scampered all the way down.  You could tell he was very tired, but he was also extremely happy.  Ideally, I would have wanted to gradually work up to this, which we had done to some extent, but the good news is that it turned out well, and he was chasing his ball this morning with confidence and seemed to have plenty of strenght.


What I would say is this:

(1)  Do not feel that you are going to decide now what Pippa can do going forward.  Ajax is leaps and bounds - literally - from where he was a month ago, which was leaaps and bounds from the month before that.

(2)  As soon as Pippa is up to it, I do believe some of the core strengthening exercises are good.  If nothing else, it builds back confidence in their balance, for them and for you.

(3)  You know you dog best, of course, but after 3 months I have learned that if I have a question, it is best to trust Ajax's instincts.  it doesn't mean I don't stop him sometimes, and encourage/push him sometimes, but looking back, any time we have had a difference of opinion, his instinct has served him very well.

(4)  Confidence may be as important as strength.  So keep in mind you want to rebuild both.

(5)  If Pippa swims, that is a great thing to do.  We happened to have access to a pool in weekends shortly after Ajax's surgery, and he would swim to exhaustion. He loved it, I didn't have to worry about his joints, and I think he built up his strength much faster as a result.

Good luck!  Just remember - every time I thought Ajax was back to his "old" self, he surprised me with something new that made me feel he was even more back to his old self.  Don't make yourself crazy (I know - hard to avoid that).

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