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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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Any negative stories or regrets?
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Member Since:
15 July 2016
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15 July 2016 - 7:53 am
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First post and new to this osteosarcoma world (cancer stinks -- lost my dad to it years ago.)  Here's our backstory.

Milo is an Australian Labradoodle, almost 10 years old, just over 80 pounds (should be 75, but it seems he was getting two dinners a night recently when my son came home from college and both he and my husband were feeding him.  Milo was happy to oblige.)

  • July 2 Saturday night:  sprinted up a hill chasing another dog, and came back limping.
  • July 5, Tuesday:  visited vet because he was still limping, figured get some decent drugs
  • July 7, Thursday:  x-rays of left leg, right shoulder, lungs (shoulder story below, and my concern for amputation)
  • July 8, Friday -- we left the country on a business trip, and Milo went across the street where he's familiar, we returned early on July 13.  Hated being gone.
  • July 13, Wed:  returned late that night to the US to a very gimpy dog, much worse than we left, and got the bone cancer diagnosis.  Left leg tumor.  Shoulder clear.  Lungs clear.
  • July 14, Thurs:  scheduled an appointment with canine onocologist for Monday (on vacation this week), spend day on internet learning.

That brings me to today.  He can barely put any weight on his leg.  He can barely walk, but he wanted to play his favorite psycho-puppy run in circles through the bushes game.  It seems so long having to wait until Monday for an oncologist.  Given initial x-rays showed lungs were clear, I want this limb off now!  But I do have concerns because I'm not sure about the strength of his right shoulder.

Shoulder story.  2-3 months ago, he started limping on a regular walk of ours.  We drive an F-150 pick up and he was very excited and had "flown" out of the very high up back seat onto pavement when we arrived at the walking spot.  We gave him some baby aspirin for a few days and he was done limping.  A month later he did the same thing again.  (none of us learned from the first time.)  I took him to the vet for better drugs and to make sure I wasn't missing something.  He was mostly recovered 2 weeks later on July 2 when he took off running and came back limping.  His shoulder was at the point where he would limp when he first got up, but it smoothed out with walking/stretching.  Now because of the OSA limp in his left leg, I have no idea how the shoulder is doing, other than the x-rays on it were clear.  No arthritis, no growths, no cracks -- probably just jammed, maybe some cartilage damage, or strained muscles. 

All of the stories on this forum seem so positive about amputation.  Yes, some rough early days, but all the ones I've read are good after 1-2 weeks.  Are there dogs that never really adapt?  Or dogs that blow out the knee or shoulder in their remaining good leg?  What happens then?

I realize there's not much I can do until I meet with the oncologist, but I can research and start building a decision tree.  Any insights?

Thank you.




On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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15 July 2016 - 9:22 am
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Hi Jenifer, welcome to the club nopawdy wants to join. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

You're doing awesome in all your research and moving quickly on learning all you can as well as getting him to a specialist. Of course the appointment seems like an eternity away, darn summer vacations. At least the oncologist will come back feeling refreshed and renewed!

Yep, most dogs and cats adapt well after surgery. The vast majority do great, even those who have conditions like arthritis and previous surgeries. The biggest obstacle to recovery is often the human's attitude, so much of it depends on the tone we set. Of course amputation isn't right for every single dog or cat, there are some here who have gone the palliative care route for a variety of reasons. That's OK too, we support folks either way.

You probably already know this, but it's impossible for us to say how Milo will adapt based on his previous injury and really the only one who can tell you that is an ortho vet. If you're going to a specialty clinic odds are they have one there who will look at his x-rays and determine his candidacy. 10 years isn't young but it's not ancient either, so hopefully they'll have positive news for you.

As hard as it is, keep him calm this week as you don't want to risk fracturing that leg. And if you haven't already be sure to check out Jerry's Required Reading List for more tips OK?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Los Angeles, CA
Member Since:
13 June 2013
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15 July 2016 - 10:12 am
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Welcome! I lost my girl to a different kind of cancer but I can tell you our story... after a long journey with a broken leg and a plate to fix it and then a spleen out surgery (to find the cancer) then to amputation ... Shelby was a trooper! Recovery from her amp was the hardest for sure. The meds during recovery for pain made her a little nutty. But we powered through and we had great vets that helped us with pain management and recovery. And after a few weeks, Shelby got her sparkle back! 

Each story is unique and different ... some dogs bounce right back and others have a bit of a tougher go. But removing a painful leg is the best first step anyone can take! 

As far as regrets.... sure, I am sure I have many but they have no place in my world anymore. I had a lot of "shoulda, woulda, coulda" right after Shelby passed but I have worked through and realized I made every decision based on the info I had at the time, the love I had for my best girl, and knew in my heart that Shelby knew that too.

Now Shelby did lose her battle 8 months after we began and I would do it all again so she could have those 8 months in which she was MORE spoiled than anything and the most loved dog in all of LA! 

It sounds like you have done your research and you are prepared. Focus on the positive. Surround Milo with TONS and tons of positive energy (it really does help) and keep connected to us! 


Alison with Spirit Shelby in her heart 

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

Copperas Cove, TX
Member Since:
12 May 2016
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15 July 2016 - 10:16 am
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Hi there,

Hugs to you and Milo.  I was very skeptical about having Bandit's leg amputated.  I just didn't think I could do that to him, but we are 2 Months out and realize it was the very best thing I could do for him.  I guess he had been gradually hurting more and more that I didn't see in his face just how much it was affecting him, but 10 days after the surgery when he had the puppy sparkle back in his eyes I was floored.  Hang in there, Deb and Bandit


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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15 July 2016 - 10:28 am
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Can't wait to see more photos of "Good Milo"! He is so darn cute!

So sorry you find yourself here, but under the circumstances, there is no better place to be for support, understanding and information. This is such a scary time and I'm sure you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, fearful, uncertain and probably a little nauseous too. We all understand that far too well.

We also understand the relief you will feel when you are able to decide on a treatment plan. Yes, Believe It or Not, There is a certain amount of relief getting to that point.

If the orthopedic surgeon the leaves milo is a good candidate for surgery, then that about is good indication as you can get as to how well he will adapt to 3 legs. As Jerry said however, there are no guarantees. I think you'll have a better indication once you talk with the specialist. It sou ds like, since all trst show his shoulder is clear of any noticeable issues, you'll just have ro make sure he doesn't overdo and, most certainly refrains from jumping! You hear that Milo?? NO JUMPING!

If amputation is an option, it will remove that painful leg! Is Milo on some good pain meds now? Most vets have them on Tramadol and maybe Gabapentin while the dog is limping and research is still being done.

And yes, there have been dogs like MURPHY who had to have unexpected THR six weeks after his front leg amputation. Recovery was long and hard, but adter that he did beautifully!! No one can predict what may happen down the road unexpectedly. We do know the osteosarcoma leg hurts and amputation, when possible, relieves that.

Yeah, recovery can be rough for a couple of weeks. Some dogs may take a couple of days to get their sea legs. But almost all dogs walk out of the hospital on the three legs as though they never had a fourth leg!

Here's one of my favorite videos of all time to help cheer you up. Don't let Milo see it........unless you are willing to build him a swimming pool! 🙂


Love to all!

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie 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!

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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15 July 2016 - 10:48 am
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I love surfer dog. Now everyone will be putting in a pool!

I have a tripawd cat so I have nothing to add except that the vets and specialists tend to be excellent with their advice. I'm sure a surgeon would not do an amputation unless certain Milo could adapt. You are doing a great job researching this terrible disease and options. I'm sure you'll make the right decision for you and your Milo.

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

Member Since:
15 July 2016
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15 July 2016 - 1:52 pm
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Thanks for all the kind words and warm welcomes.  Reading, planning diets, thinking about supplements, watching TED Talks on cancer, remembering all the anti-angiogenesis research I did when my dad had cancer years ago -- it's all methodical and my emotions are fine.  But it's all the kind words being offered that make me cry!   

The leg pain is bad when he's up and about.  He is on Metacam and Tramadol right now.  When he's not up and about, you would have no idea anything is wrong.  He's not restless, or sensitive to touch, or panting.  He sleeps through the night.  The challenge is keeping him from running and jumping right now.  I don't want him to fracture it.  When he goes outside for his business, he wants to run.  The fact that he wants to run is good, but not the actual doing of the running!

I will find some more pictures of Milo.  He looks like he escaped from the Muppet Show and has incredibly human eyes.  I have a great series of pictures that I took when my oldest son first left for college.  I told him we didn't miss him, that Milo had filled his place.  And each month I sent him a picture of Milo replacing him -- on his bed, driving his car, with his frisbee golf discs, wearing his hat, sitting on the counter stool next to the 17-year-old to blow out birthday candles.  Milo was a saint letting me pose him all over the place.  I'd add one pic now, but I can't seem to figure it out and don't see an attachment button.  I need to go read directions.

Again, thanks for the kind words.


Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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15 July 2016 - 2:10 pm
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Hi and welcome.

First, follow these instructions for adding photos to forum posts , the photos have to be hosted on line somewhere. If you can't make it work you can send me a PM and you can email them to me and I'll post them for you.  I'm not around as much as usual and no evenings right now as I work for a summer Shakespeare Festival.

You won't find very many stories here of pups who didn't adapt after amputation, most really do fine.  There are a few stories of pups who didn't make it through surgery, or who passed very soon after surgery. It is tragic and thankfully rare, but it does happen.  There are also a very few pups who never are very mobile after surgery, but I think those are mostly the bigger dogs, or dogs with pre-existing issues in other limbs or their back.  I've been active on this site for many years and I have seen very few cases where the outcome is not good.

My first tripawd was a little pug named Maggie who lost her left rear leg to mast cell cancer.  She had her amp a few months before our founding pup Jerry so we went it alone.  Maggie was a stubborn thing who hated any changes to her routine.  It was 6 weeks post surgery before she played with me again.  I spent most of that time sure I had made a terrible mistake by choosing amputation.  There were no medical complications, in hindsight Maggie was being herself, taking her time accepting her new normal.  She hopped happily through life for almost 4 years, beating her prognosis of 6 to 9 months.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

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:
21 May 2016
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15 July 2016 - 4:28 pm
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Hi Milo and Jennifer and welcome to our communityheart

I haven't read any of the replies yet, first of all I want to give you a huge bear hug and reassure you our furry babies do recover and adapt remarkably well to life on 3 legs. 

You are such a good Mom to Milo, he is really lucky to have you by his side on this scary journey. Scary for us humans, remember he doesn't know anything about cancer, all he knows is your bond is so, so strong and your love means everything to him. 

You are doing a great job and I am so glad you are seeing an oncologist Monday!

I, like you, took the decision of amputating as soon as possible to relieve my girl from the pain and also to prevent cancer from spreading further. 

She is a very large Great Dane and had her front leg (and shoulder) amputated a little over two months ago.

Is Milo removing a front or a back leg ? 

I totally understand your concerns regarding his shoulder, I'm sure you will get more clarification from the oncologist.

I would get him to see a physiotherapist in due course as a lot can be achieved through physio, hydrotherapy and massages. 

As for possible damage to the remaining legs, I suppose it is possible, we just have to be extra careful to prevent that from happening.

You have to give Milo time to recover properly and build up stronger muscles to cope with the missing leg.

Not over exercising until he is  strong and confident is really important.

As for regrets ? None whatsoever.

Once we start this journey we know we will be facing very difficult decisions and hard times.

But we also know we have to make the best with the time we have, enjoy life every day and make our furry friends happy.

Sending you all a big kiss and cuddles to Milo, you will both be okheart

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

Member Since:
21 May 2016
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15 July 2016 - 4:46 pm
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Oh, yes, Jennifer please do send all of those pictures !

I love your description of him looking like he escaped from the Muppet Showclown and can't wait for the pics.

In the meantime, keep your boy as quiet as possible and NO JUMPING!

Good news he is on pain medication too.

Sending you a big hug and looking super forward to seeing Milo's photos heart

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

Member Since:
21 May 2016
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15 July 2016 - 4:51 pm
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Sally, I adored Rusty's video, what a trooper big-grin

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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16 October 2012
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15 July 2016 - 6:27 pm
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Everyone has given great advice.  Like others have said we don't know how well they will do.  Sassy was a 138 pound Rottie at the time of amputation. We lost about 10 pounds after amputation.  She like your boy has Osteoscaroma.  I have no regrets what so ever.  Would I amputate again if I had to yes I would.

Each dog is an individual so we can't tell you how well he does.  Yes, usually there are ups & downs the first few weeks but after that it does get better.  Like Karen said there are a rare few who don't make it through surgery or soon after. 

The hardest part during recovery is knowing the right doses of pain meds.  Is he needing more or less or sometimes is something else going on. 

Michelle & Angel Sassy


Sassy is a proud member of the Winter Warriors. Live long, & strong Winter Warriors.
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."

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2 April 2013
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15 July 2016 - 8:06 pm
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Murphy had his right front leg removed, just over 3 years ago,  but due to a different type of bone cancer.  And no, there are absolutely no regrets at all.  He had actually been misdiagnosed initially, and by the time we got a 2nd opinion, then a biopsy it was over 5 months from the time he started limping to the time he had surgery.  He turned 10 years old in January and is still chasing squirrels, digging for mice in the wood pile, jumping on the couch, barking at nothing and basically being a nut! laughing

Our oncologist told us to put him on a grain-free diet, so we switched to Blue Buffalo.  We haven't given him any other supplements.  He also gets grain-free treats - there are more and more of them available now.  You will want to get a good harness - we have the Webmaster Ruffwear harness that you can find on the home page.  It now comes with the brush guard to help prevent slipping for the front leg amputees.  I love the handle on the top of it - Murphy jumps into the car on his own, but the handle makes it easier for me to hold his weight as he gets out (he weighs about 50 lbs).  That should help with Milo jumping out of the truck.  If you have wood floors, you'll want to get rugs or yoga mats so that he has traction in the house.  Also, raised dishes help reduce strain.

The first couple of weeks are definitely the hardest - it's such a roller coaster of emotions!  We all doubt that we did the right thing, but you will get through it.  Make sure that you keep up on his pain medications - Murphy came home on Tramadol, Rimadyl & Gabapentin.  You'll want to give them around the clock for adequate coverage.  Some also come home with antibiotics or maybe a Fentanyl patch instead of one of those.  A t-shirt works great to keep the incision clean and so that Milo doesn't bother it.  Some vets want the dressing to stay on, some don't worry about it.  Murphy didn't eat so great, either, which is not uncommon.  What I did was to cook up some rice and pour chicken broth over it, then add some chunks of chicken to it.

We are here any time you need us!  No question is too small, and we love updates and pictures.


Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs


Green Bay, WI

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18 May 2014
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15 July 2016 - 10:35 pm
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Yep, I agree with the others. It was the hardest decision we've ever had to make, but the best one we could've made! Nitro's recovery was a bit rough, but here we are, 2 years later, and my boy is happy and hoppy. We weren't ready to say goodbye, and geared up for the fight of our lives. There were times in the beginning of the journey that I questioned if we did the right thing - I think everybody on this journey does at some point - but looking back, regrets? NOT A ONE!

Paula and Nitro

Nitro 11 1/2  yr old Doberman; right front amp June 2014. Had 6 doses carboplatin, followed by metronomic therapy. Rocked it on 3 legs for over 3 years! My Warrior beat cancer, but couldn't beat old age. He crossed the Bridge peacefully on July 25, 2017, with dignity and on his terms.  Follow his blog entitled "Doberman's journey"

"Be good, mama loves you" free my beautiful Warrior

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31 May 2016
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15 July 2016 - 11:34 pm
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No regrets here either. Clyde was about 68 pounds before surgery, 9.5 years old and healthy, so I didn't have that much concern about his physical ability to adapt. However, my vet did explain that because they bear more of their weight on their front legs, there are things to consider, but its a matter of weighing pros and cons (Clyde lost his right front leg). Have a really candid conversation with your vet(s) - I really questioned mine about everything I'd learned at that point and felt able to have a knowledgeable conversation with him. That made me feel better about the whole thing.

In the end, I was so scared of a fracture - that coupled with my vet telling me that even with pain meds, he probably wouldn't be entirely pain free if we didn't amputate, I made my decision fast, and it seemed easy. When I say easy, I mean that in my head I knew it was for the best, but my heart grieved (and still does sometimes if I'm being entirely honest) for that leg. But Clyde sure doesn't grieve. He's bright and happy now (he is about six weeks post amputation). He hops around so well, its amazing. There are a bunch of little kids in my neighborhood, and they've been so curious. The other day, he was surrounded by little people petting him and telling him how brave he was - made me tear up! So although his life and mine are different, there sure are some new and fun things going on which make me so happy that he's able to enjoy his life. In the end, there are no guarantees, all you can do is try your best and you already are. Whatever happens, remember that you've always acted in his best interest and out of love - that's all any of us can do.

Clyde's mom

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