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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Hi all- I am new here, and would love any advice you might have on considering amputation. My dog Banks is a 1.5 year old Border Collie/Cattle Dog/Greyhound mix. He is super high energy and loves fetch. Six months ago Banks ruptured his achilles tendon on his back left leg and had surgery. Over the last six months we have been trying to nurse him back to health (nearly 100% crate rest outside of leashed walks to go to the bathroom) and have dealt with quite a few setbacks. After multiple ultrasounds it doesn’t look like the tendon has healed in the way it should have by now, and there may be a possible second tear, as well as an infection (possibly from sutures). Our vet gave us three options:
1. Continue with an ultrasound to possibly find second tear, treat infection, continue physical rehab. Time would be 3-6 months or more of recovery, rehab, crate rest, with no guarantee of a full recovery.
2. Permanently fuse the joint of the leg to remove dependency on the tendon. Risk of further infection and complications is possible, and his mobility could be limited.
3. Amputate the leg. Recovery would be ~2 weeks, and could possibly get back to near full mobility.
Our vet didn’t suggest one option more than any other. I think she was worried we would respond negatively to amputation, since it sounds like an extreme choice for a young and active dog. We really just want Banks to be able to live a full life and enjoy the things he loves: playing with his brother Div, playing fetch, and running around the yard. He has been extremely resilient these past 6 months, but I do worry about the toll it takes on him (and us, as caretakers) to be on crate rest for so long, and on sedative drugs the entire time. (He’s been on Trazedone nonstop since his surgery on 9/11/20. His current dosage is 200mg every 6 hours, which has steadily been increasing since his first surgery).
When we left the vet this morning, the Vet Tech who dropped Banks off to us said “I know your surgeon hasn’t given a recommendation and it can be scary trying to make this decision on your own. If I were you, I would amputate Banks’ leg now, no questions asked. He is light, young, active, and already has 6 months of experience walking on 3 legs. He will do great, and I wouldn’t worry too much about it being too extreme of an option.” This Vet Tech knows Banks well and has been caring for him for the last 6 months nearly every time we take him in for an appointment.
I am having a hard time making the call to amputate when our vet didn’t say one way or another, but the Vet Tech seemed confident. Any insight or recommendations welcome. I know in the end this has to be a personal decision, but I would love any advice that may help me get there. Thank you!
Hi and welcome. Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away. I’m so sorry you are faced with this tough decision, it is definitely not an easy one.
Your vet sounds great, is she a boarded surgeon? You’ve done great work managing a difficult situation.
I know we all want our vets to say “Here’s what I would do,” but I’ve learned that the sign of a truly great vet is one who doesn’t answer that question. Mainly because they don’t know your dog as well as you do, they aren’t in your shoes. That’s probably why your vet isn’t guiding you one way or another. It’s actually a plus.
The vet tech meant well and yes, she is definitely right, dogs bounce back and handle life on three legs much better than we humans handle it if we lost a leg. But here’s what one outstanding ortho vet surgeon told us once: amputation takes care of the immediate problem, but it opens to the door to many more problems later on down the road. And that is SO true. Tripawds are more prone to arthritis at a younger age, and you will always need to be mindful of his activity level so that he doesn’t put excess joint stress on his body. Managing him while he is young, especially a breed like a Border Collie, will be a challenge. And while Tripawds can live great lives on three, IMO it’s worth getting a second opinion to find out what another surgeon thinks before making an irreversible decision like amputation. Have you gotten other opinions?
Hi Jerry- Thanks for the response. We have one other vet we’ve talked to, and it’s the vet that has been managing his recovery at the rehabilitation center. She had an ultrasound done, where they took a look at the tendon and found the possible second tear. She has only known him for the last month of rehab, while the main vet has known him over the last 6 months and performed the surgery on him.
I think it’s a good idea to get a second opinion before we decide. I bet it’s probably hard to understand all the complications and nuances of each individual case, so I worry that no matter what, our current vet will have the most information. Is there a specific place you would recommend to seek out a second opinion, or should I just try to call local places in my area?
He’s got a good vet team but it can’t hurt to get other opinions from ortho experts.
Where are you located? I’m happy to help find one for you, or you can PM me your location and I will search. We always recommend starting with AAHA-accredited practices. If you are near a vet teaching hospital that is also an excellent choice.
22 February 2013
If I read this right, Banks has basically been confined and on a sedative every six hours going on six months. He’s got a tear that has not healed, as well as possibly another one and all while dealing with an ingection.
Banks sure won the Puppy Lottery when he picked you!!! Thanks for doing everything g possible to give your Banks a d full and Happy pain free, med free, life😎
I know amputation. Spu cs “scary” and you wanted the Vet to give you a clear cut answer. I reread the “option s’ several times. I do feel like there was an ‘answer” of sorts (without actu telling you what to do).
Option #1…….no guarantee of a full recovery.
Option #2…….Risk of further infection and complications is possible, and his mobility could be limited.
Option #3…….Recovery would be ~2 weeks, and could possibly get back to near full mobility.
Do you see a….hmmmm……a “preference” without actually stating a preference? (Add that with the Tech’s comments.)
Now, as Jerry said, a long term tripawd can develop arthritis sooner than others, joint issues, etc. That said, al ost a y dog nowadays deve arthritis as they age. I think tripawd owners are ore prone to be proactive against it with joint supplements, good tops from a Rehabilitation Specialist on jow to build core strength, etc.
In addition to be able to run and play, a tripawd can be entertained with games, with scent nose worall sorts of ways to keep a tripawd Happy without overdoing it physically.day in and day out. You just wa t to avoid thi gs like jumping g high to p,at frisbee with la di g hard on the joints. But you can throw a frisbee ,lower to the ground.to avoid joint pounding
Yes, amputation is one surgery, one recovery (approx two weeks), some good pain meds during recovery…and then onto living life to the fullest.
Anyway, just throwing all this out there as FWIW. We support what we you decide.
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!
Forgot to mention that you can also do long distance consultation with one of the best ortho vets in the world, Dr Sherman Canapp
27 January 2021
Just putting in my vote of confidence for you and Banks, whatever you decide. Sounds like you have certainly given this a lot of thought, are doing all your research and are prepared to give him whatever support he needs.
We are now 15 days post-amputation with our cat Yum Yum due to a cancerous growth. There were many factors to consider but all I can say is I stressed over the amputation much more than kitty ever did! She bounced back and is doing amazingly well. I realize this is not the same situation as Banks does not have a potentially terminal condition. However, it sounds like the issue is chronic and will almost certainly be with him as long as the limb is. With proper recovery pain management (read about nerve blockers like gabapentin as well) and support, amputation can lead to an active and happy life. Try to separate out your own horror of the idea and the “finality” of it from the actual issue. Our pets don’t think about it that way, they just get on with living. 🙂
Best wishes to you and Banks! Whatever you decide I’m sure you will make him as happy as he can be.
Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful responses. We are seeking out a second opinion, but leaning towards amputation at this point. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it, but I do think if Banks were given the choice he would take 3 legs and fetch any day of the week over one more day of crate rest, pain, and sedatives. He is the happiest and most energetic dog I’ve ever met and it pains me to see him in his crate 99% of the day.
Jerry- I will PM you with location. Thank you so much for offering to help.