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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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From Grade 2 subluxation to possible amputation. Need advice
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Member Since:
23 November 2020
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23 November 2020 - 1:49 pm
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Hello! Happy to have found this forum. I'm an emotional mess and don't know what to do. 

So our rescue dog (1.5 year pit) hurt her knee when we were playing frisbee. This was maybe 13 weeks ago. Her knee cap evidently popped out and the ER told us to get a consult with a surgeon. So we went the following week to a surgeon and he suggested doing surgery immediately. I was in such a panic so I said just to do whatever they needed to. Wish I would have researched what a grade 2 subluxation was before I consented. But emotions were high. And so was the price tag. I basically paid double that what other places charge (found this out after the fact). So $4200 and we thought it would all be fine. 

Lana started to get a weird bump on her back leg but away from the sutures. Surgeon said it was just a seroma and it'll go away. So we go back for the 2 week check up and the x-ray showed that the knee was malpositioned again and he said she possibly tore a ligament too and needed another surgery. He graciously didn't charge us his fee, but we still had to pay $2700 for the facility fee. Well turns out she only partially tore the ligament so he grafted her muscle to the knee cap to keep it in place. Also turns out that the seroma wasn't a seroma . It was an MRSA infection from the hardware they used on the 1st surgery. Lana was casted for 6 weeks and had to take crazy meds during that time. 

Finally after 6 weeks, we thought the journey was over and she'd be back to her normal self. Well, no. X-ray showed that the knee cap is in a worse position that before the FIRST surgery. I just don't get it. Surgeon said if it was his dog, he'd amputate the leg. Wait. How did we go from a grade 2 subluxation to amputation?? After researching, most docs don't even do surgery on a grade 2. 

So now we've paid another $1100 for physical therapy. 6 sessions total. She will put the back leg down and use it a little during therapy exercises, but otherwise, she won't put it down if we're around the house or out for a walk (she will put it down to go to bathroom). I feel like everyone has given up hope at this point. And it just doesn't make sense to me. Why will she put it down sometimes without pain but otherwise holds it up? Another surgery is going to break us financially and I don't know if her spirit can handle it either. 

I just hate this and don't know what to do. If it was cancer, it'd be a no brainer to have the amputation. But this is such a weird scenario and I can't bring myself to do it. She is so young and so active (loves ball and frisbee and tug and fetch). I feel like she won't be able to do anything she likes if she loses her leg. And then long term issues of arthritis, etc. 

Sorry about the rant/vent. I just don't know what to do.

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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23 November 2020 - 3:05 pm
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Oh yikes guys, I'm so sorry you've been through this ordeal. First, please don't beat yourself up: you have made the best decisions you could for your dog, with the information you had available. Also please know that a cheaper surgery doesn't necessarily indicate a better deal: surgery price shopping has some huge risks and unless you are comparing apples to apples with each clinic (very hard to do), it's very hard to say what would have been better for her. 

Meanwhile, you're in a tough spot. Ironically quite similar to this member who just joined us today. So I'll ask the same questions I asked them: did you get multiple opinions about her situation? If not, now's the time. Don't amputate until you get as much information as possible. She may even be a good candidate for a prosthesis, which would really benefit her over time. Before making a move, you may want to consider a telemed consult with ortho surgeon Dr. Sherman Canapp, one of the best ortho surgeons in the world. 

It's good you got your pup into therapy, but six sessions don't sound like enough to me to be able to make an amputation decision. A rehab therapist once told us to wait at least six months before deciding that therapy isn't working. If her pain is well controlled right now, you may have time on your side. 

Why will she put it down sometimes without pain but otherwise holds it up?

Dogs are masters at hiding pain signals , way better than humans.

IF you do need to amputate, just know that animals handle it soooo much better than humans. Your dog is more resilient than you can imagine. She will bounce back and she will show you that life on three legs is nothing she can't handle. And if you look through our Tripawds blogs you'll see that life on three is just as sweet and fun and entertaining for a dog as a life on four. Check out Jerry's Required Reading List for more info about life as a Tripawd and stay tuned for feedback from others!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
23 November 2020
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23 November 2020 - 3:10 pm
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Thank you so much for the links! Yes her PT mentioned doing a prosthesis because her thigh and muscle is working great. He said that maybe she could have an amputation at knee level and be fitted for a prosthesis. Googling didn't give me a ton of resources on that though. Her next session is tomorrow so I will be sure to bring it up again. 

She only started PT 2 weeks ago, so maybe it is too soon to make a decision? We haven't gotten another opinion from another surgeon yet but we did say we would do that before going forward. I will look into a tele visit with the surgeon you linked. 

Thank so much for the info and the support. This is such a tough road to navigate. 


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22 February 2013
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23 November 2020 - 11:31 pm
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Just shaking  my head in disbelief  reading  every you and Luna have been through.  I'm just somaorry you both had to endure all this.

We know the word amputation sounds scary, especially for a younger dog.  We won't  go into it now, but we assure you that, if amputation  is in Luna's best interest, she absolutely  can live a full fun filled life on three!  She can play fetch, swim, snuggle, run, chase squirrels, snuggle some more, etc.  It's ONE surgery, one recovery for about two weeks then onward and upward!  And arthritis  isn't  necessarily given.   Whether a dog has three or four, as they age, they are more prone to arthritis.  A three legger may need a few additional  precautions and additional joint supplements.   

So do get an opinion  from an Orthopedic Surgeon...maybe even two.  Don't thimk you'd want to go back to the other place!! 

Look forward to your updates.  Know that we are here for you to help in anyway we can.


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!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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24 November 2020 - 10:58 am
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Let us know how today's visit goes. Yes, my gut says that she hasn't been in rehab long enough to decide. Meanwhile I like the way your PT is thinking. See our Prosthetics posts for more info about their pros and cons and keep us posted!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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