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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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Front leg amputation for 4 month old Lab/GSD(?) mix.
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Forum Posts: 18
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26 June 2018 - 9:02 am
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My wife and I recently adopted a lab mix (likely GSD) from a rescue organization when she was 12 weeks old. Poppy is now 16 weeks old and is a 22lb bundle of energy and sass. She came from the Turtle Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The rescue noticed some lameness in her front left leg, but the veterinarian for the rescue organization only x-rayed her leg/elbow and diagnosed it as a possible growth plate issue. 

Yesterday we took her to our vet (an outstanding clinic) and they did x-rays of her shoulder and sent the images to an orthopedic specialist for a consult. When they showed us the x-rays, even my untrained eye could see that one shoulder was vastly different to the other, and it did not look good at all. They are unsure if it was a defect she was born with, or if she suffered some kind of trauma at a very early age.

We heard back from them today and we have two options: Amputation, or some kind of surgery that will cause permanent range of motion problems, early onset arthritis and an uncertain prognosis. I don’t have all of the details on that yet, the vet is working everything up to send it to us. It does cause her pain (though you’d hardly notice that unless you are trying to manipulate the shoulder joint), and she definitely favors that leg periodically (particularly when going down stairs). 

Our vet is very careful to not influence us one way or another, though I get the feeling that they would lean towards amputation considering her young age as an asset to her recovery and ability to adjust. While the thought of amputating her leg saddens and scares me, at the end of the day we just want the very best for her.

Since you guys have all the knowledge and experience, would you lean towards amputation? What are some things we need to be aware of? How does a front leg tripod (from an early age) deal with stairs? Our house is a 4 level split, so there are stairs all over the place.

I’m going to do all the reading here and research that I can, but I would greatly appreciate any insight you can give. 

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Here and Now


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26 June 2018 - 10:30 am
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FYI: Private Google User Content images will not display publicly here. File names for photos shared in forum posts must end with a valid image file format (.jpg, .gif, .png)…Here are detailed instructions for adding photos to forum posts . If you don’t already share photos online somewhere, you can start a free Tripawds blog any time and upload them there. Need further help? Post in the Tech Support forum and we’ll be happy to help!

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 June 2018 - 10:40 am
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Hi Poppy and family, welcome. Your future posts won’t need approval so post away.

Poppy sounds like a sweetie, she’s a very fortunate dog for finding her way to you. I wish I could see your photo but for some reason it’s not showing up. Here’s a link that explains adding images to the Forums. Let us know if you’d like assistance.

Sounds like you’re working with a great vet team. Having the ortho vet work with your family vet is sooo important, so good job there! She’s a pretty young dog and from what I’ve learned in talking to rehab and ortho vets, is that when a dog loses a leg at such a young age, they have extra obstacles to overcome because they haven’t quite developed their proprioception and balance skills yet. It’s nothing that can’t be dealt with through rehab therapy but it’s something to keep in mind. 

Spree is a puppy who lost her leg at an early age, you may want to read her story. We just saw her in the fall and she is doing great.

also, you may want to listen to this discussion about amputation with the renowned orthopedic vet Dr. Marcellin-Little. In short, his opinion about young dogs losing a leg is “I think it’s better to lose a leg not too early and not too late.” 

You may also want to have a consult with a credentialed canine rehab therapist about Poppy. They can give you insight from a different perspective than a surgeon. Let us know if you’d like help finding one in your area.

As for stairs, that’s something that can be dealt with. What kind are the ones in your home? Are they carpeted or not? If not, then you will need to baby gate them off for Poppy, as uncarpeted stairs are especially dangerous when a front leg Tripawd goes down. You can assist her with the help of a Webmaster harness , which is the way we have always done it for Wyatt Ray and our founder, Spirit Jerry.

I encourage you to hop on over to check out our “Beyond Cancer” forum so you can read about dogs who have lost a leg (oh and our “Size and Age Matters” forum also has lots of puppy stories too.

Let us know what you decide to do! 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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26 June 2018 - 11:10 am
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Testing out photo hosting…

This is Poppy with Fozzie (10 year old Goldendoodle) and Stella (9 year old black lab/border collie mix). Fozzie likes her, but is more interested in playing ball. Stella is her best buddy, and they wrestle constantly. Whichever route we take, keeping these two separate and Poppy calm and quiet is going to be one of the biggest challenges we are going to face.Image Enlarger

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26 June 2018 - 11:22 am
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We got the cost estimates and more information on recovery from the non-amputation surgery option (Arthrodesis). We need to do more research and come up with a list of questions for our vet before we can make any decision. 

The vet indicated that it was their opinion that if we choose amputation, sooner would be best. They also said that front leg amputation is generally easier for dogs to deal with (though I’ve seen the opposite said too). Thoughts on that?

The Rainbow Bridge



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26 June 2018 - 3:23 pm
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Oh my dog, Poppy is ADORABLE! Love love love those ears! Thanks for figuring out how to share photos.

We did have a Tripawd member who joined years ago, who had been through arthrodesis

Now, we aren’t vets by any means, but we’ve talked to a lot through the years and met many a Tripawd. What we have seen is that they each have their challenges. In that interview with Dr. Marcellin-Little, he says:

“Losing your front leg is like losing two back legs . . . walking on three legs is easier when you’re missing a back leg”

Both will have ramifications to the amputation, both will be more susceptible to arthritis and joint stress. 

One thing I forgot to ask: is there any chance at all that she can have a partial amputation in order to get a prosthetic limb? She might be an ideal candidate depending on the extent of the shoulder injury. This has to be decided before surgery though, and you need to work with a team who understands that this is your goal. We have a lot of info on prosthetics , see:

http://tripawds…..rosthetic/

It sounds like you have time on your side to make a decision. Before doing anything, I would carefully consider getting a prosthetic evaluation by an orthopedic vet (if that route is something you would consider), and also consult with a certified canine rehab therapist next. Not that this condition can be fixed with rehab, which it doesn’t sound like, but a rehab therapist has an incredible understanding of a dog’s body mechanics that many veterinarians just haven’t had the time to learn outside of vet school. This person can tell you what you can expect with whatever route you decide to take. If you’d like some help finding a good therapist (preferably a vet with CCRT or CCRP credentials), just let us know and we can send some referrals to you.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
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27 June 2018 - 10:01 am
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jerry said
Oh my dog, Poppy is ADORABLE! Love love love those ears! Thanks for figuring out how to share photos.

We did have a Tripawd member who joined years ago, who had been through arthrodesis

Now, we aren’t vets by any means, but we’ve talked to a lot through the years and met many a Tripawd. What we have seen is that they each have their challenges. In that interview with Dr. Marcellin-Little, he says:

“Losing your front leg is like losing two back legs . . . walking on three legs is easier when you’re missing a back leg”

Both will have ramifications to the amputation, both will be more susceptible to arthritis and joint stress. 

One thing I forgot to ask: is there any chance at all that she can have a partial amputation in order to get a prosthetic limb? She might be an ideal candidate depending on the extent of the shoulder injury. This has to be decided before surgery though, and you need to work with a team who understands that this is your goal. We have a lot of info on prosthetics , see:

http://tripawds…..rosthetic/

It sounds like you have time on your side to make a decision. Before doing anything, I would carefully consider getting a prosthetic evaluation by an orthopedic vet (if that route is something you would consider), and also consult with a certified canine rehab therapist next. Not that this condition can be fixed with rehab, which it doesn’t sound like, but a rehab therapist has an incredible understanding of a dog’s body mechanics that many veterinarians just haven’t had the time to learn outside of vet school. This person can tell you what you can expect with whatever route you decide to take. If you’d like some help finding a good therapist (preferably a vet with CCRT or CCRP credentials), just let us know and we can send some referrals to you.  

Thank you for all the information, it is very helpful.

Unfortunately due to the condition of her shoulder joint, a partial amputation would not be helpful in her case. After a lot of thought and research, we have decided to go the route of amputation. Her surgery is scheduled for July 5th. There was no upside to putting her through the arthrodesis surgery. The nature of her condition would likely require multiple surgeries and future complications leading to the possibility that she might still need amputation in the future. The effects it would have had on her range of motion would mean that the leg wouldn’t be much use to her anyways…and would really only be for our emotional benefit. I am not willing to put her through all of that (not to mention the very long and difficult/painful recovery process) just because I don’t want my dog to be a tripawd.

We have stairs that are not carpeted, however there are carpet runners on them, and will invest in some other runners for the bare floor areas of our house to give her a steady path until she is fully recovered and better coordinated. We plan to pickup a webmaster harness as well, as it was already recommended to us by our vet.

The vet was relieved to hear of our decision, they aren’t allowed to say which choice to make…but they were happy to confirm it once that choice is made. All of the dcotors from the office that we are working with (and have been going to for years) are in absolute agreement that amputation is the best choice for her. They expect that she is going to be back to her normal crazy ways within 48 hours, so our biggest challenge is likely to be keeping her restrained until she has healed enough.

Here and Now


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27 June 2018 - 11:38 am
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poppysdad said

We plan to pickup a webmaster harness

Great idea! Consider supporting this community by shopping the Tripawds Gear blog .

We recommend not using the harness until the surgery has completely healed and stitches or staples are removed. We have heard of no specific cases where any harness has hampered healing, but we believe direct pressure from the straps may irritate the wound. Please consult your veterinarian with any concerns.

We suggest using a soft towel slung under the belly if additional support is required in the meantime. A reusable canvas shopping bag slit down the sides also makes a handy temporary sling. Here are instructions for making the DIY Tripawds Dog Sling. You will find much more help, support and advice in the Tripawds discussion forums.

Normal crazy ways are to be expected pretty quickly for most new Tripawds, but confinement and moderation are key to quick, complete recovery. Unfortunately, too many vets also say “just let them be a dog” and suggest the return to normal, but you will be dealing with the new normal. Take your time, do your homework here, and understand the benefits of rehab and conditioning before allowing to much craziness too soon…

Best wishes! Please keep us posted.

Oakland, CA
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27 June 2018 - 12:49 pm
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Welcome to you and Poppy! She is adorable and IMHO those are definitely GSD ears big-grin One other thing you might want to consider in your longer term planning is a brace for Poppy’s remaining front leg. Do you know about puppy growth plates? If not take a look at this article. Bottom line is stress on the growth plates in the remaining front leg may lead to long term issues. Definitely worth a conversation with your vet or a rehab vet!

Best of luck with Poppy’s surgery. We’ll be looking forward to updates!!

xoxo,

Martha, Codie Rae, and the Oaktown Pack  

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Regulator of the Oaktown Pack, Sheriff of the Oaktown Pawsse, Founding member and President of the Tripawd Girldogs With 2 Names ROCK Club, and ... Tripawd Girldog Extraordinaire!

Visit Codie Rae's Blog!

Virginia




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28 June 2018 - 10:36 am
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LOOOOOVE YOUR PACK!!!! AND OMD!  POPPY IS THE CUTEST THING EVVVVER!!😁😁

You are making a decision  out of  love for Poppy,  A decision  that is ONE surgery with  some recovery time (it is MAJOR surgery and it does hurt) and then Poppy can get on with a pain free life full of loving  and spoiling!  

Just a “heads up”.  While Vets often say how well dogs do immediately  after surgery, keep in mind that Vets don’t  go home with us for the initial recovery!!  In the hospital  they are still full of good meds.  They usually  wear off by day three and that’s  when it really  becomes crucial  to get the right pain meds given consistently to stay ahead of the pain.  Certainly  being a youngster,  Poppy may bounce back extremely  quickly.  REGARDLESS, Poppy needs rest, rest, rest!  Just short leashed potty breaks and then more rest!

ShuShu’s mom gave good first hand input.  Rarely  are new tripawd owners given guidelines  to keep jpints and legs strong and fit.  Tripawds certainly  can still,love life to the fullest!!  Its just a matter of tweaking  “playtime”. For example , Instead of throwing  a frisbee  high in the air for a dog to jump and catch, merely sail it lower to the ground.  Dogs don’t  care jow long they walk or how fast, they just want to enjoy  the journey  of stopping and sniffing!  They really  do teaxh us to “stop and smell the roses”.🌹🌹⚘

One more tip.  When you go pick Poppy up, don’t  even look at the incision.  All Poppy wants to see is you smiling and saying “Let’s  go home!”

STAY CONNECTED!  Update when you can.

Hugs

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!

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28 June 2018 - 1:33 pm
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When I first found Tripawds, I noticed there weren’t a lot of Tripawd parents who dealt with a very young puppy who had to lose a leg. My dog, Cooper, was 5 months old when his leg broke (previous owners) and 7 months old when it was amputated. I did not own him when the amputation occurred, but I was kept fully updated because I had adopted him already. The rescue paid for, and handled the amputation. I brought Coop home about 3 weeks after surgery. He still had a scar and shaved fur, but the stitches were out and he was off most restrictions (except scratching!). I worried sick about this poor dog and how he would live on three legs. There were few, if any, resources about a puppy having an amputation. Most of the stuff I found here, and elsewhere, was about older dogs with cancer. So, that’s the background of my story, and I am here to tell you that my young dog was perfectly fine losing a leg. In fact, it was better than dragging the bad leg around all the time. Cooper had a front amputation. He is an amazing, amazing creature. The kindest soul of any dog I’ve ever known. He runs faster than his littermate, Charlie and our other dog Petey. Cooper and Petey play together like two crazy puppies. And… Cooper is SIX and a half years old now!!!

Most of us had the same worries as you’ve expressed. How could we not? But I want to tell you that Cooper has thrived on three legs. He amazes me every day. It has not phased him one single bit. He finds unique ways to get through situations, and in fact he can even walk backwards! Cooper can leap up an entire flight of stairs in one or two hops, like a kangaroo. He can leap into the front seat of my car, through the driver’s window if the window is down! And he weighs 80 pounds. 

I hope this helps with your decision. Good luck and please keep us all posted!!!

Cooper is a hound-collie mix "mutt" who was badly injured as a puppy and lost his leg at 7 months of age.  We adopted him after the operation.  He's a wonderful companion and comforting presence in our family.

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28 June 2018 - 1:39 pm
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P.S. Just read your post about the partial surgery. Cooper was in the same situation. His vet said that she would not put her own dog through the multiple surgeries, which she felt were “experimental”. It was just better to remove the whole leg. While I often wonder how he would do with a prosthetic leg, it doesn’t matter because he thrives. Quite honestly, sometimes it takes people a good 10 minutes to realize he has a missing leg! Especially because I also have his twin brother, so folks always think they are seeing double ha ha.

When they play, or when Coop plays with Petey (a small dog) they find creative ways to play without getting hurt. Cooper designed his own game. It is fascinating to watch. He lies down on the floor or the bed, and pushes his head under a blanket. The other dog plays “bitey face” with the blanket, and then they take turns. So, they play lying down. It is hilarious to watch. And nobody gets hurt.

Again, good luck with everything!! 6 years went by in the blink of an eye.

Cooper is a hound-collie mix "mutt" who was badly injured as a puppy and lost his leg at 7 months of age.  We adopted him after the operation.  He's a wonderful companion and comforting presence in our family.

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5 July 2018 - 5:11 am
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Surgery day today for Poppy and I’m a bundle of nerves. I know I’m doing the right thing, and that she is going to do great. It is just so hard to think that her leg is going to be gone in a matter of hours. And a stranger that didn’t know her situation would be hard pressed to even notice that she had anything wrong with her. She wrestles with her sister, runs around at full speed and does everything a normal dog does.

Any words of encouragement?

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5 July 2018 - 7:34 am
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Our situations are quite similar. When Cooper’s leg was injured, it was not noticeable unless one was really looking. I had adopted his littermate, Charlie, when they were puppies. Cooper had his surgery at 7 months old, and a week before, I brought Charlie up to the foster mom’s house so they could re-unite and meet again, to see how they got along. They played and wrestled like CRAZY. In fact, Cooper was jumping on furniture and running like a maniac. With a broken leg! No one could tell that his leg was broken.

He had the surgery, and the team kept us informed by pet cam once he was in recovery. They had a camera in the crate/kennel where he was recovering, and we could watch him. It was really cool. He stayed with foster for two weeks while recovering, and there were other dogs in the home, and cats, and he did great. After the stitches were removed, that’s when he came to live with us. 

Cooper had to stay calm and not play or scratch himself (that was the hardest part!) for another few weeks once he came to live with us. After that, he was just totally normal and sometimes people don’t even notice that he has a leg missing. He runs, jumps and plays — he’s six years old and still acts like a maniac. He does “zoomies” with our newest pack member, Petey, who is a small dog. Cooper can run upstairs faster than any of the other dogs, he chases a ball (he’s a little ball-crazy, in fact), plays fetch and can get into the car and on and off furniture with no problems at all. 

The only thing I don’t do with Cooper is take him on walks on leash. This is because I think he will get too tired out from too much “hopping”, but if I try to turn around to go home too soon, he will lie down in protest! LOL!  So I am probably wrong about that!

I hope I’ve been encouraging in some way!! Don’t think too far ahead in the future. Just deal with each day as it comes and try not to feel sorry for her. Dogs live in the present, and you’ll be amazed at how fast she will adapt. Faster than us humans, that’s for sure.

Good luck, please keep us posted!!

Kathy

Cooper is a hound-collie mix "mutt" who was badly injured as a puppy and lost his leg at 7 months of age.  We adopted him after the operation.  He's a wonderful companion and comforting presence in our family.

Virginia




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5 July 2018 - 8:01 am
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Good input from Kathy!  And love the blankie game they developed 😁

And you are removing PAIN! Remember that.  Yoi are giving  her better quality  once uou do that.

We understand  the nerves, that’s  for sure!  I was so scared  I cancelled  Happy  Hannah’s surgery and rescheduled!  That was before I found this great site and had all the support and information!

Deep breaths….lots of chocolate…deep breaths…..more chocolate!

Stay connected  and let us know when surgery is done, okay?

Extra hugs

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!

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