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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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Forum Posts: 33
Member Since:
31 March 2015
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31 March 2015 - 9:34 pm
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HI everyone…

I’m new here. I was hoping to count on you for encouragement and strength during this time. My dog is a German Sheppard mixed breed.. he is about 70 pounds I believe and very healthy except for the high grade soft tissue sarcoma on his left front leg. Long story short I have tried everything to save his leg but it’s come to the point where the vet says nothing else can be done and I have to remove his leg. It’s a very difficult decision for me and I have agreed very unwillingly. In fact, I’m scared I won’t even have the strength to go through with it. I’m just so scared that he is going to suffer without the leg. He had surgery to remove the growth and we were hoping that it would heal so that he could keep the leg but that has not happened. Regardless, the leg does not seem to bother him. So I’m scared that he will have a hard time adjusting to living on three.. There’s a few steps, like 4, to get into my house so I’m scared even that will be a problem. He loves scratching on me when he begs for pets and he won’t be able to do that with 3 legs. I’m scared he will be in too much pain after the surgery..

There’s just so much that I’m scared of that I have honestly, and to my shame, thought about putting him down.

I don’t know what exactly I’m asking… maybe if you could share your experience with me. I’m just so scared because it is his front leg. I feel that it is somehow harder than if it was his back leg. So if anyone has personal experience with a dog that has lost his front leg and is big like mine I would greatly appreciate your words. I know that it is easier for smaller dogs too so that also scares me.

Sorry for the lengthy, confusing, post but I just can’t think straight when it comes to this. And thank you to anyone taking the time to read this crying

Livermore, CA

Forum Posts: 3969
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18 October 2009
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1 April 2015 - 8:55 am
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval. 

All of your emotions are quite normal!  When my vet told me my pug needed an amputation I had never even met a 3 legged dog.

There are 100’s of people here who have had to make the same decision you are making.  I won’t kid you, the 2 or 3 week recovery period can be tough, but once past that most pups never look back! 

There are tons of resources here- but what I think you need to look at first is some videos of 3 legged dogs being just dogs.  Look through some of the VIDEOS HERE and there are more on the TRIPAWDS YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

What is your boy’s name?

I have to run to work now, but I’m sure you will get some great responses from other members.


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

Forum Posts: 1494
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1 April 2015 - 9:47 am
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I’m sorry to hear about the difficult time you are having making this decision. It is hard because we don’t know what the future will look like. It’s natural to be scared.

I can’t say much about a large dog going through this procedure but there are many delightful dogs here who manage with 3 legs without any problem. I’m sure people will tell you about their experiences.

My cat Mona had her leg amputated last June.There was little time to think about it but was necessary to save her life from an aggressive fibrosarcoma. The vet told me that our pets are extremely resilient. When I said at least she won’t be hitting my other cat anymore, he said, yes she will, she’ll find a way. And she has. Your dog will paw you for pets, he’ll find a way.

I have absolutely no regrets. Yes the cancer may appear elsewhere but the amputation has given me more time with her.

Kerren and Tripawd Mona

p.s.Here are two photos of Mona and a dog in a meercat and meerdog pose:

Martinsburg, WV
Forum Posts: 923
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1 April 2015 - 9:51 am
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Amputation is a big decision and it brings with it a lot of emotions for the humans.  However, I truly believe in my heart that your precious pup will do fine.  If you browse through the forums and blogs you’ll see so many large breed dogs do well with amputation.  Sure their recovery period may be a little longer than a small breed but they do recover.  My Leland was a 108lb Dobie.  He needed his left hind leg amputated due to a failed TPLO procedure to fix his knee and an infection the surgeon couldn’t get under control.  We were faced with the decision to either amputate the leg or put him to sleep right then.  My husband and I couldn’t bring ourselves not to give him a chance at life through amputation.

We ended up having to let Leland go because his health declined rapidly and then the CCL in his right knee went out and we couldn’t put him through a 3rd surgery.  However, if that CCL hadn’t gone out we would have continued to fight the autoimmune disorder and hypothyroidism.  We miss our boy every day and he left this earth way to early…he was only 4 1/2 years old.  But we gave him a chance at life instead of putting him to sleep because he showed us at the clinic when we visited him (dragging a useless leg around) that he wasn’t ready to give up and leave us just yet. 

If your pup has a will to live don’t give up just yet.  Our furkids are resilient like nothing else.  They rebound and learn how to maneuver on 3 legs.  They can go on to live full and happy lives with their family.  And your bond with your pup will grow even deeper…it did for my husband and I with our Leland.

Sahana and her Angel Leland


November 17, 2009 - June 30, 2014

May you finally be healthy and running free at the Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again my sweet boy!

Here and Now

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1 April 2015 - 9:54 am
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Welcome to the club nopawdy ever wants to join! Your fear, uncertainty and doubt are understandable but there is absolutely no reason to feel shame. You are doing everything within your means to improve your boy’s quality of life! What’s his name?

The vast majority of dogs cope much better than their people do. Our Jerry was an 8 year old 75-80 GSD mix when he lost a front leg to osteosarcoma, a much more aggressive cancer. He adapted quickly and loved life on three legs for 2 years.

Be sure to bookmark Jerry’s Required Reading List . We have also tagged all Frequently Asked Questions in the Tripawds News blog for easy reference. For fast answers to common concerns, consider downloading the Tripawds e-books . Another helpful book that helped us greatly when having similar feelings after Jerry’s diagnosis is the book Without Regret .

Most of all, try to Be More Dog , and please keep us posted!


Forum Posts: 19692
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1 April 2015 - 10:22 am
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Okay, does this sound familiar? Non-stop crying, actually more like heavy sobbing, can’t sleep, feel like you’re stuck in a nightmare, feel sick to your stomach, etc?

Yeah, that’s called “normal” on this lart of the journey!! Sorry you have to be here but, under the circumstances there is no better place to be!!

From this point forward, you are not alone!! We get it! We understand!!

My Happy Hannah had osteosarcoma. When my vet first mentioned amputation as possibility, I ABSOLUTELY would NOT even consider it! How could my somewhat “fluffy plus size model” 125 lb. Bull Mastiff possibly walk on three legs!? And this was before I joined this incredible community. Long sotry short…did my research….the clpck was ticking…she was full of life…and I proceeded! Well…sort of proceeded! I actually CANCELED the first surgery appointment out of sheer fear!! It is major surgery and, like all surgeries, it does have risks.

For her, recovery for about two weeks was rough. Some dogs hae smoother recovery than others. I thought “What have I done TO my dog?” But once her sparkle came back even brighter than before…I KNEW I had done this FOR my dog! And like al.ost all dogs here, she walked out of that hospital the day after her surgery and had no problem adjusting at all!!

Dogs are stoic. They try and hide their pain. I’m sure her leg is causing some pain. Regardless, your vet believes he is a good candidate and this is what needs to be done for his quality, correct?

I jad a lot of stairs going in and out so I had to build a ramp. Front leggers sometimes jave a little bit jarder time going down, but no problem going up. I really think your fella will do just fine with only four steps. You may jave to help hi. With a towel sling for a day or so after sjrgery, but he’ll get the hange of it.

If you jave hardwoods you’ll wa t to put down some non slip scatq rugs for traction . Raised food bowls help alleviate strain too.

Scratching on you?? HA! That boy will be so spoiled he won’t even jave to move!! You’ll be giving him so many tummy rubs and treats and all he’ll have to do is wag is tail!! No worries!! Your boy will be able to do pretty much anything!!!!

I just brightened my world by giving a front legger his forever home. I’ll try and post a video for you and one of my Happy Hannah too.

Stay connected, okay. This pup has a lot of loving to do!!!!! And you two have a lot more love and joy to experience together! A lot more!!

Now take some deep B R E A T H S…..B R E A T H E …..B R E A T H E….go out and buy bushels of CHOCOLATE and eat all at once! It helps!!


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!

Tripawd Franke “treeing” a squirrel:

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!

Oakland, CA
Forum Posts: 688
Member Since:
20 December 2008
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1 April 2015 - 11:50 am
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First off, you took a great step by joining this community and you can absolutely count on us to have your back, no matter what your decision. Second, as others have already said, it is perfectly normal to be afraid and full of what ifs. For those facing amputation for the first time the prospect can be totally overwhelming. I think if you do some exploring on this site you will find many of your fears put to rest. You’ll find tripawds of all different breeds (and species!), from chihuahua’s to Great Danes, from tiny puppies to seniors, and of all shapes and sizes and abilities. For some inspawration check out Bart’s blog. Bart was a front-leg amp who continued to hunt and rock the world after his amputation. He passed recently but only after a long fun-filled life on three, doing what he was meant to do!

How old is your pup? You already said he is otherwise healthy and strong, right? So, yes, he will have some limitations. He won’t be able to go on 5 mile hikes or runs. He will get tired faster so you will have to monitor his activity. He won’t be able to jump on or off things as easily (and shouldn’t, to protect his remaining leg). Gee, I can’t think of anything else smileyBUT! He will still be your boy, he will still be able to enjoy life to the fullest like any dog does, even if that life is not exactly like the one he has been living on 4 legs, he will be able to go for walks and swim, but most of all he will still be full of love for you!

Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions and lean on us for whatever you need during this difficult time, OK? We have tips and helpful hints for how to get through every stage of this process. You are not alone!


Martha, Codie Rae, and the Oaktown Pack

p.s. I forgot to mention I have three rear-leg German Shepherd tripawds and they are the most awesome dogs in the world!

Woohoo! Tripawds Rule!

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!

Forum Posts: 33
Member Since:
31 March 2015
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1 April 2015 - 3:04 pm
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That’s him on my avatar. His name is Tommy and he’s 9 years old or so… I’ve had him since he was a puppy. I owned his mother actually. He’s a lovely white and tan color. His dad was actually a pure bred German Shepard and his mom was German Shepard/Dalmatian so I guess it must have come from his mom.

Thank you guys! Yes everything you’re saying sounds familiar. I can’t remember when the last time I slept was. I just can’t focus but I’m trying. The vet kept telling me to come on here but I was just so hesitant. I’m glad I did though because you have already made me feel so much better. That video just made me feel like there’s hope. That’s about how big Tommy is…

I just feel like helpless. I guess I’m scared he will be in a lot of pain and fall and stumble around. The vet says no but I know it’s inevitable. I was just hoping I could get some insight on how it will be realistically. So it really does make me feel better when you guys just said that the first few weeks will be hard but that he should get better.

Like I said he’s perfectly healthy otherwise. They checked for cancer elsewhere since it can spread but he doesn’t have it except for his leg. He’s 9 but he acts like a puppy. He’ll climb on your lap when he wants to relax and will run around, jump, and chase balls otherwise. He’s so energetic. I just don’t want to lose that.  You guys are so reassuring though so thank you.

Forum Posts: 978
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26 January 2014
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1 April 2015 - 5:04 pm
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I am so happy to hear a vet being so forward thinking telling you to come on here! My Jake was a front leg amp from cancer, and I have a rear leg and a front leg now. They do amazing. We have all been where you are, it is definitely a frightening thing. Most of it is the unknowing. The first few weeks are tough, more so for some than others. Recovery is different for every dog and there is a bit of a learning curve to walking on 3 legs, but they do learn very quickly. You will be amazed. Take a look around the site, there are quite a few front leggers on here and stay in touch with us, we’re good at being rocks to lean on :)  


Mom to Tripawd Angels Jake (2001-2014) and Rosco (2012-2015) and Tripawd Tanner. “Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today; and I'll always remember it”  


Forum Posts: 1448
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2 April 2013
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1 April 2015 - 5:40 pm
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Oh my gosh…I felt all of those things!  Murphy is a 50 lb retriever mix.  He was featured as a Tuesday Tripawd of the week a few weeks ago…so if you go to the main page & scroll down you will see his story smiley

Murphy had his right front leg amputated 2 years ago this Sunday.  He had a tumor just above the elbow and without surgery the leg would have eventually broken.  With treatment he was supposed to survive 12-18 months, and he’s still going strong!  He sits pretty all the time, jumps up on the furniture, chases squirrels & rabbits, digs under the wood pile for mice, can jump up into the car by himself, and do pretty much anything else he wants to do.  We live in a ranch-style house, so stairs aren’t normally an issue, but he goes down into the basement at our groomer’s house with no problem at all, and in the summer he can go up & down the steps to our pool deck easily.  We bought a rough wear harness for him (there’s a link on the main page under “gear”) that we use anytime he goes in the car…it has a handle on it and I can easily lift his weight one-handed and keep him from landing on his one good front leg when he gets out of the car.  You should get one, but you can’t use it until Tommy is healed. 

You will be truly amazed at how well he will do!  Murphy pulled us out to the car when we picked him up the day after his surgery.  I thought we would have to carry him out to the car.  Nothing has held him down.  The first 2 weeks were the hardest, but we got through and it was totally worth it.  Murphy just turned 9 and he shows no signs of slowing down.

<img alt=”sitting pretty” src=” Enlarger

” />


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


Orrtanna Pa.
Forum Posts: 1265
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25 January 2014
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1 April 2015 - 7:16 pm
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Yep, everything you are feeling is totally normal. The first 2 weeks, as everyone has said is the hardest. After the pain meds are weaned and he is healed, be prepared to be amazed. They do quite well. I adopted my second Tripawd last September. He can even jump on my bed and into the car. The Meercat pose seems to be quite common here. I agree that the harness is a great investment, although you may eventually use it to hold him back. Tripawds tend to walk faster, almost a jog. Going down stairs is harder for front amps. TY, my first Lab liked me at his side at first when he went down. He sort of leaned against me. He was a front right Tripawd as is Daryl my current one. Keep us posted and we love pictures here. Lori, Ty & the gang

TY GUY, Best Black Lab ever! Diagnosed  and had amp in January, 2014. Kicked MRSA's butt. Earned his angel wings on April 16, 2014. Run Free my boy and don't forget a shoe. Ty is a proud member of the " April Angels". Ty sent us Daryl, a Tripawd rescue in Sept. of 2016. Daryl is 5 +or -. We are also Pawrents to Chandler, a Border Collie mix who is 15 and 1/2, Lucy, a Corgi who is 7, 2 minis, 2 horses, and a feisty cat named Zoe. Zoe had a non skeletal Osteosarcoma removed in July 2015. No Chemo, she was at least 16. She is going strong although she is now completely blind. She is now close to 20 and her hobbies are eating and sleeping in front of her personal heater. 

Forum Posts: 33
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2 April 2015 - 12:31 am
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thank you guys so much! you’ve given me hope and it makes me so happy that you’re babies are doing fine. In fact, I’m so happy about that I could cry. Well.. his surgery is scheduled for this Monday April 6th. I’m still scared but honestly, you have given me the strength to continue with it.

I’m so glad to have found this wonderful community!


Forum Posts: 19692
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22 February 2013
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2 April 2015 - 9:10 am
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Alrighty! You jave a plan and you can move forward!!

Keep it chunked down. Just get through the surgery and recovery for now and you can deal with other things later.

Tommy isn’t worrying about a thing! Stay in the moment with Tommy! The bliss of BEING MORE DOG is a beautiful thing!!

Can’t wauit to see more pictures! His avatar is sooo handsome and sooo sweet!

STAY CONNECTED!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! You are a strong and confident lack leader! And a soon to be CHOCOHOLIC!


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!


Forum Posts: 19692
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2 April 2015 - 9:11 am
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PS…MURPHY, you’re looking good sweet boy! Keep on keeping on!

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!

The Rainbow Bridge

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2 April 2015 - 10:57 am
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We’re so glad you found us too! Remember, it’s up to you to take the lead here and be the strong one. Your pup will look to you for guidance and leadership. If you are nervous and scared, he will be too. So lean on us and know that you have it within yourself to be that strong pack leader. It’s so important for a good recovery. Oh, and also, recovery doesn’t always have to be hard. Not all dogs have a tough time. It’s good to be prepared for it, but don’t expect it and take things one day at a time.

Do you have your home Tripawd-proofed for his homecoming? Anti-slip rugs and runners, raised bowls and a nice firm mattress are good places to start. If you can keep him confined to a small part of the home so he doesn’t move around too much, that’s also good.

Hang in there, you can do it!

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