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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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To amputate or not to amputate?
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Member Since:
12 April 2022
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12 April 2022 - 10:18 am
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Hello all!

I am in the process of adopting a 2 year old border collie / lab mix. When she was a stray, she broke her front right leg and it healed very poorly. I am told that surgery is not an option and that it cannot be fixed. The shelter is offering to cover the amputation, but they are leaving the decision up to me, and im not sure what to do. 

Some details: 

I live in SLC, the dog is in Texas. They will transport her to me near the end of next month. So i have not met her in person.

The vet that the shelter works with originally advized against amputation as she does use the leg maybe 40% of the time. However, right before i put my applocation in, they were going to revisit the subject, but ultimately decided not to and to leave the decision up to me. They were going to revisit simply because she had been at the shelter longer and they saw her use with it and how she primarily packs the paw. 

Their vet reported that an amputation will most likely be needed further down the line as she ages. 

She is able to bare a little weight on it. She mostly does this when standing. She does occationally use it when walking, but of course is limping quite drastically when she does. 

As far as everyone is aware, there is no pain. 

I already have a border collie / lab mix tri-paw. However, he is missing his back right leg instead. So i am not concerned about care as i know what to expect, mostly. I am unsure of what differences to anticipate in regard to front leg vs back leg. If any?

I live on the second floor of a home, so there are outside stairs that are used to enter the apartment. My tri-paw handles the stairs no problem, but i worry that this is not always the case. I would be happy to carry her of course. I dont even know of the broken leg would be of any use on stairs anyway.

So overall, this seems like a huge decision and its made harder by me only being able to observe her via video. I am concerned that keeping the leg leaves it vulnerable to injury. However, if she uses is sometimes then i dont know of it is ethical to remove it since it has some function. Another consideration is that she may need it removed as she ages, so do i keep it for 3, 4, 5 years or however long, and removie it when she is older, or is it better do do it now while she is young and its easier for her to adjust physically? 

Im very torn. Any advice or imput would be much appreciated. Thank you so much!


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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12 April 2022 - 11:36 am
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Hi Lauren,

Thanks for joining! We look forward to learning all about your current Tripawd and possibly this new addition.

Has an orthopedic vet looked at her yet? If not, that's where I would go next. If the rescue doesn't want to cover the cost, and you are serious about this dog, I would offer to cover the consultation fee. There would be no second guessing about how/if she uses that leg, and more importantly, whether or not she is a good candidate for a partial amputation so that a prosthetic leg can be used after healing, and for the rest of her life. In my non-vet opinion it sounds like she could be a great candidate. And if you are willing to invest the time and money in a device, it would change her life for the better in so many ways.

It's a blessing that the rescue is leaving the amputation surgery decision up to you. Too many well-intentioned rescues jump to amputation before an orthopedic evaluation has been done on the animal. They do the full amputation when the dog could have been a terrific candidate for a prosthetic leg. That happened to our Wyatt Ray , who only needed a paw removed but the kind-hearted vet took his entire leg. That ruled him out of being a prosthetic candidate. Had he had a prosthesis, it would have been life changing for all of us. 

As one ortho vet told us once, amputation gets rid of the immediate problem. But it causes other problems later on down the road. Early osteoarthritis, susceptibility to cruciate tears, and more limits placed on mobility / activity for the animal. So anytime there is a question, it's always safest to see what an ortho vet thinks before jumping into it if you have the luxury of time. 

A prosthetic leg isn't for everyone. You need to be certain that you can invest time and money in training, and occasional rehabbing of the device. The payoff can be worth the effort for most dogs and their people.

Let us know what you decide! 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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