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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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Member Since:
21 October 2022
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21 October 2022 - 11:18 pm
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Hi all!

Our dog Cooper was recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right front leg. We have looked into a lot of different options and it looks like the two we came down to were amputation with some chemo. Or see if he is eligible for SRT which is a lot pricier but might give him the option to keep his leg, however might be at a higher risk of fracture in the long run. He is 7 years old and has already had one TPLO surgery. He is also a little overweight and we are very nervous about how well he will adapt to 3 legs. We were told amputation is probably our best option but I’m still hesitant with his size and history. I’m just curious if anyone has tried SRT first? Or would recommend one over the other? Thanks for your help!

The Rainbow Bridge


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25 April 2007
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22 October 2022 - 10:14 am
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Hi Ashley and Cooper, welcome. Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away. 

I’m sorry to hear about Cooper’s diagnosis. What is his breed type? Just curious because breed type can also impact a dog’s mobility on three. It doesn’t rule out a dog but it’s just something to keep in mind during recovery and afterward. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. To answer your question:

We were told amputation is probably our best option but I’m still hesitant with his size and history. I’m just curious if anyone has tried SRT first? Or would recommend one over the other? 

SRT is a good option when dogs are not good candidates for surgery, or if their human is totally against it. This usually means dogs with lots of other conditions, very senior dogs, and some giant breed dogs who are poor candidates (not all are). Hazel’s story is a good example of how SRT can extend quality of life for longer than without amputation. She had about another year of good quality time with her people. The downside is that SRT almost always leads back to the beginning decision of whether or not to amputate, as Hrafi’s story shows. He is in recovery from amputation now, since SRT did not stop the pain or the OSA tumor from growing. SRT can alleviate pain and slow tumor growth but it doesn’t get rid of the cancer.

 He is also a little overweight and we are very nervous about how well he will adapt to 3 legs. 

Dogs can lose weight very quickly if their parent is dedicated to the weight loss program directed by their vets. Amputation recovery is a great time to do that because dogs usually dont want to eat a lot when they’re on pain medication. They also get less activity, which means they’re less hungry and you can scale back food during this time. What did your vet say about his weight and any challenges to losing it? 

Yes, overweight dogs will have a few more challenges during recovery but they are easily overcome. Traction on the floor, Tripawd-proofing your house with no-slip throw rugs can help build confidence. And a visit to a canine rehab therapist to guide you along the way is super helpful. It’s another reason why Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit with Cooper.

Anytime someone is in doubt about their dog’s ability to cope, a second or even third opinion by a vet is super super helpful. If you haven’t done that yet, now’s the time. 

I hope this helps you with all of your fact-gathering! Stay tuned for input from others and keep us posted. 

Virginia




Member Since:
22 February 2013
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22 October 2022 - 10:42 am
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As you can see from Jerey’s thorough and comprehensive  post, you have come to the right place for information  and support.  And being  surrounded  by a community  who understands  your emotions, the fear, the uncertainty  AND the deep bond you have with Cooper is , hopefully, comforting.

It’s not that we are all gung-ho on amputations, it’s that we know it’s the best way to end the pain of osteo and to provide  a chance for extended  quality  time for more spoiling  and loving.  

And yes, we’ve had dogs recover very well with previous TPLO and, even with some “chunk”.  As Jerry said though, it’s fair easy to have dogs drop the weight safely and quickly..

We have so many videos of dogs playing and running, doing dock diving even, doing agility and enjoying life to the fullest on three. 

Rec is no picn6 for at first, but it doesn’t  last furever.  We’ll be here to help you navigate through that part and celebrate  as Cooper returns to being Cooper.

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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22 October 2022 - 4:04 pm
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Thank you all for the kind words!! Cooper is a larger mutt but believe he is mixed with some sort of cattle dog and coloring resembles a heeled mix (pic below!). He is currently 90 pounds and believe he should be about 80. I keep hearing that if amputation is an option it is most likely the best. However the placement of his leg tumor is slightly higher from most so he doesn’t seem in much pain at all currently. Which is why the news really surprised us. They are saying from the X-ray that it does look like a lot of bone decay but can’t confirm if he has enough bone to proceed with the SRT till we do the CT scan which can get very pricey. Especially when the odds are he doesn’t have great bone left. He loves sitting on the couch and sleeping with us upstairs in our bed at night. Are most dogs able to adapt pretty well to stairs after surgery? I’ve also heard mixing green beans in their food to help fill them up is good. Any other good suggestions to help keep his weight down but belly full?

Virginia




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22 February 2013
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22 October 2022 - 8:31 pm
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As a hoomans who tends to have dogs on the “fluffy” side, I’m not very successful  keeping weight down.  I do know that they  love raw green beans, celery sticks, apple slices without th seeds, etc.  I give low cal teeats….but too many which defeats the purpose😱

Rear legger maps can have a harder time gping UP the stairs as they only jave one leg to push off.  But going down is easier.  Front leggers can go up easier, but have to be more careful  going down.  Some people use harnesses to help with the stairs as a safety precaution. 

Jerry can share a video of Founder Jerry Dawg going up and down stairs shortly  after surgery, 

My adopted front legger tripawd goes up and down stairs very well.  I do have a ramp he uses to go outside as there are a lot of stairs off the porch.  BTW, he has had two Cruciate repair on each rear leg.  He gets up and down on the sofa just fine.  I do have a firm dog bed by the sofa so when he gets off he uses that as a landing pad.

Is cooper inanynpain meds now?  Osteo is very painful and dogs are very stooc.  Even a slight limp means it hurts.  And as already pointed out,a fracture is always a big risk. 

Hope this helps

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!

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 October 2022 - 1:52 pm
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Sally gave you fantastic information! I’ll add to that:

Weight loss tips

https://nutriti…..ight-loss/

And yes they can certainly do stairs but if they’re uncarpeted you really want to help them going down and up (especially in the early days of recovery) with a Ruffwear Flagline harness , or the Ruffwear Webmaster harness .

Here’s a whole playlist of Tripawds doing stairs

Yes the CT scans are super expensive. But if you do one you can also see if there’s lung metastasis, which could change treatment options. Try not to wait too long to decide what to do. Disintegrating bone is the most painful type of situation and dogs are masters at hiding that they hurt. Humans would not be as tolerant of this kind of pain. There’s also a fracture risk so be really careful with his activity right now.

Keep us posted!

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18 June 2022
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26 October 2022 - 8:46 am
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All my pets get fat… always, it is like a Law of the Universe! smiley9

However with Trixie who’s not only a Tripawd but has a very fragile remaining front leg “wrist” I’ve achieved the unachievable – I’ve kept her weight down. In fact I have reduced it slightly.smiley_clap

She gets the great pleasure of a juicy meaty bone each morning (helps with disability boredom in a young dog and gives her the pleasure of a loooooong meal to chew on). Her daily meal is late in the day and is home cooked:

It’s 50% lean mince mixed with vegetables and brown rice always with turmeric/black pepper (she had cancer) and other vitamin/oil supplements. Being lean and healthy she gets a surprisingly generous serving compared to my other dogs who do not need restrictions. It’s easy to prepare their food twice a week and quite budget friendly if you buy the mince on special and freeze it. She gets a banquet and remains slim!

Keep in mind there are differences between fats and oils – for example Trixie is on a low fat, low carb diet but still gets fish oil supplements. Once a week she gets to enjoy treats like a raw egg from my hens, sardines in water, leftover chicken with a tiny bit of skin, etc that all keeps her nose twitching! It’s my best guess at varying her diet for overall nutritional balance aimed at her needs and keeping her as slim as possible to reduce stress and pain, and making life a pleasure for her.

Another tip is to use those tasty treats for fun interactions and bribery – a piece of chicken for a kiss, or to move to a certain position, tolerate the new harness, etc. 

The Rainbow Bridge


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26 October 2022 - 11:09 am
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Excellent insight! Thank you!

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18 November 2022 - 10:35 am
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Thank you all for your kind words and tips! We have got 10 pounds off him and decided to proceed with amputation of his front right leg. We are now 9 days post op and recovery isn’t going as well as we hoped. He had some complications and didn’t want to eat, drink, or get up after he got sent home so he went back for a couple more days. We brought him home on Wednesday this week and he has been eating a bland diet and drinking which is great. However he has to has assistance still to stand up and walk and tired out after about steps and needs lots of rest just trying to get him out to go potty. Has anyone else had longer recoveries like this? and I’m curious if longer term their pup was able to be more self sufficient to be able to get around to eat, drink, potty, etc? Or are there just some dogs that need forever assistance with regular day to day activities? I guess I’m just nervous that when I am going to need to leave him to go back to work in a week he isn’t able to get up and get water or food etc. We have done some rehab through the hospital while he was there but it doesn’t seem to have helped much. I will continue to keep trying but was curious other stories of dogs that don’t bounce back as quick?  

Ashley

The Rainbow Bridge


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18 November 2022 - 11:24 am
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Hi Ashley. I’m so happy that Cooper has made it through surgery and is in recovery mode. Now that he’s graduated be sure to start a new topic in Treatment and Recovery for your next posts OK?

Nine days is not a long time at all, try not to worry. Generally we do not see dogs who need forever assistance with regular activities, that would be highly unusual. I know it’s hard not to picture worst case scenario, but remember this early. We’ve seen MANY dogs take longer than people expected to recover and you know what, they DO get there! And also try to put yourself in his paws. Most human patients are not moving around much even nine weeks after amputation surgery. We tend to expect a LOT out of our dogs because we just aren’t used to seeing them so slow and unmotivated. But Cooper will find his way back, it might take longer, but he will get there. Since he had some complications, that alone kicked his butt even longer than a normal amputation recovery, so allow him more time than usual to recuperate. 

Have you talked to your vet about getting him back into a regular rehab program? If you don’t feel like you got what he needed out of that first session, ask for another one and let them know your concerns. Also remember that rehab therapy for Tripawds is a team effort: his success is tied to the time and energy  you are able to put into it. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a lot of time to do it, but just make it clear to the team of what you can and cannot do so that you can set your expectations for his recovery timeline.

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19 November 2022 - 6:21 am
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Ashley is it possible for a neighbour to check in on him when you return to work for your peace of mind? Or perhaps set up a webcam?

I’d also be overly and unnecessarily worried because that’s just me – I take as long (if not longer) to normalise to a change as my pets do. That’s because we have to strike a new balance and sometimes a new kind of relationship to fit the new circumstances and I worry a bit too much throughout this very normal process. I’m guilty of trying to rush it out of care and concern – but the cat or dog needs the transition phase to run at their pace.

So a temporary arrangement for your peace of mind while you’re at work might help with the healing and transition phase until you and Cooper achieve your new comfortable balance.

I also play lots of soothing music for my rescue pets with various issues. On youtube there are many healing music videos for cats and dogs that run for 12+ hours. You can have the music softly playing while you’re at home and/or at work. Or download some and play it on repeat like I do. I think this music is also good for us humans, the calmer we are, the better for the cat or dog in recovery.

Some ideas (stereo speakers are best):

https://www.you…..music+dogs

Virginia




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22 February 2013
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19 November 2022 - 11:16 am
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Good  input from Carolina and Jerry.  

And congratulations on Cooper’s weight reduction!  Good job!  

I seem to have the same “Law of the Universe ” Carolina has with her dogs:

All my 9pets get fat… always, it is like a Law of the Universe!

I know it seems like recovery  is lasting forever, but it really doesn’t!  You are still in the early phase.  Cooper is trying to adjust to three, recover from MAJOR surgery  and overcoming  the interim fisit at the Vet.  BTW what was the reason?

On top of that he’s  still on pain meds.  So of course, a question.   What is he on, the dose and the frequency?  

Generally it takes.   a solid two weeks to get over the surgeey itself and about a month to adjust to the new gait,  get a good flow and good balance. 

In the meantime,  give him lots of gentle  massaging up and down his spine, his shoulder, neck, etc., before he tries to stand and after each potty break, before bed, etc.  He’s using  muscles  differently  now so they are probably  very tense.

Cooper will tire easily  at first.  Hopping g in three this early takes a lot of effort.  He’ll get it together as he gets further through recovery. 

Remember  to maintain a strong and confident  energy around him.  Always upbeat and paws.  In the meantime, be sure and take care of you too!!!

We’re  right by your side, okay?

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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23 November 2022 - 5:43 pm
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Blue had his amputtion yesterday and is fantastic.. eating and exploring the house…soooooo glad it is done….he hates the cone but small prce to pay for a happy cancer free kitty .. even at 20

The Rainbow Bridge


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23 November 2022 - 10:21 pm
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Yay! That is wonderful news he is on the mend! What kind of pain control did he come home with? Be sure to stay ahead of the pain, so he can continue with the awesome recovery.

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