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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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Amputation surgery scheduled 8/8/22... scared and nervous
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Member Since:
25 July 2022
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25 July 2022 - 1:52 pm
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I want to start off by saying that I am thankful to have found this community. We just found out yesterday that amputation is the best option for our little Pica. He is a 9 year old chihuahua-mix rescue from the streets of South Miami and he has been the light of our family’s life and was my “nurse” during my year of cancer treatments. 

Pica has a congenital defect in his right shoulder which has caused it to be luxated (dislocated) off and on for the past year and the vet says he is not a candidate for repair (we have gotten 3 vet opinions and tried conservative treatment many times to no avail).

His best option for a good pain free quality of life is an amputation at this point. I am an occupational physical rehabilitation therapist myself and I understand the “facts”, but my husband and I are having a hard time with the emotions involved with the amputation. 

Pica has been walking on 3 legs for over a month now (due to the dislocation) and he is a smallish dog and is a very good lean weight, so I am hoping that these factors will be in his favor…

I’m really scared of the immediate weeks following the surgery…I’ve read others posts and while I appreciate the information, I am almost more scared after reading them. 

I’m reading that it is important for us to be positive with him and reading about how important the pain management is, but then I fear how to know how much medication is too much for him vs too little. Of course I just want him to be ok and not suffer….

Any kind words are appreciated for this nervous family.

Thank you

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
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25 July 2022 - 3:31 pm
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Hi Pica’s mom, welcome! Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away.

I’m sorry to learn that Pica’s going to need an amputation, but glad you found us. As a PT, you know better than most about the benefits of keeping him fit and lean, so no worries there! He’s a lucky dawg to have you.

As for the emotional side of things, yeah, it’s hard for sure. But it’s always harder on us than them. We have so much emotional baggage attached to that leg! We feel guilt over making that decision, but you have to remember that you are not doing this TO Pica, you are doing it FOR Pica. Once you see his sparkle comes back you’ll stop questioning yourself. But until then, lean on us. What scares you the most? Maybe we can help ease those worries.

pain management is a delicate dance. But as someone in the medical field, you have the skills needed to assess and manage Pica’s pain control. Medications usually require tweaking, especially in smaller dogs where a more cautious approach is usually taken. So that’s probably going to be the hardest part for you. Have a good convo with your vet to find out what meds he’s coming home with, and what you can expect with side effects. 

Small dogs especially can get around so, so well on three! It’s up to us to moderate their activity but overall, they enjoy a better quality of life than when the bad leg was interfering with it. I know you guys will get there in time. Lean on us until then, we are here to help.

Member Since:
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25 July 2022 - 3:37 pm
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Whew! Thank you so much for your response. You know, yesterday with the vet, I was ok, but today the information is really settling in for me…I’m a bit emotional now and cannot see the keyboard clearly, so I’m going to respond more specifically when my eyes dry up!! Thank you, sincerely.

Virginia




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25 July 2022 - 7:24 pm
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YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!  You have a whole new “tripawd family” to be by your side during recovery and beyond!!!

While I know reading through some of the forums about recovery  can be scary and cause a lot of uncertainty  about how your Pica will handle recovery.  Keep in mind that these threads can actually give you some confidence knowing what to look for as far as pain signals , how to assist with mobility  at first IF needed, how to prepare your home with non slip scatter rugs for traction   of you have hardwood floors,  etc, etc,

You’ll know that if Pica does poop for a few days, that’s “normal”.  If Pica doesn’t  feel like eating much for a few days, that’s “normal”.  If she doesn’t  have her “sea legs’ right away, that also can be “normal”.

All that said,  some dogs do hop oit of the clinic, some dogs do eat right away and some dogs do poop sooner than later.

So look at these threads as ways to feel confident  and more aware of what to expect as opposed to find them worrisome. 

And yes, it is import to jave a strong, upbeat and confident e energy  arpund Pica.  Doesn’t  mean you can go into  another room away from Pica and having  a bit of a good cry.  Or come here and vent, we’ll pull you back from the edge.

Every dog is different,  thus every recovery is different,  every reaction to pain meds is different.  There are pain signals that can be fairly easy to recognize  (panting, ears back, “shivering “, restlessness,  etc).  Your Vet can guide you if frequency  needs to be increased,  or dose amount needs to be increased, etc.Or, conversely,  meds may need to be reduced a bit of the dog is too whacked out.  Again, nothing to be concerned  about as med adjustment takes care of either issue.

Sounds  like Pica already has a head start in mastering  the art of walking on three!  And he clearly is loved and adored!  So adding a pain free life  to the equation brings a wonderful addition  to his idyllic  life with you.

STAY CONNECTED!!!!  You’ve got this👍

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!

Member Since:
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26 July 2022 - 10:45 am
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Thank you so much for the encouraging words.

SO I am realizing now that I really did not ask the vet a lot of questions…I knew that amputation was an option that would be discussed and thought I was prepared to hear it, but I think my mind kind of went on autopilot after we made the decision.

I am going to send them an email later today or tomorrow morning…if anyone has suggestions about what I should ask him (I am sure there are things I won’t even know to ask that you all will know to ask because you’ve been through this experience)

Thank you in advance and again, I’m so grateful to have found you all.

The Rainbow Bridge


Member Since:
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26 July 2022 - 11:32 am
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You are so very welcome. It’s Ok, we all forget to ask questions, this situation really makes your head spin!

Here’s a blog post to check out if you haven’t sent that email yet:

https://tripawd…..-and-cats/

Member Since:
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29 August 2022 - 1:35 pm
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Hello all. So it has been 3 weeks since Pica’s surgery. Reading information on this site was so very helpful in preparing us for these weeks of recovery, so thank you all. He is doing well. He is actually eating better now than he did before ( so I’m thinking maybe he was in more pain before surgery and it made his appetite poor?).

He had his first bath on Saturday and it seemed to make him feel good and energized, but then yesterday he was feeling so good that he was trying to run around and be silly ( we tried to get him to calm down) and he had 2 slip and falls on the tile floor.  He was fine after the fall, he got right back up again and kept playing, but he has a small red scrape on his chin from the fall.

I have a few questions that I am hoping someone can help me with…

1. I would like to get some doggie shirts and sew the one arm hole closed and add a little padding to the amputation side to protect his chest/ribcage from an accidental fall…has anyone done anything like this and can give me advice or are there shirts made for amputees with a little padding where they need it?

2. His amputation was due to a congenital defect in his shoulder joint as well as loose ligaments that caused it to chronically luxate out of socket…my concern now is how to protect his remaining limbs to keep them as healthy as possible (his other shoulder also has the bony defect at the joint, but it has not ever luxated out of socket). I asked the surgeon, but he simply gave me a list of joint supplements (which I will look into) I’m just wondering if I should try to not let him run and play and jump like he wants to do? 

Any advice is greatly appreciated. 

The Rainbow Bridge


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25 April 2007
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29 August 2022 - 7:02 pm
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GO PICA! smiley_clapI’m so hoppy to read that things are going well! OK other than the spill. Ugh. Face plants are harder on us though, they get over it pretty fast. Just be sure you have enough traction down so that you can minimize the risk of slipping and injury.

Yes pain absolutely dulls appetite! I’m glad he’s eating better.

1. I would like to get some doggie shirts and sew the one arm hole closed and add a little padding to the amputation side to protect his chest/ribcage from an accidental fall…has anyone done anything like this and can give me advice or are there shirts made for amputees with a little padding where they need it?

Other than the VetMedWear Recovery Suit, I haven’t seen anything with padding sewn into it. If you’re crafty with a sewing machine we would love to see what you come up with! Was he left with a larger than usual stump?

 I asked the surgeon, but he simply gave me a list of joint supplements (which I will look into) I’m just wondering if I should try to not let him run and play and jump like he wants to do? 

Your instinct is spot on, I’m glad you brought this up. Your surgeon is thinking along the lines of joint protection, which is good, but there are many things you can do to keep him strong and healthy for life! 

For starters, as Tripawds parents it’s our responsibility to minimize the risk of injury. All dogs will try to play and run and jump like before. And they will and it’s a beautiful thing to see after going through something like amputation together. The problem with that is, with one less leg their others are working even harder than before. Their entire body is working harder. This puts them at greater risk of osteoarthritis, cruciate ruptures, and other problems later on. Here’s a post I’d love for you to check out;

https://tripawd…..id-injury/

Next, consider making an evaluation appointment for rehab therapy. If you get Pica evaluated by a therapist, they can tell you what he is and is not capable of doing now and in the future. They’ll show you how to help him get strong and stay that way. The best part is the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit ! We will pay up to $200 because we believe so strongly that a Tripawd parent who learns about their dog or cat’s capabilities on 3 will learn so much! 

See these posts for examples of folks who took advantage of our rehab reimbursement program:

https://tripawd…../tag/rehab

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31 August 2022 - 10:32 am
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Thank you again. I feel so very fortunate to have found this community. I do not know what I would have done without the kindness and information I have found here.

I did look at the links you directed me to and they were very helpful.

He does not have any residual stump as they removed his scapula and entire front limb, but he does have an area of bunched up skin where they closed the incision/skin flap on his lateral chest and it is maybe the size of a large grape or kumquat (which is big because he is a smallish 13# Chihuahua mix). It was the last area of the incision to close completely and of course, that area is where he has landed when he has had a fall. He has not had any bruising in that area when he has had a fall, but that is the area I would like to try to put a little padding. I’m not super crafty, but I will be visiting my mom (who is good at everything!!)  in 6 weeks and maybe she can help me modify a shirt for him. In the meantime I will see what I can do to pad that area. If we come up with something I will definitely share with the community.

I did reach out to a rehab vet in my area (she is the closest one in over a hundred miles as I live on a little island chain), but she kind of blew me off saying that “dogs figure it out”.  I will try her again as maybe she did not understand my concern…and then maybe try to find someone on the mainland if she still isn’t receptive.  

I’m just nervous because his other shoulder is also hypermobile and now under more stress as that arm is responsible for all of the weight in the front…

It has just been a little over 3 weeks and he really is doing sooo good. We cannot believe his good appetite and will maybe now need to monitor that he doesn’t gain weight (he’s always been lean).

The only thing that seems to be off is that he seems to have his days and nights mixed up. He is sleeping during the day and is awake and wanting us to be up with him from 1 am until 7am, but I’m sure this will resolve, right?

Love to you all and a sincere thank you.

The Rainbow Bridge


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25 April 2007
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31 August 2022 - 11:08 am
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Aww we are glad you found us too. Every story helps someone else, so thank you for being here.

Yes ask your mom to try modifying a baby onesie like cat parents do, see what happens and let us know.

I did reach out to a rehab vet in my area (she is the closest one in over a hundred miles as I live on a little island chain), but she kind of blew me off saying that “dogs figure it out”.

Woah. Are you sure she’s a credentialed (CCRT or CCRP or AARVT) vet therapist? I don’t know of any who would say that. Yes dogs do “figure it out” but the whole reason we recommend rehab is so that the pet parent can get a better idea of what their dog is and is not capable of doing, and how to help them get and stay strong. Check out these examples of other Tripawds who had rehab therapy, this is what good therapy looks like. If you can’t find anyone, online rehab therapy consulting is totally possible (and Tripawds Foundation will still cover the cost of your first visit).

I’m just nervous because his other shoulder is also hypermobile and now under more stress as that arm is responsible for all of the weight in the front..

Yes, dogs will naturally move their remaining front leg to the center of the body. It’s weird looking but that’s how they balance. However, it’s not the legs that are responsible for all of the movement and weight. Core strength is key. Building better core muscles help any dog move better and safer but especially Tripawds. Here’s an example of tiny Rocket doing rehab.

We cannot believe his good appetite and will maybe now need to monitor that he doesn’t gain weight (he’s always been lean).

Good eye! Yes keeping a Tripawd slim is sooo important!

The only thing that seems to be off is that he seems to have his days and nights mixed up. He is sleeping during the day and is awake and wanting us to be up with him from 1 am until 7am, but I’m sure this will resolve, right?

That’s an interesting thing to happen. Not sure why it’s going on, this kind of behavior is usually a sign of canine cognitive decline but he’s too young for that. It could be pain, but hard to say. I’m sorry you are not getting any sleep. Track that behavior and if he has any pain medication left ask your vet if it’s OK to give some at bed time to see if that helps.

So what island do you live on? Sounds lovely!

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