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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

Tripawds is your home 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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Emerson joins the club
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Member Since:
21 September 2019
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22 September 2019 - 8:24 pm
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Hi all, please meet Emerson.

He is our almost 10yr-old lab/catahoula mutt-mix. He's our boy, what else can I say? Late last week, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and is scheduled for amputation of his left front leg on Tuesday, Sept 22. We are scared, but so very grateful to have found you all. All weekend long, I've pored through the information you all have provided. I'm especially grateful to those of you who've shared your stories about the first 3 days post amputation when the self-doubt plays havoc on us in the face of the pain we will see him in. While we felt somewhat rushed to make this decision, we want him out of pain and we are desperately afraid he'll fracture and be in even more pain.

Despite his pain, Emerson is such a happy boy. (Our vet tells us he's never met a more stoic dog when it comes to how he's handling this pain). Every morning he wakes up by bringing us a toy and dancing around the house with it (well, it's a bit more of a wobble right now), letting us know he's happy to greet another day and that he'd like his breakfast please. He's the athlete in the family too. When we first got him from a rescue organization when he was four months old, we realized right away, this dog is going to need a LOT of exercise or he is going to eat our entire house down to the studs (rumor has it, that's the catahoula in him). So, we started taking him on very long hikes. Well, those hikes turned into long walks with short runs. Over time, those became half walks/half runs. Long story short, Emerson became my running buddy and helped train me to run both half and full marathons by the ripe old age of 60 (me, not him). Up until his lameness that started about two months ago, he still went on long hikes with his sister rescue dog (Tokie) and his favorite cousin, a yellow lab named Scout. We love this boy with all our heart, and with your help, we feel brave enough to take this next step. Whatever time we have left with him, I just want him to be able to hit the trails with me again; we can take it as slow and as short as he needs to. 

Thank you all so much. 48 hours ago, we had never heard of you; now our hearts are full of gratitude for you. Please hold us in your hearts on Tuesday. 

Love, Sugie, Heidi and our boy Emerson. 

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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22 September 2019 - 9:56 pm
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Hello and welcome.

who’ve shared your stories about the first 3 days post amputation when the self-doubt plays havoc on us in the face of the pain we will see him in

While the recovery period can be challenging he shouldn't have a lot of pain.  Be sure you understand from your vet the pain meds he will have and the dosing schedule. It is not uncommon to need to tweak the dosage or the dosing schedule.  He will probably be tired and maybe wonky from the meds but if he seems to have a lot of pain contact your vet so you can get him more comfortable.

As far as the self doubt...I think that is almost a mandatory stage for us parents to work through!  My little Pug Maggie lost a rear leg to mast cell cancer.  She was hopping on her own the day of surgery, and when I picked her up the day after I figured we were home free.  All the vets really told me was that dogs do just fine on three legs.  Well, once I got Mag home she set up camp in one of her beds and pretty much stayed there for 6 weeks!  She would eat but wouldn't play with me and she rarely showed interest in the things she used to like.  Maggie was stubborn Pug who hated any change to her routine so in hindsight it made sense that she took her time getting used to her new normal.  Most pups show that sparkle after 2 or three weeks.  Once she decided she was OK she hopped happily through life for almost 4 years.

Did I see in your other post that you are in the SF Bay Area?  We have a fairly active group here in NorCal, we get together a couple times of year.  We will probably be getting together around the end of October or beginning of November so if your interested keep an eye on the Tripawd Party Fourm.

Best of luck with the surgery on Tuesday, keep us posted!

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


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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23 September 2019 - 8:49 am
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You have come to the right place for support, information and first hand knowledge  of all the emotions involved in getting to this point.   Oh yeah, and lack of sleep from worry too.

You are doing this so Emerson can be Emerson again with that painful leg gone!  Yes, recovery  can be rough for a couple of weeks, especially  at first, but it is  short term.  Quality  is what it's  all about and all Emerson cares a oit.  Well, that plus getting spoiled more than you ever thought possible!  Tripawds are sooo much fun to spoil! 

As Karen said, pain management   is important.  Generally  Vets come home with Gabapentin,  Tramadol, Rimadyl and an antibiotic.    Some come home with a Fentynal  patch.  So e arr movile (to some degree) within  the first 24-48 hours, some take longer.

Drinking  and peeing are important.   Eating and pooping  may be off for a few days.  Keep yummy food on hand to make sure he takes his pills and to coat his tummy.

Don6 even bother  to look at the incision  when you go pick up Emerson.  All he wants to see is your smiling  face telling him what a good boy he is and he's  going home!!  An strong and confident  attitude  are  important to his healing process.

If you have hardwood floors, put non-slip scatter rugs for traction .  Rest, rest, rest, the first two weeks.  Short leashed potty breaks, no running, no jumping, just lots of rest.

ZTAY CONNECTED! We are right by your side the whole way!  Emerson  sounds like a tough and determined  guy who'll rock three legs like a Champ! He'll be on hikes with you again and living  life to the fullest! And congrats on your marathon feat!


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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