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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Hello – I came across this website while trying to find resources the day we found out that our sweet girl would have to have her rear leg amputated. Izzi is an 8 year old German Shepherd/Black Lab mix, and probably the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet… I know, I’m biased!
We adopted Iz from the Humane Society when our youngest was 8 months old and she became a part of our family instantly. She was also 8 months old and shares a birth month with our youngest who is now 8, so naturally she believes they are twin sisters. Either way, she was meant for our family.
About 4 weeks ago, Iz was hit by a car on the busy road in front of our house in the evening. She’s black, so he didn’t see her until it was too late. We have lived in our home for over 4 years now, and have never experienced her wandering out into the busy road, but rather into the fields next to our house. We are still scratching our heads as to why she was in the road. Thankfully the gentleman who hit our dog stopped and looked for her, and then came to our house to see if we knew who owned a black dog. My husband took her to the animal hospital that is right down the road and we were told that her femoral head was broken and when we were finally able to get her into the vet, they said the only real option was the amputate because there was not enough bone left to fix it. We were devastated, but also very grateful to still have our girl. Izzi is a very active dog who is always playing with her little brother Jax (German Shepherd), so we didn’t really know what this would mean for her. While they were in surgery, they found that her bone had nicked her femoral artery, so they had to fix that too and it was something we had to watch as well because there was a potential for major tissue damage.
Fast forward to 4 weeks post op. Iz healed beautifully, and she is still finding her footing with 3 legs. I don’t think I have celebrated so many successful poops and pottys as I did those first two weeks! Now we are just trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work for her. We bought her a harness to help support her (that she loves to wear) and we got her a new bed. I have carpet runners coming because she falls when she round the corner to the door, and I bought socks for her to help with the slipping. About a week and a half ago, she slipped and fell going outside and it was literally the worst thing to witness. She started screaming and shaking and all I could do was hold her and tell her it was going to be ok. 🙁
Recently, she has mostly stopped wanting to get up at all. Sometimes I have to pick her up by her harness to get her to go to the bathroom, or walk around the house. Part of it might be because she is discouraged by the falling, but she also seems a little weak in her remaining leg. She won’t come upstairs at all anymore, which is new this week. I get it though, it’s a lot of stairs to climb even when we help her. We’ve started throwing the ball for her again, but not far or for long, because it seems to be the only thing that makes her visibly happy (besides snuggles!) but I don’t want to overdo it.
I’m still trying to figure out what we can do to help strengthen her body and make her feel better, but I also feel very uneducated. If there is anything you can suggest, please do! She is such an important part of our family, and I want to help her quality of life.
Thank you for this resource!
Hi Izzi and family, welcome. We are sorry that you had to join our club but are super happy you found us and decided to share your story. What a lucky dawg you are, we are so glad that you made it through the accident and are on your way to recovery. It must have been so scary for all of you!
I’m sorry Izzi is having some mobility challenges. You are doing a GREAT job getting your home Tripawd-proofed and being aware of where she needs help. And you ask great questions! It’s clear how much you love your other daughter! 😉
So keep in mind that four weeks isn’t a long time since the accident, and as much as her brain wants her to do the fun crazy things she loved doing before, her body will need more time to get there. Some dogs will bounce back faster than others depending on their fitness level before surgery. All dogs are different so it really depends how she will turn out, and the best thing you can do is take things very, very slow.
Walks should be no more than a few minutes at a time to start with, gradually increasing the time and building up to about 20 minute walks, a couple of times a day. This is what rehab vets tell us. As for the ball throwing, what’s the game like? How far and how long do you throw it? The activity could be putting excessive strain on her body, which may need additional time to heal than the average amputee, since she was in a car accident which causes a lot of trauma to the body. This type of “explosive activity” (sudden starts and stops) is not ideal for most Tripawds, especially new ones, according to rehab therapists. However, that doesn’t mean she can’t find fun new things to do. Losing a leg requires us to rethink playtime and find new games and activities that will rock our dog’s world. Games like nosework/scent tracking and fitness exercises and obedience refresher games are all fun things that most dogs really enjoy. Have you ever considered trying those things?
We have a lot of exercise tips in the Tripawds Gear blog , as well as our e-books. I highly recommend both, as well as a visit with a canine rehab therapist. These experts can guide you on the best exercise and activities for Izzi, and the best part is the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so we hope you’ll consider going! If you’d like help finding a practitioner let us know, we are happy to help.
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome.
My current Tripawd is a little Pug mix who lost her rear leg when she was hit by a car when she was 7 months old. Elly is almost 6 years old now. I adopted Elly when she was 10 months old, about 2.5 months post amp. She was fully healed but not at all strong. I immediately started working on her strength and balance which we continue today. She didn’t want to walk to far when I got her- she wasn’t very strong and had no stamina and she was afraid of every moving vehicle she saw. I got her over her moving vehicle fears and slowly built up her walking distance. Because she will spend her entire life on three I limit walking distance and try to limit walking time on hard surfaces. Her favorite ‘walk’ is to drive to a park and wander around looking for gophers and sniffing each blade of grass
We play lots of games and do lots of food puzzles. We also do balance and core exercises, as well as obedience and trick training. The last two are a fun way to work on strength and balance. And all these activities engage her brain which really burns up energy. Scent games are also a great way to work on balance and strength as well as challenging the brain.
Here is a video I made showing some of the games and puzzles Elly plays:
It’s important to keep Tripawd on the lean side so I’m careful to account for all the ‘extra’ calories Elly gets with all the games and training.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
Jerry – Thank you for your comments and advice. I hadn’t considered the quick stop/start action of her playing fetch being too much for her, even at 4 weeks post op. And I might throw the ball 10 feet for maybe 4-5 minutes, so not too long. She would literally play all day if we let her! Before her accident, we had to force her to take breaks – her drive is pretty high.
I think our rationale has been that we don’t want her to loose muscle mass so we’re just trying to get her to be mobile. We haven’t taken her on many walks, although we do let her walk around the yard when we are outside (we live on 3/4 of an acre). Otherwise, she just lays on her bed all day and I worry about her becoming depressed. Today, I’ve had to help her up a few times and help her up the stairs to come back inside (4 stairs).
The puzzles are a great idea. She has a great sniffer, so I will definitely incorporate that into our days. I hope that the carpet runners help her feel more confident walking around the house.
I’ll also check out the rehab option, although I don’t believe that there are any that are close to where I live.
It’s good that you’re so aware of the need for her to stay strong. Learning how to do it safely takes some time on our part but the investment is worth it. I’m happy you are into the idea of taking her for a therapy evaluation! Let me know if you’d like help finding a practitioner. About nine times out of ten I can find one for members when they thinking they don’t have one near their home so just holler if I can assist OK?
And yes, those brain games can really satisfy the need for dogs to be busy!