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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:
19 January 2012
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19 January 2012 - 10:17 pm
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Hello everyone! I've just discovered this amazing Tripawds community while looking for information on how to help me three year old Saint Bernard, Jazz, adjust to life on 3 legs. Her right front leg was amputated yesterday to remove an osteosarcoma on her radius. She is still in the hospital recovering from surgery, but if all continues to go well she will be coming home tomorrow.

Jazz is a very special dog. In May, I lost my beloved dog Duncan after a year long battle with an autoimmune disease, and I was sure it would be a long time before I would be ready for another dog. But in July, I stumbled across a posting for Jazz while causally browsing It seemed meant to be- not only was a dog named Jazz a perfect match for the dog named Harmony I already had at home, but Jazz was also picked up by the shelter on my birthday. I saw her posting the very first day the shelter posted her, and couldn't resist her beautiful face. Within hours, she was mine.

Jazz came to me in terrible condition. She was matted, severely underweight, riddled with fleas, and had raging ear and urinary tract infections. A few weeks, a lot of food, and a few vet visits later she blossomed into a healthy, happy, beautiful dog. I felt so blessed to have her come into my life, and to this day still feel like my dear Duncan at the Rainbow Bridge played a key role in sending Jazz to me.

In mid November, I came home from school one day and noticed Jazz was lame on her right front leg. At the time, I didn't think much of it. Having two giant breed dogs who love to play rough, it didn't seem like anything to be alarmed at. But when Jazz didn't improve over the next few days, I decided to take her into my vet to make sure everything was OK. We took a few X-rays and discovered a small chip fracture off of one of the carpal bones in her wrist, which seemed to be the source of her pain. My vet prescribed rest and Rimadyl, and I was very relieved.

Unfortunately, over the next month Jazz's lameness continued to worsen. At first we thought she had a bone infection and tried a course of antibiotics, but when that didn't help my vet suggested doing a biopsy. I agreed, and was absolutely devastated when the results came back as osteosarcoma. Jazz is truly a once in a lifetime dog, and I decided I would do everything possible to give her as much quality time as I possibly can.

I am very fortunate to be a current veterinary student, and as such have access to an incredible oncology and surgical team. Jazz's right front leg was amputated yesterday, and in two weeks we will start chemo (probably carboplatin). So far she is doing very well, although I am nervous about bringing her home. I worry about helping such a big dog if she falls or gets stuck somewhere. I worry how my other dog will react to her, and how her incision will heal, and how she will react to chemo. More than anything, I just hope that I've made the right decision for Jazz and that she will adjust well to her new life as a Tripawd and continue to be as happy as she was before (and hopefully more happy now that she is free of pain!). I was so pleased when I found this site and discovered so many stories of others having the same fears as I do, and how amazing their dogs did post-amp. I am so much more emotional than I thought I would be about the loss of her leg. When we first discussed amputation, I had no problem with the idea. After all, the leg was diseased and the tumor slowly killing her. I certainly had no problems having her spayed, which seemed an analogous loss of an organ for which she had no need. But as surgery approached, I realized that in some ways Jazz will never be the same again- she'll never look the same or walk the same. Never again will she have four foot prints in the snow, or playfully punch me with her right front leg when I'm trying to study and clearly neglecting her canine needs.  I am trying to focus instead on what a relief it must be for her to be free of the excruciating pain of the tumor eating away at her bone, and the fact that every day I have with her from here on is a gift to be treasured. I am determined to pull myself together for when she comes home together, because I know I need to stay strong and positive for her.

Anyway, I'm sorry to ramble on but I'm feeling very emotional at the moment and it is so comforting to know so many of you have been down this path before us and know exactly the challenges and also the joy that lies ahead for us. If you're so inclined, we would very much appreciate prayers for Jazz as she starts on her cancer fighting journey, as well as any words of advice or words of encouragement you may have to share.

Also, anyone have any tips for helping a new Tripawd navigate in deep snow? Of course my dog would have her surgery the same week as the first big snowfall we've had all year!

Member Since:
13 January 2012
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19 January 2012 - 11:01 pm
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Welcome to the club!!!! I can't relate to the cancer part since Ryder is a tripawd due to a terrible accident, I can however relate to the other dog part. Ryder is a 6month old pup and my other dog missy is almost 12. We too were worried about how she would deal with him when he came home especially since they played ALL the time. I am happy to say when he came home Missy seemed to be very aware that he was unable to play. Ryder came into the living room and layed down were Missy proceeded to go over to him and give him a kiss to let him know it was alright she then layed down next to him. SHe doesn't leave his side very often now and she even has to go potty beside him and follow him to make sure he comes back to the door carefully, it is the sweetest thing ever. You do want to remember though when Jazz comes home she will need a lot of special attention and so sometimes the other dog will get sad an feel left out. I have noticed Missy moping about some but at night when Ryder is resting I try to spend one on one with her and she is even allowed to sleep on moms bed at night now, so she to gets a little special treatment. Good luck to both you and Jazz and lean on us here when needed 


Corey and Ryder

Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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20 January 2012 - 7:58 am
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Hi Jazz and family.  I cannot offer any suggestions regarding the giant breed aspect, but I wanted to say welcome.  I am fairly new to the site and the members here have been so very helpful.  The site has been down/under maintenance, so I'm sure the more seasoned members will see this post and chime in shortly.

We are in Pennsylvania and last night's snowfall is the first significant one since Zeus became a Tripawd.  Even before the amputation he had difficulty walking in the snow b/c his feet get too cold.  He would stop and alternate holding a foot way up in the air out of the snow until he would finally just collapse down and need us to carry him in.  This morning was horrendous.  He barely made it far enough to go to the bathroom before he tried to hold-up his remaining front leg, which of course he couldn't do without the other one to hold him up.  He fell over and I carried him in.  If you stumble across any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Good luck!

Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

Edmond, Oklahoma
Member Since:
7 January 2011
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20 January 2012 - 8:14 am
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Welcome Jazz!  Scout's amputation was in January as well, so we also had to deal with snow and a recent amputation.  Scout loved the snow before his amputation, yet we were surprised to see him go right out and lay down in the snow a few days post amp.  My husband was very concerned that he'd take a spill and break one of his remaining legs (after all, we were out of spares), to be honest, I was more afraid he'd get cold-- the surgeon was anything but conservative in his fur-shaving.  Scout did really well in deep snow-- he would chase my children down the hill on their sleds (didn't tell the hubby about this particular activity).  He never took a spill in proper snow.  In Oklahoma, we tend to get a lot more ice than snow-- the ice was what frightened me, but we coped with that as well-- we were just extra careful. 


After reading Zeus' post, maybe dogs that liked snow with four legs will do well and those that didn't will continue to dislike the stuff-- by the way, what kind of husky doesn't like the snow?

Scout: January 31, 2002 to November 7, 2011

Scout's diagnosis was "poorly differentiated sarcoma"; amputation 1/11/2011.  Scout enjoyed 9 fantastic years on 4 legs and 9 glorious months on 3 legs.  If love alone could have saved you…

knoxville, tn
Member Since:
12 February 2010
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20 January 2012 - 8:54 am
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welcome!  sounds like jazz was sent to you to mend your heart, and you were meant for her to give her the love she truly needed.  we've had many giant breeds here on tripawds.  pam (our resident vet) had tazzie who was a mastiff, queen nova is a great dane who'd been three years strong after losing her leg to osteosarcoma.  the first two weeks can be tough, 'hell weeks'.  learning a new walk, a new way of peeing, pooping, etc.  sounds like jazz was practicing on three legs before the surgery, so she has a good idea of how to get around.  we used a cloth shopping bag, with the sides opened up, to help gayle get in and out (like a sling, only wider) for the first couple of days.  there's a recommended reading list here on the site that will give many great suggestions, and there are always folks on the forums who can offer their suggestions or recommendations.  try to get rest while you can, as the first days may leave you weary.  good luck!


charon & spirit gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Rock Hill, SC
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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20 January 2012 - 8:55 am
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Ha!  Good question, OK Scout!  Zeus is a husky/corgi mix.  We adopted two littermates from a sheter where I volunteered.  A couple had brought in mom, dad and seven pups.  Dad was full red-and-white husky and mom was a mix of, our best guess, Corgi and lab.  We ended up with two of the most different-looking siblings ever!  Zeus took after dad and has the long, skinny husky legs and Merlin took after mom with stocky little short legs.  I think the biggest thing is that we lived in North Carolina and they just weren't used to the cold.  We moved to PA four years ago and that's when his problems started!


Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

In your heart, where I belong.
Member Since:
9 February 2011
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20 January 2012 - 9:04 am
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Howdy Jazz and family! Welcome to the club you didn't want to know about (but we're glad you're here)! All of the fears and trepidations you expressed are normal and what the vast majority of us went through. Dakota did not have OSA (soft tissue sarcoma) so chemo has not been a concern we've had to deal with. However, Dakota got an amp for his 9th birthday and he has some shoulder arthritis, so I was a bit worried about how he'd hop around with only one front leg and bad shoulders. He's done very well.

We live in snow and a few weeks ago we had 28 inches. D did fine. He went through most of last year's snow season and is into his second snow season as a tripawd. D loves snow and makes a nest and then lays down in it. Many of our dogs sought out snow to rest in when they were recovering. It's the equivalent of you icing your sore ankle, so if Jazz does that then she's found her ice pack.

There was another Saint here, Sasha, who crossed the bridge much too early but they also live in snow. You might want to read their blog (3leggedsaint, I believe, is the user name). Admin or Moderators, can you fix that if it's wrong? Sasha's dad posted about 3 pawprints in the snow and even took a nifty picture of just that very thing. 

Don't worry anymore. You're in a good place with lots of good people. You won't find more supportive folks on the web. Seriously. Welcome again!

Shari and Dakota and Evelyn the Embarrassment

(my blog link in my signature box is broken but it's

From abandoned puppy to Tripawd Warrior Dude, Dakota became one of the 2011 February Furballs due to STS. Our incredibly sweet friend lived with grace and dignity till he impulsively raced over the Bridge on 12-15-12.

Dakota's thoughtful and erudite blog is at

San Diego, CA
Member Since:
29 October 2010
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20 January 2012 - 9:34 am
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Welcome to you and Jazz. I know how scary the OSA Dx and amp can be at first. But try to not get too far ahead of yourself, worrying about what will come. The amp recovery can be challenging, but you'll get through it and then Jazz will begin to amaze you. Try to rest when she rests. When sleep is in short supply everything seems worse and the "what have I done?" questions can haunt you. But don't second guess that decision for a minute. I've been here over a year and only remember one person who regretted the amp. You've done the right thing helping Jazz get rid of that painful leg! And once she is recovered (usually about 12 -14 days) she'll start to amaze you. You'll see that it is really an awesome thing to be a Tripawd pawrent.

I know it's hard not to worry about The Future - but, really, there can and will be lots of wonderful amazing times ahead with your girl still!

Sorry I can't help w/ too much with the giant breed questions. I know others made a sling out of a beach towel. Afraid I can't help w/ the snow questions either (no snow here). I know others have said their dogs do ok in the snow - it's the ice you gotta watch out for!

Come here with any additional questions while she's recovering. I'd recommend the 3 Legs & A Spare book. It helped us when we had so many questions when Abby had her amp surgery. Keep us posted on how she's doing!
Jackie, Angel Abby's mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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20 January 2012 - 12:16 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds!


So sorry you find yourself here with us!   Jazz is young at 3 years old to have OSA!  (Abby's mom had a young one too - 18mths with OSA)  It's so very, very scary and your concerns and fears are so normal!

  I am trying to focus instead on what a relief it must be for her to be free of the excruciating pain of the tumor eating away at her bone, and the fact that every day I have with her from here on is a gift to be treasured.


Yes! Yes! Yes!  That has to be your focus!  The other stuff is so no important in the big picture!   I know this because I had a 3 legged dog from the get-go for 12 years!  She was born with deformed leg.  I promise you, you won't see the missing leg after a couple of days!  It will look natural.  Promise!    

During Comet's 12 years with me, people would always come up to me and sadly ask about her "leg" (it was still attached but didn't function and was small).  People were about ready to cry!    WHAT!???  HA!  Don't feel sorry for Comet!  She used her 3-leggedness to her advantage for cookies!!   Her batting her little gimpy leg at the food bowl or my shin, got her tons of cookies!  And trust me, she knew she was different - but she LOVED it!

So, my point - don't feel sorry about a missing leg.  She will be so much happier not in that terrible pain!  Life will find a new normal.      

Let us know when she is doing well!

Loads of good wishes coming Jazz's way!


Here is the other St. blog link that Dakota's mom spoke of 



Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

20 January 2012 - 1:13 pm
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Hi Jazz and pack,

Welcome to tripawds- just so you know your future posts will not require moderation- only the first one has to wait.  I apologize for not giving you a proper welcome last night when I approved your post- I was on my ipad and I'm not that good at navigating on it yet.

Here are links to some information others mentioned above: Three Legs and a Spare, a down-loadable e-book, and Jerry's Required Reading List.  Both have lots of good information from this site on what to expect with amputation, recovery, and treatment.

Having some doubts about amputaion is normal- but just as you seem to be doing in your post- work your way through your thought process and you will know you did the right thing.  The recovery period can be rough, so don't get discouraged.  I was to the point of doubting my decision to amputate.  But I was dealing with a very obstinate pug who was just being herself!!  She probably took 4 or 5 weeks before her personality came back, but she is the exception- most here see their 'old pup' in two weeks or so.

Charon mentioned Queen Nova the Great Dane- she is more that 3 YEARS beyond her amp for OSA. And my local friend Cemil, an Anatolian Shepard is also 3 years past his amp for OSA, and he did not have chemo!  My pug Maggie was given 6 to 9 months after her amp for mast cell cancer- she lived almost 4 years and did not die from mast cell cancer.  Many are not as fortunate, but this site is filled with stories of pups who outlived their prognosis- so there is always hope.  And most all of those who's journey's post amp were shorter will tell you that it was quality time, and that they do not regret the decision to amputate.

Good luck when Jazz comes home, keep us posted on his progress.  And be sure to check in with questions or if you need support.


Karen and the pugapalooza

Member Since:
19 January 2012
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20 January 2012 - 4:19 pm
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Thank you so much for your kind words everyone. Jazz is home from the hospital and I'm feeling much better now that she is home with me again. We made it up the steps into my house (her first attempt at stairs since the surgery), although it was definitely not a graceful ascent. Hopefully she will figure that out soon, there is no way to get into my house without climbing steps and I worry about her confidence and/or her remaining legs getting hurt if she takes too many tumbles. So far she's doing OK navigating the snow- she is a typical Saint and absolutely loves being out in it, so that probably helps. The biggest issue so far is actually just keeping her incision dry when she flops into a snowbank! I did get a Ruffwear harness for her so that has been really great for helping her navigate. She is now resting comfortably with her sister by her side (Corey, my other dog, Harmony, did basically exactly what you described Missy doing when Jazz came home! It is so amazing how they just know they need to be extra gentle. I'll be sure to give Harmony as much special attention as I can during this recovery period, thanks for the tip!)

I will keep you all posted as to how things go with her over the next few days. This has been a difficult time but I'm having a much easier time staying positive and hopeful now that she is back home sleeping by my side. Thanks again for all of the encouragement!

-Heather, Jazz, and Harmony

Leicester, NY
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11 February 2011
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20 January 2012 - 4:57 pm
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Welcome Heather Jazz and Harmony! Sounds like you are better adjusted than most of us at this point!


Oh.......if Harmony and Ryders companion Missy start feeling left out, we have a site for "all the neglected siblings of tripawds" called the Monkeybutt Federation. Samson use to walk over to Daisy and back up and sit on top of her, just so I would run over and yell at him cause any attention was better than no attention wink

Spirit Samson was Spirit Tripawd Daisys four legged "brother" and ruled as the self proclaimed head of the Monkeybutt Federations East Coast Division. Lady Chunky Monkey stayed from Oct 2011 and left for the bridge in Apr 2012. Miss Perdy is left and has some big pawprints to fill.
Do you have what it takes to be a Monkeybutt? Find out more at the Monkeybutt Federation

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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20 January 2012 - 5:58 pm
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Welcome Heather, Jazz and Harmony! We're so glad you found us and as you can tell, the folks here are always ready to help with an questions, suggestions, whatever.

I'm so sorry she got diagnosed, but what a lucky pup to have a Mom with a background like yours! I'm sorry you are going through this experience, but to think of how many folks you will be able to help and relate to when you start practicing, is just super cool. We've heard of far too many vets instantly dismissing giant breed dogs as candidates for amputation surgery. By proceeding with Jazz's surgery, you are doing so much to help her get rid of that awful pain! We've had lots of giant breeds do really well.

Where are you studying? I ask because we spend summer near CSU in Fort Collins CO, and we usually have a Tripawds get-together in June. It would be so neat to meet your pack then.

You have a super duper attitude that will get you through any rough spots that might come up. it's not a given that they will, but if so, always remember we're here to help if you need anything OK?

Oh, here's a recent post about hopping around during winter.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 August 2009
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20 January 2012 - 8:13 pm
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So glad she is home!  Rest when you can or you'll become goofy!  laugh

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Member Since:
18 January 2012
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20 January 2012 - 9:46 pm
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I have a giant breed dog also -Great Pyr boy that is 140 lbs.  I am new here and my Winston will probably have his leg amp next week so we will be in this journey together.  I am going through all the emotions you are going through also.  This site and group has been a huge source of info and support.  Keep us posted on Jazz and remember the power of positive thinking.

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