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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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New tripawd mom.....Thor 3yr old doberman with osteosarcoma
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Forum Posts: 2
Member Since:
23 August 2014
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23 August 2014 - 7:55 pm
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Hi everyone! I am so thankful to have found this site.

I have a 3 year old doberman named Thor. His story began in April of this year when we thought he tore his acl. After weeks of medications, laser therapy and cage rest we went for a surgical consultation. The surgeon recommended repair of acl and possibly repairing damage to other parts of the knee. The plan was to anesthetize Thor, take hip and leg X-rays and then perform surgery. I got a phone call from the surgeon with devastating news. They had taken his pre op X-rays and he noticed severe changes in his femur. He told me he thought it could be bone cancer, not something we were thinking or expecting at all. We decided to perform a bone biopsy instead of pursing repair to acl. On June 30th, my birthday, I got a phone call confirming my worst fears osteosarcoma. On July 15th, 4 days after Thor’s 3rd birthday, I took him back to amputate his right rear leg. I work in the veterinary field, but was not at all prepared for this- Thor was a healthy, happy puppy.

I took Thor home 24 hours later, like I said I work I. The field and the surgeon and I decided it was better for him to be home, as he hates to be crated, then stay there. He had some problems post op with reactions to medications. He quickly figured out only having 3 legs and was off and going. The only real issue was his loss of appetite and the fact that he was not allowed to play with our other dogs. Due to the severity of this form of cancer and his age we decided to pursue chemo. Thor has had 2 rounds of chemo so far and has had minimum side effects- again mainly loss of appetite and low energy. We are now a little over a month post op- Thor is doing well but we still have a long road ahead of us. I know the statistics with osteosarcoma but am curious of any other tripawd parents put there and if surgery and chemo were enough to surpass the 6-12 month sentence.

Thor gets around well, for 3 legs, but he is still not back to himself. His good rear leg still quivers if he stands for too long, we are finally eating while standing up- for the last month he has eaten while lying down and has had a poor appetite. We have switched his food a few times, and finally have found a food he will eat for now. I think he is depressed, because he can no longer go for our mile walk with the other dogs and can’t go out and about like he used to. He is now terrified of the steps. We spend a lot of time in our basement in the evenings and he stands at the top of the steps but refuses to come down. We started an underwater tredmill routine last week in hopes of building up his good leg.

I guess I’m just looking for advice and to know that things will get better. He is my first kid and I want what is best for him. I have been in the veterinary field for 10 years, but have no experience with tripawds.

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 28747
Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 August 2014 - 8:55 pm
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Hi Thor and family, welcome. Your future posts won’t need approval so post away.

I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with osteosarcoma, many of us here know how scary cancer is and especially one with statistics that don’t exactly give one a lot of hope. BUT, one of the reasons this community exists is for that very reason, so you’re definitely going to find it here! We’ve known many dogs who have outlived the prognosis, both those who had chemo and those who did not. From going beyond the one year mark to even past five, we have seen it happen. Anything is possible! Just remember that it’s all about quality, not quantity, so try not to focus on those scary numbers and instead follow Thor’s lead; he’s getting on with the business of being part of the pack, and life is good!

OK, here are some resources to help you get started feeling more confident about his future:

Have you seen our Tripawds e-books ? Lots of great tips for living healthy, staying strong and more. Search throughout our featured blogs for “Rehab” or “Rehabilitation Therapy” and you’ll find tons of great tips from vets and members who learned great ways to get their Tripawd strong and help them stay that way. It doesn’t happen overnight but I promise you, if you follow the tips, you will see a difference. Get into the habit of playing rehab games for strengthening and building stamina, which are great for the whole pack, and you’ll take your together time to a whole new level! Here’s a post to get you started:


We’re so glad you found us, and hope that we can give you more confidence to see that things are indeed getting better for Thor! Stay strong and ask any questions you like, we are here to help.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 393
Member Since:
15 December 2012
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23 August 2014 - 9:45 pm
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Hi Awillis,

Good grief, what an ordeal. 3 yrs old is so young for cancer. My dog got OSA at 5 years and I thought that was young. It’s a real plus you are in the vet field. Poor Thor, would a car ride cheer him up? And maybe a harness to help him get down the stairs. Many people will chip in with good advice. Try and keep his weight down, it’s so hard on 4 legs let alone 3 with obese dogs but you already know that working in your field. Good luck!

Penny, Blink, Hank and Spirit Maggie

Los Angeles, CA
Forum Posts: 3554
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13 June 2013
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24 August 2014 - 8:15 am
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WOW. so young! There is another Tripawd family here – Angel Leland and his family and I think he was a young diagnosis too so hopefully they will weigh in too.

We were a rear amp too but Shelby was only 25# so I didn’t need a harness for her. I did help her with the stairs. I had a raised bowl for her. But otherwise, I kept her pretty mellow and kept her weight down but Shelby was also a senior.

I think others will chime in with great advice but wanted to offer my support and welcome! This is a great place. The collective wisdom here is great!


alison with the spirit of shelby fur-ever in her heart  

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

Livermore, CA

Forum Posts: 4009
Member Since:
18 October 2009
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24 August 2014 - 9:53 am
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Welcome to Tripawds, I’m sorry OSA has brought you here.

We didn’t deal with OSA, my little pug Maggie lost her left rear leg to a mast cell tumor. After cancerous mast cells were found in the lymph node removed with her leg she was given 6 to 9 months with chemo.  We did do chemo, and Mag lived almost 4 years and did not pass from the mast cell cancer.  My local friend Cemil, a 150 pound Anatolian Shepherd front amp is over 5 years past his amp for OSA and they did not do chemo.  No false promises- but the prognosis are base on stats, not on your pup.  And as Jerry said- it is about quality.

As for the stairs, most rear leggers do fine going down, but up is harder.  If Thor’s leg is quivering then you need to work on some strength building exercises.  It took Maggie several months to build strength in her remaining back leg.  He may not be willing to go down because he knows he can’t get back up (that’s what Mag would do).  You need to work on his strength, then start with a stair or two and lots of treats and praise.  Build his confidence, I would think that a dog as big as a Doberman could do stairs without problems. Has he tried the stairs since his surgery and fallen?


Karen and Spirit Maggie

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

Forum Posts: 1524
Member Since:
27 July 2014
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24 August 2014 - 10:44 am
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Hi Thor. My tripawd is Mona, a front leg amputee since June 13th. Of course, being a cat, stairs are no problem for her and she can still jump to high furniture and perches but going down from heights is a problem – she does face plants. I suspect if she continues doing that it will eventually damage her remaining front leg.

Jerry gives great advice, as do others, on rehab – it’s worth searching the posts. I suspect the similarities between cats and dogs would be temporary modifications and core and leg strengthening. I also think the tripawd with figure somethings out for themselves. For example, I’m trying to set up modifications, such as boxes for Mona to climb down to but it looks like she’s trying other ways including bracing her front leg and doing a twisting dismount to land on her back legs (looks like a gymnast).

I took Mona for chiropractic work to assist with spinal alignment and also got advice on how to strengthen her front leg. I’m told it is a slow process but am noticing improvements every week. This week Mona is even sitting up on her hind legs when excited for food. They talk about strengthening the core and here she’s doing it for food!

Here is an article that I found helpful on strengthening core muscles: http://gear.tri…..g-muscles/

Thor will do great with your love and care.

Kerren and Mona

Green Bay, WI

Forum Posts: 1045
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18 May 2014
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24 August 2014 - 11:51 am
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Hi Thor and family….

We have a Doberman named Nitro who will be 9 on Halloween who also has OSA. He lost his front leg 10 weeks ago, and is also getting chemo. Our first Dobe was named Thor! He got lymphosarcoma at age 4, went through two courses of chemo and lived to be 6.
You’ve come to the right place for support, encouragement and information. Stay positive! Nitro wouldn’t eat for the first week after surgery, but since his meds were reduced/discontinued he started eating again. Good luck in your journey.

Paula and Nitro

Nitro 11 1/2  yr old Doberman; right front amp June 2014. Had 6 doses carboplatin, followed by metronomic therapy. Rocked it on 3 legs for over 3 years! My Warrior beat cancer, but couldn't beat old age. He crossed the Bridge peacefully on July 25, 2017, with dignity and on his terms.  Follow his blog entitled "Doberman's journey"

"Be good, mama loves you" free my beautiful Warrior

Livermore, CA

Forum Posts: 4009
Member Since:
18 October 2009
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24 August 2014 - 1:35 pm
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Hi Paula, welcome to the forums, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

We met in the chat room a couple weeks ago, please consider starting you own topic to introduce Nitro to everyone.


Karen and Spirit Maggie

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

Forum Posts: 2
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23 August 2014
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24 August 2014 - 2:24 pm
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Thank you everyone for your encouraging news and support. Thor has done some stairs without a problem- the little steps in and out of our house, 3 steps into my parents kitchen, and the deck stairs at my parents house. I think part of the problem is our basement steps are steep and he hates being carried. So even the little bit of support I could give him with a harness he wigs out and throws it in reverse. I think it will take time. He did fall going up our basement stairs after his biopsy, but before the amputation. I agree that it’s probably a confidence thing. I plan to read up on the rehab topics. Thanks again!

Westminster, MD
Forum Posts: 1398
Member Since:
31 August 2013
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24 August 2014 - 3:19 pm
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Hi awillis and Thor,
Welcome to the best website in the world… Alison said, the wonderful collective wisdom here is second to none. So sorry you are dealing with the ugly “c” with such a young, handsome pup…….this crappy disease surely does not discriminate, age-wise.

My sweet Tripawd Lab girl Polly, did not have OSA, nor a rear leg amp, her was a front leg amp…….However, she also had terrible trouble with steps, which actually started while she was young and healthy, she was just always freaked out by steps. Once she had her amp due to another type of ugly “c”, we just learned to negotiate steps together. She hated harnesses and would not move in one, so we just always did hands-on help for her, and carrying her sometimes. She was a smaller, weight-perfect Lab at 60 lbs, so us helping and carrying her was the best option for her and us. She had reverse thinking for steps being a front amp, but opposite the outcome….she wasn’t afraid to go down a minimal amount of steps, but that was when she needed the most assistance being a front amp, or she would end up on her face…….going up steps shouldn’t have been much of a problem for her, but that was the worst…..that was when we had to carry her. Go figure……also, we NEVER tried to do steep steps, or ones that had a lot of steps…..we just avoided them completely if possible. We just did what we had to do for her to make her mentally secure.

Jerry’s advice was great, also……lots of very helpful info with e-books and such, and the advice regarding prognosis is spot-on……we don’t believe in timetables here. But we definitely believe in quality, not quantity…….just make everyday the best we can for our beloved fur babies, and every decision you make from here on out, will be the right decision…….we just always keep their best interest at heart.

Please keep us updated on sweet Thor, and hoping each day gets better for his recovery…
Bonnie & Angel Polly

Martinsburg, WV
Forum Posts: 923
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3 June 2014
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24 August 2014 - 4:34 pm
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Hi Thor and family,

My Leland was a 108lb Dobie boy prior to amputation.  Leland’s circumstances were different than Thor’s in that after seeing several different vets/surgeons it was determined Leland didn’t have cancer in his left rear knee (synovial cell sarcoma).  Leland had extreme swelling in his knee which ended up pushing his knee cap out of place.  The last surgeon went in to do the TPLO procedure and said he’d never seen anything like this before (extremely inflamed tissue) but it wasn’t cancerous.

However, the screws didn’t hold in Leland’s meniscus and he got a severe infection that required hospitalization for 4 days.  The vets couldn’t get the infection under control and Leland was pretty much dragging around a useless leg so we were left with either put him to sleep or amputate (Leland was 4 1/2 yo).  So we amputated and he was really started to get things figured out on 3 legs around the 2 week mark.  However, the CCL went out in the right knee almost 4 weeks post amp to the day. 

We couldn’t put our boy through a 3rd surgery that the surgeon wasn’t confident (and neither were we) that Leland would recover from if we went for a TPLO on the right knee.  After our journey started we found out he was dealing with Hypothyroidism and Autoimmune disorder.  Leland’s muscles were wasting (head, neck, shoulders) and he was started on Prednisone to try to stop.  He was just a mess and we couldn’t put him through anymore so we made the choice to put him to sleep on 6/30/14.

What I can tell you is to be careful of Thor’s remaining hind leg.  We were always assisting Leland up stairs even when he was limping around on 4 legs.  After the amp we lived in our home office for the first 2 weeks so he would only have 1 step to get up into the house.  After we moved up to our upstairs living room (split foyer home) we helped him up and down the steps to go outside.  We were told that the other knee would go out eventually…we just thought we’d have a few years not a few weeks before it happened.

We had the mysterious mass biopsied after the failed TPLO and nobody can tell us what it is or what caused it.  All we know is that it wasn’t cancerous.

I’m wishing Thor the best for his chemo and hope this takes care of the cancer so that he can live a long and happy life.  I’d love to see some more pictures of Thor.  Leland has a blog on this site (Leland’s Life) if you’d like to take a look.  We’ve since brought another Dobie boy into our home…Lucian Reign (14 week old puppy) and he definitely fills the quite in our home since Leland passed.

Take care and please keep us updated on how Thor is doing!

Sahana and her Angel Leland


November 17, 2009 - June 30, 2014

May you finally be healthy and running free at the Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again my sweet boy!

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