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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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St. Bernard with Spindle Cell Sarcoma
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Forum Posts: 7
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8 July 2010
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8 July 2010 - 2:24 pm
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Hi Everyone,

I'm reading all of the posts and it's helping me a lot as Duncan, a 145-lb. St. Bernard, was diagnosed (after cytology and biopsy) with spindle cell sarcoma.  Biopsy could not confirm osteosarcoma but vet recommended amputation as treatment either way.  Vet said that even if it is a low-grade malignancy, the diagnosis is poor without amputation because of pain that will eventually be encountered.  He's on Rimadyl and Tramadol (sp?) now and he is starting to limp.  It is his right forelimb.

Can anyone with giant breed experience reassure me about the amputation and how it will affect him?  I do have VPI Insurance with the cancer rider so the cost isn't so much of an issue.  I live alone (with Duncan and 2 other Saints) and was wondering if there would be a lot of lifting involved in his recovery.  I could get help from a neighbor occasionally. 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Again, thanks for the info that I've read so far. 

Kathy B. 

Here and Now

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8 July 2010 - 2:55 pm
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kburns3761 said:

Can anyone with giant breed experience reassure me about the amputation and how it will affect him? 


Every dog is different, but the vast majotiy of large dogs do very well. Just check out the blog of Nova, a three legged great dane who has done very well on three legs and don't miss our video of Tazzie, the three legged English Mastiff. Panda is a Saint Bernard tripawd who coped well with amputation.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a worst case scenario, read about Boinks who did nt do so well. This is not meant to scare, but rather prepare. When it comes to amputation fr your dog it is best to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Most dogs bounce back from surgery quickly, quite literally. But complications can occur.

If Duncan is otherwise healthy, fit and trim, and you vet feels he his a good cadidate for amputation, he should do well. Please keep us posted.

Thank you for joining. We just tried chatting with you but you left the chat room without saying anything. So we'll provide this link to Jerry's Required Reading List again, where you will find loads of helpful amputation recovery tips and canine cancer advive. A dog harness will also be very helpful in assisting Duncan when necessary.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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8 July 2010 - 2:58 pm
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Hello Kathy and Duncan!

So sorry about Duncan's diagnoses.  But you've come to the right place!  We know, it's not your choice of places to come but at least we are all supportive and can help your fears!

Oh my!  We have lots of giant breed dogs that have had amputations!   Mastiffs, Great Danes' and even a 100+ lb Wolf dog! 


On the lifting, we all have a http://gear.tri.....r-harness/


Again, welcome.  More will chime in to help you! 

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.

The Rainbow Bridge

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8 July 2010 - 3:09 pm
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Kathy, thank you for sharing Duncan's story. We're so sorry that he was diagnosed, this is always such a hard thing to experience. But we'll do our best to make it as easy as pawsible for you and the pack (wow, 3 Saints? You are a Saint! Pics are defnitely necessary!).

First off, here are some Forum posts about Giant Breed Dogs and their experience as Tripawds. And here are some posts from pawrents of dogs with spindle cell sarcoma. I hope that skimming through these helps.

The good news is, your vet thinks that Duncan is a good candidate for amputation! That's terrific. Duncan wouldn't be the smallest Tripawd either...we've had dogs weighing as much as 165 pounds do fine as Tripawds. Just search for "Tazziedog" or "Fortis" or "Cemil" in our Forums. You'll see that they've great despite the odds.

I won't promise you that things will go perfectly. We always say, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Surgery is always risky, and some dogs haven't made it through. And for some dogs, recovery can be harder than it is for others. If you are comfortable iwth your vet doing the surgery, great. If you have any doubts at all, get a second opinion. But don't wait; bone cancer pain is horribly painful and by the time a dog shows it, it is already pretty agonizing.

Will you need help lifting him? Maybe. If Duncan is naturally a couch potato, he might take longer to bounce back. We've seen some Saints have more challenges than other. Not because they can't get up, but just because, like people, they have different personalityies that tend to be on the couch potato side of things. Lots of pawrents find that using harnesses like these makes a huge difference. It definitely did for us (and I was only 75 pounds!)

Chekc out our Required Reading List. It will answer a ton of your questions. Then, talk to pawrents of other giant breed dogs here, and find out how they coped. For many, it was much easier than they ever thought it would be.

Good luck Kathy. We wish you and Duncan the best. Please keep us posted and send any questions you have our way OK? Hugs to you and the pack.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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8 July 2010 - 9:27 pm
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As a disclaimer on anything I may say, my middle name is Duncan.

That said, you won't find a better place than here to get the info you need to make your decision.  Good luck!  And keep us posted.


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8 July 2010 - 10:12 pm
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Tazzie weighed about 185 pounds after she lost her RF leg due to osteosarcoma.  She did great and was walking well on her own but she did stay in the hospital for 3-4 days on IV fluids due to an unrelated liver issue.  We used the RuffWear harness to help her get into the van but she could do small flights of stairs on her own.  We did not let her go up or down our steep flight of steps to the outdoor deck because I was afraid she would fall on the way down.

She also developed a pressure sore on her remaining front foot which resolved after we started using booties to protect her.  She also handled chemo well and took various supplements.  She did develop some arthritis in her LF shoulder after about 1 year which responded well to acupuncture.


Montréal , Canada
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9 July 2010 - 6:13 am
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Kathy said:

Can anyone with giant breed experience reassure me about the amputation and how it will affect him?  I do have VPI Insurance with the cancer rider so the cost isn't so much of an issue.  I live alone (with Duncan and 2 other Saints) and was wondering if there would be a lot of lifting involved in his recovery.  I could get help from a neighbor occasionally. 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Again, thanks for the info that I've read so far. 

Kathy B. 


As other said, every dog, every story is different.  Amputation itself is not made without any risk.  But most of them recover very well.  As for my Oslo, a 140 lbs Newfie, surgery and recovery went pretty well, except for phantom pain .  But Gapapentin solved that matter pretty easily.  As for the life with a front- leg  giant amputee, giant dogs adapt very well.  Well you know how giants are a bit slow sometime if you compare them to pretty active breeds...but they too get to find how to walk on 3 legs.  Life with Oslo, post-amp, was pretty much the same.  His good spirit was the same.  He could do the same activities as before.  The biggest change was the bound between us and other humans.  It was stronger than ever.

Cleveland, OH
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9 July 2010 - 7:30 am
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Denali is my Great Pyr baby who just recently had a rear amputation due to suspected osteosarcoma (still waiting the results).  Our story is that we found out it was most likely cancer - went to have a 2nd opinion at Ohio State with Dr. Couto -- he assured me even if the tumor was NOT cancer, the amputation would be necessary to help her live pain free.  I opted to amputate last Thursday (July 1).  Denali weighed 82lbs at time of amputation.


When we went in for amputation - she was limping but still bearing all her weight on her rear leg.  Because of that with rehab, she has 'bunny hopped' more than 'tripawd hopped' because she does not have the muscles.  My vet assured me that when most dogs come in they have given up using the leg already and have had time to build those muscles.  She is getting closer and closer to the 'tripawd hop' on a daily basis!!


I did get the ruffwear harness for her, however I have not put it on her.  I have another Pyrenees (120lb -- Loki) that I did put the ruffwear harness on to try out.  I was able to pick up his front end with ease (even though he wasn't too happy with me for doing it - his generally disposition is 'grumpy' though).

~~~~ Denali ~~~~

June 9, 2010 OSA suspected

June 17, 2010, July 14, 2010 Clear X-rays – no mets

July 1, 2010 Amputation

July 9, 2010 OSA Confirmed

November 23, 2010 Cancer took you from me - Never forgotten, Always Loved - Forever

Supporting the Fighters, Admiring the Survivors, Honoring the Taken, And never, ever giving up Hope

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9 July 2010 - 8:34 am
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Oh boy, st. Bernards, I've had 2 of them, gotta love 'em. Gus was 110 lbs at surgery, a lab-rott mix and with his strentgh adjusting was no problem. He was not using his front left at the time of surgery, we had suspected a muscle issue at first until we did x-rays, then biopsy which came back negative but we still felt cancer was our culprit.This poor guy was in so much pain before the surgery that my recommendation would be amputate as soon as possible, it will be ALOT easier on everyone involved, of course those first 2 weeks after will not be fun, but worth it once the healing is over. This is a great place to be, it makes the whole journey bearable, keep us posted and don't be afraid to ask anything, experince gives the best answers, paws up, Gus and Dan

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

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31 July 2010 - 5:13 pm
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Duncan had his surgery on Wednesday, 7/28 (right forelimb) and came home yesterday.  He's doing reasonably well and has already shifted the getting-up process to his hind legs.  I was worried about that.  He's a little shaky when hopping...still getting used to the balancing, I'm sure.  The photos on this site have really helped me, especially the post-op photos.  I needed to know what to expect.  His skin is a little rash-like about 1/2-inch outside the incision.  The vet said that's normal....they had to shave him pretty close.   I'll keep posting on his progress.

Edmonton, Alberta
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31 July 2010 - 6:48 pm
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Oh, sending many wishes for a speedy recovery for Duncan. It does take them a while to adjust their balance. Our Golden Retriever Catie had her right forelimb amputated in January. Going down stairs was the tricky part for her; she still goes down them very carefully. 

He's a beautiful boy! Every day he'll get a little stronger. 

Definitely keep us posted.

Catie -

Birthday – November 4 2003

Amputation – January 13 2010

Crossed the Bridge – June 2 2011

 Catie Caitlin 

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31 July 2010 - 7:28 pm
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 "vet recommended amputation as treatment either way.  Vet said that even if it is a low-grade malignancy, the diagnosis is poor without amputation because of pain that will eventually be encountered.... Can anyone with giant breed experience reassure me about the amputation and how it will affect him?"

Hi Kathy,

My dog 9 yr old dog Chloe was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma about a month ago and today was the day I got to take her home after surgery. After learning about her prognosis I decided that amputation was the best option in the end because I didn't want to prolong her pain just to preserve her limb. She had a back leg amputation which the vet informed me makes it easier for large breed dogs since they carry 60% of their weight on their front legs (Chloe is 70 lbs), however a front leg amputation shouldn't prevent mobility. I just read a blog about Alexander, a great dane, who is doing well as a 165 lb dog with a front limb amputation, so I really think it depends on your dogs will to walk. In my now 4 hour experience with having Chloe home, I have learned that Chloe wants to just "go" and that she doesn't yet understand why she can't balance like she once used to.

I am sure every case is different with what the dog will experience, but I have found that this site has been extremely helpful with general idea of what to expect. For example, I had no idea where the vet had amputated her leg, but seeing someone post a post op pict of their dog with a back leg amputation was helpful to know visually what to expect. Shaved and just a long line of sutures. Grim yes, but a necessary sight to get used to. 

Best wishes!   


Chloe became a rear amp tripawd on 7-29-10. Another tumor was removed on front leg 2-20-14. Found 3rd tumor on neck 2-2015, but she's still kicking cancer's butt at age 14. Chloe's blog

Livermore CA
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31 July 2010 - 7:57 pm
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Welcome Kathy and Duncan!

My Cemil is 148# and his surgery (left front) was a year and a half ago.  He took a little extra time to get up to speed, but he's fine now.  At the moment, he's barking at someone in the neighborhood--he seems normal in every way.  I guess you already know by now that you won't need to lift much.  Somehow, they figure out what they need to do, and then do it.

I wish Duncan a speedy and uneventful recovery.



Cemil and mom Mary, Mujde and Radzi….appreciating and enjoying Today

Cemil's blog

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1 August 2010 - 10:46 am
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Duncan came home from the vet on Friday.  He's getting exhausted very quickly from hopping but I guess I would too.  He's hesitating down the 2 steps to my back door.  I got a ramp from PetSmart but he's still hesitating.  The steps out the front door are less steep so I can walk him out there and into the back yard.   He has a tall bowl with hard food and wasn't attempting that so I went out and got him some canned food to mix with the hard food and then put it on the floor in front of him in the living room.  He scarfed it down.  No appetite problem.  Will keep posting on progress.

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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1 August 2010 - 10:55 am
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Mom has steps Trouble has to maneuver when I take her to visit.  She's ok going up the concrete steps coming in the house, but doesn't want to go down them.  But, she's ok going down the back steps - they have carpet and she's more secure.  Maybe Duncan is having the same kind of anxiety?

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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