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! New member to the forum with a senior dog who will have to have
her front leg amputated. I started searching for information about how
this amputation will affect my girl, and possible prosthetic solutions, when I
found this forum. I do have a question about whether my girl can handle
being a tripaw at her age and thought this might be the most appropriate
First an introduction – Briana is a chow mix and just turned 19 on June 11th
– yes you read that right, she is 19 and quite healthy! (My vet wants to
know what I put in the water. Haha!) When I was a freshman in high
school one of my mother's co-workers casually mentioned that she came home one
night to find someone had dumped a puppy in her backyard with her Labrador.
She unfortunately could not keep her and was going to send her to the pound.
Our family had just lost a puppy to a speedy motorist and I begged, cried and
got myself a big fluffy chow mixed puppy who hopped around on three legs.
We took her to the vet who determined that her front leg had one toe and that
it appeared she had been born that way. He also thought she was around 8
months old. I had two other girls who were 6 months at that point so I
gave Briana the same birth date. Up until a few years ago, Briana had no
problems running around on three legs. She never used the short leg –
always kept it tucked close to her body and hated for anyone to touch it.
In 2007 the toe developed a tumor. Surgery was done – the vet unfortunately
did not get clean margins and it came back in 2009. We went in for
surgery again and the vet said, because that leg never really had a lot of skin
on it, she definitely did not get clean margins this time. We both hoped
that it would not return because amputation was the only alternative. My
wish was not granted and it's back.
My question: Has anyone dealt with amputation with a pet this
age? Was your pet able to adapt easily or did he/she just give up trying
to be mobile? My vet wants to amputate at the shoulder. I would
prefer mid humerus because I don't think she's going to be able to cope without
a prosthetic and I think she needs a stump for something to be fitted.
She's been using that short leg the last three years for balance and a sort of
“crutch” when walking because she can no longer hop around –
arthritis is starting to set in. (Plus she lost her sight last year.)
However, when she stands she does not use that leg for support nor does she use
it to get up from a reclining position. The vet seems to think that she will be
able to adapt but she sees my concern. She is attending a conference next week
and will try to pose my question to other surgeons. I'm hunting for
As a side note – amputation was never suggested by her vet when Briana was
younger because the vet never saw the need. Her paw essentially is
missing, if you were to compare it to my hand, the wrist joint. Also,
even though she is quite old and blind she is still very healthy. She may
take a lot of naps but she does have a good quality of life – still gets
excited when she smells treats, will wrestle with mommy if the mood strikes her
and has no problems navigating the yard. I want to do everything I can to
make sure she maintains this quality of life whether it means having a
prosthetic or not.
25 April 2007
First an introduction…
Welcome, and thanks for joining! We've moved your post to this new topic so it didn't get buried where you originally replied.
At 19, Briana probably does win the award for oldest amputee here. But we've had many success stories about senior dogs. Samigurl was 14, and Calpurnia just turned 15. Hopefully you'll hear from others here.
More important than age, is any other existing compensatory issues. If Briana is otherwise healthy and fit, not overweight, and already getting around OK on three legs, she should be a good candidate for amputation. If your vet believes it best to remove the scapula, follow his advice. Just be sure to consult with a specialist/surgeon for doing the procedure before just going with your “regular” vet.
There is much debate about prosthetics for dogs, and we have yet to hear of any true success stories. The vast majority of dogs we've heard of adapt much better to getting around on three legs that trying to figure out what the strange device attached to them is. Some will even chew at permanent devices – or their leg – to get them off. Yes, a stump is necessary for a prosthetic to work. But by leaving the stump, dogs will try to use it, often causing spinal/posture issues. You may want to consult with the experts at Orthopets.
Regarding the arthritis, make sure Briana is taking a premium glucosamine supplement. one that many members have reported to be very successful is Dasuquin. We found SynFlex liquid glucosamine for pets to be helpful fo Jerry.
Best wishes in the decisions you face. Please update this topic with any helpful information you find in your research, and be sure to let us know what your vet discovers at that conference.
12 February 2010
welcome briana and mom. i had to check that twice – 19 – wow, you are an amazing lady!!! gayle is only 10 and a half (i've never used the word 'only' before), but is doing amazingly well after amputation of her right front leg in february of this year. she's a lab mix, weighing about 60# now. even though her tumor was in her wrist, the surgeon took the entire leg and scapula – this meant not 'cutting at a joint', and provided for a nice healing at the incision. gayle does quite well balancing, and doesn't seem to miss the leg really.
what ever choices you make, if you make them with your heart as well as your head, you'll do fine. kisses and hugs to the little lady!!
charon & gayle
oh, what part of illinois are you from? we have a member near carbondale, and one in chicago for sure…
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
Welcome! 19??? That is pawsome! I've never heard of a dog that size getting to that age. How wonderful that you have that many years together. Whatever decision you make, I know it will be out of love. Just keep asking questions to your vet or specialist.
Sending you a big hug!
Thank you all for the kind words and warm welcome! I'm finding a great deal of very useful information in this forum and many of the stories I've read so far have put my mind at ease that Briana will be okay when it's time for surgery and that my first thought that she's going to need a prosthetic was probably wrong. She's lucky that the tumor in her foot is non-metastatic. I hope I've got the correct term. I've heard the doctor use all these big words to describe this lump on her foot so many times that I've given up trying to remember them all. I've choosen to focus on, “It is local to the foot, a very low percentage that it may be cancerous and it's not in the bloodstream”. At the moment the vet doesn't see any reason to rush to surgery so I'm just keeping an eye on it's size, and watching for any legions that may form or if Briana starts to chew because it's bothering her. We're going to do x-rays in the near future to double check her lungs. (The last two sets of x-rays in the last two years have been clear).
Thank you also for the supplement suggestion. The vet and I briefly talked about starting medication or supplements in preparation for surgery so I will definitely explore the links provided.
14 August 2009
Are you sure Brianna wasn't in a time warp or traveled over the Bermuda Triangle and she's actually only 9 years old!???!
I was going ask you – what if you did nothing? Is is painful? She doesn't use the leg anyway so what would be the difference? Surgery and the recovery would scare the bejeebies out of me at her age!
But I'm overly cautious about everything!
My Comet was born with a funky non-functioning front leg and is almost 12.
She has an ossifying epulis growing in her lower jawbone and we aren't doing anything about it since the only option is removal of the jawbone. Her teeth are getting super crooked from it but if it's not painful, so she'll just have to have crooked teeth!
So, that's why I ask. What if you didn't do anything? What would would her prognosis be without surgery?
Good luck and keep us up to date!
Comet - 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.
30 July 2010
You seem to have gotten some great advice already from others, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents (for whatever its worth). First, it is absolutely AMAZING she has lived that long! I hope my new tripawd will live another ten years!!! Seriously what is your secret… Finally, whatever you decide to do, you have a whole site of tripawd parents who will support you 🙂 It is truly a wonderful community.
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
10 March 2010
I was absolutely SURE it was a typo….NINETEEN YEARS OLD?????????? what an amazing story….she definitely has survivor genes….I was actually wondering the same thing cometdog asked…what if you did nothing?
we shall follow this story with absolute open mouth!! Magic was 11 and did very very well and he wasn't all that active prior to the surgery…he was probably more active afterwards!! Unfortunately his cancer was very aggressive and we didn't have much time at all … I shall wait eagerly to see how this story unfolds
7 June 2010
I'm just speechless…………..19yrs !!!
You are so lucky!
Yes! I want Briana's secret !!!
It sounds like Briana is one tough girl. That makes me feel really good that your surgeon is going to that conference and will get to brainstorm with other docs.
Kona turned 9yrs on April 16, 2010.
Kona was diagnosed Memorial Weekend 2010 with osteosarcoma.
Right rear leg amputated on June 4th. First chemo June 18th 2010
Second chemo July 9th, 2010 Third and final (yea !!!) chemo July 30th, 2010
ONE TOUGH GIRL this Australian Cattledog !
***Kona's journey/fight ended late in the evening of December 22, 2010***
We Love you so much Kona….always
Bella 9yrs, albino lab/aussie shep/pit?(abandoned in mts as a puppy) deaf & blind (from birth) in one eye limited vision in other.(laid back, ok lazy 73 lbs)
Cotton, 5yrs, albino hound/terrier of somesort/???(abandoned in mts as a puppy) deaf & blind in one eye(from birth), excellent vision in seeing eye. (ball addict…destroyer of Kong balls…yes,etc), high energy 55lbs knots of muscle)
Kona Kai's pup brother and sister as well as her buddy and playmate cat, Shaymous 12yrs (like Seamus), miss her terribly.
11 August 2010
My James turned 17 years old on Tuesday (8/24) and I thought that was old!!!! But he's a small miniature poodle and that breed lives a long time. Congrats to Brianna!!
James' front left leg was amputated on 8/4/10. He is doing just fine. He has been blind for 10 years due to PRA so he is used to bumping into things and adapts very well!
He came through the surgery very well.
Our oncologist said: “Age is not a disease”. She had no problem recommending amputation. BUT, his leg was fractured due to osteosarcoma and amputation was the only way to relieve the pain. Not the same situation as Brianna.
Good luck with whatever you decide.
Nancy and James the poodle
James the poodle had his left front leg amputated due to osteosarcoma on Aug. 4, 2010. He is currently doing chemo.
9 December 2009
Hi there! Us senior dogs are always happy to have another in the crowd!! Calpurnia had her amputation 3 years ago when she was 12. We debated long and hard about whether we should do it or not. Her tumor was causing her pain, so we went ahead with the thought that if she was not coping well, we would have to let her go. We wanted to give her a shot and boy did she take her chance!
Briana is already a tripawd, it sounds like she just needs to have the surgery to make it formal. If your vet thinks she is healthy enough to tolerate the anesthesia, her adjustment period will be basically zero. And as dramatic as an amputation sounds and looks to us humans, from a veterinary standpoint, my understanding is that it isn't really that complicated. Our dog Bucky had to have a TPLO knee surgery, which not only was a longer surgery, but also a much more difficult and lengthy recovery than Cali's amputation.
My two cents, anyhow. Welcome to the club, and ROCK ON Briana!
I would love to be able to bottle whatever it is that gave me an old girl but I honestly don't know. 🙂 I never thought I'd have a dog this old! All I can say it that it's probably good “mutt” genes. Briana's a Chow mix but she's small – she only weighs 27lbs which is a blessing for me because I have to carry her in and out of the house quite a bit. Whew! My other two girls, who incidentally were litter mates, lived to be 16 and 18. They too were mutts – mom was a peekapoo who got out of the yard and had a stroll around the neighborhood. I lost the 16 year old to a mammary tumor. She was born with a heart murmur and by the time the tumor reared it's ugly head the murmur was a grade 5 out of 6 and surgery was out of the question. I kept her with me as long as I could before finally letting her go.
I actually really, really hope I don't have to put Briana through another surgery because as several people have said, “why do it?”. The problem is this growth will eventually use up it's blood supply and then we're dealing with an open wound and Briana will be in pain. At the moment it's not bothering her and I'm willing to wait until it is absolutely necessary and the vet is of the same opinion. I have to say I'm keeping my vet on her toes!
Yea for James!!! The fact that he's been blind for a long while and is doing well helps my worries!
Just a quick note to close this thread (I'm the type that hates to leave things unresolved). After coping with a few bouts of yucky tummy feelings and the tumor using up it's blood supply and finally opening, I had to make the very hard decision of letting my old friend go in December. I'm not much of a poster when it comes to any type of forum but I wanted everyone to know I appreciated all the information I found on this site. It helped me make Briana's last few months as painless as I possibly could. Best of luck to everyone and their furry friends. Thank you again.
28 November 2008
I know how painful that decision was for you, and am very sorry for your loss.
RIP Briana. Run free at Rainbow Bridge .
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.