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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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7 month old rescue puppy needs amputation of front leg
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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
20 February 2018
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20 February 2018 - 8:30 am
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Hello, I just joined this website. My puppy that I began fostering in September had a dislocated shoulder when I got him and now we are setting up the surgery for his leg to be amputated. His shoulder, through X-rays and physical therapy, has shown to be something that cannot be fixed or just simply popped back in. I was really hoping there would be another option for little Cosmo other than losing his front leg. I guess I was just wondering what challenges he is going to face as a three legged dog and what the difference is for him in losing a front leg verses if instead it was his back leg. Is it also better to do it now, while he is so young, rather than wait until he is older. I worry about how much pain the shoulder is actually causing him because he never complains about any pain and is a very energetic, happy puppy otherwise. The orthopedic and the rescue, Soul Dog, seemed to think that this is the best decision for him. I’ve never gone through this before so I’m just a bit anxious about the whole process and his recovery following. Thanks in advance for any advice. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 26348
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25 April 2007
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20 February 2018 - 10:45 am
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Hi there and welcome! I’m in the Tripawds Chat room right now if you want to talk.

I’m glad to hear that you’ve gotten an opinion from an orthopedic vet, because that would have been my first suggestion before making the surgery appointment. Good job! I’m curious though, did the ortho doc say anything about your dog being a good candidate for a prosthetic? I’m guessing not since it’s a shoulder issue and a prosthetic would put weight on the shoulder, but just thought I’d ask. 

Keep in mind that dogs will do anything to avoid showing pain. So even if he’s not showing pain signals he could still be hurting. Try to imagine how you would feel with the same medical condition. Our dogs are no different, they just hide it better than we do.

Our own dog Wyatt Ray lost his leg at about eight months, so around the same age. It wasn’t a big deal to him and he bounced back quickly. In fact that’s probably one of the hardest things about having a young Tripawd, is keeping them calm during recovery. This is especially important for front leg amputees, as they can get a seroma right away with too much activity when they come home.

Front leg Tripawds have different challenges than rear leg ones, and vice versa.  Front leggers can go up stairs easily but down stairs are difficult and a bit scary. We talk about it in this Tripawd Talk Radio podcast where Dr. Marcellin-Little says ““Losing your front leg is like losing two back legs . . . walking on three legs is easier when you’re missing a back leg.”

To sum it up, front leggers place a ton of weight on that one remaining limb (especially the carpal or ‘wrist’ joint), so being very conscientious about their activity and limitations is critical. He will not be a dog that does five or even three-mile hikes. Well let me back up…he will try but if you want him around for a long time, without pain and enjoying life, it’s crucial that you monitor his activity so he doesn’t overdo things. Rehab vets recommend Tripawds take shorter, more frequent walks of no more than 15 or 20 minutes, and that’s for a dog in top shape. You have to build up to it over time. Of course he can still go places with you, and getting a doggy stroller can help him do that, especially as he ages. You may need to train him to ride in one but most dogs enjoy it.

The best way to know what his specific limitations are (all dogs are different) is to make an appointment with a canine rehab therapist. They can guide you as far as how to exercise him, what’s too much and too little exercise, etc. The best part is the Tripawds Foundation will even pay for your first rehab visit ! We strongly encourage it. 

Also, pick up a copy of Loving Life On Three Legs , where we discuss things like this. The Tripawds Gear blog also has good tips, just search for words like “rehab” and “exercise.”

Hope this helps! Stay tuned for feedback from others.

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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
20 February 2018
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21 February 2018 - 11:20 am
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Hi and thank you for the welcome message!

The idea of a prosthetic was never mentioned to me but the option of using a wheel chair in the future was. I guess it was because of the weight on the shoulder because they also warned me about using no pull harnesses due to the way they would hit his shoulders. 

Yea, the Physical therapist did talk to me about the fact that he wouldn’t show pain because I had told her that it amazes me how much energy he has and how fast he runs, but she said pretty much that exact thing. I’m assuming it isn’t comfortable for him at all. 

The biggest fear of mine is the recovery process because Cosmo is so wild and jumps so much/has so much energy in general. The other problem is, I live with my sister who has the other puppy, that is perfectly fine and I’m kind of assuming we would have to keep them away from each other because all they wanna do is wrestle and play. How long would you say the recovery process is?  I just had to read about what a seroma even was. Thanks for the tip on that one, I’ll keep an eye out post surgery. I may just try to keep him contained as much as possible during that time period, as difficult as that will be. 

I’m kind of thankful in this case that cosmo only weighs about 18 lbs because for a while, at least, I will be carrying him up and down the stairs I’m assuming. 

I did take a look at that book on the site and may grab myself a copy. I just don;t want to be unaware of what’s to come for my little guy. Thanks. 

Livermore, CA

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21 February 2018 - 1:44 pm
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Hello and welcome.  What kind of pup is Cosmo?

My current Tripawd is a little pug mix named Elly.  She lost a back leg at 7 months old after being hit by a car.  I didn’t adopt her until she was about 2.5 months post amp so I can’t help with that.  I did go through recovery with my first Tripawd Maggie who lost a rear leg to cancer.  Maggie was about 7.5 years old at the time of surgery and a pug- there was absolutely no need to slow her down during recovery… in fact it was all I could do to get her stubborn pug butt out of bed big-grin

From what I’ve seen here with puppies recovering from surgery you probably need to keep the pups apart.  Maybe by week two some interaction on leash.  Our surgeon told us that Mag was only allowed short, leashed potty breaks for the first two weeks post surgery.  In general it takes 10 to 14 days for surgical incisions to heal.  After that it is best to increase activity level slowly to avoid injury and over use, but I’m not sure that is possible with puppies!  I’m guessing that Cosmo is going to feel much better once that painful leg is gone which may add to his post surgery energy.  We do lots of food puzzles and games- some of those might help burn up some energy.  We also do Nose Work- a great sport for Tripawds.  Check with your vet about activity level after surgery.

Elly is now just over 3 years old and can do pretty much everything a dog her size and age can do.  It is easier for her losing a back leg.  She weighs in around 15 pounds so is smaller than Cosmo.  Mag had problems going up stairs which is common for rear amps- front amps will tend to have trouble going down- if they have trouble at all.  Elly flies up and down the stairs- we live in a split level house so stairs are part of the routine. 

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

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: 3
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20 February 2018
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21 February 2018 - 2:09 pm
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Little Cosmo is (completely a guess) an aussie mix of some sort. He looks like an australian cattle dog but also could be mixed with some sort of terrier. He’s a reservation puppy from New Mexico so I’m not 100 percent sure, but he’s always been labeled as an aussie mix. He is full of energy and can actually jump from the floor to on top of the counters. That’s why I’m worried about his recovery process. Stairs are part of our routine as well. I will just carry the little guy initially after his surgery. 

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