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.
JUMP TO FORUMS ↓
Join The Tripawds Community
Learn how to help three legged dogs and cats in the forums below. Browse and search as a guest or register for free and get full member benefits:
Get the new book by the Tripawds founders for life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Download the e-book, and find fun Be More Dog apparel and gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.
30 August 2019
I have a 12 year old German Shepard/husky mix. He is a good sized dog weighs 80lbs. This past year he developed a large tumor in his front right leg. I am torn over what to do. He currently has a cone on so he wont aggravate the tumor. The vet says if his tumor opens up or starts to bleed he will have to be put down before infection and pain sets in. He is a happy dog who always has a big smile on and aside from the tumor on his leg he is perfectly healthy, happy and with it.The topic of amputation didn’t come up yet. I don’t know what is better for him. If we just let it run its course and enjoy him and spoil him until its time to put him down. Or do we amputate and pray we get a few more years with him. My concern is the latter is more for me than for him. I am concerned with the combination of his age and size and the fact it is his front leg. In the videos on this site all the big dogs have their back leg amputated not their front. the backside is narrower and lighter and the back leg is more muscular. I am worried that it will be to overwhelming for him to deal with. And then we have to go through the torturous process of watching him struggle or suffer before putting him down. I can deal with it and want to give him every opportunity to live longer. But if it doesn’t work out well I don’t want to put my 73 year old mother through that. And If it doesn’t work out I don’t want to put my dog through that. Anyone vets or people who had to amputate a big old dogs front leg and the results would be greatly appreciated if it is possible.
Thanks and god bless
Hi Phil and Toby!
I’m on my phone so I will give more help in a bit but I wanted to get your post approved so others can chime in. But I do want to ask: what does your vet think about him doing well on 3? And has your vet mentioned electrochemotherapy as an option? Not that senior dogs can’t do well on 3 but it’s a good option for those who may not be good candidates. Here is a link for more info:
28 July 2019
My name is Jamie and I have a 10+ year old Great Dane named Grover who just had a forelimb amputation on 7/16 due to an osteosarcoma. Like you, I had many concerns — could our big geriatric dog recover from a forelimb amputation, was it fair, and was I doing it for him or for me. Man … I was TOURMENTED with these very hard emotional decisions. In addition to being a big dog (~110 lbs) Grover was has significant osteoarthritis, some hind limb ataxia due to suspected cervical disease and angular limb deformities from when he had HOD as a puppy… none of this looked good on paper.
I am happy to report that he is doing AMAZING after surgery and just this morning we went on a 0.7 mile hike in uneven and hilly terrain. For us, the first three weeks were a bit rough and had their ups and downs but once he hit the 3 week mark it was like suddenly we were home free. I am SO glad that we amputated his leg — I truly feel like he has great quality of life. At 12 hours after surgery he could get up with assistance and get outside to go to the bathroom. At 36 hours he could get up on his own and go outside to go to the bathroom, was off IV pain management and they sent him home. I will say that at about the 2 week mark we struggled with pain management and also some anesthesia induced canine cognitive dysfunction that set us back …. but these days I have to limit HIS activity and he is back to being himself and doing almost everything he did before surgery.
A few questions to ask:
1. Although you have a big dog, is he overweight? Being overweight does not prevent a dog from getting an amputation but our surgeon told us that body condition score (i.e. how overweight they are) actually presents more challenges for dogs after amputation than sheer size. If your dog is overweight this again is NOT saying you shouldn’t get an amputation, just that you may want to discuss with your vet how to work on getting the pounds off as quickly and safely as possible.
2. How is your dogs mobility currently and what are your expectations after surgery? Before surgery we were hiking 3 days a week for several hours … we knew that we were probably NOT going to go back to this after surgery (at least not any time soon) but that was ok with us … and honestly, how many dogs his size are that active at that age haha.
3. Is there a rehab vet near you that you can team up with? This was super helpful for us both in terms of pain management and getting a physical therapy plan. The tripawds foundation will even pay for your first rehab visit /consultation!
If you would like please feel free to check out our blog — groversgrandfinale.tripawds.com — my hope was to document our journey so that other large breed geriatric owners could see what life after amputation looked like for a dog like theirs.
Hi my name is Nancy. My lab was one month from being 12 when he had his front leg amputated. I was having the same fear. Age and it being the front leg. I was only going to treat with pain meds but they stopped working. So we amputated. At time of ampitation he was 90 lbs. He did awesome and since he has lost weight he gets around much better and I would do it again.
Phil, whenever someone is in doubt about a dog’s candidacy as a Tripawd, it’s a good idea to get a second or even third opinion from an orthopedic specialist. They can evaluate your boy to make sure he will do well enough on three even at his age. If Toby is otherwise healthy and strong, there is no reason why he couldn’t do well on three legs according to vet experts we have interviewed.
Your concerns about the choice to amputate or not are quite common. In the end, the decision to amputate isn’t about being selfish, but rather trying to find the best way to help your pup feel better and get rid of that awful tumor. As we say around here, when you decide to amputate you’re not doing it to your dog, but doing it for him.
I hope the feedback helps. Keep us posted.
Jerry always gives the best advise. You mentioned all the video’s of large dogs is with the back leg amputated. You can go to the forum “share your story” and look at “My Beloved Brownie”. I posted a video today and he is 12.5 years.
By the way Jerry is a German Shepard and had front leg amputated. I think he was 8. Didn’t stop him one bit.
In the videos on this site all the big dogs have their back leg amputated not their front.
I totally missed this, thank you for pointing it out Nancy!
David, you may not be seeing all of our videos. We even have a playlist of Giant Breed dogs, many of which are front-leg amputees. We have seen equal amounts of giant breed rear and front leg amputees and many are chronicled in our videos and member blogs. Just search for “Front leg” or something similar and many dogs will come up in addition to Brownie, including Thurston the Saint Bernard and our own Jerry, Tripawds founder.