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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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Figuring out our new normal
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Forum Posts: 24
Member Since:
11 September 2012
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18 September 2012 - 4:12 am
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Good morning everyone.  Finn is three weeks post surgery.  I wish I could figure out how to post a video or picture as I would love to show you all.  I am so proud of him.  I think he is doing really well.  He seems to be getting around better every day.  I wonder though…How much do I push a boy of 11 who was never really an athlete to begin with?… Not a couch potato either but surely no Michael Phelps ;)   One thing is bothering me and I don’t know if it is something I just need to accept as part of our…his, new life or if there is something I can do to stop it or…if it is something that will stop as he keeps building up strength.  Every now and then he trips and the only thing to stop his fall is his face.  He has a skinned mark that he keeps opening up.  Its not serious but I bet it stings.  IT BREAKS MY HEART WHEN IT HAPPENS!  I want to lay down and cry for him ( I DONT…I encourage instead).  I can see that it bruises his confidence also.  I don’t know what to do.  He does not want my help.  He has made that pretty clear from the beginning.  There are a few places like getting in and out of the car that he will accept a little help but not often.  I really want to have a nice walk as a goal but  is that setting him up to get hurt?  I don’t want him to deteriorate physically (my horribly snowy COLD winters help with that too much already!) I also don’t want to push so hard that he injures the good limbs that he has left.  Hey… that’s another good question!  What do others who have horrible winters do to keep your older dogs fit especially our tripawd’s?


I want to thank you all again for your support the other day.  I was feeling very blue and really needed to hear from someone who has been where we are.  It HELPED SO MUCH!

Chicago, IL
Forum Posts: 17
Member Since:
10 September 2012
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18 September 2012 - 7:22 am
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Hi Peggy and Finn!  So happy to hear that Finn is doing better everyday.  That’s such encouragement for our Abby.  She’s day 6 post-amputation and doing really well.  She is also 11 (we thinkwinker)

I can’t offer any advice on the tripping with Finn, I am, however, so sorry to hear about that and hope you can find a resolution, I am also curious how people manage their tripawds through the snow and ice.  I’m hoping the snow will be a non-issue like last winter!  big-grin

We’ll be rooting for you and Finn!

Rock Hill, SC
Forum Posts: 875
Member Since:
28 November 2011
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18 September 2012 - 7:32 am
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Hi Peggy.  You are facing some of the exact issues we did with Zeus.  He was still active for an 11 year old, but certainly not running marathons.  We just let him go at his own pace and duration.  Over time we became skilled at spotting the very subtle signs that he was tiring and we would turn around before he got to the point of overdoing it.  Honestly, he never got to the point of taking really long walks so we did lots of short ones and tried to direct them to new areas each time so that it wasn’t him taking the same boring route every time.

As for the face plants, those will become more infrequent as time goes on and he adjusts more and more to the new balance.  But, even then they will still happen on occasion.  Typically the falls happened when he got very excited about something and it seemed like he forgot that leg wasn’t there and sometimes it was when he was on uneven ground.  One thing we did was to try and anticipate those times.  We knew his ‘triggers’ such as jumping up when we opened the fridge.  One of us would try to move next to him and say “easy, easy” and help to balance him.

Good luck with the rest of recovery.  It DOES continue to get better!


Zeus was a Husky mix diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11.  A visible lung met and suspicious spot on his liver meant a poor prognosis-six weeks was our vet's best guess. We decided to fight for our boy and his right front leg was amputated on 12/1/11. We did six rounds of chemo, changed his diet and spoiled him completely rotten. We were blessed with 10 great months after diagnosis. Against the odds, the lung met remained a single met and grew very little over those months. A wonderful furbaby with the most gentle spirit, he fought with a strength that we never imagined he possessed. We have no regrets...

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 26570
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18 September 2012 - 7:52 am
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Take it slow, if he wasn’t an athlete before, then don’t make that your goal now. What you want to work on is his balance and strengthening of his core muscles, which will help to prevent falls. It’s the same concept with humans too! I’m not talking hard workouts for him, just easy games that are more fun than anything.

We’re not rehab vets but we’ve interviewed them about Tripawds, and based on what they’ve told us it sounds to me like Harley can use some help with proprioception , which is the ability to know where one’s body is in space. There are lots of things you can do to help him with this, such as encouraging him to walk on uneven surfaces like couch cushions placed on the floor, or over and around small obstacles in the house. Tripawd Maggie is a senior dog who has some great videos that show how in her blog. Our Tripawds Gear blog has lots of games and ideas that help increase balance and strength, which are also great activities to do inside during snowy days! Our CARE Video interviews also have lots of good ideas.

As for assisting him, that’s one of the reasons we love the Ruff Wear harness so much. The handle on top is an unobtrusive way to be there for him when he’s getting in and out of the car, walking around, etc., without hovering over him and making him feel self-conscious. The trick to making it work for you both is to leave it on all day, because just when you don’t think you’ll need it, you do.

I hope these ideas help! As for posting pictures, here is a post that explains it. If you still have trouble let us know and we’ll try to help.

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Forum Posts: 5
Member Since:
17 September 2012
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18 September 2012 - 7:54 am
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I do not have any advice as I am just starting my journey with a tripawed – but, I bet his face plants become less and less with time.  He sounds determined!

Milwaukee, WI
Forum Posts: 181
Member Since:
6 September 2011
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18 September 2012 - 9:09 am
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Hi, I can’t offer any personal advice since Harley is not tripawd but wanted to say I am happy to hear Finn is making progress.  Also, if you look through blogs there is a dog named Ray who is another golden front amp about Finn’s age and maybe his family has experienced some of the same things.  Another dog went to water or aqua therapy and it helped with his balance.  Good luck.

Harley is an 8 year old Golden Retriever. Amp surgery for an infiltrative lipoma canceled due to two masses in chest. A rescue, he found his forever home on 3/18/07 and left for his eternal home on 1/09/13. His story and medical history are at

San Diego, CA
Forum Posts: 2503
Member Since:
29 October 2010
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18 September 2012 - 9:43 am
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The face plants are always hard to watch, but hang in there. Three weeks out is not really that much time and the pups need to build up both their strength and stamina again, in addition to getting used to their new balance.

Take it slow! It’ll get better.
Jackie, Angel Abby’s mom

Abby: Aug 1, 2009 – Jan 10, 2012. Our beautiful rescue pup lived LARGE with osteosarcoma for 15 months – half her way-too-short life. I think our "halflistic" approach (mixing traditional meds + supplements) helped her thrive. (PM me for details. I'm happy to help.) She had lung mets for over a year. They took her from us in the end, but they cannot take her spirit! She will live forever in our hearts. She loved the beach and giving kisses and going to In-N-Out for a Flying Dutchman. Tripawds blog, and a more detailed blog here. Please also check out my novel, What the Dog Ate. Now also in paperback! Purchase it at Amazon via Tripawds and help support Tripawds!

Portage Lake, Maine
Forum Posts: 1019
Member Since:
8 December 2009
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18 September 2012 - 2:15 pm
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Hello Peggy & Finn,

My tripawd, Maggie, is 12 1/2 years old and was VERY fit before amputation(she was an agility dog and hiked alot).  But she was also down for a great deal of time before amputation too.  It took Maggie a long time to gain strength…never to regain what she had on 3 legs like some tripawds seem to.  I work her at least 3 times per week on core exercises with PT balance domes and discs.  She also does Wag It Games, which by nature of the beast(in a good way!) helps with her stamina/strength training as well!  If you go to my blog that Jerry commented about, you should see some video links to the right of the page that will help.  But you are only 3 weeks out, so take it very easy!!  I can’t tell you how much the core work helps my dog…I can certainly tell if I go too many days in between work(and the sessions are very short) as I have witnessed her front end quivering when she gets up.  If I keep up with her core work, she doesn’t do that.

As far as your dog not allowing your help.  My dog was the same at first…but she ‘gave in’ after a while…knowing that really she needs the help, when necessary.  The Ruffwear harness is also a HUGE HUGE HUGE help…I have noticed it even gives my dog confidence when I do help her and I don’t actually have to ‘manhandle’ her so much, for whatever reason…but I’ve witnessed it getting her in the tub twice now.  Since amputation, I always had my husband help me get her in the tub but I was alone the other day and so I put her Ruffwear harness on and presto! SHE just waltzed right in the bathroom and SHE got in the tub with me just holding onto the harness handle!  Impressive to me to say the least.  Hadn’t done that since amputation – took two of us to lift her in the tub before.

A little goes a long way with Maggie.  Her walks are no more than 1/2 hour long and that’s a LONG walk.  They are more like 15-20 minutes now.  I don’t like to see her sore/tired, so we don’t overdo it.  Rather we do short spurts of exercise throughout a day, which agrees with her far more.

Tracy, Maggie’s Mom

Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13


Portage Lake, Maine
Forum Posts: 1019
Member Since:
8 December 2009
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18 September 2012 - 2:20 pm
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OK, I just clicked on your profile and see you’re from Houlton, Maine??!!!  Wowza!  That’s only an hour South of me!

I’m in Portage Lake, Maine!!!!!


Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13


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