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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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Forum Posts: 29
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10 October 2015 - 5:09 pm
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I am desperate. My 8 year old, 118 lbs, Great Pyrenees had his front left leg amputated 4 days ago, due to osteosarcoma. I did all the research. I read posts, blogs, spoke to an owner of a Great Pyrenees with front amputation, and came away with the overwhelming feeling that amputation is really the right choice, and that virtually all dogs adapt quickly. Well, it’s been 4 days, and my dog can not get up, or even adjust his position in bed, let alone do any walking. I’m basically dragging him along in his harness. He barely moves his legs. I am getting very panicky and scared at this point. Even my vet said he has never seen a dog take this long to start trying to figure things out.  I know that 4 days is not a lot, but from everything I heard, he should at least be beginning to improve. Please, please tell me is this normal?  Is he going to be alright?  Am I doing something wrong?  Was this the worst decision of my life?

Livermore, CA

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10 October 2015 - 7:14 pm
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Welcome to Tripawds, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

What is your boy’s name?

It’s true that most pups are at least trying to hop by day 4, but it is far too early to panic. We have seen here that big dogs sometimes take longer to figure things out. Has he peed or pooped since he has been home?

Didn’t the vet make sure he would get up before he sent him home? Often pups won’t be sent home until they at least can pee, with some assistance if needed.   Has the vet checked him out to make sure there are no underlying issues?

Also- what meds is he on?  The pain meds can make pups groggy and not want to walk, and some get loopy on the meds. 

Does he show any interest in food or water?

Do you have someone to help you lift him and try to get him to balance using a sling?

Sorry for all the questions- but those are the things that come to mind immediately.  Hopefully some of our other big dog people will chime in with ideas, my tripawd was a little pug.


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: 29
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10 October 2015 - 8:40 pm
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Thank you for your reply. 😊 My big guy’s name is Major. To answer your questions: he has been home for 30 hours. He has neither pooped nor peed in this time. As far as I am aware he has not pooped since the surgery. He had no appetite until today, and he only ate a few mouthfuls of food at the hospital. He ate lightly today, but not too bad for him. He has passed gas just a bit earlier today, so I am hopeful that something is “brewing”. When I went to pick him up, the vet had me walk him around in his harness. It was a hard go, and mostly me doing the walking, but he did pee right there, and even assumed his pee pose, which for him is kind of a semi-squat, so I felt things would be OK. He has been drinking, but all drink and food has to be brought to him. He can not get up, or walk, or stand by himself in order to help himself. He has a Fentanyl patch, which is supposed to come off. He was on Rimadyl, but I called the vet today, because I felt he was feeling discomfort, so he was switched to Gabapentin. And as far as help, I’m pretty much alone. 😕. My husband works very long hours, with a long commute, and on top of that he was recently injured, so his help is very limited.  I will try to express Major’s bladder later tonight. Not that I know how to do it, but I will try my best. Hope I covered everything. Again, thank you for your reply!

Durham, NC
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10 October 2015 - 9:23 pm
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My dog was so doped up right after surgery that she relieved herself while lying in her “crib” (crate with the top off) her first night home. Fortunately, I’d put several puppy pads under her, so was able to clean up pretty easily.

It sounds like you’ve been in touch with the vet, so that is good. If s/he is not concerned, then I would say trust the expert. With a dog of Major’s size, I imagine it takes a LOT of water to stay hydrated, so he may be using up everything he takes in. My Izzy was about a 55 pounder for most of her life (she’s only weighing in around 48 these days … one less leg and all …) so her food and water needs are totally different. I’ve heard those fentanyl patches are pretty heavy hitters, so that could account for the lethargy.

I know we’ve got some folks on here who went through amputation with BIG ole pups like yours, so hopefully they will have some valuable feedback as well.

Keep us posted!

Amy (Izzys’ mom)

Momma to the world's most beautiful American Bulldog, Izzy!! Lost her front leg to OSA 9/18/15. Diagnosed w MCT in June 2016. Celebrated her 1 year ampuversary with knee surgery on 9/18/16! MCT recurrence in Dec 2016. Happy & hungry til nearly 14, earning her wings on 7/31/17.

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10 October 2015 - 9:55 pm
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I was going to say just wait for Sally to chime in on this. Then I noticed she is browsing the page now. You will get a TON of help from her!

Kathi and the Turbotail April Angel…and the Labradork

Murphy is a five year old Lab/Chessie cross. He was hit by a car on 10/29/12 and became a Tripawd on 11/24/12. On 2/5/13, he had a total hip replacement on his remaining back leg. He has absolutely no idea that he has only three legs!

UPDATE: Murphy lived his life to the fullest, right up until an aggressive bone lesion took him across the Rainbow Bridge on April 9, 2015 and he gained his membership in the April Angels. Run free, my love. You deserve it!

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10 October 2015 - 10:01 pm
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I would say that Major needs more pain meds!

Murphy came home on Tramadol, Rimadyl & Gabapentin.  He took those for 2 weeks and was weaned off.  You can try an ice pack on the incision a couple times a day, that helps with swelling and will sort of numb the site a little bit.  Also massage around the area to help absorb the extra fluid.

Murphy didn’t eat much at all for awhile.  I cooked rice and poured chicken broth on it, then added chicken to it.  He took his meds with peanut butter.

Yes, Sally will be giving you gobs of info right about now laughing


Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs



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10 October 2015 - 10:34 pm
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Okay…deep breaths….really…take some deep breaths…B R E A T H E…..B R E A T H E…

It is not unheard of at all for dogs to take awhile to get their mobility figured out!! The patch can definitely mes with a doggy balance. Big dogs often take longer to figure out how to get up and to walk. Again, not unheard of at all.

We just had a big Mastiff join us, Big Louie, and it took him days and days before he could take more than a few steps and he needed help getting up. He’s doing very well now! If I can find his posts I’ll give you the links.

Almost all dogs here come h o me with Tamadol, Gabapentin, Rimadyl and an antibiotic. I would DEFINITELY talked to yiur vet about giving Major more pain meds now that the patch is coming off. Rimadyl does very lottle to manage pain for major surgery. Gabapentin is good for pain and, again, quite often used in conjunction with Tramadol. The meds need to be given on a consistent basis so the pain never gets ahead start.

Pain can definitely make a dog just want to lay down and not move.

Before trying to get Major up from a laying position, try gentle massage and gentle stretching. In fact, do that a lot if you can.

As odd as it may seem, some dogs basically freeze up when you try and help them walk. If possible, once you get Major standing up, try and step away and see if he takes a few steps. One o e of our members found out they had to take off their dog’ surgery wrap sweater because he wouldn’t pee with it on him!

It’s normal for dogs not to want to eat much. My Happy Hannah never missed a meal, but I had tonout a scoop of ice cream in her water to drink. And I probably feed her in bed and brought her water for the first two weeks!

I KNOW this recovery business is scary and being patient is almost impossible. Major WILL walk…slowly but surely.

You do need to make sure he pees though. Of everything you’ve said, that would be the only area I woukd be concerned about. If you can’t express his bladder yourself, yoy may have to take him to the vet to do it. As far as not pooping, that happens a lot. You might try giving him a few tablespoons of organic natural pumpkin to help him poop.

Update us whe you can AND post some pics when you can.. We love pictures around here!

Remember…B R E A T H E……B R E A T H E…..Stay connected…we are here to help, okay?


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

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11 October 2015 - 3:57 am
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Hi MajorsMom!

Welcome to the club nobody wants to join. I looked at your profile picture and Major looks like he’s got lovely badger markings. We were the pawrents of Ellie, a Pyr mix who lost her rear leg to OSA and current pawrents of Toby, another Pyr mix who we adopted after we lost Ellie. So we love Pyrs, especially the big boys!

Ellie was about 100lbs pre-amp (90lbs post) and like many of the big guys she had a tough couple of weeks post amp. She didn’t tolerate Tramadol, wouldn’t eat and basically seemed like she would never be able to move more than a few hops at a time before collapsing in exhaustion. So I “get it”. If you can find posts from Louie’s Mom (a huge Mastiff), I’m pretty sure he also had a hard time just getting up after the surgery too. But he’s doing well now. So yes, it can take time for the big guys, especially with a front amputation. Four days is not long after amputation, he’s probably still wondering what hit him. So don’t give up yet—it does get better!

I wouldn’t worry about the “no poo” situation since the meds are constipating and he has probably eaten lightly for the few days around surgery. Keeping him hydrated is really important though, so even if he isn’t getting up, having water w/in reach for him is important. Pain control is also job 1, so it is good your vet is aware and willing to prescribe meds if needed. You didn’t mention Tramadol, which many dogs are on. Some tolerate it, some don’t. Ellie really started to do better once we took her off Tramadol and gave her Cerenia (anti-nausea) + subcutaneous fluids.

I’m not sure what your housing situation is—for us, we were able to get Ellie into the backyard where she spent most of her post-amp days just lying on the patio surveying her property in typical Pyr fashion. But believe me, she did mostly just lie there for the first couple of weeks. We had the same thoughts as you probably….why isn’t she getting better faster? But she did get better.

One last thing—despite everything right now, you did make the right decision for Major. OSA is painful, more painful than we can probably imagine. Amputation at least relieves the pain and the risk of a pathological fracture. Sure, amputation is no picnic (as you’ve discovered) but you’ve made your decision to amputate for all the right reasons.

Denise, Bill and Angel Ellie.

Active 10+ Pyr mix suddenly came up lame with ACL tear in left rear leg. Scheduled for a TPLO but final pre-op x-rays indicated a small suspicious area, possibly OSA, which could have caused the ACL tear. Surgeon opened the knee for TPLO but found soft bone. Biopsy came back positive for OSA. Became a Tripawd 9/18/14. Carbo6 with Cerenia and Fluids. Pain free and living in the moment. Crossed the Bridge on 7/12/15 after probable spread of cancer to her cervical spine. A whole lifetime of memories squeezed into 10 months. Here's her story: Eloise

The Rainbow Bridge

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11 October 2015 - 7:50 am
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We totally understand where you’re coming from, I’d be a mess too if I felt like I was totally on my own. I know you’ve gotten some great insight here from others who said exactly what I was thinking, and I hope you were able to help Major urinate. If he doesn’t, please take him to the vet. I’ve been told that if a dog hasn’t urinated within 12 hours and he’s unable to do so with a person’s help, it’s time for the vet to intervene.

Also, if your vet is not giving you much guidance, is there a way you can get a mobile vet to come out and take a look? It would ease your worries to have another opinion, plus you wouldn’t have to take Major into the car by yourself either. If you feel like your vet is not being of much help, get a referral to another one who is. If you need help finding one let us know OK?

A LOT of folks feel like they made a horrible decision during the first week or two, just take a look at Sally’s first post and you’ll see how far she came. Dogs are so resilient and we never realize it until we look back on this and see how scared we were, but how well they did.

Hang in there, we’ll be here to help.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

Forum Posts: 29
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11 October 2015 - 10:13 am
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Thank you so much Everyone, for your words of support. You have no idea how timely all this is for me!

I had decided to take Major back to the vet first thing this morning, because I just could not get him to pee, and because clearly he was in pain.

My plan was to have his bladder expressed, and get some Tramadol, but then I ended up leaving Major in medical boarding at least overnight.

I actually had a horrible experience at the vet today. My usual vet that I have been going to for 30 years, was off today, so I was seen by this horrible woman. I have no idea if this was her idea of “tough love”, or if I am reading too much into things she said, but to me it sounded like she was implying that I made a horrible decision, and was not taking good enough care of Major that’s why he is not progressing fast enough, not peeing and not pooping. She basically said that “dogs like Major are just not good candidates for this sort of surgery”, and that since my husband and I both have disabilities, we are not caring correctly for him.

i am just so angry at this person!  As if I haven’t been second guessing myself this entire time!

But enough of venting for now. I have to go drop off Major’s meds. Thanks for listening!

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11 October 2015 - 11:15 am
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Major’s mom,

You don’t need to listen to that crap from this horrible vet. Please take a deep breath and let her words go. Repeat to yourself that you are a fabulous caregiver for Major. It’s obvious to me that you are do a great job by asking for advice and taking him in to deal with the pain. Your vet who knows Major would only have done this surgery if he/she believed Major was a good candidate for recovery.

Please let the negative words go and focus on Major’s recovery, no matter how slow it is. Rejoice in each an every moment where you see a difference, be it Major comfortably sleeping, peeing (even in bed), eating a small amount, a little wag of the tail. Keep talking to Major and tell him why this has happened, that he will improve, encourage him.

Please ask friends, family, neighbours for help. I live alone and went through a difficult time with my cat Mona when I got her home. Her vet actually took her to his house for the first night of recovery and when I picked her up she was quiet, sweet and purring. When I got her home she was racing around the house. This went on for days – either zonked out sleeping and cuddling with me or racing around the house and peeing anywhere but the litter box. After a few days she escaped from the house and was gone over 24 hours. I let my friends, coworkers and neighbours know and the help that poured in warmed my heart.

We all love our pets and want them to be pain free – that is why we amputate. I hope Major comes home soon.

Kerren and Tripawd Mona

Schofield, WI
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11 October 2015 - 11:19 am
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After reading your last post I had to chime in here.  Our original vet also told us our 110# German Shepherd Max probably wouldn’t do well with surgery.  We took him to UW Madison for a second opinion and were told that wasn’t true.  We ended up traveling 90 miles to have the surgery done at a highly recommended Animal Referral Hospital.  It sounds to me like Major is in pain.  Max too was discharged with Rimadyl, Gabapentin, Tramadol and an antibiotic.  Max didn’t hop right up either.  The first couple days it was like he thought we took both his back legs off.  He wouldn’t help at all and couldn’t stand by himself either.  It was slow gains at first.  Sitting up switching sides and then eventually standing and hopping.  But he did get it eventually.  Once the hospital drugs wore off after a couple of days each day saw some improvement.  We did have to use our local vet for blood tests for chemo and an incision issue and the vet who told us he wouldn’t do well had to eat her words and say wow he is getting around good isn’t he?  You are being a wonderful advocate for Major!  The first few days I cou

l couldn’t take Max out myself (it took two of us) so you are ahead of where I was if you are getting Major out by yourself.  It will get better once you have the meds you need to get him out of pain.  It’s a real fine line of being out of pain or being overmedicated and a juggling act for sure.  We also delivered Max’s food and water to him for the first two weeks.  There were times we hand fed him.  Hey whatever works right?  Please don’t let this vet make you doubt your decision any more than you are.  We’ve all been there and I doubt any of us have not questioned our decision to amputate.  You took Major out of the pain of walking on a extremely painful limb with the threat of fracture.  The pain of the amputation will get better everyday and he will get up and walk when he’s ready.  One thing we did notice with Max as Sally said is he fought us “helping” him.  So once he could stand on his own we let him walk himself with us right there to grab the harness if he looked like he was going down.  You are doing a wonderful job with Major.  As I said in one of my earlier posts Max will have to learn to stand before he can walk.  One thing at a time right?  This journey is NOT an easy one.  You are doing fine!  We are all here to help you.  We know what you’re feeling.  You are NOT alone. By the way Max is now almost six weeks post surgery & going for his second chemo this week.  He’s back to being our old Max and doing great. 

Linda, Bob & Max

Los Angeles, CA
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11 October 2015 - 12:54 pm
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i am just now catching up with this and see you have gotten some great advice… I didn’t have a larger dog so I can’t weigh in BUT I wanted to offer you some support and send you hugs!!! I was also a “single parent” and it is HARD!!!

So sending you lots of love and hugs!!!

alison with spirit shelby in her heart

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

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11 October 2015 - 1:22 pm
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Please don’t let one vet’s thoughtless words burden you! She shouldn’t have said it. So try to let it go. I agree totally that your long-time vet would not have done this surgery if he didn’t feel Major was a good candidate. 

I know it seems overwhelming right now but we’re all on your side. Hopefully you’re vet will be able to take over Major’s care and you can figure out the best way to help Major over the initial hump. 

Denise, Bill and Angel Ellie.

Active 10+ Pyr mix suddenly came up lame with ACL tear in left rear leg. Scheduled for a TPLO but final pre-op x-rays indicated a small suspicious area, possibly OSA, which could have caused the ACL tear. Surgeon opened the knee for TPLO but found soft bone. Biopsy came back positive for OSA. Became a Tripawd 9/18/14. Carbo6 with Cerenia and Fluids. Pain free and living in the moment. Crossed the Bridge on 7/12/15 after probable spread of cancer to her cervical spine. A whole lifetime of memories squeezed into 10 months. Here's her story: Eloise

The Rainbow Bridge

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11 October 2015 - 3:10 pm
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Wow I’m really sorry you had to endure that. It makes me cringe to hear about old-school vets who think like that, it’s so not true anymore and that’s exactly why we exist, to get rid of those automatic assumptions. Each dog is different, nobody can’t make a blanket statement like that unless they KNOW the dog and their history. Your dog is NOT the biggest dog we’ve ever had here, not by a long shot, and if your own vet thought Major was a good candidate for surgery, well then he and that other vet need to have a talk about the conflicting information they are giving their clients. Not good. Promise us you’ll let your vet know what happened OK?

And you ARE indeed a good parent, you came here to look for help and guidance and that’s what matters. Please don’t hesitate to call our Helpline if you want to talk OK? 844-TRIPAWD.

I’m glad Major is getting some TLC. When you see your vet, be sure to ask:

what now? What is the plan for getting him mobile and moving around, and managing any pain?

If your vet doesn’t have a good answer or is at a loss, get a referral to a veterinary rehabilitation specialist. If they don’t know of one, go to this directory. Our Tripawds Foundation has a program where we will pay for your first consult, see this post for details.

Hugs, hugs and more hugs, you are not alone in this, promise.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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