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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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Large dog facing front leg amputation
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Forum Posts: 1
Member Since:
20 April 2018
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2 May 2018 - 11:24 pm
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Hi everyone, 

This is my first post on this board. My American Bulldog Chopper was diagnosed 2 weeks ago with Osteosarcoma in his left front radial distal. He is 6 years old, had no symptoms and I just happened to notice a very small bump on his leg. Since his diagnoses we’ve seen an oncologist and orthopedic surgeon (who did Chopp’s TPLO last year). I did not think he’d be an amputation candidate because of a suspected tear in his non-TPLO leg. After his orthopedic exam, his surgeon said he thought he was a candidate and if he does blow the other leg he can always do another TPLO. 

Chopp is a very big, broad-chested dog weighing 125 although we’re trying to get some weight off. He’s been started on oral chemo and is scheduled for amputation on the 14th of May. I’ve posted on a couple other boards about a large breed with front leg amputation but I’m eager to hear from as many people as possible on their experience. For whatever reason, I can’t get my head around it. Every time I start to feel comfortable, I run into someone who is horrified and says a large breed, front heavy dog will not do well. He’s my soul dog, my heart. I want him to have the best possible life. Amputation was a family decision with my husband (also an amputee) and my daughter gung ho as they feel it’s the best possible chance for him. I can’t get there. I’m moving forward but I just can’t to where they are mentally. This is all moving so fast and I’m completely devastated. Any input is greatly appreciated. 

Thanks so much 

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 26347
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25 April 2007
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3 May 2018 - 11:09 am
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Hello Chopper and family, welcome to the club nopawdy wants to join. We are so glad you found us and hope that we can help you feel better about the upcoming surgery. 

It sounds like you are working with a great vet team, Chopper is good hands. They would not suggest amputation unless he wasn’t a good candidate. Yes, losing weight will the best thing for him, and you can make that happen in the next couple of weeks. Did the vets instruct you on the best ways to reduce his food? More exercise probably isn’t a good option right now since you want to be careful with that bum leg. 

Regarding his size….125 isn’t the biggest dog we’ve ever seen here. We’ve had Danes, Saint Bernards and Mastiffs who were much larger. Check out our gallery and videos, and I can point you to some stories about American Bulldogs that will inspire you:

Izzy was an American Bulldog who did great on three for a long, long time! Her profile is here and her forum posts are here and her blog is here.

Bruiser Bruno also did great!

And Sasha was instrumental in the development of the new osteosarcoma vaccine!

Leroy and Bender are also great stories about English Bulldogs. Smaller than Chopper, but still deep chested.

I hope this helps. Be sure to check out Jerry’s Required Reading List too OK?


Every time I start to feel comfortable, I run into someone who is horrified and says a large breed, front heavy dog will not do well.

They don’t know if they’ve never been in your shoes, and they don’t know Chopper like you and your vets. This is old school thinking. Ignore them. We have talked to some of the world’s greatest veterinary orthopedic surgeons who say that neither age nor size should be a dealbreaker when it comes to amputation, as long as the dog is otherwise healthy. Sounds like Chopper sure is.

And tell us more, what are your other worries and fears about Chopper on three legs? How can we help address those concerns? 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 18361
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3 May 2018 - 11:29 am
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Sorry you find uourself here, but it is absolutely  THE best place for support amd information!  And goodness knows, we understand  the stress of making this kind of decision!!  I went back and forth for weeks (had not found this site andnit was just myself and my dogs)!  I cried non-stop!   Once I FINALLY  set the surgery up, I canceled  because I was soooooo scared!!!

First of all, let me address the well meaning friends.  We’ve all faced similar…er….”feedback”!  Of course it sounds “shocking”to them!  It’s  shocking to each Of us when we first hear the word amputation!   I remember the first time my Vet used the word I said absolutely  not!!!    Then I did my research, talked to the Specialist, and the reetn is history 

You’ve done your research, your friends haven’t.  You’ve  spoken with the Specialist, your friends haven’t.   You know the necessity  of this “forced choice decision”  if you are to give Chpper a chance at a pain free quality  life,  your friends don’t.    I learned very quickly  not to discussing with just anyone,!  I merely said I was pursuing  a treatment plan that wiill help her happily live her life to the fullest !.

 Now,as far as BIG dogs.  My Happy Hannah weighed in at  a fluffy 125 lbs.   EURYDICE, a Great Dane, Atlas a Great Dane  and Tassie a Mastiff, all weighed in well over 170 lbs, up to 200 lbs.  They were all front leggers and managed  beautifully. 

Sure, recovery is no picnic.   As your husband can tell you, it is MAJOR SURGERY !  Sometimes larger dogs do take several days to start being a bit more steady on their feet.  They’re  drugged and a bit woozy!   Seceral face plants are expected.

Check out our Tripawds Video and Loving Life On Three Legs download and other Tripawds e-books That will get you started

Ask any questions that come to mind and we’ll answer answer best we can.

Just wanted to drop in quickly. to let you know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!   STAT CONNECTED!   WE ARE RIGHT BY UOUR SIDE THE WHOLE WAY!!


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie 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!

Green Bay, WI

Forum Posts: 1005
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4 May 2018 - 11:17 am
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Hello, and welcome! Our Dobe, Nitro, wasn’t as heavy as chopper (about 88lbs at amp time), but was still a deep chested big dog. Also a front amp, he really well – after a rough 2 week recovery period. We figured out he needed chiropractic adjustments to help him deal with his new gait, and after that, he rocked life on 3 for over 3 years. 

As for the negative nellies….I stayed away from them (and that included my own mother) for months after the surgery. It was hard enough to deal with without “well meaning” friends and family members making it harder. The journey is for sure a roller coaster, from start to finish, but we have zero regrets. There are great tips here from people who have experienced everything you can imagine. The best advice I got was to get a harness – we loved the Ruffwear Harness by Webmaster. It does slip a little with a front legger, but still is very effective. We put it on him from the minute we picked him up at the vet (with a t-shirt under it); it didn’t interfere with his staples, and was literally a life saver. Also, remember a positive attitude is everything; Chopper will pick up on all your emotions and feed off them. When I needed to cry, (which was often), I went outside by myself until I was under control. Good luck as you move forward, and keep us posted.

Paula and Warrior Angel Nitro

Nitro 11 1/2  yr old Doberman; right front amp June 2014. Had 6 doses carboplatin, followed by metronomic therapy. Rocked it on 3 legs for over 3 years! My Warrior beat cancer, but couldn't beat old age. He crossed the Bridge peacefully on July 25, 2017, with dignity and on his terms.  Follow his blog entitled "Doberman's journey"

"Be good, mama loves you" free my beautiful Warrior

Forum Posts: 6644
Member Since:
21 May 2016
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5 May 2018 - 12:18 pm
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Hi Chopper and family 🐾💗

Very sorry you have to join us but we’ve all been in your shoes so we totally understand what you are going through …

There are lots of people out there who find it very difficult to wrap their heads around the idea of amputation and, in truth, it is very, very hard to accept we have to do it. 

But this is the only way to stop the pain, and that sort of pain can escalate out of control at enormous speed.

Besides, without amputation, there its always a very high risk of a pathological fracture (which will never heal) due to the the bone becoming very frail.

We go ahead with surgery, because we love our babies and want the best for them, our decision is based in love so it is the right decision.

I, for one, had lots of doubts as to whether my baby Eurydice would be able to have a normal life after surgery.

She weighed 170lb and was truly huge.

To make things worse, it was her right front leg which needed removing.

Recovery was very, very challenging but after stitches came out we got fantastic progress every single day.

My baby Eurydice had a truly marvellous, happy, exciting life and she mastered the art of living on three legs to a T.

I am including the link to some of our travels and hope this will reassure you big breeds’ front leg amputation is ok!

The ones who question you should have a look too, to understand what does happen in reality and how happy our babies can live on three.

We’ll be here for you and Chopper, so do not hesitate to ask any questions, big or small.

Sending you a big hug and tons of cuddles to your baby 😘🐮💫✨🌟🌹


Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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