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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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Nearly 12 yo Cocker Spaniel
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Member Since:
3 April 2022
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3 April 2022 - 1:37 pm
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My name is Sinead and my beautiful 12 yo cocker Spaniel Jessie has hard tumours in her right hind leg along with the nerve endings in her pads dying away. Seeing the vet tomorrow to get tests and bloods done. I am struggling to decide whether I should go ahead with amputation if she gets all clear on those tests. I'm really more concerned as she is an older dog but she is in good health and form, quite active overall. I am not sure about how hard of a recovery she will have and whether it's the right thing to do to her at her age. I'm also scared that it will not workout and she will not thrive after having her leg removed. If anyone has insight into having an older dogs leg removed and your thoughts or things you experienced could you let me know?

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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3 April 2022 - 1:59 pm
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry you had to find us here, but this is a great place to be when facing these tough decisions.

First off- age is just a number, it is much more important how otherwise healthy Jessie is, does she have any underlying issues?  What does your vet think about her on three? Do you think she has life left to live?  What is the prognosis without amputation?

We've had lots of more 'mature' pups and kitties do just fine with amputation.  Look though the stories here in this forum, Size and Age Matters,  for inspiration.  What we often see here is that the older dogs take a little longer to get their sea legs, not always though. On average dogs are healed up and back to themselves in 2 or 3 weeks.

When my Pug Maggie had her rear leg amputated she took her time getting used to her new normal (she was only 7.5 years old).  It took 6 weeks before she would play with me again- and I spent pretty much every minute of those 6 weeks worrying that I had made a terrible decision.  But she did come back to herself- on her own schedule, she hopped happily through life for almost 4 more years.  I didn't realize it at the time but by choosing amputation I had given her a chance for more time with me.

No matter what path you choose we are here to help and support you.

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

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3 April 2022
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3 April 2022 - 3:08 pm
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Hi Karen, 

I was told that she more than likely has arthritis in her rear leg where the tumours are. My vet told me that they are willing to allow her have 3 if her bloods and xrays are all good. She did say she is an older dog so it's a big consideration. I do think she has life left in her. Even through all this she keeps trying to keep up with my other dogs and chase birdies in the garden. 

Prognosis without amputation would be to put her to sleep as she has sores and nerve endings are dying in her leg. She has pain in the leg too so I couldn't leave her with it like that. 

I appreciate your reply and hearing of your experience. It helps to consider that maybe it would work out and eliminate the pain she is in. And to know maybe she would take longer to recover because of her age. 

Thank you. 

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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3 April 2022 - 3:27 pm
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Hi Sinead. I'm in the Tripawds Chat right now if you want to talk. Back in a sec with some thoughts...

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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3 April 2022 - 3:42 pm
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I'm sorry you are facing this situation. It's a tough one, especially when a senior dog is concerned. I can't blame you for worrying. I would too. But...we see many senior dogs do well after surgery. They go on to do what they love and get pain-free quality time with their favorite people. As Karen said, they can take a little longer to recover and get their sea legs, but the majority will get there in time (usually about 2 weeks behind a younger dog, from what we see here). 

A good recovery always starts with proactive pain management . When pain control starts before surgery (usually a prescription of Gabapentin), it makes the post-amputation pain much easier to control. 

Also, consider working with a canine rehabilitation therapist. Sounds like Jessie is a spunky gal who can use some coaching so she doesn't overdo things. The best part is the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit !

The majority of senior dogs do well. Like any surgery, there are risks. Occasionally, rarely, a dog does not bounce back. But that can happen at any age so try not to let it overwhelm you at this point. See what your vet says tomorrow. Consider a second opinion by an oncologist too if your vet is not one. And in the meantime check out our Tripawds Senior Dog profiles for some examples of happy older dogs on three legs.

Keep us posted!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
3 April 2022
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5 April 2022 - 4:03 am
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Hi guys,

Jessie had her surgery yesterday and is doing so well. She honestly has amazed me at how she is doing. She got up only 5 hours after her surgery and was walking around with no harness. I just stood behind her to make sure she wouldn't fall. She used the bathroom with no assistance either. I'm honestly shocked at how adaptive she is already. I already know I made the best decision for her because she is such a strong and stubborn doggy that she will persist in adapting to her new way of living. Thank you all so much for your advice and for being a safe space to voice concerns. It really helped me to make the decision. 

Thank you,


On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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5 April 2022 - 11:12 am
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Oh that's wonderful she is doing well! Yes it is so surprising how they just bounce back so quickly. I thought the same thing when our Jerry hopped over to us less than 24 hours after his surgery. 

Don't be too surprised if she slows down in the next few weeks. Sometimes it can feel like a setback but we see that here all the time. Usually it's the dog's body catching up with the dog's brain that wants to do everything now now now! In time the two come to an agreement 😉

Is she home now? Keep us posted! 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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5 April 2022 - 4:45 pm
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Catching up on yoir sweet Jesse jist in time to say YAY!  To hear aurgerynis over and she is doing so well is spectacular  news!!

As Jerry said, there may be a bit of a crash once all the hospital meds are out of her system a d she's relying on pain meds.

What pain meds did she come home with the dose, the frequency.   Some they need a little tweaking, just depending  on how she reacts and whether she shows pain signals or not.

Jessee  will have her sparkle back before you know it.

Oh, and YAY for potty!!


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!

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3 April 2022
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6 April 2022 - 4:32 am
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Hi guys,

She is home with me. That is good to know about her possibly slowing down in a few weeks. She has 4 different medications.

Tralieve 40mg 3 times a day

Neurontin 150mg 2 times a day

Clavaseptin 250mg 2 times a day 

Metacam dose of 15kg once a day

I have noticed she sometimes jolts up from her sleep or when just sitting down. And she did spend about an hour last night just walking back and forth in our kitchen. I think it may be a nerve thing or possibly break through pain. She did walk back and forth in our kitchen a lot before amputation as it was harder for her to lie down and sit still due to the nerve pain from them dying. It might just be something she has in her head to do now if she is feeling something.

We are doing a vet visit today so I'll make sure to tell them then about it. 

Thank you for all the kind words. It's appreciated.

Sinead & Jessie

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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6 April 2022 - 12:42 pm
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Hi Sinead,

So glad she is with you now. Her pain management is standard. The Tralieve, from what I can tell, is Tramadol, and Neruontin is Gabapentin. Clavaseptin is the antibiotic, and Metacam the anti-inflammatory. 

Yes, her pain signals sound like she is having breakthrough pain. I'm glad you're mentioning it to your vet. There is probably room to adjust the timing and dosages of the meds. Let us know what they say OK? 

We are cheering both of you on for a speedy recovery!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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