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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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Needing support - 7 y/o male Samoyed with nerve injury
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Forum Posts: 1
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28 October 2016
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29 October 2016 - 2:19 pm
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Hi future friends,

I’m so happy I found this website and Facebook page. I’m feeling really overwhelmed and sad at the moment because my best friend, Finn, had a pretty severe tumble last Sunday resulting in nerve damage and a floppy front left leg. He can’t walk on it, and at first the paw was flopped backwards (i.e. top of foot dragging on the ground) but now he holds it up at the shoulder causing his arm to become twitchy and painful. The paw isn’t on the ground anymore, and the leg seems straighter. Here’s how we got here:

Finn was out at the marsh, his favourite place in the whole world. It’s a nature preserve and there’s a field station owned by a small university here in eastern Canada. We lived there for a cumulative 9 months during my master’s work on wetlands, and Finn was my field assistant. He’s been here hundreds of time, but this time someone left a metal grate on the ground just behind the house. We think he ran over it, getting his leg stuck at high speed. We aren’t sure if the nerve tore, or if it was cut just behind his accessory pad where there is a deep laceration that needed seven stitches.

Vet #1 who treated him is not our usual vet, but said that if the nerve doesn’t regrow he will need amputation. He sent us home with some antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, opioid painkillers, and a neurological sedative after his stitches were put in. They also did an x-ray and found there there are no broken bones. Fast forward 4 days, where we go to Vet #2 in our home town- this is where the conversation got grim because he mentioned that euthanasia might need to be a possibility. Finn is a male samoyed, 7 years old and 52 lbs, and this vet seems to think that his quality of life will suffer with a front leg amputation. Naturally, this was very upsetting!!

So here I am now at my kitchen table reaching out to all of you. I just need some stories of success, and encouragement. Also, any advice on amputation. I don’t want to be selfish and keep him around just for my sake if he’s in pain, but I also feel like euthanizing an otherwise perfectly healthy dog is crazy. Photos here:


Thank you so much,

Christine & Finnegan Douglas

The Rainbow Bridge

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29 October 2016 - 3:53 pm
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We are so glad you found us! I’ll have more to say in a bit and others will chime in too, but I’m on my phone now so I’ll comment when I’m on my laptop. Thanks for your patience!

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

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29 October 2016 - 4:24 pm
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Hi and welcome.

I’m sorry about Finn’s accident and injury.

Clearly vet #2 has not had much experience with Tripawds! If Finn is otherwise healthy then I would think he is a fine candidate for amputation.  He sounds like he is healthy and has lots of life left to live.

Best case would be that the injury would heal of course, but if it doesn’t then I think you need to find another vet.  I have seen all sizes of Tripawds here, and met many in person. For the most part Tripawds can get back to living pretty much the same life after they heal from the surgery. 

For inspirational front amp stories you need to read about Bart. Bart lost a front leg to cancer but that didn’t stop him from becoming an AKC Champion!

You might also look at some Tripawd Videos in the Gallery or Tune to the Tripawds YouTube Channel to see Tripawds living life to the fullest.

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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29 October 2016 - 5:50 pm
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Most dogs do just fine on 3!  My Otis was 106 pounds and lost his front leg to cancer.  He couldn’t take long walks, but he could chase cats and squirrels, counter surf, do stairs, and jump up on the bed and sofa.  Otis had mild arthritis in his hips, but that didn’t cause major problems.  If Finn is otherwise healthy and was active before his injury, then there is no reason to believe that he won’t have a good quality of life.  Remember that many family vets don’t do many amputations.  You would be best off consulting with a surgeon who has experience in this area.

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

Schofield, WI
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29 October 2016 - 6:17 pm
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Grr.  Vets like #2 just blow me away.  There would be no need to euthanize a healthy 7 year old dog!  He’s not big at 52 pounds and should have many more years ahead of him whether he has 3 legs or 4.  Hopefully and of course best case scenario would be if the damage could heal but if that turns out not to be the case take that stunningly beautiful boy to a board certified surgeon for a consult.   I’d not be going back to vet # 2 at all.  Sorry I don’t want to bad mouth your vet but I just couldn’t have confidence in one that wants to put down my healthy dog when there are options out there.  Please keep us posted on your beautiful boy and let us know if we can help in any way.  Hugs!

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29 October 2016 - 6:40 pm
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I swear you would think in this day and age vets would be up to date on latest treatments. But I’m on my third vet because of missed diagnoses so I guess I know how that goes. My Maggie was only 50 lbs and did great on 3 legs. Hopefully his leg will heal and you won’t even have to worry about amputation. But if he does need it I bet he will be fine and unlike many dogs and cats on this site he is not dealing with cancer. I’m with Linda I wouldn’t go back to that vet. He is super cute. Good luck and keep us informed.

Penny and her Gang

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29 October 2016 - 7:46 pm
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First off welcome.  Finn is beautiful.  I had Samoyeds when I was growing up used to show them.  He is a beautiful dog.  Wow, I can’t believe your vet.  If he is healthy 52 pounds is nothing.  Sassy was a 138 pound rottie and did wonderful as an amputee (due to cancer damned disease). 

I hope his leg heals and he doesn’t need the amputation but if he would I think he would get a long fine.  I would find another vet.  No reason to put down a healthy dog even if he has 3 legs.  That is nuts.


Michelle & Angel Sassy


Sassy is a proud member of the Winter Warriors. Live long, & strong Winter Warriors.
07/26/2006 - Sassy earned her wings 08/20/2013

05/04/2006 -  Bosch, Sassy's pal, earned his wings 03/29/19  fought cancer for 4 months.

"You aren't doing it TO her, you are doing it FOR her. Give her a chance at life."

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30 October 2016 - 10:08 am
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I’m so happy that you found your way over here from the Facebook page. As you can see, the support here is so great. In one way or another, we have all been in your shoes. We have also needed to make the decisions that you are facing. I would definitely agree that you need an opinion from a board certified surgeon who has lots of experience with amputations and with our three legged best friends.

Has anyone suggested that a prosthesis might be possible if the nerve damage is limited to Finn’s lower leg? Or do they think that the damage is too far up?

As for a vet thinking that a dog’s quality of life would be impaired by amputation, I would point him to the video of our Murphy who not only had a rear leg amp, but a total hip replacement on the other side. He was truly the happiest dog in the world.

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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30 October 2016 - 10:24 am
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Just Wow!

Murphy is about 50lbs and was 7 years old when he had his right front leg amputated due to cancer.  He has done very well on 3 legs.  We have a ranch-style house, so stairs aren’t an issue, although he does go down in the basement when he goes to my groomers and he goes down & up very well.  Sometimes too well!  lol  When we made the decision to amputate it was because our only other choice soon would have been euthanasia.  Since he was perfectly healthy aside from his stupid leg, we decided to give him the best chance at a pain-free life.  3 1/2 years later he’s still running around. 

Since Finn’s surgery would be due to an injury and not cancer, you could have many years with him still.  I would get an opinion from an orthopedic surgeon.  Nerves can regenerate, but they take a long time.

If you do go ahead with surgery, Finn will have a wonderful life.  You will want to get him a harness.  Check out the gear page – many of us like the Webmaster Ruffwear harness , it now has the brush guard to help prevent slipping for front leg amputees.  The handle on the top is great for helping them in & out of the car.  I can lift Murphy with just 1 hand.

Here is a video from this summer of Murphy & one of our other dogs, Cassie.  A couple of other dogs were in the park behind our yard & they were running the fence.  You’ll notice that Murphy can run the fence just as well as Cassie can.  Murphy is now 10 1/2 years old.


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  


London, UK

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31 October 2016 - 1:15 am
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No 2 vet is talking nonsense. Bit of a sore point for me, I confess, as I was categorically told that amputation was not an option for my Meg, because she has elbow dysplasia and arthritis in her remaining leg. I was told this by a leading orthopaedic surgeon who said the choice was extortionately expensive salvage surgery (a total elbow replacement) or euthanasia. I went for the surgery. It all went wrong and she ended up (after further operations and almost a year spent trying to save it) losing the leg in any case. She is now very nearly eight months post amp and doing extremely well. She has always been a highly active dog, and though she doesn’t do the three hours a day she used to, she still leads an active life chasing hares and squirrels and swimming every day. If you’d like to see her in action click the link to my blog, below, then check under ‘my movies’. 

I came to this site, as you are doing, when euthanasia seemed to be Megs only remaining option. I’m so pleased I found it and that I listened to the many people who assured me amputation was possible for her. If I hadn’t she wouldn’t be here now. With encouragement from people here, I sought a second opinion and a third. There may be other treatment options for Finn, I obviously don’t know, but I certainly do know that losing a leg is no reason to lose a dog. A quality pain free life in three legs is entirely achievable. 

Sending all best wishes to you both,

Meg and Clare (and Elsie Pie) xxx

Meg, Mutt, aged around 11, adopted 31/12/2009. Sudden explosive right elbow fracture 06/12 (caused by IOHC), diagnosed with End Stage Arthritis 03/15, Total Elbow Replacement 08/15, problems with healing leading to skin graft & skin flap surgery, Chronic Infection leading to implant breakdown. Became a Tripawd 9th March 2016. 
Lives with Mum, Clare, watched over by Angel Pie and Angel Billie
My life as a MEG-A-STAR 

The Rainbow Bridge

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31 October 2016 - 11:43 am
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Thank you for your wise words Clare, your sweet Meg’s story is so incredibly helpful and inspirational.

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

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6 November 2016 - 5:46 pm
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Hi Christine and Finn💗🐶

I just saw this thread so joining in a bit late.

Just wanted to say my girl Eurydice went through a front leg amputation 6 months ago due to cancer and she is doing great !

She was 77kg at the time of surgery but I still went for it and have zero regrets.

Sending you hugs and cuddles 😘😘🐾🐶💞

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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