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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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New to tripods, would love suggestions
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British Columbia, Canada
Member Since:
22 April 2012
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23 April 2012 - 12:34 am
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Hi everybody! My husband and I recently adopted a 3 month old tripod who we affectionately named 'Sarge' as a play on Seargent Stubs 😉 He is a lab/collie mix and we are not sure what else, but big. He is missing his left back leg, due to a horrible case of abuse. Somebody tied a cord as tightly as they could around his leg and as a result the blood flow was cut off and the leg died 🙁 He was found wandering, dragging the rotting back leg behind him. Thankfully the infection was not yet serious and hadn't spread to his blood and the amputation went cleanly.


Sarge has now been a tripod for 12 days. He is doing fantastically - I own a pitbull and two german shepherds and they all get along wonderfully. I just have some questions and concerns as I have no experience with 'tripawds' 🙂


#1. How long a walk can Sarge go on without it being too much for him? I want to keep him active and healthy, but he tires easily and needs to sit down often.

#2. Would it be a good idea to start him on some sort of joint/glucosamine-type supplement? I worry because he is going to be a big dog, probably 100lbs easily. I know that people say to keep tripods on the slim side as a general rule to avoid as much weight and stress on the remaining leg as possible.

#3. Being that he has only had his surgery 12 days ago, should I be babying him and avoiding play with my other dogs? He wants to play SO BADLY, but being large dogs, they knock him around and I am terrified that he's going to get stepped on or something (new worried mom right here! Lol) I have heard that people say "Don't treat a tripod dog differently - they need to learn to be tough" but my heart aches for him as he is just a little guy and still learning.


Thanks for the feedback! It's much appreciated.

knoxville, tn
Member Since:
12 February 2010
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23 April 2012 - 7:26 am
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welcome to the site - such good fortune for sarge that you guys have opened your hearts and home to him.  since he's only a three month old puppy, sarge will probably do very well on three legs, sounds like he's already fitting in well with your pack.  tripawds do get tired quicker, as they are using different muscles to offset the different limb.  we were 'front leggers', so hopefully others will jump in with suggestions for rear leggers - exercise, etc. 

as for joint suppliments, we did do glucosamine, but gayle was 10 when she lost her leg, so...again, not quite the same as a puppy...what does your vet suggest??  you are right, staying slim is very important for tripawds (as it is for all beings, but especially for tripawds).  massage, is always good on the remaining leg and hip area too.  if you want to see some 'roughhousing', check out rosy's blog, she is quite the go for broke player.

looking forward to some pictures of sarge, we're sure others will jump in with suggestions, now that you are approved and can post freely. 

charon & spirit gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Portage Lake, Maine
Member Since:
8 December 2009
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23 April 2012 - 7:52 am
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Welcome to Tripawds!  And yes, I'll reiterate what Charon said..such a good fortune for Sarge for you opening up your home for him! 

My tripawd is a rear legger but much older at 12 years old now.  She was amputated at 9 years old.  It has been said by the owners of that they have seen that rear leggers take longer time to get stronger than front leg amputees after surgery.  I can say that was true for my dog.  Walks are definitely shorter.  I do have Maggie on a joint product but she's been on a joint product for many, many years as a preventative as she used to compete in agility.  Personally, I think I would put your dog on one but I'm no vet.

I work my dog on PT equipment at least 3 times per week for 5 minute sessions.  Here's a couple clips of her:


And here's one of Wyatt's work that I love as well!


IMO, 12 days isn't a long time and not sure I'd let him rough house just yet with the other dogs.  But that's just me...I tend to be an overprotective Mom! winker

Good luck with Sarge's tripawd-ness!

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


San Diego, CA
Member Since:
29 October 2010
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23 April 2012 - 9:18 am
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Hi and welcome to you and Sarge. So glad the poor kid found his way to you!

Our Abby was a front leg tripawd and had cancer so I don't have any advice on Q2, but as for Q1, Abby could only go for about a 20 min walk on leash. (She was also pretty young - not as young as Sarge, but 15 mo when she had her amp.) Even with only going 20 min, she would need to lie down for a bit and rest part way through. However, if I took her to our huge dog park/beach where she could go off leash, she could go for an hour easily. Tripawds need to get a little momentum going, so it is harder for them to go slow at our pace on a leash and tiring. At the beach, Abby could go her own (fast) pace, then stop and rest while I caught up, then go again. She could run like the wind. If there's somewhere where you can go off leash, that would be a great option for Sarge.

As for Q3, I can't really advice because Ab was an only-dog, so we didn't have the issue of having to curtail her play that early after her amp. But we were defintely still taking things very slowly at only 12 days out. I think we went for her first "real" walk w/ a bit of running at about 3 weeks post op. (But then, I'm a worrier/overprotective Mom too!)

All the best to Sarge. Love to see some pics!
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!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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23 April 2012 - 9:52 am
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Welcome, and thanks for joining. If you have not already done so, be sure to bookmark Jerry's Required Reading List for lots of links to great advice or consider downloading Three Legs and A Spare for answers to most of your questions.

#1 Don't take Sarge further than he can go without showing signs of exertion, sitting down, panting, etc. Cut the distance in half if he has gone to far, then slowly increase duration again. But remember, walking does not build strength, only endurance. Follow Maggie's advice or check out the Tripawds Fitness page for more links.

#2 We have spoken to vets who recommend not giving supplements until symptoms present themselves indicating a need, to prevent the dog from building up a tolerance. See more glucosamine supplement information in the Nutrition blog .

#3 Babying? No. The hardest recoveries we hear of are with dogs whose owners coddle them and run to their side at every whimper. Sarge needs to learn to be self sufficient and a little tough love goes a long way. With that said, do not let him over do it, and that means no rough-housing until he is completely healed and rebuilding his strength. Watch our canine amputation rehab vet video interviews for more advice.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

New Zealand
Member Since:
6 November 2011
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23 April 2012 - 1:58 pm
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What a great name -  we have a old staffy called Sarge too!!!

Our girl Kayla had her front leg removed when she was only three months so I can definately relate to the whole wanting to play thing. We let her play (we couldn't really stop her) with two kids and 3 cats aswell as our other dog there was too much temptation. We just kept a very close eye on her and stopped her before she done too much. Everyone has different opinions on recovery and you have to go with what is best for your dog as only you will know.

Keep walks short for now till he builds up stamina that will take time. and remember a tripawd finds it easyier to go faster than to walk slowly.

Good luck


Plainfield, Illinois
Member Since:
14 May 2011
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23 April 2012 - 2:08 pm
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welcome!  i can't wait to see pictures of Sarge.  my parent's adopted a dog named Sarge, and he's a sweetheart.  Chili Dawg was a front amp, and he got tired after about a 20 minute walk, but when he played in the backyard, he could go for a while before he needed to take a rest.  We didn't let him wrestle with his brother until after his staples came out, and he didn't want to right away either, but he was also older- 9.  I think it was around the 3 weeks post-amp mark when he and Finchy started to wrestle again, but I kept a close eye on them, and called timeout when i thought they were getting too rambunctious for a while.  Later on, I let them go at it like they used to do, but not right away.


Spirit Chili Dawg's pack

Diagnosed with OSA: 5/2/2011 Ampuversary: 5/11/2011 OSA returned in hip: 8/26/2011
Chili Dawg crossed the Rainbow Bridge on 8/30/2011 & is now pain free. He was my heart dog, and I miss him every day.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Since:
14 August 2009
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23 April 2012 - 3:03 pm
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Welcome Sarge pack!

Super Kudos to you for giving Sarge the best home in the world!  I know he'll make you so happy!  I had a tripawd from a puppy (front deformed leg) to the end (12 years).  I'm probably the worst to ask for advice because I coddled her so much that she wouldn't let anyone strange or new even look at her, let alone pet her!  She was adorable and spoiled...just didn't need anyone strange petting her! (with the exception of getting a massage in rehab!)


I have a 3 year old agile 4-legged terrier mix now and as a matter of fact I just asked my vet yesterday about supplements.  He suggested only 2 things (if at all):  Fish Oil and Vit E (check with your vet because you can overdose on Vit E).  He told me point blank that there is no scientific evidence of the joint supplements helping in any fashion.  It won't hurt a dog to take joint supplements but it's pretty much a waste of money since there is no proof it helps.  Vit E and fish oil do show scientific evidence that will help.  These are his words, not mine. 


Feel free to ask many questions here!

Sending you all the best for a super speedy recovery!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Member Since:
13 October 2011
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23 April 2012 - 4:31 pm
sp_Permalink sp_Print sp_QuotePost guys ROCK!!! How amazing that you saved this amazing life!!!


Miss Pegz is a trauma (non-cancer) front legger, and about 11 - 12 years old, so different stuff. She is a rescue so we are not totally sure what came before. But I can echo a lot of what has been said here...she can go for 15 minute walks (twice a day) without becoming exhausted. We do have her on a chondroitin supplement. Plus calcium and others...only because we do some home cooking. It does really seem to help, but only YOU can decide what is best for your baby.

We also have a 4 year old black lab mix (quadpawd) who needs LOTS of exercise. Our compromise? A plastic red flyer wagon. We take them both and when Pegz gets too tired, she goes in the wagon and rides the rest of the way. Being a Senior Diva, she totally loves this...might not work for the more active puppy. But the point will be so surprised at how resourceful you become. We may have wasted some time and money finding what works...but we have had more laughs and loving memories than I can describe. 😀

Leicester, NY
Member Since:
11 February 2011
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23 April 2012 - 5:49 pm
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Welcome Sarge and family! You guys are wonderful for taking him in! Cant wait to see pictures! And dont forget-the other "non tripawds" can join the ranks of the Monkeybuttslaughing so they dont feel left out

Spirit Samson was Spirit Tripawd Daisys four legged "brother" and ruled as the self proclaimed head of the Monkeybutt Federations East Coast Division. Lady Chunky Monkey stayed from Oct 2011 and left for the bridge in Apr 2012. Miss Perdy is left and has some big pawprints to fill.
Do you have what it takes to be a Monkeybutt? Find out more at the Monkeybutt Federation

Monkeybutt-Bunny Vampire
23 April 2012 - 7:23 pm
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That's terrific!

Member Since:
14 April 2010
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24 April 2012 - 7:25 am
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Welcome to the family, wouldn't you just love to return the favor to the jerk that did that. I can't give you any advice on the supplements, but I think it is great sarge is feeling so good this soon after surgery, but I would lean toward letting him gradually build up to going all out right away. The remaining back leg needs to build up strength, and even though he seems good now, he is still early into his recovery, and he is using some muscles differently than before, although he probably had some adjustments already made because of his previous jerk owner. Sounds like you've gotten a great start to recovery, I wouldn't baby him alot, just watch him and let him tell you how he is doing, if he starts weakening faster then you know he needs to tone it down until he builds that strength and endurance. Kudos for giving him a great home, Paws up, Spirit Gus and Dan 

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

Member Since:
9 March 2010
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24 April 2012 - 3:14 pm
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Dante is a front legger, but we adopted him at 12 weeks, after having his amputation at 8 weeks. 

I can't speak much for recovery - but Dante could hardly go very far at all on walks before he needed to sit in the beginning. He can manage about 30-45 mins now though, as long as we kind of let him set the pace and we make sure to take breaks if he looks like he needs it. At the dog park he goes quite well too, but we do let him rest when he needs to and never push him - lots of breaks to lay down and drink and he's a happy boy!

Life with a tripawd puppy is interesting to say the least - Dante is now 2 and I'm not entirely sure how either of us survived this long. Tripawd puppies are still puppies who have NOOO idea supermaning off the couch is a bad idea, or other things of the likes. It's been an adventure, one I wouldn't trade for the world! (But would like to give back the grey hairs it gave me, thank you very much!) 

British Columbia, Canada
Member Since:
22 April 2012
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25 April 2012 - 12:24 am
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Thanks everyone for the warm welcome and all the suggestions! 😀 It was all very helpful. Sarge got his stitches out today, his last round of shots/de-worming and was weighed. He is 35lbs at only 3 months! When he was brought in from the local non-profit no-kill shelter to the vet, everyone fell in love with him so much that the vet who did his surgery also did a DNA test to determine his breeds. He is border collie x Newfoundland. I am a bit disheartened to hear that, as I know that smaller is best when it comes to tripods. I have images of him being a 130lb+ dog now, so hopefully the border collie wins out! The less weight and strain on that back leg the better, right?


Here are some photos of the little guy. He had a bath today so he is exceptionally fuzzy! Hope these aren't too many photos.


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Here he is playing biteyface with my pit, Jaycee 😛


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Member Since:
25 March 2012
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25 April 2012 - 4:47 am
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What a sweetie! He has a lot of love to give and life to live.


Heather & Spirit Shadow

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