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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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Senior Dog Recovering from Front Leg Amputation
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Forum Posts: 3
Member Since:
19 May 2020
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29 May 2020 - 10:22 am
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Hello everyone, 

My 13-year old corgi/shih-tzu/terrier mix had one of his front legs amputated on Wednesday because of a mast cell tumor that had simply grown too out of control to be managed with other treatment options. I picked him up from the hospital yesterday afternoon and I’m afraid he’s not going to walk again. He can only stand for very short periods (usually less than a minute) and he’ll try to take a step or two but then he just lays down. Is this normal? Does anyone have ideas on how I can help him through this? I read that dogs generally do well on 3 legs and my vet said that, too, but now I’m worried that I may have done the wrong thing. 

Thank you,


The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 27769
Member Since:
25 April 2007
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29 May 2020 - 11:27 am
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Hi Killie, welcome. We are sorry you had to join us but so glad you reached out, you’ll see that you are not alone in your doubts and fears. We totally get that here.

First, what’s your pup’s name?

Second, what kind of pain medication is he on? Dosages & frequency?

It’s easy to think the worst the day after surgery, we all did. But you will see that he is going to get his sparkle back little by little as the days go on. In two weeks you’ll probably wonder why you were so scared in the first place. 

Amputation is major surgery and any dog, even a young one, will be woozy and wobbly for the first few days. Ignore the videos of dogs running around the day after surgery; your pup is on his own timeline and as a senior dog, it will probably be a little bit longer than the average recovery but that’s no reason to lose hope. Try to put yourself in his paws: his body just took a whallop, he’s dopey on pain meds (I hope!) and he’s getting used to moving in an all new way. That’s a lot to ask of any dog, but he will get to a place where he’s strong enough to stand and walk and do everything he loves! Your vet wouldn’t have recommended amputation if there was any doubt about your dog’s ability to bounce back.

Tell us more about him, and also cruise around this Forum I moved your post to. You’ll see there are many people here who started their Tripawd journey feeling the exact same way you do right now, only to watch their dog bounce back and amaze them eventually. You’ll be one of them too!

Stay strong! Hope to hear from you soon.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 19482
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29 May 2020 - 1:03 pm
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Yeah, ditto Jerry!   Definitely  NOT unusual at all for a dog not to be mobile  yet!  As Jerry said, he just had MAJOR surgery and is on some good pain meds, as well as still shaking off tje anesthesia  and hospital meds.

A human would still be in the hospital on a morphine drip and using a wheelchair !  So yeah, a senior dog, on drugs, just had MAJOR surgery while trying to adjust to three legs is not going to be ready to throw a pawty yet!!. 

Right now, it’s about rest, rest, rest.  Only getting g up formpotty breaks.  If she’s too out of it and not avle to stand yet, just put some puppy pee pads under her and let her potty in place.  Yoi can use a little towel sling to help her stand.  If you have hardwood floors make sure you have nonslip scatter rugs for traction

Drinking and peeing are important.   She may be off eating and not looking for a few days.

It took me three weeks before I could say I did this FOR my Hapoy Hannah and not TO her.  You’ll get there too.  It’s so hard to be patient, bit recovery  doesn’t  last furever!

STAY CONNECTED!  We are here to help you navigate  thru the recovery and onto all tje joy you will experience  as her sparkle starts to come back!  Ans it will!


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!

Livermore, CA

Forum Posts: 3952
Member Since:
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29 May 2020 - 1:26 pm
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Hello and welcome.

My Pug Maggie lost a rear leg to mast cell cancer. If you are interested you can read her story and about her amp and chemo, the links are in my signature below.

I read that dogs generally do well on 3 legs and my vet said that, too,

This is absolutely a true statement.  But what everyone forgets to tell you about is the recovery period! That’s all my vet told me too, for many weeks I was sure I had the only dog in the world that wasn’t going to adapt.

Maggie could hop on her own the day of surgery, but would only go a few paces then sit down.  She also spent most of six weeks post surgery in her bed.  I was sure I had made a terrible decision. In hindsight Mag was stubborn and set in her routines so she got used to her new normal on her timeline.  She went on to hop happily through life for almost 4 years.

We often see here that the older pups take a little longer to get their sea legs.  Did the vet give you a sling to use?  Some dogs don’t like them but they can be useful the first few days.  You can make on out of a reusable shopping bag, or for a small dog a long sleeve shirt could work.

Also make sure he has good traction where ever he tries to walk.  Tripawds, especially new ones, need secure footing so if you have any slippery floors you can cover them with rugs or yoga mats, or make sure he can’t get to them.

pain management and rest are critical right now.  Mag was only allowed short, leashed potty breaks for the first two weeks. 

Hang in there, we know this is hard.  You made a good choice for your boy and now you have to stay strong and positive and show him everything is OK.

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: 3
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4 June 2020 - 1:40 pm
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Thank you so much for your responses, everyone. My computer crashed over the weekend so I’ve been dealing with that joy on top of everything else. My dog’s name is Monster. He has started moving around a little on his own (to the food bowl, the water bowl, and the pee pad).

I noticed this morning that he’s limping on his back leg, though -the one on the same side as the leg that was amputated. He’s fallen over a couple of times as though his back leg was buckling under him. I checked the leg closely to make sure there were no cuts/injuries/etc to the leg and couldn’t find anything. I’m hoping it’s just a cramp or something. He’s been taking tramadol for the pain, which could maybe be affecting his balance? Has anyone else had experience with something like this? 

The Rainbow Bridge

Forum Posts: 27769
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4 June 2020 - 5:20 pm
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Hi Killie and Monster, it’s good to hear from you and awesome that he’s getting some mobility back. 

His collapsing could be a cramp, highly doubtful the Tramadol would suddenly start affecting his balance though. Did he get any other pain medication after surgery and if so, what kind and what is the dosage?

What are your floors like? Are they slippery? If so, adding traction would help tremendously. Also, are his nails trimmed and short, with the fur between his toes clipped closely? That’s something else you can do.

Did you try massaging him gently and if so, did he react when he was touched anywhere on his body? If so, how? Has he shown any pain signals like yelping or crying out suddenly?

And lastly, did you let your vet know about his mobility challenges?

Sorry I have more questions than answers but the more info you can give us the better we can help you. Let us know!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 3
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19 May 2020
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4 June 2020 - 8:17 pm
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I think I found the issue – there’s a muscle in his groin area that feels really tight. I tried massaging it for him and it seemed to make him feel a little better, although he growled at me a little bit when I applied too much pressure. I’m hoping that’s all it is. 

He’s mainly taking Tramadol. He also has a sedative and they gave him a local anaesthetic at the surgery site that was supposed to last 72 hours. I’m only giving him the sedative at night. The floors are slippery, but I bought a bunch of cheap rugs to cover them for him (they had to be cheap because he pees on rugs). 

I’ve been in regular contact with his vet – the staff there is great. There’s just only so much they can tell me without seeing him. He has a follow-up appointment next week, but I’m hoping he’ll have improved by then. 

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