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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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Struggling with the decision to amputate
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6 April 2010 - 6:27 pm
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Hi Tripawds family~

My dog Connor, a 4yo boxer mix, jumped out of my truck while we were driving 3 years ago. The first 5 vets we saw said to amputate the front right leg on the spot. But I wanted to give him a chance to walk again, who says he never will? The 6th vet used meds & chiropractic treatment, and 6 months later, he started walking again! On all fours I mean, as opposed to holding it up to his chest. After a year though, he continued to chew on his leg. They say it’s the nerve damage that makes him feel similar to if your foot fell asleep, but seemingly all of the time. Through 4 muzzles and 6 E collars, he still managed to chew one toe beyond our abilities to bandage & control the infection, and we had it amputated, hoping that was it. Well, to this day he’s still chewing on the foot, working on the remaining toes. He’s in a muzzle & boot while I’m at work so he cant chew it, but he’s gotten to the point lately that if I leave him alone even long enough to use the bathroom, he sneaks off to chew it again. I decided to just have the leg amputated and found a great ortho w/years of experience and felt ok with the decision. But now I’m guilty because, though this vet agreed to do it, he sounded dissapointed that I dont want to try another neuro, or acupuncture, or more meds. It’s been 3 years, 7 vets and $5k of trying, it’s not live we havent! And though I know it’s my responsibility, I have a baby due in 3 months and cant spend another $5k on this leg. I think it’s best to take it, but it’s a hard decision and I’m really struggling with it. The surgery is already scheduled for next week though. I see on here many of you had to decide to save your dogs from cancer. Has anyone had to decide something like this? Any advise? I appreciate your reading and any help you may have.



My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
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6 April 2010 - 7:44 pm
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Tina, I’m one of the ones who made the decision because of cancer.  It isn’t an easy decision, regarless of the cause.  I think you have done a stellar job of giving it ‘one more’ chance. There are only so many things you can try, and only so many dollars you can spend.  If you are happy with your decision and know you have made the best choice for Connor and yourself, then that is the right decision.

You’ll find nothing but support and good wishes here.  Welcome to our group.

Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul.  Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.

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6 April 2010 - 8:08 pm
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Hi Tina

Yes you have given Connor many more chances trying to save the leg. Like Trouble, whom you just met, my dog lost a leg to cancer. But other dogs on this site have lots legs to accidents or birth defects. It is pretty common after accidents for people to try to save the leg. But sometimes, it ends up meaning a lot of poor quality time and they have to amputate in the end. Sometimes amputation can be the kindest way to get rid of the pain (or an object that Connor no longer recognizes as his leg) and help the pup start enjoying life to the fullest again.

I remember one of the rotties on this site about a month or two ago – can’t remember who – was similar in that she was chewing on the leg until it was amputated. At that stage, the operation couldn’t happen quickly enough for them.

I’m surprised a vet or ortho would steer you in a different direction at this point. Usually they are the ones telling us how our dogs adjust so well to amputation when we newcomers find it hard to believe (until we see it for ourselves). It sounds like a good decision to me. But as Trouble says, it is the right decision if you are happy with it.

Of course, none of us want our dogs to lose a leg, but funny enough, it can be the best way to help them get back on their feet.


Las Vegas, Nevada
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6 April 2010 - 9:06 pm
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Hi Tina and Conner,

Welcome!  No one likes to really be apart of this club initially BUT you’ll will find out that it’s not that bad.  You are fortunate, like me, that you are not doing this because of cancer.  Mine has a birth defect deformed front leg that doesn’t function (she’s 11+ years old now).

You’ll be surprised how wonderful dogs do on 3 legs.  Yes, it’s hard to let go of the leg.  I never could since it is such a part of Comet.  But it doesn’t function.  I wished I had done it early on when she was a baby because it has always made me nervous that it would get tangled on something and break.  It hasn’t but it would have saved me grief.


Surprisingly, we have a lot of people who come over here with your story.  And like Tazzie said, they almost always end up spending a small fortune only to amputation in the end.  The dogs are so much better once they do.  And it’s going to give you a piece of mind, too.  You won’t have to worry about it.   

The first 2 weeks after amputation will be a little rough on all you because your pup will have gone through major surgery and it takes times to heal.  But don’t mistaken that with the removal of the leg in their mind.  We confuse the healing process with depression of a lost leg.  And that’s not the case. 

We are here to help you get through this so don’t feel you are alone.  

Please keep us updated on Conner.  Okay?

Comet’s mom 


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.

The Rainbow Bridge

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6 April 2010 - 9:18 pm
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Tina and Connor,

Wow. We learn something new every day here and Connor’s story is no exception. Poor pup, it’s hard to imagine what his sensations must feel like. Recently we were told by the canine rehabilitation specialists in Southen California, CARE, that if you want to try to save a dog’s leg because of something like this you should allow at least 6 months. Well, I’d say you’ve gone waaaaay above and beyond that, and you are to be commended for being a great pawrent and making a tough but ultimately humane decision.

I was a cancer dawg but my leg-a-cy, Wyatt Ray, is an amputee because of neglect by his previous owner.  Although my pawrents weren’t around before he was a Tripawd, he does great with three legs. And nothing, I mean nothing, stops this one year old boy from being a wild thing.

Here at Tripawds, always support pawrents no matter what their decision, because only you know your dog best. It’s obvious you’ve given this a lot of thought, and if you’re going to do it, I say do it now while you have time to handle the recovery before your baby arrives (congrats!).

We’ll be here to help OK?

Good luck, and thanks again for being here to share your story.


It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Northern Indiana
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6 April 2010 - 10:06 pm
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tigerbear said:

But now I’m guilty


Oh my goodness Tina… need to put that guilt away for good!!  You are a loving pawrent that has done everything possible for Conner.  The best lesson that you will learn here at Tripawds is that there are no wrong decisions.  This is a place of support and acceptance, even though we all have different stories, issues and take different paths. 

I promise you that you will be amazed at the life Conner can have on 3 legs!  Our Lab, Paris lived for one year and 3 days on 3 legs and she was fighting cancer.  Her life was wonderful until the very end, running and playing and jumping and traveling.  As many have shared with you the first 2 weeks after surgery can be a challenge.  Whatever route you take we will all be here to listen, answer questions and support you. 

Ginny & Angel Paris


Grateful for every moment we had with Paris… regrets!

Honoring her life by opening our hearts & home to Addy!

Here and Now

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6 April 2010 - 10:22 pm
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tigerbear said:

… it’s a hard decision and I’m really struggling with it. 


Everyone here totally understands how difficult these decisions are. And many have found the book Without Regret to be helpful in coming to terms with those choices. Best wishes for Connor’s speedy recovery and thanks again for joining the Tripawds  community!

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6 April 2010 - 10:40 pm
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We had a similar case at our clinic recently.  This middle aged chocolate Lab had osteomyelitis (bone infection) in a rear foot for over a year and a half.  It would partially respond to antibiotics, prednisone , and gabapentin but invariably the infection always came back and the dog would chew his foot bloody in a manner of hours.  I finally convinced them that amputation was probably the best option because muzzling the dog or applying a bootie only prevents chewing when really he/she is still in pain or at the least on pins and needles (tingling/itching).  That Lab is doing great now and is much happier!

Acupuncture and gabapentin actually might help if osteomyelitis is not present.  Maybe your dog just has damaged nerve endings due to the prior surgery.  If osteomyelitis is present I would plan the amputation ASAP to give your dog some relief.


7 April 2010 - 5:16 am
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Thank you all for your responses. It really helps to know there’s great support here with you. 🙂

Wesley Chapel, FL
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7 April 2010 - 5:52 am
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Try not to feel guilty about going for the amputation now… You’ve already done so much over the past few years to give Connor’s leg a chance to get better. I’m sure it’s causing him great discomfort. Once he heals from his amputation (first 2 weeks are the worse), he should bounce back and finally be pain-free! Keep us posted on his progress… Sending you and Connor lots of hugs!

Angel Jake’s Mom

Jake, 10yr old golden retriever (fractured his front right leg on 9/1, bone biopsy revealed osteosarcoma on 9/10, amputation on 9/17) and his family Marguerite, Jacques and Wolfie, 5yr old german shepherd and the newest addition to the family, Nala, a 7mth old Bengal mix kittie. Jake lost his battle on 11/9/2009, almost 8 weeks after his surgery. We will never forget our sweet golden angel… ….. CANCER SUCKS!

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