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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Harness & Other Questions
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Grovetown, GA

Member Since:
26 August 2009
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28 August 2009 - 7:02 am
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I am new to this forum & amputation - Zephir had surgery just yesterday. I have a few questions, but I would like to give you all a little background information on Zephir.

Zephir is an 8.5 year old male neutered Rottweiler. He's very happy & healthy other than the nasty Osteosarcoma. We first saw the lesion on his left ulna 4/21/09. It could be determined if it was a bone infection or OS (we did not do a biopsy) so we treated for a bone infection aggressively with antibiotics. 6/1/09 we were back in for more x-rays which confirmed OS. 6/8/09 we started him on Neoplasene and the recommended Neo diet. I kind of wish I would not have given him the Neo diet because of the grains. I saw the most growth of tumor during this time (before he was on a grain free kibble & partial raw diet). Maybe this was coincidence, maybe not.... His chest x-rays have been clear so far.

We did have a life before OS. Zephir was my competition obedience dog, and he had a successful career. I retired him last year, and then he found his true calling in life - best buddy to my son who is now 21 months.

Ok, on to question time now!

  1. What type of harness is preferred?
    I see Ruff Wear harnesses are recommended a lot, but I want to know if you think it would be a good fit for us. Zephir weighs 100lbs & I am 5'4" and 115lbs so I don't outweigh the big guy by much! I also have seen pics on this site of a harness that looks like a snuggie - it covers the front amputation site. Do I need one of these, too?
  2. Until I can order a harness & receive it, will a basic nylon harness from Petsmart or Petco work in the meantime?
  3. I read on this forum about using a nylon shopping bag in the beginning. I am assuming you need to cut it for a large dog??
  4. When do you start to use the harness? Immediately? Halfway through recovery? After recovery?
  5. My house is not very amputee friendly because I have hardwoods & ceramic tile everywhere except for the bedrooms. I plan to baby gate Zephir in the breakfast room during the day (table has been removed), which is tiled. I plan to put bath mats and yoga mats to cover the floor in order to give him more traction . At night he can sleep by my bed like he normally does. Any other suggestions on safe flooring options?
  6. Also, they want to send him home this evening. This would mean he was in the hospital a little over 24 hours. I do not work & have no issues with wound care. Plus my husband is an RN so that helps. Do you think it's ok to bring him after 24 hours?

I think that's it for now. Thank you!

Staci & Zephir

Cordoba, Argentina
Member Since:
20 August 2009
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28 August 2009 - 9:15 am
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Hello Staci and Zephir! Sorry to hear that you too have come this way. but it gets better and really soon.

On harnesses i only have my car harness and it works just fine till I get something better. It helps a lot after surgery to help them get up when they try and dont really succeed. And also about a week after surgery when she started going up and down some steps.

On hospitalization we had some posts just a couple of days ago under the head topic Treatment and Recovery that you might find helpful.

Good luck and good recovery!

Spirit Horacia, Castaño, Olympia + human family Cecilia, Georg and Julia - - - Hori first diagnosed 8/6/09, ampu 8/12/09, run over the bridge 9/10/09 – We miss you every day dear girl!

Livermore CA
Member Since:
24 January 2009
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28 August 2009 - 9:26 am
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Hi Staci


I have the same size issues as you do, so I didn't get a harness at all.  Cemil stayed in the hospital a couple of extra days so he was more sure of himself and had been taught how to manage curbs and steps, turning, getting up and down, and everything else.  I had a step built so he could get in and out of the truck on his own--it's about half the height of the tailgate, and big enough so he can stand level on it.  He has done fine.  He doesn't have enough stamina to go hiking, so I don't have to worry about helping him over rocks and things; at home the only challenge is the dog door, which he just doesn't use.  He barks at the sliding door to go in and out.

I think Zephir will surprise you with what he's able to do on his own.  If you don't worry too much, he won't realize there's something to worry about.

Let us know how it goes.

Cemil and mom Mary, Mujde and Radzi….appreciating and enjoying Today

Cemil's blog

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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28 August 2009 - 11:09 am
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Staci Heaton said:

Ok, on to question time now!

Thanks for joining Staci. Did you happen to read our Ruff Wear harness FAQs?

We have found that the Ruff Wear harness works well for nearly all tripawds. It is not weight, but girth that matters when determining the proper harness size. The AST Pet Support suit may be more suitable for much larger dogs with more serious mobility issues.

We do not feel simple nylon strap style harnesses provide adquate support, especially for larger dogs.

The shopping bag sling you read about is a great temporary solution. For any dog, you would cut down the sides of a reusable canvas (or nylon, etc.) shopping bag, leaving the handles and bottom intact. You may just need a bigger bag for Zephir! Winker

We recommend not using the harness until the surgery has completely healed and stitches or staples are removed. We have heard of no specific cases where any harness has hampered healing, but we believe direct pressure from the straps may irritate the wound. Please consult your veterinarian with any concerns.

Bath mats, yoga mats, and carpet runners are all great ideas for improving traction on slippery surfaces. Large exercise mat flooring like that found in weight lifting areas of a gym are also available.

Jerry came home less than 24 hours after his surgery, did quite well and we have no medical experience whatsoever. If there are no complications, one night's stay after surgery is normal.

As Cemil said, you may be quite surprised how Zephier bounces back (quite literally). Best wishes for a complete speedy recovery!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
20 May 2009
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28 August 2009 - 3:55 pm
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Emily came home from the hospital after one day and did not have any complications.  She weirded out a little from the pain meds but that was about it.  I weirded out more than she did!  You know Zephir better than anyone else.  Emily is high strung and the doctor felt she would rest better at home.  I think she did and it was a good decision for us.  I would want to make sure he can get around a least a little on his own first.  The fact your okay with wound care and your finance is an RN helps.  Was it a front or back leg amputation?  I think maybe back leg is easier. 

Good luck and I will look forward to reading about  Zephir's successes.


Debra & Emily, a five year old doberman mix, who was diagnosed with an osteosaecoma. She had a right rear leg amputation on May 19, 2009. On November 10, 2009 she earned her wings and regained her fourth leg.

Harrisonburg, Va
Member Since:
29 July 2009
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28 August 2009 - 10:31 pm
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I'm sorry to hear about his OS.  I wish him a speedy recovery.  My dog had his amputation almost 3 weeks ago so I'll try to give you help as much as I can on your questions.

1. and 2. I don't think it really matters what brand/company makes the harness, but I think one with both front and back support is best.  We had our dog in a regular harness that's mostly on the chest/around front legs and since he is a back leg amputee we ended up having to use a towel slung under his backside along with it so that isn't best.  Then we went to a pet store and got Pet Zone's Lift-N-Aid harness

, which looks mostly like the cut shopping tote sling with a wide part under his belly with handles on the top.  It helped lifting him up and such but unfortunately we learned the messy way that this particular design works mostly with female dogs, as we took him into the yard and the sling was so wide it covered his penis when he peed (something to think about with Zephir).  What has been working for the mean time is the towel since it can be positioned quickly anywhere under the torso but it's not really good long-term so we're looking into the ruffwear or one with an equal design.

3. To use the shopping bag idea just get a really big canvas or nylon tote and cut down the sides.

4. You can use it right away so long as the straps aren't near the wound too much so it doesn't rub or irritate it or even tear it.

5.  We bought cheap rugs and runners as a discount store to put on our linoleum kitchen and rubber grippy panels to put under some of the rugs that weren't very stable.  You have to step down off of our front cement patio so we positioned a wide wooden crate with a flat top to make-do as a ramp–the kind you see at Costco or Sam's Club underneath everything.

6.  My dog's surgery was on a Monday evening and we picked him up Wednesday afternoon.  1-3 days is normal.  I'm sure Zephir will be just fine.  Normally you don't really have to do anything with the wound except to keep it clean and dry, watch for seromas and leakage, and if there is swelling you can use a flat ice pack on it.  The website have some post-op pictures in case you wanted to compare. 

Good luck and give him a kiss for me (I like rotties) :P

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
Member Since:
28 November 2008
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29 August 2009 - 6:18 am
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Trouble came home two nights after surgery.  She required minimal assistance for about two days and after that the assistance was more of a hinderance than a help.  We are 9 months post op and I've never used a harness for her, but we do not have stairs, nor do we live in a rocky or hilly environment. It is flat an open where we are.

The floors are something we had to work with.  We, too, have ceremic tile floors, and she was terrified of falling.  A lot of how you deal with it becomes a matter of how permanent you want the solution to be.  For the house, I put down the soft, spongy shelf liner designed for non-slip.  It worked great with minimal attention, could be thrown in the wash, etc.  We then got Duke who has four legs and his hyperactive running through the house just wasn't working with the liner.  He kept it askew ALL the time.  We went down to Home Depot and bought carpet runners.  Now at least they stay in place.

The other item I purchased was booties.  I got the RuffWear that look like a little shoe.  They have a non-skid sole.  I always take one with me if we're going somewhere and I don't know what type of floor she will be on.  I purchased three, but she really only needs one for the front foot.

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.

Grovetown, GA

Member Since:
26 August 2009
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30 August 2009 - 3:14 pm
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Zephir came home on Friday, and he is doing better than I ever expected. His only problem right now is learning how to pee, but I'm sure he will figure it out eventually.  He is resting a lot, but is very eager to go outside and to eat.  His outside excursions are short because he tires quickly.  He just needs time to heal.

I really think we made the right decision, but it's still difficult knowing that we made the decision to amputate.  I'm just not used to it, yet, but that will come in time.  I guess I am having the human emotions for Zephir that are associated with amputation.

When we got home any my son (Isaac - 21 months) saw Zephir with his t-shirt on, and Isaac looked a little confused.  Isaac then walked over to Zephir, patted him on the head, and gave him a kiss.  That almost had me in tears!

Zephir is safely baby gated away from Isaac & the other dogs. He sleeps next to my bed at night like always.  During the day while Isaac naps Zephir comes out and lays at my feet.  I may be a little partial, but I think he is the best dog ever!  🙂

I'll keep you all posted on his recovery from surgery.

Staci & Zephir

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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30 August 2009 - 8:26 pm
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Staci Heaton said:

I really think we made the right decision, but it's still difficult knowing that we made the decision to amputate.

Many people have found the book, Without Regret, helpful.

It's the first thing we read when feeling the same way after Jerry's amputation. Such feelings are tough, but only for humans. Zephir has no regrets, and only wants to enjoy life in the now. Follow his lead.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
13 July 2009
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30 August 2009 - 9:16 pm
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Hi Staci and Zephir

Glad to hear things are progressing well. They can be slow with some of the Big Dogs as you are currently hearing from Boinks, Hori, Oslo. Where were these compatriots when I was the only late bloomer?

I am also 8.5 yr old, and had a front leg amputated in July. My mum knows the feeling of wondering whether this surgery was the right way to go, and that feeling will probably not change overnight. She thinks back to the day before the surgery, when we could still go on an hour or longer walk, down a steep hill, for a swim, then back up a steep hill, farther than we are travelling now. She kind of forgets that I was tense because of the pain and not my smiley self. And she has to remind herself that the tumour was growing visibly on a daily basis, as you also noticed in Zephir. It is safe to say that my fourth leg would not be functioning by this time (6 weeks post amp), in fact it was barely functioning then. What else could she have done? The alternative is not something she (or especially I - shudder) want to contemplate!

Rather than having returned to my old smiley self the way I have, things would have gotten far worse by now. Yes, it is hard for her to see a Big Park and not be able to walk for miles and miles. But I can still visit the parks and play - I just need to find one suited to me (a small park with 60 dogs is my dream). But I am my old smiley playful loving adorable and annoying self and everyone who meets me knows that.

Tazzie 2

East Bay, CA
Member Since:
6 August 2009
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30 August 2009 - 10:59 pm
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We didn't use the harness until 4 weeks post amp. but I can see now that it could have been used sooner. Caira Sue is a front leg amputation and the collar rubbed a little on the top part of her incision when she pulled. I feel better using the harness because she can run ahead, pull even, and I'm not worried about where it's rubbing. I LOVE the ruffwear harness. I have looked at and played with a lot of harnesses. Ruffwear is superior quality and support. And no, they aren't paying me to say that!

Caira Sue learned to adapt to what she wanted. Some things I have watched her work on. For instance peeing on 2 legs (she learned from doggie camp to pee like a boy dog), and scratching her ear with her rear foot. I just cheer her on. And yes, sometimes she stumbles, but I think that's part of relearning. They read off your attitude and energy. She just gets up and tries again later. She has adapted really well to our floors-wood and tile-and we haven't changed anything about them. She's never slipped on them. But if your dog is less willing to adapt or more fearful, then I would go with the rugs, etc that people suggest. I just find that dogs really do surprise you and you will notice you way over did your worry! They do so much better than people!

Hang in there-the first week is the hardest. We also struggled during our first week. I read a LOT of tripawds information and blogs over and over. That book Jerry suggested sounds great. Also, focus on the good of each day. Little by little they improve and then all of a sudden they are pulling you down the street.

Bless your child who saw how precious a creature you have in your home!


May 2001-Jan 21, 2010.....I'm a dog and I'm AWESOME!..... Always.

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