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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Hi. I am fostering a sweet lab named Buddy. He was brought into the animal shelter as a stray who had been hit by a car. He was not able to move his front right arm. The shelter asked me to foster him for a few weeks to see if his arm would heel. It hadn’t heeled after 3 weeks (and was badly atrophied) so it was amputated Friday. He was kept overnight and came home Saturday.
Because the shelter vet could only do the surgery on a day that I worked, other volunteers took him to surgery and brought him home. I do not have contact with the shelter vet and I received no post-op instructions other than to give him half a pill (of what I have no idea -they just came in an envelope ) and to have the stitches out in a few weeks. The volunteer who took him home also said something about oozing being normal.
He is otherwise a very healthy dog. He was skinny when I got him but he fattened up quickly. He seems to be napping more than usual, but other than that, he is running around and jumping up on the couch and acting like nothing happened. He is eating, drinking, pottying, playing and snuggling all like normal.
The wound looks awful. It’s huge and it looks like a kindegartener stitched it together. There’s alot of skin parts that look like they belong on the inside that are now on the outside. Does that make sense? It doesn’t look infected at all. It just doesn’t look like he was stitched up well.
Will it always be like that or will it smooth out? Should I be cleaning it with anything? Should I cover it? Can I cover it? I thought about putting a loose t-shirt on him to keep it clean and to keep him from rubbing that raw roast beef looking stuff on us and the furniture.
If he feels good enough to be active, should I let him? Is there anything I need to watch out for?
I don’t have alot of options as far as contacting the vet. When I took him in to get his stitches out (from getting hit by the car) and the vet told me he would need it amputated, he said I would have to raise the money for the supplies and then schedule it. The volunteers and I raised more than enough and I called the shelter to schedule the surgery. Then I got a very nasty voice mail from the vet telling me that he volunteers his time for surgeries and he can’t afford to save every dog “you people” want to save. He went on to say that I need to be nicer and more patient with the shelter staff and the volunteers. I have no idea where any of that came from. I have never had a problem with any staff or volunteers and I did exactly what he told me to do. I myself am volunteering to do this. I don’t know if he confused me with someone else or not.
I spoke to the shelter director and the volunteers to make sure I hadn’t done anything. The consensus seems to be that he has some sort of mood disorder but he does donate alot of services to the shelter so it’s worth it. Anyway….my point is that talking to the vet is pretty much out of the question and I honestly don’t have much respect for him professionally. If anything come up as far as complications, I will probably scrounge up the money to take him to my regular vet.
But I was hoping some of you experienced amputee moms could help out by sharing your post-op wisdom with me. I would appreciate it!
25 April 2007
Wow, you are a great foster. This is the second time this month we’ve had a situation like this here. I’m glad the dog is otherwise doing well. Don’t let him jump on the couch, it’s not good so soon out of surgery.
I’ve approved your post and will reply with a longer response when I’m at my desk, I’m on my mobile now. Please hang in there, OK? Check out Jerry’s Required Reading List before I get back if you can, it has a section about wound care.
I’ll be back later and others will chime in too.
27 August 2014
Wow. What a complicated situation- I’m so impressed you’ve taken this on and stayed calm throughout. Post back here if you have any questions that weren’t answered by the reading list. I would also take a look at the photo galleries, if you can. It will help you get an idea of what looks normal and what doesn’t. You can also post a photo here and we can give you an opinion based on our experiences.
Some of Jack’s stitches were pulled out and the wound looked like you are describing, but it ended up healing well and looking normal in the end. We always kept it covered so it would stay clean, using a t-shirt in the beginning and then a jacket with the arm hole sewn up.
And finally, keep an eye out for symptoms of pain. Most dogs are on a mix of pain killers and while it sounds like he’s doing well on whatever he’s on, that might change as he gets further away from surgery.
22 February 2013
First of all…a standing ovation to you for your compassion, care and incredible patience for doing whatever you can for this sweet pup!!
You are not alone!!! Welcome to your new family!!
Sounds like that vet could use a little chocolate to help with his “mood disorfer”!
Okay, I’ll just highlight a couple of points quickly
**Right now, nothe but rest and potty breaks! It sounds like he’s feeling pretty good having that painful leg removed, but he needs to take it very slowly right now. NO jumping, NO boundingnup and down stairs, etc. It doesn’t sound like the stitches are in very good shape to begin with so we certainly don’t want to risk doing anything that could rip them lose.
**If you have any hardwood floors, non skid scatter rugs will help for traction .
**Raised water and food bowls so he doesn’t have to strain. I just used a couple of books.
**Generally, most dogs here are on Tramadol and Gabapentin daily for pain for avout two weeks, with some taperin off towards the end of second week. Some stay on them longer. Just depends on the individual dog. I am no vet, so always seek professional advice.
**Surely someone in the vet’s office can look at the records and tell what what pain meds henput in that envelope. Tramadol is highly regulated so I would think there woukd be a record.
**Some swelling and bruising around the amp. site is normal. Some “oozing” is normal IF there is no smell, puss, loddy discharge, etc. Sometimes a “seroma ” can develop (search seroma on the site) and so etimes they needed draining…usually not though.. Again, I’m no vet and I really do suggest seeingnifnyour regular vet will just look at him for just a reduced office fee. You definitely want to make sure he isn’t running a fever so no infection develops.
**Almost all dogs come home with antibiotics and also an anti inflammatory. I would definitely ask your regular vet about putting those into the mix.
**IMPORTANT!!! Give yourself a huge hug for doing such a great job and for being such a strong advocate for this voiceless ouo!!
Make sjre you are taking care kf yourself. Try and rest when you can. Recovery for a weeks or so can be a little daunting! And yes, grab some Chocolate!!
Check back with us when you can and let us know how he’s doing!
Love and hugs!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle 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!
You’re a true Angel on Earth fostering this poor pup whose life from the sounds of things was none to great up until you. You’ve gotten good advice from Sally and Jerry. I found the ebooks offered through this site very helpful when my Leland underwent his amputation.
Regarding this shelter vet…I’m just dumbfounded by his behavior. Mood disorder or not he has a duty to give you detailed instructions on how to care for Buddy. Probably for the first week you’re pretty much a surrogate nurse because Buddy will be do dependent on you for help. Typical recovery time is 2-3 weeks but usually after the first week they’re getting things figured out on how to manage on 3 legs. I know when we brought our Leland home the surgeon provided a print out 2 pages long with instructions on how to care for him and give the meds. And to just give you an envelope with pills in it and the only instruction is give him 1/2 a pill…unbelievable . And to be rude and nasty to you in a voicemail is totally uncalled for.
Frankly, I think he’s WAY past chocolate helping with whatever he has going on. Well, I’ll get off the topic of this totally unprofessional vet.
I do think for the sake of Buddy and if you’re able you should have him seen by your vet and not fool with that shelter yahoo anymore. The thing with pain meds is one they’re usually on several. Some of the more widely used on this site is Tramadol (narcotic pain med), Gabapentin (nerve blocker), Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory), Previcox (? on spelling but also an anti-inflammatory), and even Fentanyl patches (narcotic pain med). Some dogs do better on pain meds than others so you need a vet willing to “speak” with you about combinations and dosage. My Leland for example didn’t do well on Tramadol but he was fine on Gabapentin.
Also, like somebody else mentioned…take a look through the photo gallery with incision sites. If after browsing through there you still have concerns about how Buddy’s incision looks post a pic here or talk with your vet.
Hope some of this helps. Like Sally said you’re no longer alone in this amputation journey. This community is AWESOME with lending support and advice.
Hang in there…and we’d love to see some pictures of Buddy!
Sahana and her Angel Leland
21 October 2014
Thanks for the responses and support. Buddy has been very lethargic for the past day or two. He prefers to stay in his bed most of the time and he’s not himself, but I think his behavior is not unexpected for a dog who just had major surgery. Maybe his energy the first day was due to the excitement of coming home. I’m sure he was very afraid he wasn’t coming home after going back to the shelter for his surgery. Poor baby. I wish I could have been there to reassure him.
I looked at the gallery pictures and I don’t see any incisions that are nearly as gruesome as his. It just looks haphazard like there was no effort made to stitch him back together right.
I think the pills he had were anti inflamatories or antibiotics. I don’t think they were pain meds. The envelope said to give them for 5 days but I only had enough for 3 days. Maybe he had them the 2 days that he was at the shelter.
I don’t know how to tell if he’s in pain. He’s not crying. He is licking at the incision some. He is also scratching at it with his back leg. I gave him some Benedryl for the itching and that seemed to help.
He was easy to house train and only took a few days. Now he is holding his urine for a long time and as soon as he gets up to let me know he needs to go, he pees gallons on the floor. I offer him frequent potty breaks but he isn’t interested. I don’t know if he is holding it because he doesn’t feel good enough to go out or if he doesn’t realize he needs to go.
I’m having some technical issues with the site so please be patient with me if I ask things that are answered elsewhere. I only have my phone right now and it’s acting up. Just about everything I click just sends me to the top of the page.
20 December 2008
I can only echo what others have already said … You are a true rescue angel and Buddy is one lucky pup to have ended up at your house! I am sorry you are having technical difficulties with the site but if you could post a picture of Buddy’s incision it would help. Often, no matter how careful you are, there is some pulling of the incision and parts can end up looking kinda funky for awhile but it heals up OK. The key is, does the incision look infected? Is there a substantial amount of red spreading out from the incision? As others have said, you should check with your vet if you are concerned, maybe you could send them a photo of the incision?
As for determining whether Buddy is in pain (don’t you just wish they could talk sometimes?) and how to take care of his incision, take a look at the following links, hopefully they will help you assess the situation:
Best of luck and don;t hesitate to post back here with questions!
Codie Rae and the Oaktown Pack
Woohoo! Tripawds Rule!
Regulator of the Oaktown Pack, Sheriff of the Oaktown Pawsse, Founding member and President of the Tripawd Girldogs With 2 Names ROCK Club, and ... Tripawd Girldog Extraordinaire!
I can’t log on now. I tried to change my password but it wouldn’t let me save it. I tried logging on with my original password and the one I tried to change it to. No luck. I used the “lost password” function. That got me an email telling me to follow a link. The link gets me a message telling me to check my email. It’s just a big circle. I’ll see if it will let me post as a guest.
He’s not doing well. He’s so lethargic. When I love on him, he just looks at me pathetically from his bed (where he’s been for over a day without eating and I think without drinking). He doesn’t even wag his tail.
His incision is leaking a cloudy pusy fluid. The incision itself isn’t red, but a few inches away it is very red and swollen. I am calling the shelter first thing tomorrow. There’s a good vet tech there. I’ll see if she will see him. Of she doesn’t totally reassure me I will take him to my vet.
18 October 2009
I’m sorry you are having trouble logging on- Admin or Jerry can help you with that.
Hopefully you have got Buddy to a vet this morning. Cloudy pussy fluid are signs of infection, that combined with the lethargy are definitely cause for concern.
Please keep us updated.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
25 April 2007
I can’t log on now. I tried to change my password but it wouldn’t let me…
Please check your email for a message from Admin at tripawds dot com.
We have reset your password and provided more information about your account.
Sorry about the trouble!
Oh my goodness…I’m no vet by any means but Buddy’s incision site does not look good. It looks like the incision pulled away from the staples/sutures and has opened back up. And like Karen mentioned it sounds like he’s now dealing with an infection if the drainage is cloudy/puss like. Can you tell if there’s a foul odor? That is a definite sign an infection is setting in. And I would suspect Buddy’s lethargy is probably due to his body fighting the infection and he just feels like crap.
And I have no doubt Buddy is experiencing some pain. With not knowing what the yahoo vet gave him (anti-inflammatories or antibiotics) it’s quite possible Buddy hasn’t been on any pain meds since coming home. If what he gave you was anti-inflammatories that would be like a human having a limb amputated and the doctor only giving ibuprofen. Not all dogs are vocal about their pain…some just hide it. But I think with Buddy’s lethargy, his scratching and licking at the site that is probably his way of letting you know that it’s uncomfortable. It will take some time to figure out Buddy’s cues to understand what’s going on. Also, I know my Leland was sent home with 7 or 10 days (can’t remember exactly) of antibiotics along with pain meds.
I don’t think Buddy’s recovery is off to a good start so his recovery time is probably going to be a little longer than most. I just pray that if an infection has set in that it can be gotten under control. My Leland originally went in for a TPLO procedure to fix his left knee. However, he ended up getting an infection and he was hospitalized for 4 days. The clinic couldn’t get the infection under control so we were left with either putting Leland to sleep or amputating the leg. You definitely do not want to wait very long in getting Buddy seen.
Sahana and her Angel Leland
Oh you should also check to see what his temp is. All you need is a simple digital thermometer. I think a normal temp for a pup is like 103. If he’s caring a high temp then that to would be a sign he’s got something going on that his body is trying to fight.
Sahana and her Angel Leland