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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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10 November 2009 - 3:36 pm
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Hi from here in the UK,

Our dog, Kirby is a very tall German Shepherd, Labrador cross, 8 years old and recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left foreleg, just above her wrist.

A week ago, Kirby underwent surgery and had her leg amputated. The limb was sent off for further biopsy and we await the ok to go ahead and start with chimo. The surgery was of the simpler kind and did not involve the removal of any of her shoulder joint, just the limb itself.

In the week that has passed, she has started to walk in the special 3 legged way. She is quick to get up when I get home or she hears anything like the rustle that might mean food but she has also had short periods in which she has whimpered and clearly been in some distress. Over the last day or so, I have noticed that she occasionally gets very distressed and seems almost like she has a dislocation of her shoulder or maybe just cramp but she seems a little contorted and off balance. She looks a little out of shape. I have helped her stand and the pain seems to subside, she seems to regain her posture and composure before settling down again. She seems a little sad and out of sorts -although this is entirely understandable, it does leave us wondering whether or not we did the right thing. I am more certain and can see her improving other than this spasm, cramp thing.

Has anyone else seen this sort of thing before? We plan to take her back to have her staples out by the end of this week and this will mean we can address both issues at once and only put her through the trauma of getting into the Jeep the once.

I look forward to your responses but most importantly wanted to thank you for the experiebces that you have shared as it was those that gave us the strength to make this decision in the hope that it was in Kirby's best interest.

Thanks in advance

Nicki & Nick & of course Kirby

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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10 November 2009 - 5:10 pm
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Kirby is regaining her strength and relearning how to balance as well. She's probably also fed up with medication, the staples, and just wants to heal. Be sure to check out the in the Downloads blog. Above all, thanks for joining the Tripawds community! We are sorry to hear about Kirby, bit glad you found us.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Kirkland, WA
Member Since:
2 June 2009
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10 November 2009 - 5:34 pm
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You may also want to ask your vet about phantom pain and getting your baby on some gabapentin.  Glad she's doing so well already and can't wait to hear more!  Welcome to tripawds 🙂

<3 Laura and Jackers

10 November 2009 - 5:56 pm
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Welcome to the site!!!!!! Sounds like Kirby is doing ok. I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback who is very very tall. After his surgery he fell quite a bit trying to learn how to rebalance himself. Stay positve with Kirby. It took Jack about 10 days to fully learn how to rebalance. He definitely had times where he was just uncomfortable with the staples, rebalancing, drain, and a bit of phantom pain . Those are all normal signs. Hang in there . We send positive thought and paw claps your way
Erin and Jack

Member Since:
3 November 2009
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11 November 2009 - 12:47 am
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My dog will be two weeks Thursday since her amputation. She had a few strange days after her surgery, a seizure one day and a few days where she seemed depressed and I was starting to wonder the same thing. But she has been eating very well the past four days and has finally got her balance to go to the bathroom and her spirits are good. She wants to go for short walks and go out in the car and be outside in the yard or on the porch so I got her a waterproof lined blanket to keep her warm – life almost as normal except she's more spoiled now and is allowed on the bed…. she loves that and can get on and off by herself.

I'm sure your baby will come around to her old self.

My heart lives at Rainbow Bridge
Member Since:
28 November 2008
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11 November 2009 - 2:10 am
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As you read through the site you will see many references to the 'two weeks of hell', the initial recovery period.  Many of the things you have mentioned are part of that recovery period.  Once they are able to come off the pain meds, things begin to get better.  They aren't grogged out and can balance better and get around better

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.

Member Since:
20 May 2009
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11 November 2009 - 7:17 am
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As others mentioned the first two weeks are difficult, or at least can be.  Our babies need to learn to get up, walk, balance, all on one less legs at the same time they have are recouperating from major surgery and are hopped up on pain meds.  Emotionally I think our dogs take their cue from us.  I know Bob will post about leaving the room to cry and feeding the spirit.  He is so good at it.  I have to admit I cried in front of 'Emiy more than I should have and she would have to comfort me! That's a lot to put on them.  Try not to question your decision to amputate.  Remember that not amputating would have guaranteed Kirby a life of pain, most likely a very short life.

Debra & Angel Emily

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.

Member Since:
26 November 2008
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11 November 2009 - 9:00 am
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Nicki, Nick, & Kirby,

I know that everyone here in this community is very sorry to hear of Kirby's diagnosis.  I also would like to welcome you to this wonderful community filled with great individuals who will share their collective experience and provide incredible support.  You have already read a consistent story of set-back especially in the two week period.  Cherry literally pulled the tech across the waiting room when we picked her up, was far more active the first two days than I would have liked, and then her condition took a nose dive on day three.  Cherry's chemotherapy literally started hours after the surgery and the combination of pain-killers, chemotherapy, anti-nausia, anti-vomit, appetite stimulants and a few other drugs were just too much for her body.  Like Debra's Emily, we had to remove Tramadol from the chemical cocktail early but each patient responds differently so you will need to work with your vet on this one.  Many (if not all) have had the moment of possibly regreting the decision to amputate, but I would like direct you to a recient topic that was started by Debra and Emily where a number of us discussed this very issue.  "Regrets About Amputation"

Since Debra mentioned it, I will post my usual set of suggestions that Cherry and I post to "help" during this recovery process.  Stealing from a recent Jerry posting, I would suggest:

 What to Expect Part 1:


 What to Expect Part 2:


Also, there are my usual suggestions:

1)  Remain as positive as possible around Kirby.  They will pick up on your feelings and if you are down, it will only make it harder.  I have often left Cherry, left the house, and then totally lost it before regaining composure and returning with a smile.  It will make a difference.

2)  Remember to treat the spirit as well as the body.  Find something that they love and can still do during recovery.  Then exploit that love to give them purpose.  For Cherry, it was/is her trips in the truck/car.  It was the first and for a long time, the only place that she would willingly take food when offered.  To this day, as the time when she thinks that she is going for a ride approaches, you can see the excitement grow.  Jake's mom would probably tell you that for Jake it was the swimming pool.  Once Jake saw the pool and was allowed back in, the improvement appears to have been remarkable.  View the Fun!  Doug and Heidi will tell you that for Molly it continues to be canoe trips.  Watch her celebrate her one year anpuversary!  Finally there is Calpurnia who loves the life filled with the outdoors and sledding and has survived the amputation for more than two years.  View the fun!  Help them find a purpose to fight.

3)  Consider keeping a journal.  I kept a journal and posted it on-line.  It allowed me to go back days/weeks/months and make a good comparison.  This really helped to make honest assessments of Cherry's progress during the ups and downs of recovery.  Our oncologist actually used these journal postings to keep up to speed on Cherry's condition.  I have a page of thumbnail photos (with links to larger versions) covering from just after the diagnosis, first days home, chemotherapy treatment, through recent days.  View Cherry’s TriPawd photos.

During the first few weeks and all through the two months of chemotherapy, I was not sure that Cherry would make it.  At the four month mark she had an extremely bad spell that lasted approximately on month.  However, we are more than 11½ months post-amputation and she has never been better since the initial diagnosis.  The journey was an emotionally and financially draining, but worth every bit of the scrafice.

Paws Crossed and Sending Pawsitive Thoughts,

Bob & Cherry

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