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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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Recovery Time if Only a Very Slight Limp Prior to Amputation?
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Member Since:
1 July 2015
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1 July 2015 - 9:43 pm
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Our sweet eight year old lab, Rory, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on her front leg about a week ago. Three weeks ago she was limping fairly badly and not putting weight on her bad leg, which is when we took her to the vet to get checked out. After getting on Rimadyl and Tramadol two weeks ago, she barely limps at all and hardly favors her good leg over her bad leg. Sometimes I have to watch her for several minutes to remember which is her 'bad' leg! I know this because of the meds, of course, and not actual improvement in her condition.

I've read everything I possibly can and had two consultations with fantastic oncologists about treatment (one local and one specialty teaching hospital), so I've learned that the dogs who recover fastest from amputation surgery are the ones that go into surgery already largely favoring their three 'good' legs. 

Sorry for the extended lead in to my actual question: Has anyone here gone through with amputation when their pup had only a very slight limp prior to surgery? How did the recovery go? I'm worried our lab will have even more of a roller-coaster recovery than others have described since she isn't used to bearing weight on only three legs, since I have stairs in the house, and since I'm just a worrier 🙂

I wouldn't have any hesitation about the amputation if she was only putting weight on three legs. I'm just so worried about making it through the recovery period, especially given the ups and downs others have described in the forums here. I don't think I could forgive myself if she didn't recover her sweet personality!

I've gone ahead and scheduled an amputation surgery for early next week, but I really am not 100% sure it's the right decision for Rory. I'd appreciate any feedback from those who've found themselves in a similar situation!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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1 July 2015 - 10:19 pm
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Hi Casey and Rory, welcome. Your future posts won't need approval so post away.

I'm sorry to hear about the diagnosis, it's a tough one to be sure. It definitely sounds like you have a great vet team on your side and all that homework you're doing will absolutely pay off and make recovery easier. 

Yes, there have been many members here with pets whose dog or cat wasn't limping before surgery, which can make proceeding with it even tougher for the human. Now, to try to answer your question; I think what your vets might have been trying to tell you is that dogs who are already Tripawds before surgery get around better on 3 once they recover, because they've already got the new gait down. Don't confuse this discussion with actual recovery time. Recuperating includes ease of mobility, but that's not all there is to it. Other factors come into play, such as age, temperament, any medication side effects, and most importantly the human's attitude, that affect recovery far more than the number of legs or type of gait a dog or cat had just prior to amputation. Does that make sense?

Right now, your dog's limp is hardly there. But it will get worse, that's what osteo does, and those pain meds wont' do a thing. So it's good you've made a decision as to how you'll deal with things. With an 8 year old dog that's in good shape in general, recovery is probably going to be a lot easier than it will be for a dog with more challenges. While every dog is different in how the recover, the fact is most will be back to their 'new normal' within a few weeks. Sure sounds like your dog is a good candidate so yay! 

Whatever we can do to help, don't hesitate to ask, throw all you're questions at us OK? And keep us posted.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
15 December 2012
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1 July 2015 - 10:30 pm
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Dear Casey,

Very sorry to hear about Rory having Osteosarcoma. Like Jerry said the pain will get worse. You are lucky you are ahead of the curve and Rory is not in terrible pain. My Maggie had a limp and within 10 days she was off her leg completely. After reading here about OSA and realizing her leg was fragile and could break I couldn't wait to get that leg off. With that leg gone Rory will learn to adapt without it. After a pretty quick recovery my girl was out on short horseback rides with me. Good luck and I bet she will do fine.

Penny and her Gang

Member Since:
2 April 2013
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1 July 2015 - 10:36 pm
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Murphy did a pretty good job of hiding things as long as he was medicated.  The orthopedic doctor was really surprised once he did the x-rays that Murphy was able to bear any weight at all on his leg, but as long as he was medicated he did.  This actually caused a misdiagnosis at the beginning for us.  Murphy originally started limping in October but didn't get diagnosed until February, and all of that time he was ok on meds.  If he ran out of meds, though, that was a whole other thing!  He would not eat, wouldn't want to go out, and would yelp with just about any movement.  The day he finally saw the orthopedic doctor he even allowed the doctor to do a complete exam - manipulating his leg, stretching it, feeling it and walked down the hallway for him.  So when they told me the tentative diagnosis, I was floored!

Recovery was a roller-coaster ride.  Murphy spent 1 night in the hospital and came home the next day.  I expected to have to carry him out to the car, but he hopped out there by himself.  He was excited to get out of there!   Here is a video of him leaving:  <img alt="" src="

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The first 2 weeks was tough...the medications make them not quite themselves.  I had a lot of doubts whether we did the right thing or not.  He wouldn't always eat, so I cooked some rice, added chicken broth and some chicken and that helped.  Sometimes I made some scrambled eggs for him...not that he's spoiled or anything!  lol  There were 3 of us giving him his meds, so I wrote out a medication sheet so whoever medicated him would just cross out what they gave him.  It made it easier to keep track of, and easier to wean down when we did that, too.

It's been over 2 years for Murphy now, and I definitely don't have any regrets!!  He can do anything any other dog can do - chase squirrels, dig for mice, jump on the furniture, get in the car, run around the yard, you name it.  We use his harness when we go places so that we can use the handle to help him and keep him from landing on his good front leg with all of his weight, but other than that we treat him like a normal dog.


Donna, Glenn & Murphy 

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old. He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  
Read about Murphy's Life on Three Legs


Member Since:
15 June 2015
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1 July 2015 - 11:30 pm
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My Rascal doesn't have OSA, but he did have a reoccurring tumor on his wrist joint. He is a tough cookie and as such it didn't seem like it bothered him much at all save for the occasional lick at stretched tight skin!

He's three days post-op now and adjusting remarkably well. Sending him in to have the whole leg removed when he was barely showing discomfort was probably the hardest part of this whole shebang. However, it's a decision about quality of life. My dog couldn't go in and have the same lump removed over and over and over again at his age so the permanent solution with the least surgery/recovery time was to cut our losses so to speak. 

You clearly love your girl a lot, and will make the choice for what is in Rory's best interest. Chin up! 

P.S. I was just farted on by my beloved canine, and it smells horrible. This is the reality of love. 

Raleigh, NC
Member Since:
29 April 2013
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2 July 2015 - 6:09 am
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Let me tell you a tale of two greyhounds. 

April 10, 2013 - Nixon had a pathological fracture in his right front leg and had surgery to remove the leg and scapula.  Even with the pathological fracture, he continued to use the bad leg at least for counter-balance.  He came out of surgery well and really, he had no problems actually moving on three legs but didn't want to.  It took about four days for him to completely figure out how to do everything he needed to do on three legs but all was under protest.  After a month, he was fine with living on three legs and even was able to walk a mile a couple of times a month.

April 10, 2015 - Taylor had been on Bisphosphonates for several months but xrays revealed small fractures in the bone and the surgeon recommended removing his right front leg.  His surgery was successful and Taylor was up and walking around like nothing happened 6 hours after surgery. 

Video of each greyhound two months post amp shows very happy, bouncy dogs who love to play with their toys.  Taylor even caught a live possum in the backyard a couple of weeks ago.  Didn't kill it, just brought the possum back to his human.  The possum didn't appreciate the ride.

Nixon should have been the dog who adapted to being on three legs faster but he refused to believe there was anything wrong with his broken leg.  Taylor should have been the dog who had a huge problem with it but he acted like he was born with just three legs.  Some of the recovery is based on your emotional state too.  So the more upset you are, the worse it can be for them.

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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2 July 2015 - 9:14 am
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I'm so sorry to hear you received this bad news. It's tough isn't it?

You have received great responses from people with lots of experience with dog osteosarcoma. I just wanted to pipe in to say that my cat suddenly grew a very large tumour and had no pain. It was the lack of pain that confused my vet and within a few days her leg was removed. The vet assumed it was a very aggressive cancer and the pathology report showed he was right. If I waited the cancer could have spread.

You are right and brave to take immediate action. All the best during recovery. Remember it will be harder on you than your dog so try to get some sleep and ask friends and family for help.

Kerren and Tripawd Mona


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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3 July 2015 - 9:02 am
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I know this news is such a kick in the gut andnyou feel like you are stuck in a nightmare! We all understand far too well!

We are here to support you and help you move forward with confidence. YOU ARE. NOT ALONE!

Remember, Rory isn't worrying about a thing and coukd care less about any ole diagnosis!

I was so fearful of my Happy Hannah's ability to adapt to three legs I even cancelled the first scheduled surgery!
She, like almost all dogs here, was up and walking within 24 lroble.!

Sure, it's major surgery and recovery is no picnic for about a week or two. In fact, it took me almost three weeks before I could say "YES, Ive done this FOR my dog!" Her ability to get around on three legs right away astonished really did!

As far as not limping before surgery, many dogs have their legs amputated in an emergency situation due to accidents. Walking perfectly fine on four legs one day...and then only having three the next.

Continue to talk with your vet. It is major surgery and all surgeries nave risk. It sounds like he thinks Rory is a good candidate though.

Take some deeeeeep lots of chocolate....and go hug on Rory!!


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!

Member Since:
1 July 2015
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3 July 2015 - 4:36 pm
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I can't thank all of you who've responded enough! Thank you for the kind words of encouragement and support. This must be the best corner of the internet I've ever stumbled upon, though I know we'd all rather not be in circumstances that bring us here.

I'm feeling much better about going through with the amputation after all of your replies. Remembering that so many dogs need to have a limb removed due to a sudden accident - and that they generally do great! - helps a lot. In an unfortunate turn, Rory has been limping considerably more in the past 24 hours, which makes me feel terrible for worrying about her lack of limping. 

Thanks, again, for all of your support. I'm sure Rory will do great and I'll focus on maintaining a positive attitude. In the meantime, it's great to know I can come back here with more questions or concerns!


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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3 July 2015 - 9:45 pm
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Well now, I guess Miss Rory has made her wishes known! Off with that painful leg!

Imw sorry thst she's limping but I think she needed you to see that so you co u ld feel more confident about your decision. And it's not a decision any of us want to make, but it becomes a "foreced choice" when lain becomes apparent.

You absolutely can come here any time with questions or concerns! We understand like no others can!

Stay connected, we're here for you and Rory!

Hugs and love!

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!

Norene, TN
Member Since:
21 October 2014
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6 July 2015 - 2:37 pm
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 . . . and, removing the leg gets it out of the way. Hopping on three is so much easier when they're not trying to hold a 4th up and over things.

Welcome! I wish it were under different circumstances, but we're here for you and you and Rory are going to do great! Love, love labs!


Harmony became a Tripawd on 10/21/14 (MCT). She left us way too soon on 11/1/14.

"We miss you so much; our love, our heart, our Harmony."

- Pam, Ron and Melody, Meesha, Doublestuff and Mariah Carey

Member Since:
1 July 2015
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24 September 2015 - 7:59 pm
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Thank you all so much for your kind words and support. It really helped me feel better about choosing amputation!

Unfortunately, we got less than three months with Rory after her surgery. I naively thought we would get at least six months with her, since we had her in surgery within three weeks of her (slight) limp, and at that time she had no lung mets or lymph node spread. I wish I'd been more open to the reality that I wouldn't get as much time as I wanted with her, but I guess no one wants to think they'll draw the short straw. Hindsight, right?

While she had a smooth recovery in some ways (she kept her same sunny and sweet disposition, had a great appetite, etc.) we really never got to the point where she had any kind of endurance. She was never able to go on a walk longer than two blocks (despite physical therapy). And since we live in beautiful Colorado, the fact we weren't able to take her on a hike - even a one-mile, level trail - at all this summer was heartbreaking. I felt like she was on house arrest! She also had bouts of (slight) yelping daily, so she had to stay on Tramadol and Gabapentin to manage that until the end. It just felt like we never got the quality over quantity of life we were looking to achieve with the amputation.

Of course, we had eight great years prior to the amputation, and she always stayed her sweet happy self, so I'm working on focusing on that! 

Also, fortunately, we knew when the end was close and was able to call a wonderful vet out to the house before she was in too much discomfort. I'm so, SO glad I researched companies that do that when she was first diagnosed, despite thinking I wouldn't need their services for months and months, since I knew I wouldn't have the presence of mind to do it at the end. 

I seriously cannot thank this community enough. Even though I only posted once I did hours and hours of research in the forums. You are all wonderful 🙂 

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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24 September 2015 - 8:27 pm
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Casey I'm so sorry, it broke my heart to see this. This must have been really hard to come back and update but sharing your experience is so helpful to others, thank you for such a selfless act for the community. You do have a very pawsitive outlook on the experience though, it says so much about what a pawesome human being you are. Rory taught you so well, what a lucky dawg.

We all feel your loss and wish she had gotten more time too. Do you have any photos you'd like to share? Here's a post on how to add images to the Forums. I know we'd all love to see your beautiful angel.

Many, many hugs going out to you, now and always. May Rory's spirit stay close to your heart forever. She'll always be in ours.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Los Angeles, CA
Member Since:
13 June 2013
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24 September 2015 - 8:56 pm
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I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Rory.... there is never enough time. But three months in dog is like 3 years!!! Every day is the fullest and you did everything for sweet Rory... please share more of her story if you feel up to it. And allow us to support and comfort you. The pain is awful but we are all here for you.

Hugs and peace,

alison with spirit shelby in her heart (and little jasper too)

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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25 September 2015 - 1:19 am
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This certainly was not what I expected. I'm so very, very, very sorry. This rotten piece of crap disease makesmup its own rules.

All we can do is TRY. And your tried Casey. As you know, dogs don't base their quality on how far or how long they can walk, or how many days are on the calendar. They do base their quality on how many tummy rubs, how many treats, how many snuggles and how much loving and spoiling they can get every single day. And I know Rory had tons of that kind of quality!

Yes, the amputation was a "forced choice", but it was one that did give you extended bonus time together. Try not to focus on what she didn't get to do as far as long walks, etc., or even the yelp every now and then. Focus on all that extra loving and attention she got. So many tripawds thoroughly enjoy becoming a couch potato! Rory kept her sunny disposition and a good appetite. Rory did, indeed,have quality on her own terms.

Rory is family here. We know you have a huge void ahead of you. The intensity of caring for a tripawd is like no other. She is running free now and was greeted by a huge welcoming committee at the Bridge. As soon as she stops partying with ice cream and steak and long swims in beautiful lakes, she'll make her presence known to you. She clearly was very, very loved and she knew it.

I do hope you will share more of her life with you when you can. No doibt she felt privileged to be loved by you amd to spend her earth time here with you as her humans.

Must like on the beginning of this journey, we are still here with you. We understand like no others can. The waves of grief will be with you for a long time. But the great memories you and Rory shared will soon help lish the sadness further into the baxkground...slowly, but surely.

Surrounding you with Rory's eternal grace and happy smile

Sally and My Eternal Light 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!

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