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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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Riley Amputation Recovery With Stairs (Help)
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Member Since:
6 August 2010
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6 August 2010 - 1:01 pm
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Hello out there!  We just found out that our dog, friend, baby, Riley has OSA and our vet is suggesting amputation.  We are trying to make the best decision for Riley and I think we are leaning towards having the amputation. 

One of my fears is about recovery.  We live in a house that to get out to the bathroom he would have to tackle stairs.  Riley is a 12 year old Rottweiler mix and a bit heavy but we may be able to carry him in and out.  Would that be possible with his wounds during recovery? It is his front left leg and I don't know if we could use a harness or anything like that within the first few days following surgery to assist him up and down the stairs. 

Is it impossible to recover in a place with stairs?  We can make different arraignments , I just think he would be happiest and feel safest back in our bedroom with us but only if it’s possible to deal with the stair situation. Thank you for any advice you can share.

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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6 August 2010 - 1:11 pm
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riley12 said:

Is it impossible to recover in a place with stairs?

Not at all! Jerry was a 75#± front leg new amputee when we lived on the second floot of an old Victorian. He easily navigated 26 linoleum steps each time he had to go out. Worried he couldn't at the time, I carried him about 4 times before he showed me he'd rather go it on his own. With that said, every dog is different!

The Ruff Wear harness will certainly help. Please review the following message we send all new customers getting a harness right after surgery ...

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.

We suggest using a soft towel slung under the belly if additional support is required in the meantime. A reusable canvas shopping bag slit down the sides also makes a handy temporary sling.  You will find much more help, support and advice in the Tripawds discussion forums.

Sorry we just missed you in the chat! Be sure to bookmark Jerry's Required Reading List for lots of helpful amputation recovery tips and advice from the last few years of Jerry's Tripawds News blog.

Thanks for joining, be sure to log in when visiting the forums so your posts appear immediately without requiring moderation. Or, did you post this topic before registerring?

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
7 June 2010
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6 August 2010 - 1:35 pm
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Welcome to the site!

I, too, had the same concern regarding stairs as we live in a split-level house, so wherever we go, there are stairs! Due to this, he spent the first two nights in the hospital and the first night home, I spent in the camper with him (thinking the stairs wouldn't be conducive to recovery). He didn't care for it because it wasn't 'home' (and he loves camping!). So, day 3 after the surgery, he came inside and was instantly more at ease. He navigated the stairs by himself, but we were there, helping him along. No carrying needed (which is good since after the surgery he was just over 98 pounds!). He is 11 years old, has arthritis and is not the most agile of dogs, so I was concerned as well.

He does great with it now, however I always cringe when he walks down because he goes faster than I want him to! Charlie is also a front leg amputee, so it just freaks me out!


Again, welcome to the site and ask lots of questions! Don't fret about the stairs, if Charlie can do it, so can Riley!

"I don't know where I am."

Member Since:
6 August 2010
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6 August 2010 - 1:51 pm
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Thank you so much for the imput! For his first trips outside do you think we should try to aid him in anyway to start with or just stay close to him and see how he handles it?  Would you suggest walking down next to him with a towel sling around his chest area or is that not a good idea?

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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6 August 2010 - 2:28 pm
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riley12 said:

... do you think we should try to aid him in anyway to start with...

The doctors we interviewed at California Animal Rehab suggest if you help your recovering too much, they will never learn to heal on their own only depending more and more upon your assistance. Dr Kramer calls it "tough love" – we call it letting them heal on their own.

Using  the sling at first, and being ready to assist in the event of a fall is a great idea. Many have found the canvas grocery bag trick to be very helpful until stitches are removed. Faceplants are inevitabe, and can be heartbreaking, but you'll be surprised how resilient these pups are!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

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6 August 2010 - 2:29 pm
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I walked by him with a harness I purchased at the hospital. Not really a harness (it is so you can use a seatbelt) but it was great for Charlie as it didn't hit his incision area. It is called a Vest Harness and here it is:

RC Pets 3 in 1 VestHarness


I was only by him the first few days as he hadn't regained his balance fully. On stairs I would lightly hold the handle just in case he started to slip.


Other's use a towel or reusable grocery bag (as they have handles).

Good luck!

"I don't know where I am."

On The Road

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6 August 2010 - 2:52 pm
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Viking Queen said:

It is called a Vest Harness...

Thanks for the suggestion. We found more information about the RC Pets 3 in 1 VestHarness at Only Natural Pet.


[Image Can Not Be Found] RC Pets 3 in 1 VestHarness 65-110 lbs Black

A car restraint, non-choking harness, and chest protector in one easy-to-use device. It connects to seat belts for safety, and uses shoulder pads to restrain dogs while walking for a healthy way to stop pulling.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

knoxville, tn
Member Since:
12 February 2010
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6 August 2010 - 3:44 pm
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gayle lost her right front leg in february.  we started with the open shopping bag, with a towel liner.  i did build her a ramp for getting to the back yard, but she was able to learn and master the inside stairs by herself (see a blog posting about her at  she's about 60 lbs, and is ten and a half.  one thing you will learn rather quickly...never doubt the potential of a tripawd sister or brother.  they are truly amazing.  paws crossed for riley during this new chapter in his life.


charon & gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Wesley Chapel, FL
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13 September 2009
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6 August 2010 - 5:05 pm
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I'm so sorry to hear about your baby Riley... When is Riley's surgery scheduled for?

My Jake was also a front leg amputee and had OSA. He was 10yrs old and weighed around 85 pounds. We used a ComfortLift Carrier sling that we had purchased from Foster & Smith for the first two weeks of his recovery, then we used a ruffware harness. The sling was not expensive and really came in handy when we had to help him get up and go outside. We don't have stairs, but we have a ledge at out patio door, and our backyard is uneven. Both the sling and then the ruffware harness helped alot!

Angel Jake and Wolfie'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!

Cleveland, OH
Member Since:
19 June 2010
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6 August 2010 - 5:26 pm
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I'm going to be the party pooper here -- Denali is a rear amputation.  After her surgery she started 'bunny hopping' and is not really able to do stairs easily (she can do them with a sling, but not on her own).  I live in a 2 story house and have a futon (thankfully) and have been sleeping on that and have a ramp to get her in and out of the house.


Denali's case is rare - but it happens.  It's better to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

~~~~ Denali ~~~~

June 9, 2010 OSA suspected

June 17, 2010, July 14, 2010 Clear X-rays – no mets

July 1, 2010 Amputation

July 9, 2010 OSA Confirmed

November 23, 2010 Cancer took you from me - Never forgotten, Always Loved - Forever

Supporting the Fighters, Admiring the Survivors, Honoring the Taken, And never, ever giving up Hope

Member Since:
6 August 2010
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7 August 2010 - 11:08 am
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Thank you all so much for your advice and support.  We have to confirm with Riley's vet on Monday but it looks like a Tuesday or Wednesday surgery.  This site has been a God send and we are slowly making our way through the required reading and forum post to become as educated as possible.  Thank you all so much for your prayers and concerns for Riley.  He, and we send our prayers and love out to all of your beautiful babies and wish you all the best.  We look forward to reading some of the blogs and will soon have Riley's up and running.  We will be sharing some of the pictures we have of our beatuiful silly boy.

Thank You all

Riley's Pawrents

7 August 2010 - 5:59 pm
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Howdy Riley's Pawrents, looks like you have gotten some great advice. Sorry another party pooper here as well. I can't help but add just one thing. I wish I would have given Fortis more support in the first couple of weeks. I never left his side but I allowed him to over do it when me and him were playing out in the Texas snow just two weeks after his surgery. I know every dog is different and maybe it wouldn't have matter but I will always wonder. Some dogs need to be slowed down while others need a bit of a push I suppose. Regardless, life is now great over here in "3-  legged" Texas FortisLand and we are sending you, your family and Riley gobs of positive vibes! We will keep you in our prayers and thoughts for a very successful surgery and a fast recovery as

FortisDad, Brett

Member Since:
17 July 2010
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7 August 2010 - 6:48 pm
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Hi Riley's Pawrents!  My bullmastiff, Zeke, just had a front left leg ampuation 4 weeks ago Monday.  I know this a tough decision to make and can be very stressful, but you have certainly done the right thing by finding this website and educating yourself to prepare for the surgery and what to expect.  You couldn't have said it better, this website is a God send for sure.  Everyone is so supportive and has great ideas.  We have 5 stairs that Zeke had to tackle to get outside and the first few days were slow, we helped him down with the harness the vet sent him home with.  He at first seemed afraid to go down (understandably!) so we went out the front for the next couple days because there were less steps and they weren't as steep.  I swear this helped him gain the confidence and shortly after, he went right down the back steps with a ton of confidence and now he goes up and down beautifully!  We will be thinking of you this week and hoping for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.  Utilize this website as much as possible, you will find it helps a lot and keeps you sain during those first few weeks. 

Good luck to you and Riley!!!  Keep us posted.  smiley

Dhiannon (Zeke's Mom) & Zeke, a 7 year old male Bullmastiff, front left leg amputated on 7-12-2010 due to a joint tumor.  Zeke earned his wings on 8-13-2010, we will miss our big boy forever!  We love you Zeke!!

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