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Becoming a Tripawd– The Truth About Leg Amputation in Dogs

June 26For those of you who have been following Barret’s story, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of canine cancer following a surgery to remove a lump.  The only option available that would save his life was to amputate his front left leg. My last post about Barret’s surgery I covered some of the products that were helping us through the recovery stage.

We’re about 3 weeks post-amputation now and I have to admit that Barret is doing even better as an official Tripawd than I anticipated. Every time we take him out in public, we get a barrage of questions about his condition and I’m starting to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about 3 legged dogs and I’d like to set the record straight!

1.        Big dogs aren’t candidates for amputation

Stella and Her Tripod FriendsMost of the time, after telling Barret’s story, I am told “It’s lucky he’s such a small dog, if he were bigger he wouldn’t be doing as well/wouldn’t have been a candidate for surgery.” FALSE! My new friends over at Tripawds.com have shown me that big dogs can do as well as small dogs as tripods. I’ve read the story of a Great Dane, a Mastiff, several Huskies and German Shepherds… they’ve done just as well on 3 legs as any of the small dogs on the site. Some have even fared better than their terrier counterparts. Size isn’t an issue and I’ve even seen the story of some older dogs with arthritis that were still able to thrive after amputation.

2.        Old & stubborn dogs won’t adapt to 3 legs

FALSE! Dogs are a lot more resourceful and rebound a lot faster than humans. I think a lot of us like to apply human emotion to dogs. If I had to have my arm amputated, it’d be harder for me to adapt than for a dog to adapt to three legs. Dogs don’t over-analyze things or reflect on the past. If your dog wakes up with one less leg tomorrow, he just rolls with the punches and does what needs to be done to carry on being a dog!

Additionally, I’ve never met any pet or human more stubborn than a cat. Cats make wonderful tripawds too! We had a cat in the family that had 3 legs following an accident of some kind (he was adopted with 3 legs) and I’ve met several cats  who have lost a limb later in life only to rebound amazingly.

3.        Your dog will never be the same after amputation

Sunny daysI’m actually going to say TRUE to this one, but not in the way you think. Your dog will have the same personality, though it takes a few weeks for the drugs and pain to wear off. They’ll have a different walk, but the same zest for life, even more if there was pain in the limb that was amputated.

I think that Barret is even better than he was before surgery. This entire process has bonded human and canine even closer.  Before surgery, he was my “first” dog, my oldest child, so to speak. This process has turned him into my heart dog. I love all my dogs, but Barret and I have a special bond now that can never be broken.

4.        Other dogs will tease or attack your dog

FALSE! In my experience, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I haven’t come across a dog yet that has seemed to even notice that he only has 3 legs. I had to separate my other dogs to keep them from playing too rough. They didn’t seem to understand that he was recovering from anything at all.

5.        Recovering from major surgery is too hard on a dog

In my opinion, this is FALSE. I’ve read a lot of other stories of Tripawds who had very “rough” recoveries, but I think it’s the humans in the situation who are having a hard time, not the dogs. I hovered over Barret at home for almost a week after surgery before I realized that the more I hovered, the worse he seemed. He was picking up on my anxiety and fear and becoming anxious. Once I learned not to jump at every noise or move he made (and to leave him alone for a little while) recovery seemed to smooth out. Just take things one day at a time.

Whether you’re considering amputation because of an illness (like cancer) or because of an injury or deformity, I truly believe that almost any dog  or cat can adapt to life on three legs. You’ll be truly amazed and inspired by how animals can handle just about anything you throw at them and will make you want to be more like your dog. If you’re not convinced by my tale, hop on over to the Tripawds website and post your situation in the forums and take a moment to browse the user blogs (here’s Barret’s blog). The wonderful caring people on that site will help guide you to the right decision for your beloved pet.

84 comments

  1. avatar

    I couldn’t agree more with the things you have said. I too, am on the Tripawds group & my greyhound, Calamity proved to me over & over again that once healed they get right back to life. She even raced around the yard with her brothers & sisters & was far ahead as she was before her amputation! She learned all the things she did before, taking off her muzzle, digging in the dirt, ect! Nothing has stopped her!
    I also agree with point #5, I too think some people hoover too much. Give the pet a couple weeks of having their space and leaving them to heal is probably the best way to handle all of this that is so emotional to us humans! I remember Calamity would scream in pain & us humans would just cry~well who wouldn’t cry after a major surgery?!? After my own major surgery, I know her cries were just because she moved this way or that way a little to fast, or turned a little wrong, it’s all in the healing process.
    It’s been a long time since Calamity’s amputation & she is getting older & slowing down now, but I can say if faced with the option for amputation on any dog in the future, I would push forward without a moments hesitation!

  2. avatar

    Thank you for sharing your story, Janie.

    Barret continues to amaze me. He’s already back to his old antics, too… stealing food off the table, teasing his sister with toys, and racing around the house!

    As far as #5.. I can’t tell you how many nights after his surgery where Barret would whimper and cry out and I would just sit and cry right along with him because there was nothing I could do to help him. Once I learned to let go a little and that he will heal in time, things got much easier.

    -Heather Crotsley

  3. avatar

    On #4, we had an interesting experience. Our first dog Tony, a 45 pound pit bull/Italian greyhound mix, had canine osteosarcoma at age 9 and had his right rear leg amputated. His younger brother Riley, a 60 pound pit bull mix, used to always poke and prod Tony and get him to play, rough-and-tumble style, as they chased each other around the yard.

    After Tony’s surgery, Riley’s behavior changed. He watched over Tony and stayed close to him almost all the time. He would nuzzle Tony to get him to play, but when Tony didn’t want to, Riley would leave him be. After the recovery, they went right back to playing like they always did, but Riley seemed to be just a bit gentler and more sensitive when Tony would turn away to take a break.

    When the cancer returned and Tony couldn’t play anymore, Riley stayed with him on the couch. When his suffering was too much and it was time to put Tony down, Riley seemed to grieve just as much as we did. Their connection was so beautiful to observe – a wonderful lesson on how to just BE THERE for someone who isn’t feeling well.

  4. avatar

    Thank you for sharing your sorry. I am so sorry you lost Tony to this hideous disease. I have heard lots of accounts of other dogs mourning the passing of their friends and siblings. Dogs teach so many wonderful lessons 🙂

  5. avatar

    Good article!!

    In March of 2012, my girl Sasha underwent amputation at 11.5 years old! As soon as we learned about the cancer, my husband went into overdrive doing as much research as possible before picking up our girl. Once we met with Dr. N, our vet, we were 98% sure we’d proceed with amputation.

    The first few days were a little rough on Sasha, she moved around find, but she was in quite a bit of pain. Once the pain subsided, she was totally fine and she was catching her flying disc 3 weeks post op!

    We humans forget dogs are not like us in that they do not worry about how they look and what ‘others’ will think of their missing a limb. Dogs are very resilient.

    Anyway, Barret is adorable (all your pups are!). Best of luck to you all!!

    PS. We had started a blog on Tripawds, but because I had my own little blog already, we did not keep up with the one on Tripawds. Check it out to learn how Sasha is doing now 🙂

    ~Liliana

  6. avatar

    Thanks for commenting, Liliana. I’ll be sure to check out your blog!
    -Heather

  7. avatar

    my little toy poodle had his leg amputated at 11 yrs. old due to a broken tibia. which the vet said was not healing after 3 months . He is now 17 1/2 yrs old. But don,t kid yourself. For the last 6 months he has not been able to get around at all & has had to wear a diaper which is hard to keep on him as he does scoot around a little. Since then I blame myself for picking the wrong vet as I think he would have been better off with a cast on his leg to hold it in place rather then sticking a pin in his leg which stuck out of his knee & made him hold his leg sideways not straight.–so apparently it would not heal & was amputated. Maybe if the pin was shorter –the results would have been different. It is no walk in the park to have a limb amputated. As your pet ages it is awful hard on his other limbs & back. My little sweet boy is now on his last few days or weeks or months , but as long as he is able to enjoy smell, taste & feel of my holding him & he doesn’t appear to be in pain I will be by his side. So beware & get all your facts everyone & choose the right Vet at this emotional time for you. God Bless all our dear animal friends

  8. avatar

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience June – and I agree wholeheartedly! Please, make every effort and do as much research as you can before committing to major surgery for your four-legged loved one!

  9. avatar

    Thank you for sharing your stories here. My Gracie and I have just begun this difficult journey. She has been limping for a number of weeks and last Friday my vet took an X-ray. She didn’t know what it was, so the picture was sent off. After an awful weekend of waiting and watching my beautiful blonde shepherd mix suffer, we got the diagnosis of bone cancer. We have had little time to prepare. Her surgery was Wednesday and she is still in hospital tonight. I’m praying we have done the right thing and that she will start to bounce back. This is so hard…
    Thanks for listening…
    Marcy

  10. avatar

    I am so glad I found this website and all of its terrific information and encouragement. Like Marcy above and her beloved pup, we discovered that our 4 year old Cane Corso, Cicero, has osteosarcoma two weeks ago. His front limb amputation was on Monday and we got him back last night. Reading your stories of successful and happy dogs is truly what’s getting me through this tough time of watching him adjust and heal. Thank you!

  11. avatar

    I’m am so sad to give this update, but my Gracie-girl did not recover from her surgery. She got up several hours after her surgery but by the next day she would not get up. She was transferred to another hospital but she passed away quite unexpectedly on Sunday, Jan. 18. We learned later that she had adenocarcinoma and the leg cancer was metastatic cancer. I miss her everyday.

  12. avatar

    Thanks for sharing your story with me. I hope that Cicero recovers quickly. If you have any questions or concerns or just need support, I urge you to visit the forums at Tripawds.com

  13. avatar

    Hi Marcy – I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine if my story had turned out differently. I’m sure you miss her dearly. Thinking of you.

  14. avatar

    My Great Dane, Lena, had her front leg removed due to cancer on Friday 2/27/15. I’m going to pick her up from the vet’s and bring her home shortly and am so happy, but nervous. Lena, a rescue, was starved as a puppy and consequently never weighed over 90 lbs. She is a tall, rangy, graceful, sweet, gentle and goofy creature. I got her in 2009 and so far she has helped me through my chemotherapy, my mother’s long battle with cancer and her death, a complete and ongoing revision of my life, post-Katrina, and on and on. Lena is my constant companion, my shadow, my little buddy. Friends and family sympathized with me, but didn’t think amputation was advisable. Everyone was worried because she is a big dog and ‘why put her through all that’, and because it is so very expensive. ( I am not working and money is scarce.) However worried I was, as soon as I committed to her having the surgery and chemo, my relief was overwhelming. Waiting for my husband to get home so we can go get her is nerve-wracking. The vet says she is doing great, has been up and walking fairly stably since Sat. morning. My other Dane is a 160 lb. bruiser and it’s going to be a challenge to keep her excitement under control. She has no idea of the impact of her size. But I am rambling and it’s time to go. Please send good thoughts out for my sweet girl. If anyone can tell me anything about chemotherapy for dogs, I’m all ears. Thanks.

  15. avatar

    Hi Donna – thanks for sharing your story. I hope everything is going well with Lena this week. I can’t speak to canine chemotherapy, but the folks over at Tripawds.com are a great resource. I’ve know many three legged giant breed dogs that do quite well. Good luck with everything!

  16. avatar

    We have a 5 1/2 month old shorkie poo, Zoey, who fell down our stairs on Sunday night and fractured her right front leg and left hind leg. Multiple fractures in both legs. I just received word that her right front leg is too complex to fix and will need amputated. I’m heartbroken for her to say the least. I am encouraged by the information I am reading about dogs adjusting to an amputation. I also have three young children and am wondering how to share the news with them. I know she will be okay. Thank you all for sharing your storeis.

  17. avatar

    Good luck with Zoey! Head over to the forums at Tripawds.com for more support, but as far as telling your children I’d recommend framing it in a way that assures them that Zoey will be OK, but in order to get better she’s going to need surgery to remove her leg. But it’s OK – she has 3 more! They just need to be gentle with her until she heals. Going through the first 2 weeks of recovery will be the most tough on everyone, but try to stay positive in front of Zoey. She will become more sensitive to your moods so staying positive is key! Good luck with everything!

  18. avatar
    Pollyanna Vujovic

    I am fostering a pit mix 7 month old pup that had left front leg amputated – he was rescued with leg injured so not able to use. He was 2 weeks post op and pain meds finished. He began screaming, whining, shaking. Took him to vet and anti inflammatory and ultram/tramadol resumed. He cries in pain when meds close to wearing off. He is not playful and I know something is wrong. Taking him back to vet tomorrow. Vet and I discussed possibility of phantom pain last week. I’m asking for gabapentin/neurontin if exam normal. My poor guy! Anyone else relate? I refuse to let him cry it out.

  19. avatar

    Hi Polly-
    Yes, I can actually relate to your situation 100%. Barret experienced those pains randomly through his recovery. He would stiffen up, scream, twitch and be inconsolable. After about a week of this, even though his Tramadol was a very high dose, my vet and I decided on a Gabapentin therapy (3x day). After a few days getting on the meds, he improved greatly and the ‘episodes’ went away after a little while. 8 weeks after surgery I weaned him off of the Gabapentin and he hasn’t experienced phantom pain since.

    Good luck – come back and report how he’s doing if you can!

  20. avatar

    My 13 year old whippet and I are currently undergoing the great debate. She has a strange lump on her leg that two vets have not been able to diagnose and both have recommended amputation of the front left leg. I’m not sure that I can put her through that as my own experience with front limb amputees has been that have had more difficulty recovering and adjusting. If anyone has experience with older front limp amputation in elderly deep chested dogs I would greatly appreciate any and all advice.

  21. avatar

    Hi Alix, thanks for commenting. We would recommend reaching out to the people at Tripawds.com. They host a great community of dog owners that have experience with your situation. There you can find advice, use resources and ask questions that will help you make a decision. We hope everything turns out well!

  22. avatar

    We are picking up our chocolate lab today. He just had his back left leg amputated up to the hip on Friday. He will be 2 on April 15th so hopefully he has a good, full life ahead of him. Thanks for all the stories.

  23. avatar

    Thank goodness someone sent me this blog. My 10 year old shitzu/bichon fres Lucky Beau was hit by a truck 2 weeks ago. He suffered a humerus fracture to his front left leg. Had the surgery & stitches out this past Friday. That went well although vet thought something went wrong with his surgery & suggested a return visit to orthopedic surgeon. Leg didn’t look right & was just dangling. By Sat night, he was bruised and bleeding. Spent 3-1/2 hours in emergency for x-rays, etc. The fracture had re-broke and the pins/plates were infecting the leg. Two of the pins were floating around. UGH. We made the decision to amputate his leg this morning. He’s in surgery as we speak. Although, reading all of your entries has really helped me emotionally. These poor babies.

    My question is how much did the ampuation cost you? Did your dogs lead healthly lives after? I live in Gurnee, IL and was just curious.

    I’m going to see what Tripawd is all about? Is that local?

  24. avatar

    Good Luck, Patti. My thoughts are with you!

    In answer to your questions, the total for the surgery and aftercare was about $4000. And yes, Barret lives life like any other dog. He’s happy and healthy and has NO IDEA he’s “missing” a leg 🙂 Tripawds.com is a support group of other pet parents facing amputation in dogs or cats. They’re a terrific resource and now a non-profit organization. Head over and check them out. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them!

  25. avatar

    Thanks for the response & information. We got our Beau home after his amputation surgery yesterday. Now the waiting game to see how he does. He’s very sad and calm. I’ll check back soon. Patti

  26. avatar

    What you’re seeing as ‘sadness’ may just be Beau’s reaction to the pain medications. Give it at least 2-3 weeks before you should expect to see him returning to himself. Good luck!

  27. avatar

    Thank you so much for explaining how well large dogs do as well. I have a Chocolate Lab/Mastiff mix (160lbs) who is about to have his front left leg amputated due to bone cancer. He is 9yrs 8mon and I’ve been blessed to have him in my life since he was 8 weeks old. He is still my baby and as you well know, the hardest news I’ve ever had to deal with. Your article really helped me emotionally. Although I will be jumpy to his every move after surgery, your advice about not doing it will stick in my mind. Everybody says that if they could only help one person with something they’ve done or said, then it was worth it. FYI: You did that for me with your article. I wish there was something I could do other than say thank you to show you my appreciation. Although I am still scared and cry off and on for my baby (Gunner), I know he will adapt after reading your article. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  28. avatar

    Thank you, Rod, for your kind words. It really touches me that people are still finding this article and that it is actually helpful to parents. It was painful to write about, but it was therapeutic to be able to pass the experience on. I wish you and Gunner well in your journey.

  29. avatar

    Dear Heather. I just recently became a foster for one of the shelters in my area. This past Monday June 1, 2015 i brought home an 8 month old pit bull who was found as a stray and was walking with a fractured front right elbow. I don’t know if was from a dog fight or he got hit by a car but long story his front right leg was amputated. I’ve had him now for 6 days and the first night was rough. He was crying in agony but made it through the night. Things have been ok for the most part except when he eats. He does have an appetite, but when he eats he cries in pain. I’ve tried elevating his bowl to make it easier on him. I’ve also tried hand feeding him too but still he cries. Do u think his mouth or jaw might be hurt some how? I feel like he’s gotten so physically fragile the past 2 nights i just feel helpless. I don’t know what im doing wrong.

  30. avatar

    Hi Jennifer-
    (I am not a vet, I am just relating experience from my journey and helping others on Tripawds.com)

    First, take a deep breath. Remember that your dog can sense your anxiety and it elevates theirs. The pain meds might be causing him to act a little funny. The fact is, if he is still eating then that is good. It’s best to use the elevated bowl and let him eat at his own pace in a quiet secluded area. Have you talked to your vet? They may want to consider readjusting his meds. It took almost 10 days to get Barret’s pain meds at the right levels where he was properly medicated. Good luck, stay calm, keep him as comfortable as possible and just give him love. That’s what he needs now. Thank you so much for being a foster. You’re an amazing person for opening up your home.

    Heather

  31. avatar

    hi all your stories are really helping, my Boarder Terrier x Jack Russell has fractured her left front elbow, we have had x-Rays done and the vet said 1 she would need lots of ops though out her life to try and get it right, 2 take her leg off, 3 because she is only 15 weeks old it MAY sort it self out….she had a rough and tumble with a friends dog 3 days ago, I’m at my wits end she is on 1 pain killer a day and seems to be holding her leg up but will put it down when she having her meals and still plays with our other dog, my parents will be looking after both our dog while we go away for 2 weeks, so at least little Poppy will have time to see if she will be able to use her leg or not, if not we will have it removed when we get back home and if things change while we are away my parents will take her in to the vets

  32. avatar

    My little dog , Mia, had an accident last year. Her leg was broken, but it was so lucky when she became better after 5 months. It was really a difficult time with Mia. And as you say, we become closer after a time when I took care her.

  33. avatar

    Thank you so much for this blog post. It has calmed me a bit. The love of my life, Lily, out 5 year old White German Shepherd is going in to have her rear left leg removed due to osteosarcoma. It was found early and much by accident. We went in for our consult on a torn ACL and walked out with this.. I am heartbroken but hopeful. She is very active and all the doctors and specialists were baffled when they saw the it on the x ray. After 5 docs later all in one week we know what we have to do. I just want her to be pain free and hope we caught it early enough that it has not spread. Thanks for listening.

  34. avatar

    Thanks for commenting. It’s great to hear it helped!

  35. avatar

    I have a Chihuahua, SonnyRoo, who was born without his front two legs. I rescued him when he was about 6 months old and he’s just blossomed. He now has a cart that he uses occasionally but he does better just on his two legs. I’m glad this topic is being brought to light and medical advances are getting better every day.

  36. avatar

    Hi everybody just to let you all know Poppy had her left front leg amputated 2 weeks ago dew to the vet saying he didn’t think it would be successful, we sent the X-Rays off to a specialist for him to have a look at and he agreed with the vet, so we all had a good chat and decided it was for the best to have her leg removed, I was terrified and worried sick about how she would be, all I can say is I was worried for nothing, she is doing great, she can still get to the top of the stairs before me…..and is running around just full if it, must say a big thanks to everybody on this sit for for helping me with your stories, will keep you posted thanks again Karen and Poppy xx

  37. avatar

    I have a 10 year old Pomeranian mix. He’s spunky and sweet, but recently broke his leg. 10 years ago as a puppy, he broke the same leg and he it played. He did well until his recent fracture. I made the choice to amputate it as he broke the bone where the old plate was and was told replating might not go so well. He had the amputation surgery on Tuesday and now it’s Friday night. He does incredibly well and wants to play, but doesn’t understand his limits. He still tries to jump up on the couch and HATES being confined in his cage. I’m laying with him constantly, but can’t leave him as he’ll cry out…and not just any cry. I’ve noticed that when he tries to do something he used to, or gets startled, he seems to try to move his missing arm and cries out in agony. For example, when he was sleeping on my chest, he woke up and was startled by a noise outside. When he awoke, he cried the same way he did when he broke his leg. It’s breaking my heart. Has anyone else experienced this? Is that phantom leg pain? And does it seem to happen less and less with time? I’m just second guessing my decision for him and haven’t gotten much rest…

  38. avatar

    Lauren – everything you’re explaining is normal. It will take him some time to adjust! I say give him a few weeks post-amp until you see improvement. Everything will be OK!

    If you need support or want to talk to anyone else, check out the forums on tripawds.com

    Thanks, Heather

  39. avatar

    Hello,
    Our 11 year old Rottweiler has been diagnosed with bone cancer in her left hind leg.
    We have been given the choice to amputate as Feebee is otherwise a very healthy and fit dog.
    As a family we are so heartbroken and confused as to what to do.
    Our vet is wonderful and thinks amputation would be something to strongly consider.
    As we are overcome by emotion we don’t know what is best.
    Any advice or recommendations greatly appreciate.
    Kind regards
    Nicola.

  40. avatar

    I am in the same exact situation. My bullmastiff was diagnosed with cancer two days ago. I hate to put her through the pain of biopsy and amputation. My vet estimates it will only extend her life by 6 to 12 months. She hates being on drugs and since I live alone, I know I can’t carry her out to do her business. Did anyone respond to your request for advice or recommendations?
    Denise

  41. avatar

    You’re not alone Nicola. My best advice to you is to reach out to the Tripawds community. They are all people who have experienced exactly what you are experiencing, and that is what their community is all about. http://tripawds.com/

  42. avatar

    I just found out a rapidly growing mass on my cane Corso’s shoulder maybe bone cancer. He is over 160lbs with most of his weight in the front. Lungs and stomach area looked ok on xrays. But he is barely walking without stumbling. The biopsy is next week so we are preparing for the worst. I am considering amputation. Im a small woman so my uncle handicapped the stairs for him this weekend. I compared xrays online to his and they seemed different just by shape and location ..the cancer is in like a Starburst pattern and more solid oval or roundish shaped but what he has seems like fluid all over the place in his muscles to the skin and now edema down his leg since he was at the vets & he does have an infection and fever. So im hoping its not osteosarcoma. The vet bill alone for testing was 700+. I’m on a fixed income so any decision I make if the test is positive will be costly. Chemo for maybe a few mos more of my big boy being happy at home …or the amputation option but then again how well would he be able to adapt. He is only 6 or 7 yrs old just going through so much. I found him 5 yrs ago starving nothing but a walking skeleton and cut up so badly like someone tried to use him as a fighting dog but he’s too sweet and passive. Everyone is against me continuing to help him. Saying don’t waste money on a dog. But I just don’t know what to do I can’t give up on my baby. I saved his life once already I have to try everything I can. He’s even better behaved than my kids lol

  43. avatar

    Hi Tina, I am very sorry to hear about what you are going through. The tripawds community is a really great community to get in touch with, as they are pet owners who have had, or are currently experiencing exactly what you are going through.

  44. avatar

    Well I have an update on my pooch. Monday the biopsy results came in for osteosarcoma. He is 142lbs now..starting to lose muscle in his rear end from not exercising much. We will be going in for amputation next week my friends donated $800 for the surgery. I’m so glad I had some support and reading this site helped me realize he can be happy and pain free for a few more if not many yrs. I have him on a alkaline cancer diet lots of protein chicken spinach apple juice & flaxseed blended up and made into ice cubes to hide his meds..he loves ice cubes so he thinks its a treat but little does he know lol. No grains or kibble just turkey wings & legs chicken. My whole freezer is loaded with frozen meats now just 4 him. His vet wanted to just give me med for the pain…I told them I am still taking him to the surgeon in Canton MI. He is doing great well walking with the dragging leg now sort of used to it. But will be better after its removed..he get winded when he goes up his ramp alone after walking through the yard. I wanted to say Happy New Yr to everyone on the site. If it weren’t for reading so much here I wouldn’t have know what to do..I might have been an emotional mess and given up on my big guy. Thank you for sharing.

  45. avatar

    Tina, that is wonderful news! We are so happy to hear your pooch is hanging in there and doing well. We are incredibly grateful that our blog has helped you, and offered you support.

  46. avatar

    My beautiful boy Remy who’s 7 yrs old is a boxer / Pitt went in to have surgery to stabilize his shoulder and the vet found soft bone and did a biopsy and a week later we found out it was osteosarcoma/ bone cancer. He had a bad reaction to the fentanyal so on top of waiting for the bone biopsy he was so sick. All the way to the vets we both agreed that no amputation . But after speaking to the vet we opted to go for it. It’s been a week since Remy had his left front leg removed. A week camping in the living room on the floor we started to carry him up stairs to our room cause our backs are killing us…it’s hard to watch what the meds do to him. He yelps and hollers when others come near him. He sometimes turns in on himself like he’s ashamed and then starts shaking. I think it’s the meds. Remy normally can’t control his licker, meaning if his tail is wagging his tongue is kissing someone. I too need to let go a little. Unfortunately while at the vet hospital they hand fed him so when he first got home we had to hand feed. He’s getting around fine , but I truly do think the meds are really making him not himself and that’s hard to see. We are at that stage where we are still wondering ” did we do the right thing”? It seems like a lot to put someone who can’t tell us how he feels through. But we wanted to make him pain free , bring him home and love him for whatever time we have. Selfish? Let me add my husband and I have owned more dogs than most . I used to live on a farm and we took in every stray dog that came wondering up. Remy is our heart, our child . We plan our vacation around if Remy can go…. So for now we wait, pray, worry and do things like sleep on the living room floor for a week .

  47. avatar

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mary.

  48. avatar

    Tripod dogs have to relearn proprioception, which means they need to relearn how to balance their body in walking and this could be the biggest challenge a dog faces when it loses a limp. However, you are right.. tripods adapt to life quickly. But it crucial to take care of them because they may overdo or put extra stress on their remaining limps that can lead to injuries and arthritis..

  49. avatar

    My 4 month old retriever mix was hit by a car Sunday and had to have her left leg amputated at the hip because it was too severe to know for certain pinning it would help and it was far too expensive to chance. I picked her up last night and cried most of the night, when I found this article and read 30+ first hand stories most of my fears and guilt went away. I just hope she gets used to walking on three legs soon because she’s still really wobbly and I have to help her stand up to go to the bathroom and it breaks my heart.

  50. avatar

    Our 10 year old dog Joe was just recently diagnosed with bone cancer in his front right leg. The news totally blew us away. We were not expecting anything like that. We can not go through with chemo but are considering amputation for the pain. I’m so torn. I feel horrible just letting him go but I’m so afraid to put him through surgery with an average life expectancy of 5 months and that’s not a guarantee. Anybody amputate for bone cancer but not choose the chemo? Do you feel amputation was worth it? Was recovery quick enough that your dog still had a decent amount of quality life? I’m so afraid I’m going to make the wrong decision.

  51. avatar

    Don’t worry Alyssa, she will get used to it very soon and live a normal life. But since she is only 4 months old, you may take some extra care to help make her way for some time now…

  52. avatar

    My 13 year old collie cross was in art on Friday. He has broken both bones in his front right leg between his elbow and wrist. The vet has suggested having pins placed in his leg. But he has been at home over the weekend with a lot of padding and plaster while he waits for the op. He is not coping well . I am worried that pinning the leg may cause weeks of recovery and misery for the dog who still wants to do what he has always done. And if there are complications after surgery this would make him miserable for the rest of his life. Would amputation be kinder in the long run

  53. avatar

    Hi Helen –

    I’m so sorry you are facing this decision. Barret had 2 surgeries… the first was the remove the tumor and the second was the amputation. In all honesty the amputation was easier than the tumor removal. He was still in pain and it tooks weeks to recover, but I have never looked back. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your vet – he is trained to do what is best for your pet (dogs really are born with 3 legs and a spare!). If you don’t think he is doing the best for your pet then get a second opinion. You can do that! Be your pet’s best advocate. If you’re still struggling, reach out on the forums at tripawds.org. They are a great resource for anyone in similar situations.

    Good luck to you, Helen.

  54. avatar

    Hello all! We just learnt that our 10.5 old golden retriever will undergo leg amputation on his hind left leg. I’m so sad.. I read that the dog will be fine and will most probably cope very well with three legs but I just can’t help it. I feel awful. How did all of you manage all those feelings of guilt and plain sadness?

  55. avatar

    Hi Alice – In all honesty I didn’t manage those feelings well at first. That was until I posted on the forums at Tripawds.org and got lots of responses from people who had been in my shoes before and completely understood. I wish you luck. I know it is hard, and it will be hard, but you will both get through!

  56. avatar

    Isn’t the adjustable wheelchair company “Walkin’ Wheels” a brand that is great for any size, breed and weight of the animal who has an amputated limb?

  57. avatar

    Walking Wheels is a brand of wheelchairs for dogs any size from handicapped pets, and we actually accept orders for them as dropships. The fact remains that most tripawds don’t need assistance in that sense. It’s true that a wheelchair would be beneficial to dogs, cats, goats, etc if they are older and becoming less and less mobile, but as Heather points out a tripawd isn’t a crutch. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Heather before her move to Alaska, as well as meeting Barrett on several occasions. That dog had so much spunk and energy, it was contagious! In my opinion, pet owners should stick with the mentality “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” The same could be said for people, and I only speak from experience. In a different field I worked with a client that had developmental issues from a polio vaccine they received as a child. This client was in their 50’s when I met them, but they had the physical capability of an 80 year old. It was extremely sad and disheartening, because they were that way due to others just letting them sit. When going out, they limited their mobility by always putting them in a wheelchair (when they were fully capable of walking on their own), giving them a cane, or letting them hold on to their arm, etc. As soon as they would get back to the facility, they would plop the client in a recliner and just let them watch television for hours on end. This went on their entire life, because of how long they were put into the system. I realize that I am comparing two different extremes. The point is if you limit what someone (or something) is fully capable of doing, they lose their sense of being. I wouldn’t wish that upon any pet or person.

  58. avatar

    My mastiff Delilah was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma I am having her right hind leg removed next week, especially after reading all these stories about how dogs thrive as a tripod, which was my biggest concern, they said it is very low grade and has not attacked any of her her major organs, I am just not ready to give up or say goodbye to her yet. I am hoping even though she is clumsy she will bounce back as well. Thank you all for inspiring me and making me feel more confident about having her leg removed, I am so grateful to have read all of these posts. -Lisa, Delilh’s mommy

  59. avatar

    Thank you for this information. We might possibly be looking at amputation of a hind leg for out german shepherd. Her femur was badly broken. A vet surgeon was able to do a wonderful job at putting in plates and piecing the bone back together. She has healed well but unfortunately not well enough. If things don’t improve more in the next few months amputation might be our next option. My husband is against it but the vet says larger dogs do well with three legs. Any information from those who have experienced this would be greatly appreciated.

  60. avatar

    Hi Kay – I am sorry to hear about your pup. I encourage you to head over to Tripawds.org and share your story on the forums. There are tons of 3 legged large breed dogs. In fact, the founders of Tripawds founded it because of Jerry, their 3 legged German Shepherd. Jerry has since passed and they now have Wyatt, also a German Shepherd. He is a rear leg amputee and I have seen with my own two eyes how he is just like four legged dogs. Good luck to you!

  61. avatar

    I am struggling with the decision if I should amputate my 13 year old pomeranians front leg out to a soft tissue sarcoma.I tried surgery to remove the mass but it grew back right away then I tried chemo and radiation which still hasn’t helped.The specialists now has said my only options amputation.My pom is slightly over weight due to an underachieve thyroid for which he takes medication so I don’t know how well he would be able to walk with only 1 front leg.He is in a lot of pain now so Im not sure what to do.He is happy otherwise but the pain is really hard on him.I love him so much and Im just not sure what to do.

  62. avatar

    Hi I have a 3 year old Labrador, she is 28kg, so she is quite slim and fit, she had an accident around 12 months ago, she broke her rear hip in a fall… she has had 5 operations to save the hip including a total hip and socket replacement… now yet again she is limping and the x-rays show the implants have come loose.. the operations up to now have cost £12,500 and we are back at square one.

    the vet has given me the options of:
    doing the hip replacement again, but this will involve more work to build up the bone with bone grafts before the hip replacement can be done.
    the vet has advised me to go for removing the femoral head (which I think sounds horrific)
    or the final option of amputation

    iv had a second opinion from another vet who also advises me to go for the incision of the femoral head.

    im really stuck for what to do.

    she has been through too much pain and too many operations and i really don’t want to put her through all the pain and recovery of the removal of the femoral head.

    any advice would be great.

    thanks

  63. avatar

    Hi John,
    I understand your confusion. I really encourage you to head over to the forums at tripawds.org. They even have a chat room that usually has some other tri-parents there to help out people who are struggling to make a decision.

    Good luck making your decision, best wishes!
    Heather

    Good luck,
    Heather

  64. avatar

    My 9.75 year old Caviler King Charles is going in tomorrow (Wednesday 8/24/2016) with the amputation surgery being on Thursday. She will be losing her right front leg to cancer. I won’t fool you, I’m having a tough time with this. I know dogs are different, but I can’t help but think that she won’t like me much for doing this to her. She is so playful and lovable. I would hate it if she lost that.

  65. avatar

    I have a 12 yr old rat terrier. We tried a splint but the leg doesn’t want to heal, probably because he has bird legs. The vet suggested surgery(very costly) or amputation. After reading all the comments, my heart is heavy. I hate to purposely inflict pain on Stormy. Just knowing for a couple of weeks after surgery he will be crying out with pain is appalling. We may just have it resplinted until we know if amputation is the right choice for him. Thanks for the help,

  66. avatar

    Hello! I have been seeing comments accumulate on this page and have wanted to reply but just now am getting the chance to. Do not fear!! Your dog most likely will NOT BE crying out in pain for weeks after surgery. My puppy was upset for a day or 2, got over it, and started hopping around the yard just like she did before her terrible accident. You just have to think: your dog is most likely in more pain right now from an injury or cancer than he or she will be post-amputation. I had all these same fears. I was a wreck. And guess what? My dog is now 11 months old happy and full of life and I’ve never thanked myself more for coming on this blog and and being reassured by these comments. Now I only hope I can do the same for others.

  67. avatar

    This warms my heart to hear that this blog has helped people. You’re absolutely right – all the worry is for nothing. They love life on 3 legs!

  68. avatar

    Another pet pawrent, Alyssa say your concerns and had the following to say: “Do not fear!! Your dog most likely will NOT BE crying out in pain for weeks after surgery. My puppy was upset for a day or 2, got over it, and started hopping around the yard just like she did before her terrible accident. You just have to think: your dog is most likely in more pain right now from an injury or cancer than he or she will be post-amputation.”

    I completely second that. In the long run it was the right choice and I wouldn’t change my decision for the world.

    Good luck with your decision.

    Heather

  69. avatar

    Hello, I recently took our almost 9 year old newfie in this past week and the vet seems to think she has osteosarcoma in her right rear leg. They are recommending amputation so they can biopsy the leg. They did also x ray the lungs and from what they can tell so far they look clear. We are completely torn on what to do. Even if we have her leg amputated how long will we get out of her? Has anyone had this type of experience? Does this automatically mean this type of cancer will pop up in a different place for her? I would really hate to have her leg amputated and then find out in 6 months that we will have to put her down… Does she need constant care after surgery or what type of recovery time is typical? Unfortunately we do not have the option to take off a bunch of extra time from work and I wouldn’t feel very good knowing she is at home by herself in case something were to go wrong. Not really a decision I am looking forward to making either way. Any input would be very helpful. Thank you!

  70. avatar

    Hello,
    I just wanted to say thank-you from the bottom of my heart. My dog was diagnosed with cancer in his forelimb and we decided to amputate. I read both your blogs during my search for information on how to be prepared for this. Your blogs were the best thing I could have read. Your first blog prepared me and your second blog gave me immeasurable hope. It allowed me to get through the very rough first 24 hours and see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s only been four days and my dog is already thriving and happier than I have seen him in weeks.

    So thank-you!! Thank you for preparing me, for giving me validation of my emotions and understanding during that first horrid day, and for giving me hope.

  71. avatar

    Hello to all, we are two weeks post op on our 13 year old daushound pincher mix. Oscar was diagnosed with spindle cell carcinoma in the right paw and after one surgery to remove the tumor it grew back quickly. The only options was to amputate or you know the “other” option. after much research and debate with my husband who wanted the amputation, I thought it was more of our ego trying to hold on to out dear love Oscar.. I gave it as Oscar still had alot of juice left in him… I am glad I did. everything written here is true, Oscar has rebounded amazingly well. It was way harder on us. I will note that on older dogs recover is a bit slower as the body is after all older… one leg must do the work of two. but after week one Oscar was jumping up on the couch again.. even walking along the back of the couch like a tight rope on week two and we even caught him sprinting across the yard. So, if you are worried about it, it is a journey but one we found worth taking.

  72. avatar

    Hang in there, Melissa! You’ve got this!

  73. avatar

    It warms my heart that you took the time to give others hope and support. So glad things are going well with Oscar! Good luck and welcome to the Tripawds family 🙂

  74. avatar

    I decided to amputate my 13 year old pomeranians right front leg after consulting with my vet.I had tried surgery to remove the mass as well as chemo and radiation but the cancer was very aggressive and he was in pain even with medication.He had the surgery in July and I have to say some days are better then others.He doesn’t really attempt to walk a lot so I bought him a stroller and we go on walks.I know his rear legs are over compensating for his lost leg so he has started having problems with his knees.He is still full of life and I don’t regret my decision but it is like having a puppy again that is totally dependent on you and its hard to leave the house for any length of time.Im glad I could read others stories they helped me tremendously.

  75. avatar

    I have spent this even reading all your inspiring blogs. My 7 year old jack Russell Leon had his back left leg amputated ten days ago due to a culmination of unfortunate errors including an aggressive bacteria from a benign lump removal and loss of circulation due to the tightness of his bandage. I won’t lie, I am finding it hard to adjust. The first few days were awful. My little boy was needing pill after pill to subside the pain. Food became his nemesis. Eventually we managed to get liquid form drugs from vet and very slowly but surely he is on the road to recovery…. Stitches out tomorrow. It’s so true that we feel the pain and trauma more so but its the small things that hit hard. The inability to bound on the bed, to stand on his hind legs in the back yard and bark at birds. I know/hope I see more signs of my typical Leon over the coming days but please be prepared to embrace and accept change. Our situation was unexpected and we are still very angry and. In shock, but right now I just want my boy to recover and be supported with all our love. Time is a great healer and we will adjust but nonetheless it is still heart breaking. We had no choice and I am guessing in most cases it isn’t a question of choice, but the best advice I can give is that your loving pet will know when you are feeling down so try as hard as you can to create a positive environment and a sense of normality to help the recovery go smoothly.

  76. avatar

    Thank you for taking the time to read and share your story. It’s never an easy task because we always want to do what’s best. I encourage you to reach out to the Tripawds community. They really are a wonderful group of people.

  77. avatar

    Hi everyone. My dog Brian has been limping for some months. Initially he responded well to pain meds and the first x-rays didn’t show anything of note. Anyway, in the months since, and in particular the last 6 weeks or so, the limping has become more pronounced and serious pain meds don’t seem to be doing anything. He was x-rayed again on Tuesday and this time it showed a tumour in his left foreleg. He’s 9, and otherwise fit and healthy (and happy, aside from the pain). The options were to try chemo, or to amputate the leg (the tumour doesn’t appear to have spread). My concern about the chemo was that it may not have worked and simply delayed the inevitable amputation, wouldn’t alleviate the pain of the tumour, and would make him feel ill from the chemo drugs. So, I’ve gone with amputation, and it’s scheduled for tomorrow morning. I’ve bought raised bowls and a new orthopaedic bed for when he’s home. Reading this blog and other articles on the Tripawds website have been so helpful in making me realise that once he’s over the surgery, Brian should continue to have a happy life – certainly one which is better than it has been for the last few weeks in pain. I’m still so worried about him and when I overthink it I tear up (not great if I’m at work). If anyone has any tips about how I can aid his recovery please let me know – everything I’ve read so far has been so useful. I appreciate it massively 🙂

  78. avatar

    Hi Amy. I am sorry to hear about Brian’s pain. Personally, I would have made the same decision, nonemoreso than the fact chemo is never a cert. As with my blog, my little 7 year old Leon is now 3 weeks post amputation of his left hind leg. For us it was totally unexpected. Today we got the final results of the post op tests and all clear. The first few days were difficult, but what I learnt over that initial phase was that Leon was feeding off my emotions. If I showed sadness he reacted accordingly. A few days after I tried really hard to create a sense of ‘normality, (removing his temporary bed, leaving his dinner in the kitchen to eat rather than spoon feeding him etc….). This worked very well and once he knew I was not being overly nurse-like, he started showing signs of his pre-op character. I am still coming to terms with our new tri.pawd. But he is happy, in no pain and as I write this he is currently trying to bury a bone! Have faith, give Brian lots of love. I am amazed how resilient our canine best friends are. Thinking of you both and do keep us posted. Shaun.

  79. avatar
    BRADLEY J. GERHARDT

    I have a 18 month old boxer with a lot of spirit, unfortunately Daisy was hit by a car recently and we were wondering if you would recommend breeding her …

  80. avatar
    BRADLEY J. GERHARDT

    Daisy is having her hind leg amputated .. curious if 3 legs will support the weight of puppies

  81. avatar

    It’s probably not the best idea to intentionally breed a three-legged dog. My puppy got hit at 4 months old and I got her fixed as soon as she had her first heat because I didn’t want to risk her getting pregnant and hurting her good leg or adding any strain. Large breed dogs especially tend to put on quite a bit of weight during pregnancy.

  82. avatar

    Help with “Bathroom” question after amputation. Hi. I have a question I hope someone can help with. I just picked up my lab/border collie dog today after her leg amputation (cancer). She has a harness to steady her as she walks because of the tenderness at the surgical site. She wants to go out to her spots where she likes to urinate but she won’t “go” .. I think because of the harness but not sure. Any one encounter this with their tri pawd and have a recommendation for how to encourage her to “go”. Thanks!

  83. avatar

    Hi! I encourage you to head over to Tripawd.org and check out the forums as there is a ton of information there that can help. For me, Barret rejected any attempts to help. I just had to step back and watch him learn how to navigate on three legs. He stumbled and tripped, but he needed independence to do his thing. Hope everything goes well with your pup!

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About hcrotsley

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Currently an owner of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience over the years. I strive to provide the best home I can for my little terrors, and you’ll read all about our trials and tribulations as I continue down the rewarding yet rocky road of pet parenthood.
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