How to Care for a Three-Legged Dog
Facing the decision to amputate a dog’s limb is an incredibly hard situation to be in. Choosing to adopt a three-legged dog is also a difficult decision as you might be wondering if the dog will be able to fit into your life and schedule without too much adjusting. Both of these situations can be very stressful for you and it’s hard to know what’s best for you and your dog. Meetings and discussions with your vet will help to inform you of your options, what might work best for you and provide some clarity on what is actually required to look after a three-legged doggo. We hope that this article will also help to shed new light on some of the issues you might face and provide some new facts you might not have known about this type of care.
This article should also clear up the negative assumption that these dogs (adorably referred to as ‘tripawds’ by their owners) are hard work and need much more attention than other doggos. In fact, three-legged dogs aren’t as challenging to look after or different as any other dog. They are still highly spirited and active animals that love exercise, playing and socializing with their favorite person – their owner!
Why This Decision Must Be Made
Unfortunately, our dogs are not invincible and sometimes we need to make tough decisions about their lives. Deciding to amputate a dog’s limb might be one of the hardest choices you make as a pet parent but there are several reasons for doing so. You may need to choose amputation if your dog’s leg has been damaged beyond repair, if they have immense pain from injury or cancer in the limb, or if it would be too costly or risky to seek alternative treatment. These scenarios are truly horrible and we wish you’re never faced with them but, if they happen, choosing to amputate a limb may be the only option other than putting your dog down. This decision is incredibly hard and must be considered heavily and all thoughts should be discussed at length with a veterinarian.
Some people believe that ‘tripawds’ may have a reduced quality of life because they might struggle socially, physically or mentally but this simply isn’t true. These dogs show unbelievable aptitude towards their situation and are extremely motivated to recover and resume normal life as quickly as possible. So, discussing your options with a vet who knows your dog’s age, personality and general health and wellbeing is the best thing you can do to make an informed decision. Afterall, you both know your dog the best and understand how they will handle the recovery process.
What To Do In The Beginning
After an amputation, most dogs are expected to recover within 1 to 2 months, but this could be longer depending on your dog’s age and health. While older dogs may take slightly longer, most dogs recover within this period if their owners follow the suggestions given by their vet. Generally, immediately after receiving the surgery dogs should be left to rest for 2 to 3 days and will need assistance to stand, move and when they need to go to the toilet. During this time, you should regularly supply them with lots of water and food to ensure they are nourished and recovering well. Although, many dogs might not eat or drink much following surgery but this is normal and expected behavior following surgery and they medication they have received. They should also be provided with a comfortable padded bed which allows them to sleep on their side as area around the removed limb will be sensitive after the surgery, even after taking painkillers. It’s also important to keep your dog on soft, carpeted floors while they learn to adjust their footing. You can also help by wrapping a towel under your dog’s body to hold them up for support and to prevent them exerting too much weight on their recovering legs.
After a few days, your dog may attempt to stand alone or move around. It’s important to help them with this process until their stiches are removed. Only after the stiches have been removed is it advisable to allow your dog to walk unassisted. While they might not be fully ready for this, you shouldn’t immediately stop them as this may inhibit their learning and recovery process. Instead, you should carefully observe and be ready to help them stand if they look as though they are struggling or are in pain.
The recovery process is noticeably shorter than human recovery time after amputation however, the month or two of your dog’s recovery may seem long and daunting. It’s perfectly normal to worry that you dog might not be the same again, but this simply won’t happen. Dogs show an unparalleled commitment to recovery and older dogs can even recover fully after a longer time and with more support.
General Care and Exercise
After the recovery process, looking after a tripawd dog isn’t much different to looking after any other dog. Although there are some minor lifestyle changes, general care won’t be much different. If you’re looking to adopt a three-legged dog, your care will be much simpler as you won’t have to help through the recovery process. However, you may still have to make some adjustments to ensure your doggo has a safe and healthy life.
As we’ve discussed, slip-free surfaces are crucial for ensuring your perfect pooch adapts to its new footing and helps to prevent accidents. It’s also essential to monitor their weight closely as, with only three legs, additional bodyweight can result in too much pressure being forced onto the joints. This can be avoided by sticking to a healthy diet and seeking advice from the vet when necessary. This potential problem can also be avoided if your pup receives enough exercise. Some pet parents believe that three-legged dogs can’t exercise too much or that it can be dangerous for their health but again, this isn’t true. Tripawds love exercise just as much as any other doggo and should be allowed out to play frequently throughout the day. The only change might be shorter periods of exercise as they may tire slightly faster, but this depends on the individual.
Some pet parents also worry for their dog’s mental health as they are concerned three-legged dogs might feel self-conscious or find it harder to make friends because of their differences. Just like most popular beliefs regarding these dogs, this is also incorrect. Unlike their human companions, dogs don’t experience the same feelings of self-consciousness and concern over their appearance after this type of procedure. As naturally social and energetic animals, they simply want to continue as they were before the surgery. In fact, you may even need to persuade your dog to calm down or to take it easy during play and exercise, so they don’t tire themselves out too quickly.
So, when exercising your dog, it’s important to remember that multiple short walks dispersed throughout the day is better than one long one. You should also let your dog set the pace when it comes to exercise. At first, they might be quite slow and will require time to gain confidence enough to walk or run at a faster pace. After time, however, they may become as fast as they were before the operation so don’t worry or be overprotective, running can sometimes be easier than walking for them. If your dog can swim confidently and comfortably, this might be another effective form of exercise as they adjust. It’s worth asking for your vet’s advice on this, but generally swimming can be easier as it relieves pressure from the other legs while allowing your dog to exercise and stay healthy.
If your dog is struggling to adjust or you think they might benefit from a prosthetic limb this could be an option for some tripawds. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for all dogs as prosthetics usually require a stump where the limb used to be. If your dog has a stump remaining after the amputation, speak with your vet for advice on what options might be best for you and your dog. While most vets will usually recommend training your dog to adjust and walk without one at first, a prosthetic might be useful after the adjustment period.
Prosthetic models vary in size, build and cost. By speaking to your vet for advice, you might be able to find a suitable type of prosthetic which fits your dog’s needs. These prosthetics can range between $200-$600 depending on size, material or even where it is purchased. If you research and look around, you’ll be sure to find the ideal prosthetic within budget. You may even find some charities or funds which are aimed specifically for dogs requiring prosthetic limbs.
Three-legged dogs are often seen as disadvantaged, poorly puppers that require lots of extra-special attention and care. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These energetic and outgoing animals love to play, exercise and socialize with their owners just like every other dog! They might require a few additional trips to the vet and need looked after a bit more carefully, but their general care doesn’t differ much from other dogs. After reading this article, we hope you’ve learned some interesting facts about tripawds and how to care for these wonderful animals.
- Caring for Three-Legged Dogs and Cats, aka “Tripawds” – PetMD
- Can a Three-Legged Dog Climb Stairs? – Animals Mom.me