Losing A Leg: What You Need To Know About Having A Tripod Dog

Posted on: 13 May 2015

Whether through injury or disease, some dogs end up with a leg that is so broken, or crushed, or infected, or ridden with tumors, that it makes sense to remove it entirely. The good news is that dogs can do well with three legs -- they are affectionately known as "tripods."

As an owner dealing with your pet's recent surgery, recovery and ongoing quality of life, what do you need to know about caring for your three-legged animal?

Immediately after the surgery

Some animals may have a hard time with the loss of a leg, just like some people struggle with the loss of a limb. Fortunately, most pets come through the surgery just fine and begin learning to adjust to walking again with three legs.

Before you bring your pet home from the animal hospital, go through your house looking for issues that could trip up your pet. Slippery floors are a big problem; use throw rugs with a non-slip backing, at least until your dog gets used to moving on three legs. Inexpensive bathroom rugs are a good temporary solution.

Stairs are a tough obstacle for a three-legged dog. If possible, make sure the dog's access to outdoors, food and water, and bedding are all on the same level. You can assist your dog with coming up and down steps once or twice a day, for example, to go up to your bedroom on the second floor at night.

It may take your pet some time to adjust to life on three legs. Be patient and remember that your dog needs to regain balance and possibly develop extra muscles in order to be steady and move around comfortably. This can take a few months to achieve.

Mobility aids and prosthetics

There are options for a dog that has trouble adjusting to life on three legs, including prosthetic legs and mobility carts.

If your dog had its leg amputated at the joint, it may be possible to get a prosthetic leg fitted. Once, veterinarians almost always would amputate the entire leg, but now they are learning to amputate at the joint if the dog is a candidate for a prosthetic. Of course, if bone cancer or damage goes up past the joint, it will be necessary to amputate the whole leg.

Mobility carts, a type of dog wheelchair where the pet is strapped in to get exercise and move around as needed, are an option for dogs who cannot wear a prosthetic.

Ongoing care

Your veterinarian like one from Highland Animal Hospital can answer any questions you have about keeping your dog's three remaining legs healthy. Sometimes a glucosamine supplement is recommended to keep your pet's joints in the best possible shape. You will also want to be cautious about what the activities you allow your pet to engage in, as you can't risk injuring another leg.

Other things that may help your pet stay healthy:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your pet will have more trouble than an average dog transporting extra weight, even a couple of pounds.
  • Take care of the pads on the foot of the other leg, as they may get more pressure. Some pet owners use a special boot on the foot when outdoors.
  • Engage in regular, low-impact exercise, like walking or swimming.

Talk to the veterinarians and care staff at your animal hospital to find out what additional things you can do to make your tripod dog happy and healthy.