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Caring for Tripod and Amputee Pets

Animals can survive and even thrive on three legs. Caring for a tripod or amputee pet can come with its own set of challenges, yet there is no reason why a dog who’s missing a limb (or two!) should lead anything but a happy and healthy life.

Meeka Rear Amputee Dog WheelchairHelp Your Pet Adjust to Life on Three Legs

Dogs can thrive on three legs. If born missing a limb, a dog will adapt quickly, often never noticing the difference between themselves and any other animal. They move around with ease and, in most cases, without assistance. Four-legged pets who lose a leg to amputation will have an adjustment period, but they learn quickly! Dogs adjust much faster than a human can.

Many tripod dogs and cats adapt and move easily on three legs. However, over time they place additional strain on their other legs. These result in aching joints, wear and tear on a tripod pet’s body, and possibly even injury. It’s important for a tripod dog to be regularly monitored by their vet. During your dog’s annual checkup, the veterinarian will assess your dog’s remaining legs and joints for any sign of pain, injury, or arthritis. Be aware that as your tripod pet ages, they are at a higher risk for joint pain and mobility problems. It’s very common for a senior tripod dog to require the support of a dog wheelchair in later years.

Help Your Amputee Dog RecoverWalkin' Lift-n-Step Harness

After surgery, your dog will need recovery time the same way you would. Their Veterinarian may recommend crate rest or gating off a small area in your house to keep your dog safe and quiet.

When it’s time to get your dog walking again, getting up on their own can be a challenge. Often dogs will require extra assistance standing up from a lying position. A support sling that wraps gently around your dog’s middle will help you to give the light support they need to get standing and outside for bathroom breaks. If your dog needs additional support, a complete body harness that supports both front and rear legs, like the Walkin’ Lift-n-Step harness, may be the perfect solution.

And be extra careful on stairs as your dog adjusts to life on three legs. Make sure to assist your dog up and down stairs until you’re confident they can do it on their own.

Cat Wheelchair Amputee BonnieHelp Your Amputee Cat Recover

Just like with dogs, a three-legged cat needs to keep their weight down. Even one pound can impact the mobility of your cat. Isolate your cat during their recovery process, block access to high-up cabinets, and limit their jumping. Your cat’s balance may be off, and it may struggle to land correctly on all three legs. An improper landing can lead to further injury.

As your cat heals, they may have a harder time getting in and out of their litter box. A newspaper-based litter box is recommended for the first two weeks out of surgery, and a litter box that sits low to the ground is recommended going forward.

Most importantly, if your cat was an outdoor cat before their amputation, consider shifting your cat into an indoor-only lifestyle. Tripod cats will have a harder time escaping the predators outside.

Helping Your Tripod to Keep Their Grip

A tripod (or tripawd) pet will have difficulty traveling across slippery floors. Provide extra traction with pet boots or traction socks with a non-slip sole that helps them to grip the floor as they walk. The extra support they gain from wearing non-slip footwear will build confidence while your dog is working on getting their footing back.

Mobility Assistance for Dogs with Missing Limbs

Tripod Dog Wheelchair

A young dog. who adjusts well to their amputation, once healed, they may never need assistance getting around. Stay vigilant and watch your dog for signs of exhaustion or pain when they move.

As they age, tripod dogs are more prone to injuries in their remaining limbs. 60% of a dog’s body weight is supported by its front legs. This means a dog that’s a front leg amputee bears more weight on their healthy front leg, and hind limb amputees alter their gait to keep their leg directly under their body for better balance. These gait and balance adjustments can cause pain, fatigue, and possible issues later in life. Over time the remaining “good” leg begins to show signs of stress, joint deterioration, or injury. Your aging amputee pet may require a dog wheelchair or a lifting harness to help them get around.

An older dog who becomes an amputee may have a more difficult time adjusting to life on three legs. They may need some extra help getting around, especially if there were any pre-existing physical challenges. Regardless of breed or weight, no animal is immune to problems caused by an altered gait. Many senior amputee dogs will require a wheelchair during rehabilitation and beyond.

Choosing the Right Wheelchair for Your Tripod Pet

Small Dog Beau Double leg AmputationRear Amputees

A Rear Dog Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair provides support to both hips. Supporting your dog from underneath helps them to maintain a proper stance and be able to walk in a more naturally balanced gait. Whether your dog is missing one or both of its back legs, a rear wheelchair will help them to move around with ease and minimize the stress placed on the remaining limbs.

Dog Wheelchair for Front Amputee

Front Dog Amputee Wheelchair

A Full Support or Quad Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair provides your dog with support in the front as well as the rear legs. With support in both the front and rear, your pet is able to move with confidence as they are fully supported by their wheelchair.

For additional comfort, if your pet has a clean amputation (with no stump), use the Walkin’ Wheels Amputee Leg Ring Cover. This simple neoprene sleeve slides over the wheelchair’s leg ring to provide additional support and comfort to the area missing a limb.

Joint Support for Tripod Dogs

Although amputee dogs can adjust to a missing limb relatively easily, tripod dogs will often experience joint issues later in life. The amount of stress a rear amputee dog places on its remaining back leg is tremendous. Over time, the remaining hip joint can develop pain and arthritis. A daily joint supplement should be introduced to promote hip joint health and keep your dog’s remaining hind limb strong.

Prosthetics for Dogs With Missing Limbs

A prosthetic leg is an option for any pet missing a limb. Prosthetic limbs help a dog to walk naturally and maintain its natural stance, allowing the pet to distribute its weight evenly throughout its body. Not every dog is a candidate for an artificial limb. Factors such as the type of amputation, whether the leg was amputated above or below the knee, as well as how the leg has healed all help to determine whether a prosthetic is the right decision for your dog.

Supporting Remaining Limbs

As a dog adjusts to life with a missing limb, they begin to walk differently. Although your pet’s gait may seem fairly normal, they are actually putting added stress and pressure on their joints. Due to the shift in their weight distribution and shift in how they balance, your dog may actually be placing additional stress on their carpal and hock joints.

A rear amputee pet may now put more weight on their front legs. Over time the carpal joint in their front legs can become stressed. Wearing a neoprene wrap around your dog’s carpal joint can offer some additional support and help prevent future injury. Due to how dogs balance and shift their weight, the strain is most often on the diagonal leg from the amputation. For example, a dog missing their back right leg will place more weight on their front left leg when they walk. The same is true for front amputee pets.

How to Be a Good Puppy Parent to a Tripod Dog

Prevention and awareness are key. To be the best pet parent, be aware that your pet is at a higher risk of developing arthritis. Here are some tips for keeping your pup healthy:

Three Legged Bull Terrier Puppy

• Stay Positive: Your dog picks up on your behavioral cues
• Introduce a daily joint supplement into your dog’s diet
• Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
• Check in with your Veterinarian and Rehab Therapist often
• Once healed, keep your dog active
• Watch for signs of fatigue or pain
• Don’t wait, if you see changes in your tripod’s movement, see a Vet immediately

Rear Amputee Dog Goes on First Walk in New Wheelchair

See All Walkin' Pets Products Noodster Wheelchair Buynow

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  1. Hi,
    I found out the love of my life had bone cancer in her back leg last April. We amputated and then went through Chemo. I found out I had cancer in November. I had a double mastectomy and am getting ready to start chemo.
    I’ve got so many bills, but I feel like my baby girl needs a wheelchair to help her get around. Is there any help or financial aid I could have to get her one. She is a Rottweiler. Very happy. We have altered our whole house for her. She sees her oncologist every 3 months. I just want her to be able to walk more.
    Thank you,

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