I had some very sad news from my friend, Neila today. It seem that one of her Rottweilers, Cassie, has been diagnosed with bone cancer, and now Neila’s choice is whether to have Cassie put to sleep, or have her leg amputated.
This isn’t going to be an inexpensive procedure, not that I think Neila cares about that. The surgery is going to cost about $2,000, but what Neila is thinking about is Cassie’s quality of life following the surgery. How is she going to make out as as three-legged dog, or, as many refer to them, a “tripod” dog?
Well, I just don’t know. On the one hand, Cassie is a very happy dog, and seems to be enjoying life. On the other, she’s 8 years old, and Rottweilers don’t usually live much past 9. Should Neila have the surgery done, or not?
I don’t think that living with a three-legged dog could be easy. After all, how would you feel if you suddenly lost a limb?
I really feel for Neila, and because of that, I’ve been researching three-legged dogs. I recently found an article about a dog named Harvey, who cost his owner a small fortune. He was a mixed breed who was adopted out of a humane shelter in Tacoma, and taken home by his “forever parents,” who lived in an apartment on the fourth floor of a building. No sooner did Harvey get home, than he launched himself off the fourth floor balcony and broke his leg. The damage was so bad that the leg had to be amputated.
Harvey actually isn’t an isolated case. A lot of the time, dogs can end up losing legs, due to injuries or cancer. Sometimes, vets simply advise having the dog put down, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Sometimes, you just have to go with the amputation, and end up living with a three-legged dog. These are often also referred to as “tripod dogs.”
Can They Still Be Healthy?
Yes, they most definitely can. I’ve actually known “tripod” dogs that have lived for many, many years following amputation, and have adapted very nicely to the loss of a leg.
Of course some tripod dogs do better than others. The main challenge, though, is regaining balance. The dog has to learn how to function on three legs, and not put undue stress on the remaining joints, since doing so could lead to arthritis and other injuries. How do you keep a three-legged dog healthy and strong?Do the following things:
- Protect the limbs that remain by using sock pads on the remaining legs to ease pressure
- Make sure that the dog doesn’t gain a lot of weight, thereby placing pressure on the remaining legs
- Make sure that the dog gets regular, appropriate exercise – swimming is one of the best exercises
- Don’t let the dog overdo it
- Offer glucosamine and other joint-supporting supplements
- If the front leg has been amputated, consider using a cart or a wheelchair to help with mobility
How Many Tripods?
You might be surprised to know how many tripod dogs there are. It’s not exactly something that’s widely reported. Some veterinarians and rescue organization, though, estimate that there could be as many as 50,000 tripod dogs nationwide in any given year.
Obviously, no veterinarian wants to chop off a dog’s leg if there’s any other alternative. It’s expensive, for one thing, with an amputation usually costing anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000. The other thing is that nobody really knows what happens post-amputation. Do dogs, like people, sometimes experience “phantom pain” in the missing limb?
The bet course of action is always to try to save the limb, but it isn’t always possible. Before identifying amputation as the best course of action, a veterinarian will try to determine if the dog is a good candidate, and will also evaluate the dog to find out where is the best point of amputation – should the whole leg be taken or should it be amputated further down? Sometimes, leaving part of the limb isn’t practical. Sometimes, too, it’s better cosmetically to take the entire leg.
Prosthesis are another consideration. It is possible to make artificial limbs for dogs, but whether they’re best fitted up high on the leg or lower down is often up for debate. If a dog has cancer in the lower part of the leg, and it looks like it might move up higher, is it best to do a low amputation and worry about “taking more off later on,” or should the entire leg be taken, “just in case”? A lower leg prosthesis will probably be easier for the dog to become accustomed to, but “what if”?
Most veterinarians tend to write off the whole limb, and go with a full-leg amputation. The problem with that is that it makes a prosthesis very nearly impossible – you need at least one joint to make it work.
The field is new, though, and not all that many veterinarians are working to create prostheses for animals. What is known, though, is that it’s best to save as much of the limb as is possible, and as many joints as possible.
reason a three-legged dog has to be disabled.”
How Do Dogs Adjust to Amputation?
Much depends on the age of the dog. Breed is also a factor. Recovery also depends on the quality of care that the dog gets post-amputation. If you have a dog that’s had to have a leg amputated, there are a number of services you can access to help you with living with a three-legged dog.
Animal Wellness and Rehabilitation Center
This is a holistic treatment center that focuses on diet and herbs to help your dog get past an amputation. You can reach the Animal Wellness and Rehabilitation Center in Bellevue, WA by calling 425-455-8900.
This organization offers support and services for pets that are disabled or elderly. They also offer a discussion board that can be very helpful if you’re dealing with a dog that has had an amputation, or with other pets who have special needs. You can reach them by calling 603-673-8854.
Wellsprings offers massage therapy and hydrotherapy to help your dog recoverfollowing amputation. They also offer phone consultations and referrals. You can reach Wellsprings at 206-935-8299.
If your dog has had a leg amputated, or is otherwise disabled, Doggon’ Wheels can help. They make custom wheelchairs that can help your pet to achieve full mobility even if his legs will no longer do the job. You can reach Doggon’ Wheels at 888-736-4466.
Eddie’s Wheels for Pets
This is another company that makes carts for disabled dogs and other pets. You can reach Eddie’s wheels by calling 888-211-2700.
Here’s another pet wheelchair company. K-9 Carts has been in business for more than 40 years, and offers not just wheelchairs, but therapeutic beds, harnesses, and other equipment for dogs that have disabilities. Call them at 800-578-6960.
This company is the brainchild of a man named Martin Kaufmann, who makes prosthetic and orthotic devise for pets. His products help protect dogs from the ravages of arthritis and other conditions. You can call OrthoPets at 303-677-2991.
The Final Word
It’s great if a dog has four legs, but it’s not the end of the world if he has only three. I’ve seen so many wonderfully happy dogs that are getting around on fewer legs than God meant them to have, and honestly, it inspires me – the joy that these animals have despite being deprived of a limb!
If you have a three-legged dog, you know that the absence of a leg means nothing when it comes to the love. The absence of a leg means nothing, not to that wonderful creature who still wants to romp and play with you, and not to you either. You just love your dog. Three legs, four legs – it’s all the same. This is just a creature that you adore beyond reason, and it doesn’t matter how many legs he has.
When you consider love, you’re not counting limbs.