A tripod dog is a dog with three legs. The loss of a leg can be due to many reasons including cancer, leg trauma (car accident), or congenital deformities (born with a deformity).
I am privileged to share my life with a three legged Siberian Husky, called Shania. She had a congenital deformity called radial head luxation, i.e., the bones on her left front leg were misaligned, and she was unable to put weight on it. This condition is rare, especially for a Siberian Husky, and the cause for it is unclear.
We speculate that it may have been from birth trauma, since she was a c-section puppy. We had hoped to correct the problem with orthopedic surgery, but unfortunately, there was too much cartilage damage in the joint, and the surgeon recommended amputation.
It was a shock when she came home with three legs, and a BIG bandage around her torso. However, Shania recovered quickly from the surgery and is now a happy, bouncy, and somewhat spoiled member of the family.
Here are some things to look out for when living with a three legged dog –
1. Keep a tripod dog slim.
The most common health issue with three legged dogs is that they may develop arthritis earlier than other dogs. Because they are missing a leg, more stress is placed on their remaining joints, and there is more wear and tear. Therefore, it is very important to keep them slim, so that they do not have to deal with additional joint stresses from excess weight.
Feed a three legged dog a healthy and balanced diet, but do not overfeed her.
2. Keep our dog’s foot-pads clean and healthy.
Proper foot care is very important for a three legged dog.
They may develop cracked foot-pads because of the additional weight placed upon each paw. I now apply DermaPaw cream to Shania’s footpads to help keep them protected.
Previously I was using Tuf-Foot by Bonaseptic, but I find that the DermaPaw cream brings better results, is easier to apply, and stays on for much longer than Tuf-Foot. However, Shania will often try to lick the cream up, so I apply it right before she takes a nap (e.g. when we come home from our walk), and I supervise until she settles down.
I also keep Shania’s nails short, and trim the fur at the bottom of her feet. This allows her to walk comfortably, and without slipping.
3. Watch out for Elbow Hygroma.
An Elbow Hygroma is a fluid-filled swelling around the dog’s elbow. It occurs, when the elbow bone causes trauma to the soft tissue around it. This usually happens in younger dogs who are constantly lying down, or falling down on a hard surface. It may also happen when a dog leans, or consistently places too much weight on one elbow.
As a dog matures, a callus will form to protect the elbow and prevent this condition. Dog beds may help, but some dogs prefer to sleep on cooler, hard surfaces.
Young three legged dogs are especially susceptible to elbow hygroma, because their elbow calluses have yet to form, and their activity level is high. Shania developed this condition when she was less than a year old. However, the swelling was small, and our vet advised us to let it heal on its own. In more serious cases, where there is an enormous amount of swelling and/or infection, surgery may be needed.
We now have a cool bed for Shania in her crate. It helps to keep her cool during the summer, and provides her with a nice soft surface to lie on. Remember to regularly clean and air out the water bed, so that mold does not accumulate on its wet undersides.
For outside the house, we use the Coolaroo outdoor dog bed. It is durable, provides a soft surface, and is elevated from the floor. The elevation allows free air-flow during hot days, and prevents water from accumulating during rainy days.
4. Manage slippery surfaces
Make sure that there are not too many slippery surfaces in the house.
Three legged dogs have less balance, and can easily slip on hard surfaces like wood, tile, linoleum, or marble. This is especially true when they are running or playing.
If there are many hard, slippery floors in the house, it may be time to go rug shopping! Rugs also provide a nice, soft surface for a dog to rest on.
I get natural hand-knotted rugs, that can stand more wear and tear from the dogs. Consider getting a light, earth-tone colored rug, that can hide dirt and dog hair more easily.
In addition, I check the backyard, and make sure there are no deep holes. Shania can trip on uneven surfaces and hurt herself. I also clear away large piles of sticks and leaves. Larger sticks may sometimes catch on a dog’s nails and cause damage.
It helps to get raised water bowls, so that our tripod dog can drink without having to bend down too much.
5. Let a 3 legged dog be a dog
When we share our life with a tripod dog, we naturally want to protect her from as many things as possible. It is important, though, to let a dog be a dog.
If a three legged dog is kept from doing all the things that dogs love to do, she will have lived an unfulfilled life.
“A life lived in fear is a life half lived” ~ [Spanish proverb]
Hi! i’m Schweta. I love dogs very much bt i dont hav one coz we live in an apartment and me n my parents are hardly home. Bt our neighbour has one. Her name is Romi. she is 2 months old and she got into a car accident and her leg had to be amputated. Its her second day today after the operation n she is copin really well. Reading about Shania really helped me and now i’m going to show this to my neighbours too. Thank you so much!
Schweta, I am happy you enjoyed Shania’s story. You made a very good point wrt. dog ownership – Dogs are a joy, but they also need a lot of attention. As you pointed out, there are many other ways to spend time with dogs in the interim.
Romi sounds like a big time sweetie. Tripods always seem to bounce back very quickly and they are so full of verve! Gotta love tripods 🙂
Spirit Jerry says
Excellent article! Please consider dropping by the Tripawd Discussion Forums sometime to share your experiences and advice with otherrs facing the difficult decision of amputation for their dogs.
Thanks for dropping by Jerry. I visited your site many times while Shania was going through her surgery. It really helped to read the many tripod stories there. I will definitely drop in again.
Thank you for your wonderful article on our tripod friends. Your Shania is a beautiful girl too. My 2-year old Bella had her leg amputated iast Fall, following an accident. I really liked you suggestions, and there are things you brought up that I had not thought about yet for her. At the time of her accident, there was not to much information and amputation, and living with a 3 legged dog. My search uncovered alot more sites, including yours. I will definitely give your suggestions a try. By the way my Bella is a real dyamo too, even though she is a tripod, still loves to play and run with my other dog Sadie.
Thanks Linda. Sounds like Bella and Shania would have lots of fun together! Maybe they will be able to tire each other out 🙂 I bring Shania to daycare sometimes so she gets to expend her super energy on the many dogs there. Still, she is tireless, especially during winter time when it is nice and cool for her. She is like a freight train when I take her out on walks (twice daily).
Hugs and kisses to Bella and Sadie.
My name is Mac. I have a three-legged dog, Reggie, that we got three months ago. He is three years old, and lost his leg from a car accident. I am in second grade. I want to learn about three legged dogs like Reggie, and am making my science fair report about him. Thank you for the good information!
It is really awesome that you and your family adopted a dog, especially a tripod. And what a great idea to do a report about tripods. Many people always stop me on the road and ask me questions about Shania and how she gets along on three legs. I tell them she is a dynamo and she constantly tires out my other dog. They are usually surprised that she likes going for walks so much and how she requires a lot of exercise.
Good luck on the report, and send me a link if you decide to put it online. Thanks!
I just adopted a three legged husky about two months ago and all of your infrmation has been really helpful. They are really a treasure to have and such lively dogs. I was expecting him to be limited to do many things but he quickly showed me he was able to do everything without a sweat. His name is Blaze and he’s all white with a few brown spots on his back and ears. He doesn’t enjoy the harness but I do apply the foot pad cream and it works great! Thanks again for all the info!
Congratulations Chels. Blaze sounds very like Shania. She is a go,go,go girl and even tires out my other dog. She also steals his toys and food 🙂 The harness is also not her favorite piece of equipment, but she is willing to wear it as a prerequisite for going to the park. She is a bit spoilt, but she is such a sweetie that everyone finds it difficult not to give-in to her, including my other dog.
Huskies are awesome dogs and will always turn heads. You will be a mini-celebrity while walking your dog – many people will want to stop you and talk to you 🙂 Give Blaze a hug and kiss from me.
I have akways thought 3-legged dogs were so cool. I love their attitude! Just because they have a “disability” why shouldn’t they still be able to have fun and play? They are a great role model for us humans who can let little things get us down.
My family & I have just found our perfect dog – yes – a tripod!! We are already in love and are just waiting approval from the humane society. Our home visit is tomorrow.
Thank you for all the valuable info. I can’t wait to get the harness and tuf-foot – great suggestions!
You are so right on this. I think Shania not only inspired me, but she inspired many people at the hospital she was in. When she was going through surgeries to try and straighten her leg, she was extremely brave, upbeat, and still loved all the people around her. The hospital staff gave her this little squeaky toy that played James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. It was her favorite toy and she would sing with it too. They told me that she spent her days there going to visit everyone and singing the “I Feel Good” song. It made the people feel a lot better.
Congratulations on your new dog! And it is so great that you are adopting. Post us a picture. Would love to see your new family member.
Ronan's Joy says
Just adopted 5 yr old pomeranian tripod Ronan. He is nothing but a joy, but we noticed his confidence level is down. I am sure with time and lot’s of love he will come out of his shell. The biggest challange has been the introduction to our 8 month old pomerian. Supervison has been required at all times between the two. Our 8 month old can be an over excited puppy, this at times becomes a problem when the two start playing. Adopting a loving giving tripod was the best thing we have done.
Ronan sounds like a super dog. I also love the name. It is so unique. Shania, my tripod, is more tentative of new things compared to my other dog. She tends to hang back and approach slowly when she sees new things; so I let her explore in her own time and give her lots of praise and encouragement for being a brave girl.
You are absolutely right on about supervised play. My two dogs play well together most of the time, but sometimes my other dog gets overly excited and overwhelms my tripod so I make sure that I am around to stop play when that happens.
You bring up some important points about tripods that I will add to the article. Thanks so much for your input and for sharing your story with us!
I just recently rescued a black shepherd 3 month old puppy from my work and she needed an amputation. This is all new to me and its gonna be a challenge because she is so young, but all the advise from the Doctors here that I work with(Im a veterinary technician) Will help greatly, and anytyhing else that you have to offer please let me know 🙂
Thanks for visiting Tana. It is really awesome that you rescued a dog in need. One of the things I would focus on is to socialize her well with people and other dogs. Tripods tend to feel more vulnerable, and can become fearful of other dogs and people. This can ultimately lead to fear aggression. My Sibe Shania really enjoyed going to a puppy class, where there is supervised play-time. She went to SIRIUS puppy class when she was young and had a lot of fun meeting new people and new dogs. I also took her to puppy play sessions in a nearby daycare, where play is supervised.
Congratulations on your new puppy! Good luck and please keep us updated on how things go. Would also love to see some pictures, so post us a link 🙂
Three-Legged Dog :) says
Yay for Shania! What a cute, happy puppy! I love seeing happy tripods.
It’s funny how looking at pictures of Shania reminds me of Yodi – She’s missing the same leg as Yodi and has the same shaped body and all that, even though she’s a bigger dog. And she has that big smiley dog face!!! Love it!
What really hits me sometimes is looking at pictures of Yodi when he was a little puppy and he still had FOUR legs. THAT looks weird to me. 🙂
tripod dog says
thanks for all the advise i also have a 3 legged husky, and wanted some extra tips before she comes home as i’m in asia and the vets here arn’t great at advise, or pet care really!
i think that if we’d have been in the west she wouldn’t have lost the leg, my vet in england is great! this one really doesn’t compare and he’s the best one around here
oh well can’t sew it back on now,
do you have any extra advise? let me know any help is welcome
One thing that I should add to the article, is a section on “dealing with the environment”. You should make sure that there are not too many slippery surfaces in your house. Time to go rug shopping 🙂 Also check out all the uneven ground in your yard to make sure that it is not too deep. Tripods can easy slip and trip. Please feel free to ping me if you have additional questions when your dog gets home.
What is her name? Would love to see her so send me a photo when you have some time.