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]
i’m really hoping for a dog for my birthday! I’ve found an adorable Westy girl and I want her terribly. the only thing is that she is missing her left hind leg! besides things stated above, is there anything else I should know? the fact that she’s missing a limb doesn’t change a thing about her in my eyes, but should I be aware of any other details?
I write more about my experiences with Shania here-
The tripawds.com site is also a great resource.
My Max is my 8 or 9 year old Boxer. I got him as a rescue about 6 years ago. He has been a blessing from day one and I love him with all my heart. Last year he had a large mass pop up on his front leg. The vet said we won’t worry about it we will just watch it and if it gets bigger we will remove it. Well about 3 months ago it started growing rapidly. He aspirated it and said it’s likely benign so we shouldn’t worry. Well that just didn’t settle right with me. So now on vet #3 she is non profit and said we need to amputate immediately as she believe it’s malignit mass cell tumor. I am horrified if ever I thought this could have been I would have moved much sooner. The vet said to amputate the sooner the better. So he is set up to have it done in 2 weeks. I feel god awful guilty I never thought this would be his outcome and I could beat that vet into oblivion!! I am just worried my Max won’t adjust
Hello Crystal. Have you been to the tripawds.com website? They have a lot of information there on recovering from amputation due to cancer. They also have a strong support group and many people there have experience with canine cancer.
I was also worried about Shania, but she adjusted very well. I think dogs are really amazing in terms of how they deal with physical disability.
If you have the time, please let us know how things go with Max. He sounds like a wonderful boy. Big hugs to him and Shania sends her love and many Husky kisses.
Hi! Wondering if you can give me some advice. My tripawd chihuahua mix has his back right leg amputated but he has developed a rash on his leg/belly on his left. I took him to the vet and they gave him a spray for a bug bite. The rash went away and now it’s back and won’t go away. His belly also kinda sags on that side now. Any advice? Taking him back to the vet tomorrow.
How did things go with the vet?
As for sagging, Shania has some of that in her front area because the muscles there are no longer being used, due to her missing front leg. When in doubt though, I always consult with my vet.
Big hugs to your Chi. Hope he is feeling better.
I just thought id tell you about Trooper my 2 year old German shepherd. when he was a puppy his family got in a car accident and they had to amputate his right front leg from the shoulder. soon after he got distemper and people thought he should be put down but he never got the seizures so they didn’t. its been a year now and he is doing great. goes on runs and up to the mountains all the time with us. he has a little nuerological damage such as his mouth twitching a lot but he doesn’t notice. we adopted him about a week or 2 ago and I jus wanted to put his story out there. don’t give up so easily.
Christine Barbour says
I know this is an old post but I saw it on the internet and was wondering if you had a FB account as I would love to connect with you and see pics of your baby! We adopted our 2-yr old GSD Max in February. He, too, was hit by a car and he, too, had his front leg amputated!
hi i really love this site it has given me lots of help with training my 12 yr old sibe nooka.go sibes they are the best
Haha! Yeah Sibes are pretty amazing! Big hugs to Nooka.
My dog broke her leg by jumping off the stairs. I wasn’t watching when she jumped. I’m not sure how high she jumped. She broke it. Causing it to only get a pin. Well the vet was in the middle of surgery and called me and said the one bone was split into 3 like a Mercedes Benz emblem and said it would be a 50/50 Chance that if she went to see a specialist to fix it she would either be in pain or it wouldn’t hold. Well it was amputated. She’s doin good. But people keep telling me it’s wrong to keep her and that it’s mean and that I should just put her down. Tell me am I wrong?
I currently have three dogs, but I am closest to Shania. I do have to supervise her more though, and take some extra precautions to keep her safe. I write more about my experiences with Shania here-
There are also many great three legged dog stories in the comments section of this article. The tripawds.com site is also a great place to talk to others about their experiences. In the end though, it is our choice and our responsibility.
Cheryl C. says
Why would anyone want to put a dog down because of a broken leg? You did the right thing!! My 9 year old Yellow Lab Yeager was hit by a BIG truck on 4/10/14. His left rear leg was so bad it needed amputation. His right rear hip had to have surgery also because it was dislocated and would not stay in place. He has to be confined to small areas and guided with a sling for 2 more weeks but he is doing AWESOME!!!! =)
Oh my goodness there is no need to put your dog down. These 3 Legged Sweethearts have the biggest hearts and try so hard!! I have a 3 Legged Blue Heeler named Flower. She has just turned 12 Years Old. We have had our challenges along the way but you just deal with whatever comes your way. I can’t imagine life without her. We have had to build a ramp for her to go up and down into the yard. In the winter we have covers so it stays dry for her, works pretty good. Flower just loves the snow!! But am glad to see Summer approaching. Some people don’t understand that these dogs are just like other dogs with 4 legs, they may look different but they are so worth it!! Just love her and care for her the best you can and don’t ever feel bad for doing so!!
they are the wrong ones. if he’s able to move around just fine and isn’t in pain anymore than you did the right thing. I have a German shepherd that survived amputation of his front right leg and also distemper which is usually fatal but he never got the seizures. it been a little more than a year now and he’s a playful little puppy. good job with sticking to you decision.
I just found this blog/site as I was looking for information on Tripods dogs ( we just rescued a tripod pit bull about 1 yr old and my daughter- no longer at home- has a Shiba) We had the opportunity to adopt a healthy, friendly, cuddly hound retriever mix but my 17 year old son fell for Kimmie the tripod. He felt the puppy would be adopted easily and Kimmie would not. With some apprehension we dove in as i agreed with his assessment. Kimmie is a sweet, smart, gentle soul that was picked up in Georgia with an injury to her left foot. Almost 3 months later they took her entire leg front leg leaving only a chicken wing shoulder. She had Kennel cough and whip worms. A lot for a little one. We noticed that she is very stiff in the mornings or after laying down and sleeping. We have only had her 4 days and we have been massaging all of her muscles, clearing all obstacles, chipping ice on the driveway, what ever it takes to keep her safe. This morning she did her little hop out of her bed to wake up and face planted. She must have sprained her right front wrist. We iced it, called the vet ( they can’t see us till tomorrow morning and we have yet another snow storm coming- I hope they will be open!) She has not been able to walk on it only a little pressure sitting for a second or two but she has been laying down all day with my son. She has not gone potty all day. She also has not wanted water. I searched and searched for any help on line for how to assist a dog with a missing front leg and now a hurt front leg. Until we get to see the vet any help would be appreciated. We anticipated slipping on ice and so many other things, we did not anticipate waking up and stepping out of her doggy bed to be the source of injury to her remaining front leg. How can we help this sweet little one that has captured our heart?
Has Kimmie been to the vet? How is she?
When Shania is recovering from sprains and such, I usually try to keep her resting as much as I can. I set up an enclosure on a nice thick carpet, so that she can’t roam around too much. During her surgery period, she had difficulty walking, so I switched back to using pee pads. I make sure to clean it up as soon as she goes.
There was another time when she got bitten by a rattlesnake and couldn’t get up easily. We had her staying at the pet hospital then. They put a bunch of towels and such under her and let her do her business in place until she got better.
Does Kimmie’s bed have a lip? I only get totally flat beds for Shania because she can trip on those edges. I also do not let her go up raised surfaces or furniture. Now that she is older, we installed a baby gate at the foot of the stairs so she won’t stress her joints from going up and down.
Big hugs to Kimmie. Please let us know how things went at the vet if you can.
Thanks for the reply. She did sprain her right front wrist- they gave her a shot of pain meds and anti-inflammatory drugs and some to go home. Since she just had her surgery on 12/21/13 they said she is still trying to get used to moving on one leg. Late last night she did manage to get up and hobble on it. Enough to go outside and go potty. I did try to leave towels and a plastic liner hoping she would just go when she needed to but she held it in for 2 days. Poor little thing. Too many new situations for her I think. I gave her a bone that had some frozen yogurt in it and it seemed to pick her up but this morning she had diarrhea and some blood as well. Don’t know if it was stress, meds, holding it, yogurt or a mix of all. She is being treated for whip worms too. She came as a mess to us- broken- missing teeth even. Yet through it all in the 5 days since we had her she has been loving, patient and lets us do anything to try to help her.
We did get a bed with side thinking ( but the front is open) it would help support her but it has a removable flat bed. Even still I see her front leg wobble on that as she tries to stand so I am not sure how to help her have a soft place to lay down and not get hurt.
I found a place about 40 mins away that has an under water treadmill as therapy for dogs. Have you ever tried that. I am wondering if it would actually help her build strength in her other legs while keeping stress down. Part of me wishes they kept her in a warmer climate. We have so much snow and ice and I know our 4 legged dog friends have troubles. This 3 legged dog is really in for a challenge.
We haven’t had a dog in a while and we just hope we can do all that we can for her. I have been rally your posts and they are very encouraging- thank you.
I am glad that Kimmie is feeling better. It is really awesome that she has found such a loving and caring family. That is the most important thing for the long term.
In terms of beds, Shania seems to prefer lying on the carpets. She also uses the elevated outdoor bed when she is outside. We did get her a cool bed for her crate (for the hot summer months). It is very flat though, and does not have too much water, so she seems to have ok footing on it.
We have not done water therapy. The specialist who took care of Shania, when she was young, said that she didn’t need it at that point. We recently talked to our vet about it, and she said Shania is in good shape, so she didn’t need it yet.
Our vet did suggest swimming as a good form of exercise, but since Shania is not a fan of water, it is not something that she would like. Vet also talked about fish oil, and that recent studies show that it can help to promote joint health, so we are getting some to try. Correct dosage is important so best to consult with a vet about that.
Thanks for giving us an update on Kimmie. Ice is a challenge but a good family is so much more important. 😀
Interesting PetFinder article on protecting paws in the winter-
Big hugs to your furry girl.
Congrats for having so much love for your beautiful husky! She is so cute!
I also have a husky and guess what, I live in Brazil.. We have hot days around 100 degrees here so I found your website when I was searching about a cool bed for my pet.. They cost 150 dollars here so I needed to ask you if you use the large or the medium size for your husky so I can order mine in the proper size!
We got a medium sized cool bed for Shania. However, just like crate size, this is very dependent on the size of the Husky. Shania is a female, so she is smaller and she weighs about 43 pounds.
Big hugs to your Husky!
Hi! I’ve recently fallen head over heels in love. He’s got the prettiest brown eyes and the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen! He’s a 2 and a half year old American foxhound. He’s missing his back leg and although I’ve had my entire lifetime a experience with dogs, I’ve never had one missing a limb.
I lived in the country for the first 19 years of my life and we’ve many dogs pass through our home. We had them to keep the coyotes away from our house. I’ve trained, loved, cried over and bonded with every one that we’ve ever had. I’ve always had a special fondness for labs and three years ago I got my baby beau. I’m moving out in about two weeks and I can’t take Beauller from his home because him and my father are so in love with each other that it would kill them both to take him. I looked at our other dogs but they are all purely outside dogs who wouldn’t be able to cope being all alone or taken out of their home.
In my search for my perfect pal I stumbled upon Boggs. He’s at a local shelter but like I said, I’ve never had a dog like this. One of our dogs got in a fight with a coon and was half blind, that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a dog with a ‘disability’. Our family has always put our dogs health first( we recently had our 9 year old American Eskimo go through a surgery to remove her femoral head, luckily no amputation was necessary and she’s fully recovered at a hefty price of $1500. She was worth every penny though!)
Anyway, ( I like to ramble, sorry!) my question is- Do you think I will be able to learn how to take care of him? I don’t want to make some crucial mistake that would cost such a beautiful dog even more than his leg. I’ve been reading for a little over a week on the proper care but I’m still nervous. I’m a college student but the one lesson I’ve learned more than others is that a dog is a part of the family, not an accessory to coo over until the newness wears off. What do you think I should do? Are my fears just silly? And again sorry for rambling!
I don’t think your fears are silly at all. I had very similar fears and worries about caring for my Husky Shania. She is my first three legged dog, so I really did not know what I would have to do, and whether I would be able to do it. I think there are several key things in terms of taking care of a dog with special needs – commitment, time, and money.
Like you, I fell in love with Shania right away, so I am very committed to her care. She needs some extra supervision, and we go on longer walks because we take more rest breaks in-between. I talk more about the things that I do in the article above and also here. However, I enjoy my time with her so much that these extra “tasks” are relaxing and fun for me. It would probably be different if I did not feel so close to her.
Another factor is free time. Happily, I am retired, so I have a lot of time to spend with Shania and my other dogs. If I were still working in a demanding job, it may be difficult to make time for all the demands in my life. However, if I had family and good friends nearby, they can also help with dog care when I am away. Alternatively, I could hire a good pet sitter to help me take care of Shania, but that could end up being somewhat expensive.
Finally, there is the financial aspect. I have probably taken Shania the most times to the vet or animal emergency room, compared to my other dogs. Part of this is because I am very careful about her physical condition, so we sometimes visit the vet when we didn’t need to. It is difficult to gauge these things tho, especially with a three legged dog, and I prefer to err on the side of safety.
Another part is because she has a smaller margin for error because of her missing leg. For example, my other dogs may sometimes sprain something during play, but they can still easily get around, they heal quickly, and are usually back to full strength in a very short while. It is different for Shania. If she even sprains one of her legs, it becomes difficult for her to move around. In short, I have found that Shania’s vet bills usually end up being higher than that of my other dogs. This will likely also depend on energy level, age of dog, temperament, and more.
Have you visited the tripawds.com site? They have a great community there, and it is a great place to get more views and information on living with a three legged dog.
For me, it is a great experience living with Shania and she makes me very happy. I try my best to make her happy too. 😀
I have a rottie/shep/lab mix about 60lbs, that had a back leg amputated due to an accident. I fostered Tina from when she came out of the clinic and still have her now! She was ~10 months when the amputation was done and has just turned 9 years old. She is a stocky build and it has been challenging keeping her as slim as possible. She is a high energy dog so gets a lot of exercise daily.
As she has aged, some issues have arisen which I am trying to deal with. She has received glucosamine/chondroiten/MSM supplements for several years. For the past year she has received monthly injections of Adequan which have helped slow the arthritic deterioration in her joints. She began suffering from muscle spasms about 18 months ago in her back (limiting leash walking has helped this now), so she now gets 1x Robaxin (just the muscle relaxant, not with the pain killer) daily. She is a strong swimmer and goes to hydrotherapy once a week but also swims daily in the rivers and lakes on our walks. I took a dog massaging workshop and massage her every day.
Walking on a leash is the most damaging/painful thing for her so I really limit this as much as possible. Almost all her exercise is, and has been for the last 1 1/2 years, off leash. I wish I had started all these things right at the beginning but she really didn’t seem to have any problems at all and behaved just like any other dog and was just as capable. She sliced a front pad badly when camping a few years ago and, as it was the same side as her missing back leg, I thought it would be trouble, but she just leaned a little more to the left and zoomed off on two legs, as fast as before, didn’t miss a beat.
To ensure she has as good a quality of life as possible I have ensured she is well socialized and I don’t stop her chasing squirrels and running around, I just monitor the duration of this type of exercise. I adjust our walks so she has easy terrain (river dykes, for example) for a couple of days after a more strenuous or longer walk. I think fitness is key, keeping the dog as slim as possible, swimming as much as possible and protective measures for joint health. No ball or stick throwing on land, only into water. I keep non-slip socks (bought at a pet store) at my friends house for when we visit as she has very slippery hardwood floors and no mats – quick and easy to put on and take off.
Tina is now in better shape than she was 18 months ago and is healthy, happy and still loving life and has very little pain or discomfort. I know this cannot possibly continue forever and I would urge other owners of three-legged dogs to start preventative treatments before I did. I feel I was not proactive enough (apart from the keeping slim and fit aspects) and wish I had stopped leash walking sooner and started hydrotherapy earlier. This last does seem to offer more benefit than just swimming in the river.
I hope the experiences of Tina and myself will help others to enjoy a long, pain free relationship.