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]