At Integrative Pet Care we see pets with a diversity of conditions and all of our patients inspire us with their resilience, but our three-legged “tripods” consistently amaze us with their tenacity and joy for life! With some basic lifestyle modifications and a customized rehabilitation plan, tripods can live happy, comfortable lives.
Some three-legged pets are born with congenital abnormalities such as complete or partial lack of a limb. There are also several disorders that can necessitate amputation of a limb, such as traumatic injury or cancer. At IPC we see pets who are missing either front or back limbs and we even see a patient who is missing one of each!
Tripods face unique challenges in mobility due to alterations in balance and increased load to their remaining limbs. At IPC we focus on therapies that improve balance, strengthen core muscles, maintain healthy joints and soft tissues and stay fit to avoid injury. Home care and proper assistive devices can also help tripods with their mobility. Non-slip floor coverings and harnesses can make a big difference in these pets’ lives (see links below for resources).
After her front limb amputation, Aala adjusted almost immediately, taking on stairs only 12 to 24 hours after surgery. Her parents on the other hand had a more difficult time adapting both to Aala’s new challenges as well as their own uncertainty.
“She had an odd stride in her back legs after the amputation and after ruling out anything medical, it was suggested we try rehabilitation. However, while she has become so much stronger and her stride is now seamless and strong, a lot of the rehab process seemed to help us the most. The whole amputation process was a complete unknown for us. We had no idea what was normal adaption, what changes we should expect or what was okay to do or not do, both for her physically and for us as her caregivers. We learned how to better care for her (at IPC) and also it helped us see all that she could do, despite the surgery. When you go through such a big surgery, seeing all these abilities keeps spirits high.”
-Stewart, Aala’s dad
Henry, a 13 year old pit mix, is a survivor. This guy has been through a lot, including a cruciate ligament tear and several cancer diagnoses. In 2012, Henry’s left hind limb was amputated due to bone cancer and 11 weeks later he came to IPC. His mom had already made a few modifications for Henry, adding recycled tire tread to the stairs in their home and a harness to assist him. We started working on strengthening Henry’s core and remaining 3 legs with targeted Therapeutic Exercises and walks in the Underwater Treadmill. Henry eventually transitioned to swims in the Resistance Pool and continues to receive Massage and Acupuncture treatments to keep him moving comfortably.
“He’s an incredibly strong dog to start with, so I knew once we began targeting his core muscles and working on his balance he’d respond well. I feel like he’s more confident on the stairs, which is huge since we live on the third floor of a walk-up! IPC gave me the great idea of covering my hardwood floors with yoga mats, and now he can zoom around the house without worrying about slipping.”
–Christine, Henry’s mom
IPC regular and dog-trainer, Emily Stoddard, recently added a new member to her pack- Belgian malinois, Falcor. At 6 months old Falcor had a partial front limb amputation due to trauma of an existing congenital abnormality. Falcor has adapted well to being 3-legged and his swims in the pool keep him strong. To manage the tension he gets from compensating for his amputation, Falcor has Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (VSMT or “Chiropractic”) as well.
“Don’t know what to say other than my tri is awesome! Everyone that meets him feels bad for him, but what they don’t know is that he is the smartest problem solver of my crew with a personality to match.
He doesn’t miss his leg one bit! Falcor is busting stereotypes training to do agility, nose work, and protection sports, so you can see it also doesn’t prohibit him from doing the things he loves. Three legs and he still out runs most every dog he comes across! Out smarts them too! People gave up on Fal, thinking he wouldn’t amount to much due to his birth defect. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to prove them wrong!”
-Emily, Falcor’s mom
Bopper, a young English lab, sustained a traumatic injury while in his original household that required a left front limb amputation. A month after surgery, he found his forever home and his owners brought him to IPC for an evaluation and to learn what maintenance therapies he would need to stay strong. Some modifications to Bopper’s lifestyle helped him to increase his mobility, including a weight loss plan. Maintaining a slim physique is extremely important for all pets, but particularly for three-legged ones. A good harness, booties for traction, a ramp for getting on and off the bed and a therapy plan including Therapeutic Exercise, VSMT and Hydrotherapy were recommended. Bopper has since lost weight, goes for longer walks and has a smoother gait!
In September of 2014, Rocky had his left hind leg amputated after a soft tissue injury. About 2 months later, he was evaluated at IPC. Rocky was a happy 1 year old poodle mix who loved to run and chase squirrels. However, he occasionally had trouble getting up, especially on slick surfaces.
“I knew that because he had his surgery at a young age he still had a lot of muscle mass to be developed and I wanted to make sure I could help him support his weight comfortably. Even though he gets around just fine, I wanted to take it to the professionals who could help him strengthen the right areas to prevent any other injury. Working on his core strength helps stabilize him and build muscles that he otherwise wouldn’t be training. I know he is a lot less wobbly because of the therapy he’s had. Not only have I learned so much about his physical needs, but he loves it! He won’t get off the obstacle courses!”
-Mia, Rocky’s mom
Therapists at IPC started Rocky on a program of focused Therapeutic Exercises to improve his strength, endurance and coordination. Currently Rocky continues maintenance therapy at IPC, working out in the gym as well as receiving much-deserved Therapeutic Massage.
“He was around 7 months old, and was extremely active and he wasn’t going to let anything slow him down. Not even major surgery. I have a distinct memory of the moment I took off his surgery cone, and he looked down at his incision and was kind of surprised, like “wait a minute…,” and then that was it. I realized animals don’t have an emotional attachment to their limbs like humans do. He knows he is a little unbalanced but he doesn’t mind. “
Dr. Ridley’s little guy, Lorenzo, had his left hind leg amputated due to a congenital abnormality. Needless to say, he has no problem getting around and into trouble.
Tips and Resources
Because balance is off, having slick floors presents a challenge to tripods. Getting around and getting up and down from a sit or lay can be very difficult without good footing. Yoga mats, carpet squares and area rugs with a good grip on the underside can be used strategically to help your pet navigate your floors and stairs. Also make sure their bed rests on a surface with good traction so that they can get on and off safely.
Yoga mats- if you have long hallways or large areas to cover consider purchasing a yoga mat roll. It is easily cut to size (or shape) and comes in a variety of colors- yogadirect.com carries a good variety.
A little help getting up and down stairs, in and out of the car or even at the end of a long walk goes a long way! A strong harness with a well placed handle helps your pet and your back.
(please check with your veterinarian before selecting a harness to make sure it is the proper fit)
Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips
It’s pretty easy to cover slippery floors at home, but daily life may mean encountering surfaces that impede your pet’s confidence. Your pet may be a good candidate for toe grips, learn more at www.toegrips.com.
Support and Success Stories
For more support, resources and stories of happy tripods, visit tripawds.org!
Have a new tripod? Learn how you can be reimbursed for your rehab evaluation!
Are you facing an amputation for your pet or trying to make the difficult decision? These videos and info will walk you through what to expect, including feedback from a pet parent perspective.
More resources and information for current and prospective parents of tripods is available at handicappedpets.com