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!
Aala balances herself on the theraball with ease (and the help of a treat)
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 rests during his session in the resistance pool
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.
Fal sleeps off his hydro session
“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!
Rocky is awesome in the gym for his therapeutic exercises
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.
Carpet tiles- these are also easily customizable and easy to replace. Flor and Home Depot reliably stock these in a variety of colors and textures.
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!
“We adopted Peanut in February 2002, she was the last of a litter of Shar-Pei puppies that were found in a box placed in the back of a pickup truck. While in her Foster Mom’s home she was given the nick name “Smart Puppy” because she learned things very quickly. She has always been the dominant one in the canine pack. We were not the first family to try to adopt Peanut, but for whatever reason, the other families did not work out. The day Peanut came to visit us, the lady conducting the home visit from, “Rescue A SharPei” came inside first without Peanut, did her home check and a brief interview with us. She then proceeded to tell us Peanut was leery of new people and we would need to give her space and time to take in her new surroundings and get used to us. She had been in a couple of homes the past few weeks and it was stressful on her. With that in mind my husband and I sat on the floor of the hallway and waited until Linda went back outside and brought Peanut in. Peanut’s first reaction to our home was to walk right over to Chad and climb in his lap, she choose him. Needless to say that wasn’t the first time in her life that she shocked us.
– Amy Hanrahan
Peanut had a very active and successful Agility career until she ruptured her right cranial cruciate ligament at the early age of 5. The nail in the coffin was when she ruptured her left cranial cruciate ligament a year later. Luckily, she was able to transition to Rally Obedience and is the first Shar-Pei in America to earn a Rally Title.
Since Peanut’s first knee surgery, she had been swimming every other week to help keep her active. This seemed to do the trick until she hit about 12 1/2 years old. She was no longer her feisty self and was starting to become a grumpy old lady. She was even going after her siblings when they would try to play with her. When she had to start taking pain medication twice a day, her owners knew they had to do more.
During Peanut’s initial consultation, her mom told us that she is the hands-off type, especially with new people. After her consultation, Dr. Amber came up with a program which including weekly laser, underwater treadmill, and therapeutic exercise. Unfortunately, at the time Peanut was not a candidate for Acupuncture, as it would require too many hands on her. Despite not liking new people, Peanut caught on to her job quick. She loved being able to work in the underwater treadmill and get treats for doing all of her exercises. Before long we were all good friends!
”For a dog that has had two Cranial Cruciate repairs on both her knees, Peanut is moving beautifully. It has been great to see her grow to trust us…..as long as we keep the treats coming.”
Ever think a dog could pull a wheelie? Well, Hershey can & does! Hershey started rehab with us in April 2014. Although looking at him you would never know it, Hershey has the highest grade of hip dysplasia that a pet can have. He doesn’t let that slow him down though.
“When I first saw Hershey, he had one of the worst cases of hip dysplasia I have seen in 20 years. I cannot believe how stoic of a dog he is to not show any clinical signs before now. He is truly a great companion to his family and a great patient to work on.”
There’s just something about Pippi that instantly draws the eye. Could it be the goofy grin and floppy ears? Or maybe it’s her commanding personality and endless bouncing energy? Whatever it is, we’ve fallen head over heels for this girl!
I got Pippi about five years ago from Illinois Doberman Rescue. They really do an outstanding job of preparing and presenting the dogs they rescue. I originally had my heart set on another Doberman based on the profiles I saw. I’d seen Pippi’s profile (her name at the rescue was ‘Harmonie’) but she looked like a scrawny little 55-pound runt in her photos. Really smart – she would self-entertain herself by putting a ball in a bucket hanging on a door, then nudge the bucket to make it roll out so that she could chase it, then return it to the bucket. When I went to an adoption event though, ‘Harmonie’ was the first dog I saw – she and her foster were coming up the stairs when I was coming down them, and she was such a pretty girl, enthusiastic about going somewhere new, and had such a bright-eyed personality. I must have seen 20 Dobermans at the adoption event that day, but kept coming back to ‘Harmonie’ and the other Doberman. I took both out for walks, and sat with both of them – the other Doberman was very laid back – in fact too laid back for my personality. ‘Harmonie’ was enthusiastic in our introduction but not overwhelming, she walked nicely on leash, and we just seemed to take to each other right away.
My gut feel said she was ‘the one’ and I was right. As soon as we left the event with my dad, she jumped right in the back seat of the truck, laid down and took a nap, and the rest pretty much is history. The name ‘Pippi’ or ‘Pippilotta Langstrumpf’ is for one of my favorite childhood characters Pippi Longstocking, and Pippi’s floppy ears remind me of Pippi Longstocking’s pig-tails.
Bailey’s mom first noticed something was off with her when she was about 6 months old. She stopped running around at the dog park and would often just sit down on walks. Bailey was diagnosed with severe elbow dysplasia and had surgery to remove floating cartilage and bone chips. Her mom wanted to go the extra mile with Bailey’s care and brought her to Integrative Pet Care when she was a little over a year old and that’s when we fell in love with this mushy lab!
“Bailey and her mom have been dedicated to her rehabilitation since the beginning. She is a gentle swimmer who enjoys fetching toys and treats in the pool. She even enjoys her pain relieving therapies like shockwave and laser so much that she often falls asleep”
Arthur’s parents were initially looking for a pal for their other old english sheepdog, Winston who, at the time, had recently lost his brother Duke. Well, it was love at first sight the second they saw him on Chicagoland Old English Sheepdog Rescue’s website! They opened their hearts and home to the 10 year old knowing that he would have a hard time finding a family and it seemed like the perfect fit for their 12 year old Sheepdog Winston. They became immediate pals, spending their days as gentlemen of leisure should.
Arthur was surrendered to the rescue because he was having “accidents” in the house. Well it turned out that he had a long term untreated urinary tract infection and had been about 50 lbs overweight at one point. He had led a largely sedentary life, which negatively impacted his health and fitness. Jim and Scott wanted him to be as healthy and happy for his new life with them so they decided to bring him in for an evaluation. They saw great results for Winston and knew that Integrative Pet Care’s approach to working with each pet on an individual basis to find out what works best would be the key to his success!
The first thing you notice about Birkin (besides her adorable face) is her extremely happy demeanor. Even when she’s not feeling too hot, she’ll greet you with a grin and a happy tail. We first met Birkin in June 2014 when she came to us for limping on her right rear leg. We were hopeful that therapy would prevent surgery, but unfortunately she was just too active! Dr. Zenoni referred her to Dr. Wolf at Premier Veterinary Group for a surgical consultation. It turns out that Birkin had a fully torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and a luxating patella- which could only be corrected with surgery.
Birkin came back to us shortly after surgery and made an amazing recovery (although she did look pretty pathetic with a shaved leg and cone of shame)!
In November of 1996, Mary Beth was presented with a gift that has not stopped giving: a 6-week old, white, fluffy pup, weighing in at 1.2 pounds. Tiny and adorable as she was, she quickly asserted herself as the alpha member of the family. Her name comes from Dionne Warwick (diva) and Deion Sanders (dominant personality). Despite those attributes, Dionne has been mostly laid back all her life. She is the epitome of unconditional love, except when it comes to dogs bigger than her. She has a long-time habit of walking up to them and nipping at their nose, but because she’s small and fast, she always got away with it. It seems even dogs can have the Napoleon Complex! (Spoil alert: this behavior has resumed.)
Dionne loves to dress up! Over the years, she has amassed quite the wardrobe, including matching collars and leashes. As she goes on her walks, she has delighted so many people with her variety of outfits and is appropriately dressed for each holiday. She enjoys the extra attention and bringing a bit of joy to others!
When Laura walked into Anti-Cruelty in 2011, she had her mind set on adopting a smaller dog. Well, all that changed when she saw a quiet dog staring at her with those ‘sad eyes’ that you just can’t resist. Kayla was 3 ½ at that time and had been relinquished due to a family member’s allergies and then returned by another family after she ate a couch. 4 years later Laura and Kayla are attached at the hip and she has yet to eat anything she shouldn’t. Kayla is the perfect mix of hiking companion and couch snuggler!