Rocky’s journey started almost 3 years ago when his mom was asked to take a puppy to get x-rays while volunteering at PAWS Chicago. Mia’s heart melted when she saw the 9 month old puppy who was so sweet even though he was injured and immediately volunteered to foster him. It turned out that Rocky’s leg was so badly injured that he required an amputation. After fostering him through his weeks of recovery, Mia decided he had to join her family!
Mia was understandably nervous about Rocky’s future quality of life so she decided to make an evaluation at Integrative Pet Care for preventative care.
“As soon as I met Dr. Ridley & Laura, I knew I was in good hands. They explained what would be ideal to aid in his recovery and addressed the typical concerns they had with tripods. Afterwards I understood a lot more about actions I could take to be proactive in his recovery and prevent any further injury which was really important to me.” -Mia
“Rocky is a different dog since starting at Integrative Pet Care. People don’t even recognize he’s a tripod because he stands so straight and tall, runs like a maniac, and walks with so much confidence. He’s gained an incredible job amount of core strength and muscle throughout! He hardly ever falls over and often stands on his one back leg to look out the window or check for treats on the counter. He’s naturally a very active and curious dog so we walk a lot and get a lot of exercise to keep him entertained. Luckily the muscles he’s developed because of our work at IPC have allowed him to keep up with all this activity! He loves training and learning tricks, and hunting rats in the park.” -Mia
“Rocky’s core strength is incredible for a tripod. I love working with him in the gym because he can and will do anything I ask of him. I’m constantly coming up with new exercises to challenge him and he does it all without messing up his hairdo!” -Laura, Rocky’s therapist
Make a difference!
Each month we ask our POTM to choose an animal related organization to spotlight during his or her “reign”. Rocky has asked us to tell you about Sit Stay Read.
SitStayRead’s mission is to improve literacy skills and foster a love of learning in children in low-income neighborhoods. Founded in 2003, SitStayRead brings teams of trained volunteers and Certified Reading Assistance Dogs into 16 Chicago Public Schools in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods
Maverick is the quintessential story of a country dog living in a big city as he moved from rural Virginia to Chicago 6 years ago. He spent his days wandering around and all was well until he was found lying in a ditch with with exposed bone beneath his left knee. No one knew exactly what happened, but he was taken to the vet where an amputation was performed. As if that weren’t enough he was later attacked by other dogs which damaged his rear end. Back he went to the vet to get patched up, but after pulling out his stitches a few times his owner had enough and wanted to euthanize him. Maverick’s future aunt worked at the animal hospital and persuaded his owner to relinquish him. She called her sister in law Laura, who was visiting soon, to se
e if she was interested in getting a dog. All it took was Maverick resting his head on Laura’s foot for her to know he was their dog.
Ryno was adopted in 2005 from Chicago Animal Care and Control when he was 18 months old. He lived a relatively normal life until he was injured in a grooming accident in 2010. After two unsuccessful surgeries to repair his left rear leg, he developed a massive infection and a large ulcer and it was determined that they leg had to be amputated. After two weeks, Ryno slowly adjusted to life as a tripod. He was able to figure out how to squat, run and walk up a flight of stairs without assistance. His resilience enabled him to persevere and never look back.
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!