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How to Care for a Three-Legged Dog

By ChelsyRanard. | Dog Health Dog Info


Dogs are amazingly resilient creatures. No matter the circumstance, many dogs are able to overcome and persevere. Tripod dogs exemplify that need and ability to overcome an obstacle and adapt to anything they come across. In truth, caring for a three-legged pup might not be all that different from caring for a dog with four legs. Though they may need extra attention, they are still just dogs looking to have new experiences and be loved by their owners. 

Stewart Black/Flickr

Stewart Black/Flickr 

If you own a three-legged dog, your dog is new to the tripod life, or you’re considering adopting a three-legged dog, you’re a valuable asset to the tripod dog community. Caring for a dog with three legs is just like caring for a dog with four, with just a few variables to consider.

Encourage Exercise

Exercise is important for every dog regardless of their leg count. For three-legged dogs, it can seem counterproductive to encourage time spent putting strain on one leg. However, exercise can be even more important for them than a dog with all of their legs due to the health benefits they get from the exercise. Keeping their weight down is really important in tripod dogs in order to limit the amount of weight on their one leg. Not every dog has the same abilities and limitations, but just a simple walk regularly can do great things for their exercise as well as your own energy and focus. If you’re really looking for the best exercise for them, look into swimming locations. Just as with people, swimming is a great low-impact exercise that will keep them healthy and their weight low while lowering strain on their legs.

Know the Added Health Risks

Though tripod dogs are just like any other dog in many ways, they do tend to have some added health risks when compared to their four-legged counterparts. For one, they may suffer from arthritis and joint issues earlier than normal due to the stress that the one leg takes to make up for their missing limb. You may also pay extra attention to their foot pads that can crack due to the extra weight and pressure as well. 

Younger tripod dogs may be susceptible to elbow hygroma, which is a fluid buildup around the elbow due to putting weight on one elbow before they are old enough for protective calluses to form on the elbows. Take extra care of their remaining legs and work hard to keep them healthy, especially as they age. Be sure your dog doesn’t overexert themselves and take care in making sure they rest their remaining legs during physical activity.

Be Prepared for Expenses

It’s not a sure thing that your three-legged dog could rack up your expenses more than a normal dog, but it’s possible. Since they have a few more health risks, or different health risks than a normal dog, you may have more visits to the vet throughout their lifetime. Though there are some things you want to avoid using a credit card for, getting a credit card for veterinarian bills is not a bad idea. There are even some credit cards that specialize in veterinary and medical care. This will ensure you don’t avoid going to the vet for financial reasons and that you can afford bigger payments without putting yourself in a difficult financial bind. You can also look into insurance for your pet or discuss a payment plan if your vet allows it.

Alter Their Surroundings

Dogs are great at adapting to their missing leg, but there are alterations you can make to their surroundings to help them transition. If you have your dog right after their surgery to remove the leg, the transitions and alterations can be more important as they re-learn their center of gravity, balance, and abilities. Be aware of falls and sores from laying in an area with too much pressure. It’s also important to note that transitioning to the loss of a back leg can be significantly easier than a front leg because dogs carry approximately 60 percent of their weight in their front legs

Either way, you can help them walk a little easier by eliminating slip risks, minimizing the need for stairs, and elevating their food and water dishes. Look into the best option for pet beds that are soft enough to eliminate elbow problems, provide them with a ramp if possible, and talk to your vet about any supplements they may need. Pay attention and make note of their struggles. If there is something specific they struggle with, see if you can make an alteration to make that task easier for them.

Give Them All the Cuddles

Caring for your three-legged pooch is pretty similar to caring for a pooch with all of their legs. Be sure to give them a lot of love and care. Tell them they are a good boy or girl, take them out to explore new things, and don’t hold them back from being a dog due to their handicap. Dogs thrive on new experiences and smells, so be sure to still allow them those experiences. A fall here and there will happen, and that’s OK. They will play with other dogs and get tripped up, but they will have fun anyway. Other people will see your pup and feel bad for their circumstance, but chances are, your dog will bounce back and forget they are any different. With your love, cuddles, and awareness, they will be as happy and active as ever

A dog losing a leg can be a traumatic experience for both dog and owner, but caring for a three-legged dog tends to be easier than many people think it will be. Dogs bounce back from an amputated leg rather quickly and get their energy and happiness back at a surprisingly fast rate. Being aware of the added care they need and scratching the spots they used to reach with their amputated leg is all they need to live happy and fulfilled lives with three legs.Safety and Dog Seat Covers: Cargo, Dog Bed Liner, Bed Cover: 30% Off Premium Seat

chelsy ranardChelsy Ranard Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about animal rights, bad television, and white wine. She is a volunteer at Simply Cats in Boise.


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