Seeing a three legged dog, also known as a tripod dog, is a sight that makes more than a few people uncomfortable. But there are a few realities that you should keep in mind, especially if you are faced with the possibility of having to decide whether your own dog will become a tripod dog.
The first reality is that the dog may realize they are missing a leg, but they adjust and find ways to function as normally as possible. In other words, it may bother you more than it bothers them! After the surgery and recovery period, they’re over it, which is a lesson we may find useful in our own lives.
The next reality is that though their situation may look bad to us, they don’t see their situation or life as worthy of pity. They will want to play and frolic just as much as before, though with obvious limitations. They will be just as hungry and need just as much exercise as before. In fact, if you don’t get over it you may negatively impact their long term health.
A third reality is that dogs are not people. The average time for complete recovery after amputation is generally 1 to 2 months. They are more adaptable to the changes and challenges of the surgery than most people are.
There may be a number of reasons for a dog requiring an amputation. One is if the dog suffered an injury in an accident; another is the dog having some type of cancer where amputation is the best option for giving them the longest possible life. Being able to make the best choice for both owner and dog will depend largely on the owner’s knowledge and perspective of the situation.
Once you own a tripod dog, whether it is because you bought one or your loyal friend had an amputation, the next step is to learn how to best take care of them. After bringing a new amputee home from surgery, a certain amount of extra help will be required from you until they get back on their feet. They won’t be able to go to the bathroom their own for a bit, so there will be a mess to deal with. Just getting up and down will be a challenge for them. A veterinarian recommends using a towel and wrap it around their belly to help them move up and down. What is important to remember is to help them, not do everything for them. They will naturally want to use their three good legs, so it will be a joint exercise until they are comfortable and strong enough to stand on all threes.
You can also help them adjust by placing them on non-slick surfaces. Wood floors and waxy floors are sure to trip them up as they learn how to maintain their balance. Carpeting is ideal, as are area rugs. There should be a designated area for the dog to walk on during their recovery because should they slip and fall you might make the situation more complicated by having to address a new injury.
One common sense step that is often overlooked is making sure the dog’s weight is kept under control. For these 1 or 2 months they will get very little exercise, and it is essential you avoid overfeeding. Remember, they only have three legs to support their weight now, and they also have likely lost some strength along the way. You may have them up and walking on all threes, but that will not be anything like their previous exercise regimen for a while. It is important that you take things slowly, both with increasing their diet and the amount of exercise they get during the recovery process.
There are actually not very many new things a tripod dog owner needs to learn. Being able to separate your feelings from the dog’s reality is perhaps the most important. That includes recognizing the dog will do something he has done all along – picking up his behavioral cues from the owner. Those non-slick areas are crucial to speed up recovery and avoid further complications. But above all, be there to help them get back on all threes and return to as much of a normal life as possible. You will both be happier that you did.