Living with Three-Legged Dogs - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Living with Three-Legged Dogs

Three-legged dogs or Tripawds are no different from other dogs. They display the same level of enthusiasm. But they need a little more supervision than other dogs. If you have your heart set on a three-legged companion or your pet is about to undergo surgery for the same, this article can guide you on how to adapt to life with your three-legged dog. 

The basics for taking care of your three-legged companion

Dogs end up as tripawds for many reasons, including injuries, illnesses that require amputations, and accidents. Congenital disabilities can also lead to fewer limbs. And frankly, it is not a pleasant sight and can look like a painful journey ahead.

But you will be glad to hear that amputated dogs enjoy a full- healthy life like any other dog. It does not deter their playfulness. And Like a four-legged dog, they run, jump and play with you.

The lack of limbs on your dog is not a disability. According to Dr. Jeff Werber, a veterinarian & author from Los Angeles who has an Emmy to his name for his pet health reporting, tripawds are nonchalant about their missing limb. He states – “the only ones who know that the pet is missing a limb are us, the humans”.

So even though it is hard to watch your three-legged friend limp and struggle, there is nothing to be sad about. But it does mean that you have an added responsibility of being more involved with them than ever. From diet to exercise, care to caress, you need to step up as a pet parent. So here are a few things that should get you started on being an ideal pet parent for an amputated dog.  

1. Diet

  • Avoid Sympathy Treats: One common mistake many tripawd owners make is giving an extra treat out of sympathy to their companions. It is human nature to feel sorry about the missing limb. And we subconsciously try to make it up to the pets by giving them extra treats. But refrain from doing that. 
  • Weight Management: Keeping the tripawds slim and healthy is very important. It will ensure that they are active, flexible, and mobile. Excessive weight will only burden the legs which you simply cannot afford. But even after reducing food portions, if your pet does not seem to be losing weight, it is time to consult a physical therapist for exercise regimens or a veterinarian for recommended diet plans. They can guide you towards appropriate weight-loss actions, maintenance, and products to feed to your tripawds dog.
  • Joint-support supplements: Your tripawd companion has fewer legs to distribute body weight. It is essential to consult your dog’s vet for joint support supplements. It will reduce the chances of your pet developing osteoarthritis.

2. Creating a Tripawd-safe environment with:

  • Non-slip surfaces: Floorings such as hardwood, tile, or laminate must be covered. Dogs tend to slip on these floorings. Tripawds will try to correct themselves frantically to stop themselves from crashing. And as a result, they injure themselves in the debacle. These injuries can range from torn ligaments or muscles. Solution – add non-slip carpets or yoga mat materials to the floor to avoid any accidents. Do not forget to cover the stairs either.
  • Using support equipment: Hard landing from elevated surfaces is not ideal for a three-legged dog. Discourage your pets from making that jump from the car seat or the bed. It can be problematic for the tripawd’s body to make these jumps regularly. Quick fix – Instead of letting them jump out of the car, block your dog’s exit and hold their leash. Train them to use a ramp or dog stairs. With the help of high-value reinforcements, you can do that. 

3. Training: 

  • Loose leash lessons: Controlled-leash-walks is a critical skill many dog owners need to master. But in the case of amputated or three-legged dogs, it is walking on a loose leash. It is because they have one less limb hampering their ability to maintain body balance. And if they are tugging at your hand throughout the walk, it will put too much pressure on them. You can consult a physical therapist or a qualified dog trainer for the same. 
  • Stroller walks: If you have a smaller dog, you can easily carry them to your house. But such is not the case with bigger dogs. For them, invest in a good pet stroller. It will help them take breathers before walking or exercising again.

But before you exercise your three legged dogs…

Exercising your tripawd dog is of utmost importance as they are more prone to experiencing pain and joint problems. But do not let that get to you and become overprotective. Allow them to run and play around when they like. When walking with your pet, allow them to set the pace. Be patient and do not pull on the leash to speed them up. Opt for loose-leash training from an experienced practitioner.

Swimming is another good option to keep your dog healthy. And not only does it take the weight off the legs but it’s fun as well. 

But keep an eye out for fatigue symptoms and give your dogs frequent breaks. 

It is essential to work with an animal physical therapist to keep your dog in a healthy shape and active.


Do not let the lack of limb on a dog put you off. Tripawds have a few limitations, but a lot of love to share them with you. They simply need a few adjustments to make themselves at home. And keep a watchful eye on your special friend. Be wary of becoming overprotective so much that it interferes with their health. The best way to ensure a happy-healthy life for an amputated dog is to work with a veterinarian or a dog physical therapist who can monitor their health from time to time. But in the end, it all boils down to two factors, your commitment, and unconditional care. So if you are ready to put in those, then your three-legged doggo has a great life ahead.