How to Care for a Three Legged (Tripod) Dog

Sometimes a dog may have a limb amputated due to cancer, an accident or for another reason. And now, due to advances in veterinary techniques there are more three-legged dogs walking around than ever before. Dogs who lose a leg don't even realize it for the most part and just pick up where they left off. It's their humans who may need some adjusting! Here are some ways to make it easier on both of you.

Stay close to your dog for a few days after the surgery while he adjusts. After that it's a good idea to always monitor or assist your dog on stairs and be ready to give a boost in and out of cars (depending on the ease of access).

Exercise your tripod dog regularly; walking is good, but remember not to push since she'll be moving a little slower. Swimming (canine hydrotherapy) is the best exercise for a tripod dog.

Keep your dog's skin and pads clean and free of infection. If your dog has cracked pads (which tripods are more prone to), apply bag balm, Vaseline or other products that speed up healing.

Feed your tripod dog a healthy diet and maintain a proper weight. An overweight dog will have to work harder to support himself.

Keep your tripod dog's nails trimmed. Long nails can inhibit movement.


Put a sock on the "elbow" of the remaining leg to prevent calluses and pressure sores. Give your tripod glucosamine, fish oils or other anti-inflammatory supplements. For front-leg amputations, use a car seat harness with wide chest bands. Invest in a "wheelchair" if necessary to help your tripod dog get around. Some tripod dogs do better than others, depending on their size (smaller dogs usually have an easier time).


Keep your tripod dog from overdoing it with exercise. Too much activity can cause soreness and put undue stress on the joints, which can lead to arthritis. The whole body, especially the shoulder and hip joints are compensating for the missing limb. As a tripod dog ages she may be more prone to arthritis. Be aware of the warning signs of pain such as decreased activity or trouble sitting, standing or jumping. Tripod dogs may develop toe curvature in the senior years.

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About the Author

Melissa writes for various publications on her favorite subject: pets. An animal advocate, she's covered it all from animal care to rescue to dog parks for The Pet Press, Where Magazine and Best Friends Network and was a writer/editor for the Dallas Times Herald. A former stand-up comic, Melissa has appeared on A&E, VH1 and Comedy Central. She lives with her husband and three mixed-breed rescue dogs and is in search of a purse big enough to carry the 80 lb. one shopping with her on Rodeo Drive.