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How to keep your Tripawd Healthy

3 legged tripawd dogTripawd – why massage is a must for our 3 legged friends

Dogs never stop amazing me; for a number of reasons. They are behaviourally fascinating but I am always astonished at just how quickly they can bounce back from something that would leave many of us at a complete loss. There are a multitude of reasons that a dog may lose a limb and become a tripawd; from injury to a health condition and it is every owner’s worst nightmare. However the resilience that our canine friends display is something truly awe inspiring.

The dog has to learn very quickly how to move with their body and how to negotiate things to which they previously wouldn’t have given a second glance  but they get up and adjust to life in a matter of hours and days. The shock to their body can take its toll in the early stages as they can try to do too much too soon but will adapt to life moving differently. The more measured of them will learn how their body needs to move more easily than the ‘everything at 100 mph’ dog but all will face challenges when it comes to the physical impact that being an amputee holds.

For many the challenges that they will face will depend on which limb they have lost. The changes in movement will differ in a fore limb amputee compared to a hind limb amputee. However they will also share a number of challenges in their day to day life.

Tripawd Challengestripawd dog massage

Learning to walk, sit, stand and lie down; will cause some apprehension in most and it can be a while before they can perform all actions without hesitation. In the case of a forelimb amputee getting up from a seated or down position will rely on their powerful back legs doing a large proportion of the work. Whereas with a hind limb amputee they would use their forelegs to pull them up.

All of the adjustments to daily movement will have an impact on the rest of the body through natural overcompensation. This will mean that the dog will be prone to tiring more readily than before and may be generally slower after exercise.

A dog walking with four limbs would always have three of them on the ground for support. In the case of the tripawd it may be that they use their three limbs separately or one alone with the remaining two paired. Whichever means of walking the dog uses will have an impact on the rest of their body as other muscles and joints will be required to work harder in order to compensate for the extra workload.

In many cases it can be that the dog moves better at a bit of a speed due to the manner in which the legs are used. For example a gallop would involve the dog being airborne during each stride. This would allow them to propel themselves using their limbs; however the landing can be more risky in the case of a forelimb amputee.

Commonly the dog will be prone to certain injuries as a result of their overall change in movement; these include:

Common Injuries and Issues

  • Overcompensation to the muscle groups associated with movement as a result of increased use. They will tire more easily.
  • Strain on the joints of the limbs due to the impact overcompensation movement has on them.
  • Higher risk of slips and falls. (Check our previous blog The Number 1 Way to Keep Your Dog Injury Free)
  • Strains (tears) to the muscles.
  • Myofascial pain – caused by repetitive overload of the muscles building up hyper irritable bands of metabolic waste (or knots), within the muscle and connective fascia
  • Muscle soreness following exercise.
  • Reduced range of motion in muscles near to the amputation site through reduced use.
  • Muscle soreness in the remaining muscles on the amputated limb as they do not contract and relax as efficiently, causing a build-up of metabolic waste.

Behavioural Signs of Injury

  • Reduced tolerance
  • Anxiety
  • Reluctance to be handled
  • New fears in situations where previously there were none
  • Depression
  • Sluggish behaviour
  • Reluctance to move

Physical Signs Injury

  • Further reduced range of motion
  • Swelling of any joints
  • Reduced ability to get up from sitting or lying down
  • Reluctance to stand for too long
  • Reduced flexibility in the back and neck
  • Pain following movement
  • Slowed movements
  • Hesitation in movement
  • Lameness in any of the remaining limbs


How to Help Keep them Healthy

It is difficult to get across to some of our tail wagging friends that they cannot perform everything they used to and that in some situations they may need to slow down but there are a number of things that we can put into place to help ensure their physical fitness.

  • Carpets or rugs with grip must be laid in all of the areas of the home to which the dog has access as they have a greater risk of slipping as a result of having reduced stability.
  • Flat mattress beds should be provided to enable the dog to stretch out fully should they wish to. Small compact beds can cause further issues with myofascial pain.
  • No ball play using chuck’em toys. This causes the dog to run faster and often leads to skidding halts and greater impact on the legs and muscles.
  • No off lead exercise in wet or damp grass. There is a greater risk of slipping and falls on this surface.
  • Use a dog ramp to get in and out of the car to restrict jumping.
  • Place a step for use should the dog want to get on the sofa. Encourage them to step up and off rather than jump.
  • Use non slip socks in places where there is a risk of slipping or inappropriate flooring.
  • Carry up and down the stairs if necessary.
  • Provide a good quality joint supplement to help keep them supple.
  • Keep their body weight down to avoid extra pressure on the limbs.
  • Provide mental stimulation to keep them busy.
  • Work with a Guild Massage therapist to help keep muscles fit and healthy and to reduce the risk of physical injury.

Author: Tracy Challis

For more information please visit Tracy Challis biography


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