Exercising Dogs with 3 Legs: How To Walk & Care for a Three-Legged Canine

This article is going to look at exercising dogs with 3 legs. Dogs may have to have a leg amputated for several reasons. Illnesses such as bone cancer are a common cause of amputations, as are accidents and injuries, or your pup may have been born with a congenital birth defect that resulted in fewer limbs.

Regardless of how it came about, most dogs with three legs live a long and happy life enjoying the same activities as their four-legged peers.

As a pet parent to a tripawd dog, it’s crucial to keep them healthy and make sure they maintain a healthy weight and get enough exercise to keep their remaining leg joints in good shape.

Don’t look at your dog’s lack of limb as a bad thing. In fact, many dogs will be happy that the leg that was causing so much pain has gone and most three-legged dogs get along just fine.

Keep reading for some tips on walking with tripod dogs and other exercises that will strengthen their joints and improve balance.

Why Exercise is Extremely Important for Tripawds

Exercise is vital for all dogs and even more so if they have lost either a front leg or a rear leg. Why? First, it stops them from becoming overweight, which is the single most important factor for dogs with one leg missing. If you dog

It also improves blood circulation and strengthens muscles and joints, which is also imperative so as not to put more stress on the remaining limbs.

Below are some activities you can do with dog amputees

Balance boards – A wobble board is an excellent tool to improve your dog’s leg strength and overall balance. A dog’s stance and gait will change after losing a leg and balancing on unstable surfaces is a fantastic rehab exercise, especially for new amputees.

You could use large cushions or purchase balance boards or peanut balls online.

Cavaletti – This is an excellent exercise for older amputees. It improves coordination and teaches your pooch to lift their feet higher, strengthening the bones and muscles of the remaining limbs. You can buy the poles online or make your own with some wooden broom handles. Start with them on the ground, then increase the height to a couple of inches over time.

Check out our article on Cavaletti exercises.

Agility – Gentle agility exercises are one of the best forms of physical therapy for a dog who has lost a limb to stay fit and healthy without risking injury. Of course, the obstacles need to be adapted, so the jumps should be really low and tunnels short. Weave poles are excellent for balance and you can incorporate a balance board or a low seesaw for extra challenges.

Core Strengthening exercises – Walking alone is not enough for tripawd dogs; you need to develop their core muscle strength along with proprioception.

There are lots of fun games that can achieve this and increase range of motion and flexibility. Puppy push-ups, cookie crunches and weight-shifting are fantastic for building core strength, as is walking backwards or in a figure eight. There is an array of dog fitness equipment online for pups who have lost a limb.

Nosework – Mental stimulation is important for all dogs. It is also an excellent activity for amputees, especially if you hide the treats where the dog needs to stretch to reach them under a table or just above nose height.

Yoga – Yes, I know it sounds strange, but there are yoga exercises for dogs and as we know, yoga is great for humans. Doga, as it is called, helps improve blood circulation, releases tension and strengthens core muscles, so get out a mat and start practising downward dog with your furry friend.

Walking With a 3-Legged Dog – Top Tips

Keep them lean

Managing your dog’s weight is essential so that there is not too much pressure on the remaining limbs a dog carries 60% of its total body weight on the front two legs, so you can imagine how much that is increased if they lose one.

Even if they haven’t lost a front leg, there is still a considerable increase in stress for your dog’s joints, which will only be intensified if they are overweight.

Avoid slippy surfaces

Obviously, a pup with a missing leg will not be as well balanced as other dogs, so it’s a good idea to avoid slick surfaces where they may fall and cause further injury to the other legs.

You can make some home modifications, like placing rugs on wooden floors or changing to carpets. But if you are regularly walking on wet or icy pavements, you should invest in some anti-slip bootees. They are available cheaply online and will save any accidents; here is a guide to the best boots for dogs.

Keep it short and sweet.

Many 3 legged dogs can walk for miles, however, for pets that have just lost a limb, shorter walks are best and you may need to stop for a rest frequently.  Your veterinary rehabilitation therapist can advise you about how often and how long walks should be.

Let them go at their own pace and pay attention to your dog’s body language; if they are panting or starting to stumble, they could be in pain. Most tripods will take time to build up their stamina, so increase the distance slowly.

They also find sharp turns and uneven ground more challenging to negotiate, so be patient and give them a hand if needed.

Use a harness for tripod dogs.

Whilst there are no harnesses designed specifically for three-legged dogs, some regular harnesses like the Ruffwear harnesses have received positive reviews from owners of dogs with a missing limb.

Whichever one you choose, a good harness for a tripod dog should have plenty of adjustment so you can customise the fit and soft padding so as not to rub or chafe your dog’s skin. There are also sling-type harnesses that can be used as support after surgery on short walks.

Protect your three-legged dog

When a dog loses a leg, it may feel more vulnerable in certain situations, for example, when meeting other dogs, so it is crucial for you as the owner to offer protection at the dog park.

Socialise your dog carefully as too much rough and tumble can be a potential disaster, especially during rehabilitation. Your vet is on hand should you have any questions and there is a large online community of owners whose pets have lost one leg or more.

Watch for signs of fatigue.

A dog with three legs will become tired quicker than a four-legged dog, so it’s important to watch out for signs they have had enough to avoid undue stress on the other legs.

If your pet is panting or lagging behind, it could be they are in pain or tired. Always take plenty of water with you and if you have a small dog, a dog carrier backpack may come in handy.

Don’t let them jump

A dog with 3 legs does not realise it can’t act like other dogs and will happily jump and play; however, it’s essential to have low impact activities, so the weight-bearing joints are not damaged.

Cruciate ligament tears are common in dogs with only three legs and take a long time to recover from. If your pet likes to jump on and off the couch or from the car, invest in a dog ramp, it’s much safer.

Look after the remaining limbs.

As we’ve mentioned, when your canine companion loses a leg, more weight is put on the others, so it is essential to keep those joints strong and healthy. Your vet will advise you about physical therapy and rehabilitation and below, we have gone into more detail about the various exercises you can do

You should also give a fish oil supplement or one recommended by your vet. Another thing to remember is to trim your dog’s nails regularly and take care of their paw pads to prevent slipping.

Is Swimming Good for Three-Legged Dogs?

Swimming is a fantastic exercise for dogs who have lost a limb because it works for many muscle groups at once without putting pressure on the limbs. It is a low-impact form of exercise that most dogs can handle just fine, even if they have arthritis or other injuries such as amputations.

Swimming also helps stimulate the natural healing process, so it is great for rehabilitation and improves circulation, which keeps the heart-healthy. In addition, it is a good alternative for an older dog with one leg missing who may not be able to participate in more strenuous exercises.

Do you Need a Wheelchair for a Tripod Dog?

Wheelchairs are only usually necessary if your dog has lost two limbs or more. Most dogs thrive on three legs especially smaller dogs, however larger breeds, overweight dogs and seniors may need the extra support a dog wheelchair offers. You can pick up a pretty nifty doggy wheelchair online for less than £100

FAQ’s

Can you use a harness on a three-legged dog?

Yes, you can use a harness, just be sure to ensure the correct fit and make sure it is padded. The last thing you want is for your pooch to be uncomfortable.

How far can a three-legged dog walk?

It depends on the dog and how active they were before the amputation. Your pet should always begin with short walks and you can increase the distance as Fido grows stronger. Always watch for signs of tiredness and take plenty of water with you.

Can dogs have a good life with three legs?

With proper weight management and exercise, yes, the good news is your pet can lead a long, happy life. At your first vet consultation after the amputation, they may recommend physical therapy and as we’ve covered above, there are plenty of things you can do to help your dog in the long term.

Final Thoughts

All dogs are unique and three-legged ones are extra special. Tripod dogs will bring a whole new degree of inspiration to your life with their positive outlook and zest for life.

No pet parent wants to see their pet in pain and choosing to remove a pet’s leg is a difficult and stressful decision. However, surgery can improve your dog’s quality of life.

No matter if your pooch has lost a front leg to cancer, has been born with a congenital disability or been involved in an accident and lost a limb, they can still go on to live a long, happy life and by making a few changes, you can help them build up their core strength and balance.

Walking is fine as long as you let them rest regularly, but it isn’t enough; you will need to encourage your canine companion to do other activities such as swimming and perhaps invest in a wobble board.

We hope this article has shed some light on exercising Tripawds if you have one already or are thinking of adopting a 3 legged dog.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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