Tripod dog.. what next?

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Tripod dog.. what next?

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Old 02-01-2016, 01:56 AM
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Tripod dog.. what next?

Hi there, I have a tripod dog (saw this name in my recent searching the net for advice). The fact is she has 4 legs but refuses to use he front left leg after a recent toe amputation (first joint removed). It's been a couple months and healed fine but she refuses to use it choosing rather to run around on 3!

She is a brown doberman and from baby been highly strung. She is 8 now and still, on 3 legs, highly strung. The problem now is that I am worrying as she appears to be weakening and in running around, she is face planting. That front leg of hers supporting her is just not managing anymore.

I am prepared to chat to my vet but I am worried what the only solution will be so I want to be know better before I go! What if there is nothing to do but euthanasia? Why won't she use her leg? We have examined her and felt around, pushing and prodding.. there is no pain.. I have read that this can happen. Trying to keep her calm will be impossible!!
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:24 AM
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Why was her toe amputated? Was she using the leg prior to the toe amp? From what I've seen, dogs whom have had toe amputations are usually pretty much normal once the bandaging/sutured phase is over. I would ask the vet whether they feel it's discomfort causing it (in which case, maybe ask to trial with some pain meds to see if it helps), or just a learned behavior due to having been handicapped for a period of time. If it is learned, ask them if they think it would be ok for her to do some exercises to encourage her to use the leg. Swimming may be beneficial, as the leg motions mimic those of walking, and when my dog Annie was still favoring one of her front legs after a healed injury, I also would slightly pick up the opposing diagonal leg to encourage her to bear more weight on it, but check with your vet to see if those sort of things are ok to do with her before trying anything new. There are rehab specialists for dogs, and I would consider finding one and getting their advice if your vet says it's no medical cause for the lack of use. If you are unsure of the answers you get from your vet, maybe consider seeing an orthopedic specialist, as her problem seems unusual, and if there is discomfort, you want to get it resolved so she can return to normal function.

A dog with only 1 functional front leg has a harder time than one missing a hind leg, as roughly 60% of the body's weight is borne on the front legs. This is especially notable in larger dogs. I had a ~50 lb dog who had her left front leg amputated as an adolescent (6-8 months old, due to injury), and while she did all the "normal dog" stuff (and then some! She was a firecracker!) as a young dog, she had a really hard time when she got old, and had significant arthritis and bone remodeling in all her legs, but particularly her front one. If you can fix her problem so that she will use all 4 again, that would be best, but if not, keep her as lean as possible and try to limit high impact activities.

This was my girl at age 3-4




And at age 9-10







Her standing position in the later pics is pretty typical for front leg amputees, they call it "tripoding" because the front leg moves in and back, and the hind legs move forward. As you can see in one pic, she would sometimes lean back on her hocks (the bottom part of her hind legs) to rest when standing still for a while, but it never seemed to bother her. She would have had these changes anyway, but being a chunk for some of her adult life and also being an active dog when young definitely didn't help. She was on NSAIDs (deramaxx, then previcox) intermittently, then regularly as an old dog, and that kept her fairly able bodied, though she was a couch potato in old age.

Good luck with your girl, I hope she figures things out and gets back on all four soon
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:10 AM
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Thanks so much for your feedback! Feeling less stressed about seeing my vet now. I will make an appointment and get info on therapy etc as you recommend.

Yes I can see the effects of 3 legs on the other leg in your pics! Such a gorgeous doggie

Her toe was amputated due to infection. She kept splitting her nails... in her hyper activity! The one ended up with an infection. We treated with 2 lots of antibiotics and it healed briefly, only for her to go graunch herself open again and then infection set in super fast and they suggested removing that first joint. She was fine shortly after the surgery.. she started using her foot but only briefly and then she lifted again as she did throughout all her infections so not sure it's learned now.

Prior to this, she was super fit and therefor very lean, still as she has been running around no problem on her 3 but just lately I can see it's taking it's toll on her.
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Old 02-01-2016, 09:19 AM
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I'm not a specialist in this at all, but it seems to me that therapy is definitely a good option. I hope she gets better.

busannie, your dog is absolutely stunning!
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:50 PM
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If she's commonly breaking nails, you may ask your vet if they think her symptoms could be related to lupoid onychodystrophy, which is an autoimmune disease which can cause brittle nails (usually the nails separate from the quick and sort of slough off, but they can just break as well). I had to google it for the spelling, and one article said it can make the pads tender as well, which could maybe explain her continued lameness.

One of my cats had a nailbed infection that persisted for almost 2 months, so I feel your pain there! Luckily, hers did eventually respond to antibiotics, and never seemed painful to her, but our vet did raise amputation as an option if she didn't improve.

Does the remaining part of toe contact the ground at all? If so (and even if not), maybe try putting a thick baby/toddler sock on it to add padding/cushion and see if she's more amenable to using the leg. Sometimes people who have had amputations experience "phantom pain" caused by miscommunication of the nerve endings at the amputation site, and though I don't know of any studies, I would imagine the same could happen to a dog. In some cases with people, it will improve with time, but not all, but there are also medications which may help. I never saw any indication that Haley (my dog) had issues with it, but dogs are pretty amazingly stoic- she was a whirling dervish with sutures still in from her amputation.

Thanks for the compliments on her, she was a great clown of a dog! We had to have her PTS in '12 due to lymphoma, but she had a good life, despite her "disability" and various other medical problems along the way
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Old 02-01-2016, 07:44 PM
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That infection and amputation hurt, and she remembers that pain, so I'm guessing that's why she avoids bearing weight on that limb. Talk to your Vet, but I'm guessing, if she is in no pain now, she can in time overcome her fear of weight on that leg. Nothing worthwhile happens quickly, give her time and support.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:16 AM
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Thanks all

I'm thinking it's to do with a lack of pad. I read more last night that the pad is so important to them, especially large breed and guess with weight on it Irritates me that usually a pad can be kept and reattached so why did my vet not mention this as an option?!

On the hunt for a therapist now..
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Old 02-05-2016, 04:08 AM
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*update*

I went to see my vet who says it does happen and not easy to know WHY. They put her on 2 weeks of pain/anti inflammatory to SEE if she improves IF it's a pain issue. They also volunteered a statement of 'therapy won't help' which I didn't even ask about as I feel they would be against it naturally?? It just came up as with amputation this thing happens and generally not fixed.

In the mean time, after day one of meds, there is absolutely no improvement but appears to still be getting worse day by day as her one leg takes strain supporting her. She wouldn't use the one step we have from the bedrooms to the living area this to come through this morning but lay there waiting for me to come 'help' her.

I also emailed a therapist and gave her my story. Her response was to bring her for a consult. Surely based on my story you can say whether or not a therapy could be viable or not?!

So frustrating to watch my girl battle to move and not be her usual crazy, hyper self
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:11 PM
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I think that at this point it might be a good idea to seek a 2nd opinion, possibly from an orthopedic specialist. Have them evaluate the toe to see if they can determine why she's not using the leg, and if they can't see a reason, or tell you it's something which can't be fixed, ask them to advise you on how best to preserve function in her remaining "good" legs.

I did find one article on dogs which fail to use their leg normally after digit amputation
https://www.researchgate.net/publica..._in_three_dogs
It looks like all three of those dogs improved following "revision" of their amputation sites- there was something causing them discomfort.
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