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Vet Talks: How To Have Happy, Healthy Tripawd Dogs and Cats

Posted July 21, 2017


As a practicing holistic and integrative veterinary specialist, I frequently see tripawd dog and cat patients for rehabilitation services, acupuncture, and other forms of medical and therapeutic treatment. Sadly, dogs and cats may loose a limb due to an unfortunate accident, cancer, bone disease, or other form of cancer.

Treatment options for tripawd dogs and cats depend on when the limb is lost in life, the size of the dog and which leg is lost. These factors also play into how quickly a pet may learn to adapt. If a pet looses a limb early in life, adaptation is quicker. This is mostly due to not having other preexisting conditions, like arthritis, which would likely lead to more muscle loss for the animal. As the front limbs support 60% of the weight in ambulation, whereas the rear limb supports 40%, it is easier for dogs or cats to adapt to the lose of a hind limb than a front limb. Also, a smaller dog is much more likely to adapt to amputation faster then a larger size dog breed, simply due to shear weight on the joints and remaining limbs.

To keep your tripawd pet healthy, I recommend the following:

  • Acupuncture, as it relieves pain and stress on remaining joints.
  • Other rehabilitation therapies, such as hydrotherapy and exercises to keep the muscles developed in the remaining limbs. This prevents muscle loss in the remaining limbs and subsequent arthritis. However, it is important to monitor exercise. Do not overdo it, as this will cause stress and pain on the remaining joints.
  • Massage to relieve muscle pain of remaining limbs.
  • Excellent nutrition. Keeping tripawds lean is extremely important.
  • Prosthetics when necessary or a specially-made wheel chair. There are many veterinarians and specialists who can help you get the right prosthetic or wheel chair for your pet.

In short, your tripawd dog or cat can lead a happy and healthy life. Be sure to keep them lean, fill in any nutritional gaps, and support the stress they may feel on remaining limbs with complementary therapies like massage and herbal supplements.

If your tripawd is having other health complications, please do contact me for an online veterinary consultation. We can work together to come up with a plan of action that will be best for your pet.

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

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