Osteoarthritis Help for Your Amputee Dog

Jerry was our first dog, and even after his leg amputation in 2006, we knew zilch about canine rehabilitation (known as “physical therapy” in the human world). It’s only recently that we’ve become aware of this life-changing therapy, and we want to start sharing what we are learning with all of you.

Connecticut-based “Wizard of Paws,” Dr. Debbie Gross Saunders was brought to our attention by our friend, renowned dog behaviorist and trainer Sarah Wilson.

Dr. Saunders is a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner who is well regarded in the performance sports dog world. She is one of the founders of the first and only university based program in canine rehabilitation – University of Tennessee’s Canine Physical Rehabilitation Program. Along with her therapy services, she teaches  and has a variety of DVDs to help dog parents practice safe and effective therapy at home.

Dr. Saunders was kind enough to send us a copy of her newest video, “Osteoarthritis and Your Dog” for review.

Osteoarthritis and Your Dog: What it is, and How to Help

Osteoarthritis is a painful, degenerative condition that affects dogs of all ages. When one of these arthritic dogs is told that a spare leg  has to be amputated, pawrents agonize over the amputation decision more than others. They wonder:

Can a three legged, arthritic dog have a good life?

After watching Debbie’s video, we think that for most dogs, consistent therapy exercises like the one in Dr. Saunder’s video will go a long way in providing a great quality of life as a Tripawd.

The first half of the video will hit you with a lot of information. Be sure to have a notepad ready to take notes. Although we wished it had informational graphics to study, Dr. Saunders does a fantastic job conveying what we need to know about osteoarthritis if your dog receives an osteoarthritis diagnosis.

The rest of the video is an awesome instructional guide to performing canine massage and range-of-motion exercises at home. Dr. Saunders discusses why these exercises are important, and how to tell if you’re working your dog too hard.

She also gives tips to great therapy products that we like, such as Bella’s Pain Pack. Lastly, she kindly provides cost-saving ideas for making your own therapy exercise tools at home.

Catch a glimpse of “Osteoarthrits and Your Dog,” here on the Wizard of Paws You Tube Channel.

Tracy Snow-Cormier, pawrent to Tripawd Maggie, and Tripawds Supporter, is a fan of Dr. Saunders, and loves this DVD. Tracy says that  “I had an interest in Debbie’s new DVD because I have one of my dogs with start of arthritis in her wrists. I wanted to have a safe way to exercise and strengthen her, and know that I wasn’t going to do further damage to her wrists.”

About the DVD, Tracy says that

“The low cost to do most of her exercises for the dogs is great. From doing basic obedience flatwork to doing theraball work, to low cavaletti work. It is easy for someone to do the exercises with your arthritic dog with very little cost…with the exception of the treadmills!”

We think you’ll find “Osteoarthritis and Your Dog” just as informative and useful. If you order it on Debbie’s website, let us know what you think!

Canine Chiropractic Options for Newbies

The following Guest Blog Post was generously written by Calpurnia’s Mom, TC Wait. To submit your own guest post to Tripawds, contact us today.

Odaroloc Sled Dog PikaI have always been somewhat uneasy with the thought of chiropractic practice. Somehow the thought of someone manipulating my spine just gives me the willies. I am the first to admit, however, that I don’t know much about it, so when my Aunt told me she was using a canine chiropractor for her rescued greyhounds, I decided to educate myself about it. The world of veterinary medicine is continually evolving and with that evolution, holistic practices are also becoming more frequently found. Maybe my dogs, including my tripawd Calpurnia, would get some benefit to adding chiropractic work into their health care.

I did some online research and found Dr. Debbie O’Reilly, who has been adjusting animals since 1996 and is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Dr. O’Reilly is also a practicing human chiropractor and runs the Vibrant Energy Healing Center in Littleton, CO. She was happy to answer my questions, and even came to our house to evaluate a dog that was having some issues.

Pika is a new dog to our pack. She has been showing some weakness and poor gait on the right side (both front and rear legs) that my vet and I have thought may be related to an old neck injury (possibly from a rough birth or something). Poor Pika was coping as best as she could, but when it came to pulling in harness (something she LOVES to do), her gait definitely showed signs that she became painful from it.

In addition to Pika, I had targeted our front leg amputee, Calpurnia, as a potential for chiropractic work, since she is getting older (she is going on 14 now) and front leg amputees are sort of forced to rotate the good shoulder down to walk. That has to have some sort of spinal implication. I decided to have work done on Pika first, since some dogs are sore for about 24 hours after an adjustment. I figured being sore when you are 2 years old on 4 legs would be easier than being sore when you are 14 and on 3 legs.Tripod Sled Dog Calpurnia

Dr. O’Reilly arrived at our house and patiently answered more of my questions. She then introduced herself to Pika, who is pretty shy. I was surprised at how Pika seemed to understand that Dr. O’Reilly was there to help, and since I think that you can tell a lot about a person from how animals react to them, this was a good thing. After watching her gait and stance, Dr. O’Reilly was able to determine a couple of areas that she thought were not aligned correctly and went about doing an adjustment.

The adjustment itself was pretty quick. Dr. O’Reilly started at Pika’s pelvis and used her hands to move up the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, testing the alignment and flexibility of each joint. In places that were out of alignment, she used a firm pressure to bring them back to alignment. She did this all the way up to the back of Pika’s neck. It was hard to really see what she was doing because it was so fast!

After the treatment, Pika needed to remain quiet for about 24 hours. No running, playing, or jumping. This is to help keep the corrected alignment in the spine, and also because she might have some muscle soreness following the treatment, sort of like after a deep-tissue massage. Some dogs will need a pain reliever or arnica post-treatment to help with the soreness (the chiropractor will tell you what to do). Pika would need to have a follow-up treatment, possibly including some acupuncture work, in 2 weeks, then probably monthly after that.

I asked Dr. O’Reilly about adjusting Calpurnia, who is a natural busy-body and felt she needed to be involved “assisting” with Pika’s treatment. Dr. O’Reilly felt Cali’s spine for a bit, then laughed and said “Calpurnia is FINE. There is nothing wrong with her spine.” Apparently, whatever spinal twisting is going on with Cali’s missing leg is not causing any incorrect vertebrae alignments. Dr. O’Reilly was impressed at how well Cali was doing and attributed her good health and agility to her overall physical condition and light body weight. All those years of running on a sled have had a good long-term effect on the old girl.

So, here are some tips and thoughts for other “Chiro-Newbies” that may be considering a canine chiropractor that I learned through this experience.

  • A canine chiropractor can be considered anytime a dog is not performing at 100% (seems out of sorts or just not “their normal self”, reacts to petting, starts holding up a paw, standing not quite right or holding their head off to one side, or anytime the dog has been involved in a accident either due to play or work). Typical issues that Dr. O’Reilly is asked to help with include “everything under the sun” ranging from injuries, post surgical care, and limping/lameness, to lick granulomas, sloppy sitting, and internal medicine disorders. Canine chiropractic works hand-in-hand with veterinary medicine. Sometimes Xrays or drugs are necessary as well as physical therapy.
  • When looking for a canine chiropractor, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. An animal chiropractor can only be a chiropractor or veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association certifies all veterinary chiropractors. The website lists their certified doctors by state. There are many people out there calling themselves animal chiropractors, but they are not vets or chiropractors and have not gone through the AVCA approved programs. I have heard some horror stories about crippling injuries stemming from chiropractic treatments gone wrong, so I would recommend doing your research before letting a doctor adjust your dog (or yourself). In Colorado, canine chiropractors also need to be licensed by the state.
  • Some animal chiropractors offer other holistic treatments that you can ask about. Dr. O’Reilly also has a Diplomate in acupuncture, does massage and swim therapy, and can use “muscle testing” to check for allergies and recommend supplements.

At Pika’s follow-up exam, Dr. O’Reilly was happy that progress had been made in her spine. I had been noticing that Pika was using her back leg more effectively around the yard. Dr. O’Reilly did some acupuncture in Pika’s lower back, followed by another chiropractic adjustment. We will do follow-up treatments monthly through the start of our fall training to see how she is progressing.

Doggon Wheelchairs for Tripawds

Can anyone guess what the most common fear among Tripawd pawrents is?

Most pawrents fear that their Tripawd will lose the use of another limb.

What if a rear-leg amputee grows old, and hip displaysia takes it’s toll? Or a front-leg Tripawd takes a bad fall and severely injures the remaining leg?

What would you do if your Tripawd lost the use of another leg?

As much as it hurts to think about it, it never hurts to be prepared, just in case.

That’s why we talked to the good people at Doggon Wheels in Bozeman, Montana.

Since 1994, Doggon Wheels has been one of the world’s top creators of mobility aids like wheelchairs, for physically challenged animals.

We asked Doggon co-founder Lori, a few questions about how Tripawds can benefit from wheelchairs, and here’s what she had to say:

Can wheelchairs work with Tripawd dogs?

“Yes- we do make wheelchairs for amputees. They are most commonly used by older amputee’s who are starting to have difficulties compensating for the missing limb (front or rear), or for pets with birth defects. We also make wheelchairs for pets with double amputations.

Generally they do really well with using wheels and appreciate being able to go for longer walks or on more varied/difficult terrain.”

The biggest fear some Tripawd pawrents have is for their dog to lose function of their remaining rear or front leg. We know of one Tripawd who needs a hip replacement, yet he is also a rear-leg amputee. Would a wheelchair help?

“This is legitimate concern and why we recommend that you take into consideration putting the remaining rear leg up in the stirrup during periods of intense exercise. Generally the dogs using amputee wheelchairs are doing so because the other limb is overly stressed or arthritic. Putting the remaining limb into a suspended position allows it to rest during the most stressful periods of exercise.

Owners who do this find that their dogs are able to get around easier on their own the rest of the time, when not in wheels. A wheelchair for the pet above would be useful for both long term use to avoid stressing the remaining limb post surgery, or if the humans opt not have his hip replaced.”

How do you measure a Tripawd for a wheelchair?

The measurements are the same for all of our chairs, except for a Tripawd we need to know:

  • Is s/he a left or right amputee?
  • Does the dog have any part of her leg remaining? Is the amputation site partial or flush? Most amputations are flush, however if there is enough leg remaining that you can measure the circumference around it, a different support might be needed, other than our amputee support.

To see how mobile a dog really is when using a wheelchair, check out this beautiful movie of Popeye, a dog currently available for adoption through Walkin’ the Bark Rescue in Northern California:

Learn more about wheelchairs for your three legged Tripawd dog at the Doggon Wheels website.

Tripawd Agility Champion Serena Brings Inspawration to All

Three Legged Agility Dog Serena

The following Guest Blog Post was generously written by Amy Breton, a Tripawd pawrent from Massachusetts. To submit your own guest post to Tripawds, contact us today.

Serena is a three legged agility and therapy dog. She is one of the very few three legged dogs in the country that competes in agility against four legged dogs. Serena likes to prove that three legged dogs can have fun too…just as much fun as a four legged dog!

I first met Serena when she was brought into my veterinary clinic as a hit-by-car stray dog 10 years ago. No one ever came to claim her, so I adopted her. She needed 8 surgeries to fix her (broken pelvis, torn cruciates, broken femur, hip luxation). That’s not how she lost her leg. At that point she was about 1 year old. No one thought she’d walk let alone do agility. She proved them all wrong.

At age 4 she was diagnosed with myxosarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor which required radiation therapy. We did radiation therapy and she got back to competing. Unfortunately one of the side effects of radiation therapy is that it weakens the bone and at the age of 7 she broke her front leg when she slipped on some ice chasing a squirrel. We tried for 5 months to save the leg, but the bone was too weak so at the age of 7 she received a leg amputation.

Every dog owner questions whether amputation is the right thing to do. In Serena’s case I knew she would be okay afterwards, but I worried I had lost my agility partner. Two months after her amputation she was back competiting, and winning. To date Serena has one championship title and is currently working towards her second. She is, as far as anyone can tell me, the only three legged agility dog in the country.

Serena is also a registered therapy dog and when she’s not doing agility she’s making the elderly and kids smile. There are many adults and kids she meets with limb amputations that can relate to her.

Serena brings inspiration to everyone she meets. She has never let anything get her down. I once had a father and son ask me about Serena right before an agility competition. While waiting near the start line I gave them the abbreviated story. As I stepped out into the ring for Serena’s run I heard the father turn to his son and say “You see that dog out there? Whenever you say you can’t do something you think about that dog.” He’s right.

She is also my inspiration as well as my furry-kid, my friend, my laughter, my sanity at times of insanity and my partner out on the agility course.

To see videos and more pics of Serena, visit her MySpace Page.

Swim Your Tripawd to Better Health

One of our Tripawd members, Chuy, does swim therapy sessions to help him recover from a major surgery on one of his good legs.

Many dogs are feeling better thanks to swim therapy. We thought we would ask one expert in New York about how post-surgery Tripawds can benefit from swim therapy.

Introducing, K9 C.A.R.E.,Inc.

Based in Spencerport, New York, K9 C.A.R.E.’s owner Jill says “Swimming is awesome at any time in a dogs life but, it is especially helpful in the all important time just after surgery. Not only for the body, but for the mind. A dog’s mental health is also important to assist in their speedy recovery.”

“Swimming makes them whole. They can move in the water like they cannot on land. With swimming being non weight bearing, it helps condition muscles without any impact. Some paralyzed dogs can actually move their limbs when they get in the water!

We asked Jill if she had suggestions for Tripawds who have never done swim therapy before.

“My advice is find a pool and get in!”

But, she adds, that the pool should be a proper doggie pool. “Water temperature is so important, and this applies to any injury or recuperative situation. For effective therapy, optimum water temp. is between 92 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. There is almost no risk of further muscle injury with warm water, unlike cold water.

Jill says that pawrents can actually do more damage swimming a recuperating dog in a lake or backyard pool, unless it’s at the right temperature. Once a Tripawd is fully recovered from surgery and rehabilitated, then cold water swimming should be fine.

A World Class Facility

“Everything we have done we did with the dogs in mind. We have a salt water generator that purifies the water using salt. There are no added chemicals, no bromine, no chlorine.

We have non-slip, heated porcelain floors because the warmth is wonderful for joints. Unlike a concrete floor, if dogs lay down on it to rest, their bodies are not drained of heat. Also, porcelain is non porous and will not transfer any disease (unlike ceramic floors). These are just a couple of the lengths we went to, to ensure all was as it should be.”

K9 C.A.R.E.’s 60 minute sessions are just $25.00 each (many other swim therapy facilities run upwards of $85 an hour). A first visit is $35.00, and includes a 90 minute orientation, to ensure the dog is relaxed and comfortable with the facility and instructors.

Jill says they believe in keeping their cost affordable because “we want to ensure that all dogs are able to benefit, especially those whose pawrents have just spent thousands on surgery. Financial difficulty should not inhibit the dogs ability to enjoy a speedy recovery.”

Pawrents can call K9 C.A.R.E. at (585) 352-SWIM, or visit their Flick’r site. K9 Care is located in Spencerport New York, just outside of Rochester.

Xena and Her Big Dog Stroller

Three legged Rottie XenaAs you know, Tripawds get around great in life. And although we can do anything a four-legger can, we tend to just do it with  shorter bursts of energy.

Sometimes after surgery our stamina can decrease, especially if we are coping with cancer. Our walks may become much shorter, and our people may get sad that we can no longer go as far as we once did.

But now our people don’t need to be sad about those shorter walks! We just heard from a tripawd named Xena, who gets around all of Manhattan with a Strollit dog stroller. Her dad Brian says:

“Xena has had surgery on both cruciates. In addition to that, she had a tumor that ruptured her spleen in 2007. She had to have her spleen removed. Shortly after that she had bloat which required emergency surgery. So to say she’s been “through the mill” is an understatement. The scariest thing by far was her being diagnosed with osteosarcoma and having to make the decision to amputate her leg.

Now a year later, after the surgery and the chemotherapy, she is still with us. She stays as active as she can given her ailments and her age. We still take her for walks in the city, and she even has her own “carriage” to get in when she gets too tired.

The Solvit HoundAbout Pet Stroller for Big Dogs

I highly recommend the product to anyone. We get tons of people asking about it when we walk through NYC. Three legged Rottie XenaIt is well built, folds down for transport or storage and the company’s customer service is very helpful.

Xena loves riding in it. As you can see, even at 94 pounds, she fits in it comfortably. It also allows us to go places with her that we normally could not. We took her right inside the mall with it.”

We think this dog stroller by SolvIt is fabulous. If you get one for your Tripawd, just remember to introduce him to it slowly. There are lots of ways to get a dog used to being carted on wheels, much like crate training, so that the stroller becomes a comfortable place of refuge for your Tripawd.

Solvit HoundAbout Pet Strollers are also available in various sizes at EntirelyPets.com.

Summertime Sale on Ruff Wear Life Vests

K9 Float Coat Dog Life PreserverPeople are amazed when they see how well three legged dogs can swim. Getting in the water again is what we love to do, but sometimes we could use a little help when we get tired.

That’s where the Ruff Wear K9 Float Coat comes in handy. Tripawd dogs can swim farther and longer with this awesome life vest. And the strong handle can help you help your pup.

Please visit the Tripawds Gear Shop!

My pawrents wrote about this great life preserver for dogs last year. But Ruff Wear recently announced a close-out sale on remaining inventory for the Float Coat. So we are hoppy to re-publish this post in its entirety, complete with demonstration video and new Big Savings While Supplies Last!

Continue reading Summertime Sale on Ruff Wear Life Vests

Meet the Great Yellow Texas Tripawd, Barney B.

We love traveling to new places and meeting our Tripawd family members, especially after we’ve been chatting with them for a long time, in our Forums. Recently, we met up with Barney Baldwin, from Houston Texas, and his Mom Linda, and Dad Bob.

Barney is an 80 pound Lab who lost his leg due to bone cancer, back in February, 2008, over one year ago. What a survivor! His Mom Linda says:

From the moment I met Barney, when he jumped up and “hugged” me with his front paws around my neck and gave me a big, wet sloppy kiss, he has been a bright spot in my life, a constant source of love and happy memories.

He’s slower than he used to be, tires out more easily when he walks, and he’s definitely more affected by the heat and humidity since the chemo, but overall he’s doing great and we’re so grateful for each and every day with this beautiful boy.  I will tell you though, that he’s still quite spry when it comes to running toward the kitchen when he hear a bag rattling, or a cooking pot coming out of the cabinet.  His ability to steal food off of the counter has not been diminished either!

For a rescue dog who has not only battled histiocytic sarcoma cancer but other recurrent medical issues, Barney really amazed us with his energetic romps around the park. He wanted to play with every dog who crossed his path, and barked hellos to anyone nearby. He is the classic lovable, adorable Lab with a heart of gold. We sure love Barney, and feel especially fortunate to call his Mom and Dad our friends.

Here’s a special movie we made about our pal, Barney B:

Tripawd Lucy; Loving Life Without Limits

Never doubt a dog’s ability to bounce back from the hardest of circumstances. Here’s an incredible rescue story from Humboldt County, California.

My pawrents recently met Lucy, a sweet rescue dog who had a very ruff start in life. But thanks to some incredible people who saved her life, Lucy found a great home, and is now showing the world how awesome life can be on three legs.

Codie Rae: An Awesome Shepherd that Never Stops!

Three Legged German Shepherd Rescue Dog Codie Rae RunningWe are huge fans of Codie Rae, a spunky girldog from Oakland, California. Ok, not just because we’re a little partial to Shepherds, but also because her story of survival and finding a forever home just brought tears to our eyes when we first heard about her.

Lucky us, we finally got to meet her in Oakland. We tried to get her to slow down and say a few things on camera, but she wouldn’t have it. After all, there were just too many scents to sniff and so much space that needed to be checked out at the dog park!

Codie Rae, brother Smokey, Momma Martha and Daddy Ralph, you guys are awesome!