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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!

Tribute to a Three Legged Beach Boy

We said goodnight to a hero yesterday, strong magnificent Max who lived for nearly fourteen months past his bone cancer diagnosis. His stunning blue eyes, his enthusiasm and his stoic pawsonality put smiles on the faces of everyone he met. Max will never, ever be forgotten.

In the spirit of our courageous hero, we want to share these fun clips of him with you.

This movie was taken at our Tripawds get together in Santa Barbara last December. You can see here that not even lung mets could stop this boy from having a good time with the other pups.

Here’s a flashback video starring Max, taken when we met him in February 2008, not long after his amputation and diagnosis.

And here’s a few photos of Max will always put smiles on our faces.

Run free Max, go get ’em!

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.

Make Tags, then Go Play Tag

OK pawrents, I’m not talking about dog tags here, but something almost as impawtant.

Have you ever tried looking for a specific topic in our three legged dog Discussion Forums, only to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of posts returned by the built-in Search feature? Who has time to look through all those posts? You should be playing tag instead!

With almost 20,000 posts in our Discussion Forums (and growing every day), we are asking you, dear Tripawds Family Members, to please start including Tags in every new post that you start.

By taking just a few seconds to add Tags, you can help build the Tripawds knowledge base, and make it so much faster for all of us to find information we need.

What’s a Tag?

Tags are relevant keyword(s) about each topic. Each tag is a link to related topics containing the same tag. They appear in little boxes beneath every Topic title in each Forum’s overview page. You’ll also see tags at the top of all individual topics.

Clicking the “Related” button when viewing any topic will also return a quick list of links to similarly tagged topics.

How Do I Make Tags?

Tags can only be created when starting a new topic.

First, create your Topic and write your post, but before clicking “Post New Topic”:

  1. Look for the “Topic Tags” field underneath your text box, to the left.
  2. Type a few relevant words about your topic.
    • For example, if you’re asking a question about “power mushrooms,” make that phrase a Tag. Or if you want to talk about booties, then “booties” can be a Tag.
  3. Can’t think of Tags? Click on “Get Suggested Tags From: Local Tags, Yahoo, Tag the Net
    • We prefer to click on “Local Tags” first. This gives related tags from existing posts. Using existing tags ensures consistency, so that you don’t duplicate a tag with the same meaning or a different spelling.
  4. If you are the first pawrent to cover a topic, keep Tags to a single word or short phrase. Type in lower case, and separate multiple tags by commas.
  5. Remember, there’s no limit to how many Tags you can include, but a short list of specific Tags is better than too many slightly realtive tags.

A Note for Forum Moderators:

Forum moderators can add or edit topic tags after posts are created. If you are a moderator who feels like making a huge contribution to Tripawds, you can always add relative tags to existing topics.

Tags can be added/edited from Forum view – where Topic titles are listed – by clicking the small wrench visible to Moderators.

Thanks everyone, for helping to make this the best three legged tripod dog resource in the world!

Does Good News Make You Feel Guilty?

At Tripawds, many of us are three legged dogs because we are battling cancer. Sometimes it seems like we go through periods of time in the Tripawds Discussion Forums, when all we hear is sad news about our friends’ cancer battles.

We all know that life has its ups and downs. We would not exist without both good and bad. Life and death are the yin and yang of the Universe. We dogs try not to focus too much on this though, and strive for that perfect balance of living in the moment.

But humans, on the other hand, don’t often see life like we do. Many struggle with the conflict at Nature’s core. Occasionally we hear from Tripawd pawrents who feel guilty about sharing the good news they have, when there’s a glut of “bad news” in the Forums. When the current mood of discussions is somewhat somber, these kind pawrents feel as if they shouldn’t shine a light on their own tripawds who are doing well.

Silly humans, don’t you know we need your pawsitive energy and happy thoughts here all the time? And when tears are being shed and it seems like life can’t get any darker, that’s when we need your pawsitivity most!

Tripawds Blogs members and guests alike want to read about your tripawd’s triumphs and stories about overcoming obstacles, getting strong, and finding joy in life. These are the happy things that keep us all going when life gets ruff, and help newcomers see the pawsibilities of life on three legs.

Try to be more Dog and remember, life is too short to walk around with angst and feelings of guilt. Share all your experiences and thoughts, whether you view them as good and bad, happy or sad. Please spread the love as much as pawsible, there will always be someone looking for uplifting inspiration.

The Argus Institute at Colorado State

This is part three in a series about our tour of Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Care Center. Don’t miss part one and part two.

Tripawd pawrents are all too familiar with the reactions they get when they tell family and friends that their pup has cancer, and they’re ready to do what they can to fight it. If the word “amputation” comes into the conversation, reactions can be downright hurtful.

  • “You’re being selfish! Why would you do that to a dog?”
  • “Dogs aren’t meant to live like that!”
  • “You should put him out of his misery right now.”

Most Tripawd pawrents have heard these kind of reactions from well-intentioned humans. Their opinions hurt, leaving us feeling abandoned in an overwhelming new world of canine cancer.

But we are definitely not alone. On the Internet, pawrents can turn to the Tripawds Discussion Forums, and the Bone Cancer Dogs list, among other places. And in the greater world, we can find help at Colorado State University’s Argus Institute. During our recent visit to CSU’s Animal Cancer Care Center, we learned about this incredible organization.

As part of the CSU James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the Argus Institute is staffed with professional clinical counselors who can give information and emotional support to pawrents facing hard decisions surrounding their animal’s health care.

Each year, over 1000 people talk to counselors on the phone and visit in person, all of them seeking ways in which to cope with their animal companion’s illness, from understanding the diagnosis, to making end-of-life decisions.

Whether you are in the first days of learning about your Tripawd’s diagnosis, or are grieving over his loss, you don’t even have to be a client at CSU’s vet hospital to participate. Anyone can receive counseling services just by contacting the Argus Institute them or calling 970-297-1242.

Although the telephone consultation service is free, donations to this non-profit organization are greatly appreciated.

If you’re not quite ready to talk to a human on the phone, the Argus Institutes’s website has a wealth of information about Coping with Sick Animals, Pet Loss Resources, Children and Pets, and more.

The Pet Hospice Program

If you are lucky enough to live within 30 minutes of the Argus Institute, you can also get help through the Argus Institute  student-run “Pet Hospice Program.” As the first of its kind in the nation, the program supports families who are coping with their pet’s terminal illness.

CSU’s veterinary school student volunteers act as case managers for clients. They work with local veterinarians to provide clients and companion animals with in-home palliative care at no additional cost. Families can receive visits weekly, or sometimes even daily if necessary.

Case managers provide in-home nursing care, assess the animal’s comfort, and give support and educational resources to help the family in assessing quality of life, and ultimately, making end of life decisions as well. After each visit, the veterinarian is given a full report from case managers.

In addition to the hands-on assistant for pawrents, the Argus Institute helps in other ways too, by helping our vets to become better communicators. To learn more about this program please visit the Argus Institute website.

Teaching Vets How to Talk to their Clients

Research has proven that when vets and clients share in the decision-making process together, improved medical outcomes tend to follow. Yet, most vets enter the profession with little or no formal training in client communication skills.

The Argus Institute seeks to bridge this gap, by teaching veterinary professionals how to make the emotional support of their human clients as much a priority as the medical care of their animal patients. At CSU, communication training has been a part of the core curriculum of all veterinary students since 2006.

Through seminars, studies and hands-on workshops, the Argus Institute teaches vets and vet students to how to be better listeners and communicators, be more empathetic, ask open-ended questions of their clients, and have a better understanding of their client’s perspectives.

As companion animals play an even bigger role in our lives, the non-profit Argus Institute will be there to help us and our vets become better communicators with each another. No matter where you live, we hope you will keep this exceptional organization in mind when you are seeking information and support for your Tripawd’s medical situation.

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.

Make the Most of Free Tripawds Blogs – Part 1

Use an Online Photo Sharing Site

Meeting a parapawlegic dachsund at Fort Funston in San FranciscoAll free Tripawds Blogs include 25MB of server space for uploading your three legged dog photos. Tripawds Suppporter Blogs get a full gigabyte of space among other benefits. But if you aren’t quite ready to upgrade to Supporter status yet, here is one way to make the most of your upload space quota:

First, if you don’t already have somewhere else to upload your photos, join an online photo sharing site like Flickr or SnapFish. You’ll still be able to place the images here on your blog, but the actual digital file is kept on those sites instead of within your Tripawds Blog account – saving you tons of space here. If you do this, you may never have to upgrade to Supporter Status to get more server space. Though you might consider it for the other benefits.

To place your hosted images in your blog post, do the following:

  1. Write a draft of your Tripawds Blog post.
  2. Go to your photo sharing site (where you have presumably already uploaded photos) and find the image you want to place in your blog.
  3. Place your cursor in the middle of the photo, right click and choose “Copy Image Location” to grab the image URL.
  4. Return to your Tripawds Blog post, and put your cursor where you want your image to appear then click the “Add an Image” button next to “Add media:” (Choose the first icon, a grey box with a white border.)
  5. When the pop-up “Add media files” box opens, choose the “From URL” option.
  6. Place your cursor in the “Image URL” field, and paste the image location you copied.*
  7. Give your image a descriptive Title.
  8. Add an optional caption if you want it to appear under the photo in your blog post
  9. You may also optionally set how you want your photo aligned: to the left or right of your text, centered between paragraphs, or none at all.
  10. Click the “Insert into Post” button, and re-size the image as desired by dragging it by the corner handles.

*NOTE: A small green check mark will appear next to your Image URL if it is validated as a bona fide image file location. If a red “x” appears, check to ensure the Image URL is valid, and that it is not hosted by an account that requires logging in to view it.

A note about the “Link Image To” field … Click the “Link to image” button only if you want the original larger version of your photo to load in the browser window when clicked. If you do want the original image to load when clicked, just place your cursor in the “Link Image To” field and click the “Link to Image” button. Alternatively, you can link the image to any web page by using any valid URL in this field.

Tired dog after playing with Zeus the MastiffIf you don’t like the way your photo is aligned, or want to edit its title or other advanced features, simply click within the photo, place your cursor over the top left corner, and click on the “Edit Image” icon that magically appears. A new window will appear that gives you the chance to resize and re-align the image or edit other attributes.

If all of this seems like a hassle, be sure to always minimize the size of your photo files before uploading them to your account – 25MB can fill up quickly if you’re not careful!

Or, you could just consider upgrading to be a Tripawds Supporter and not worry about any of this! Please stay tuned for more tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your Free Tripawds Blogs!