How a Dog Compensates After a Front Leg Amputation

Sunbathing beauty - 4.5 months after amputation
Sunbathing beauty - 4.5 months after amputation

In a previous hub, I discussed what to expect after your dog has a front leg amputated. (You can visit the hub here: When a dog first has a front leg amputated, she needs to learn how to adapt and find her new center of balance. She not only needs to learn how to best move her legs when walking and running but also how to best sit and be down in the alert position.

Almost 2 years earlier...she's balanced differently
Almost 2 years earlier...she's balanced differently

Notice how my pup in the picture above has her front leg positioned more in the center. But, in the picture to the right, her front legs are positioned out to the sides more. After her amputation, it took her a few weeks before she was able to figure out the best way to position herself when relaxing. Side note: Yes...that is the same dog! She looks so much different when she's shaved! I should also note that my dog still has her right shoulder after the amputation.

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Sitting three-legged dog centers her front leg
Sitting three-legged dog centers her front leg

When sitting, my pup will noticeably position her one leg closer to the center. This was the first adaptation that we noticed in her. The most interesting thing to watch is how she now positions her front leg when walking and running. Check out the video below; notice how she pulls her paw in. She can run just as fast as she ran with four legs, although the video doesn't show her sprinting. She seems to use her tail to balance. The first couple weeks after her amputation, she kept her tail still and low; then, when she started feeling more comfortable, her tail started going crazy again!

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Comments 10 comments

Tripawds 5 years ago

Excellent observations! I would just add that although three-leggers can do anything that quadpawds can do, it's good to monitor their playtime and exercise more closely to avoid overdoing it, which they can easily do.

Your dog is adorable! Hope you come join us at sometime, we'd love to hear more.

Kiri Francy profile image

Kiri Francy 5 years ago from USA Author

Thanks! Your tripawds site is great!

Yes, they can overdo exercise. We learned our lesson pretty quickly when she first started going for walks again. There were a couple cold days where she walked for a while and didn't want to turn around to come home. When I finally made her go home, it took 3x as long to get home as it did to walk out.

Tripawds 5 years ago

Hey Kiri, thanks for visiting our site, we'd love to have ya there anytime! Let's keep in touch!

Smooches to your Tripawd.

Heartbroken 4 years ago

I chose to have my dog Molly put to sleep rather than amputate her front right leg which had been lame (unknown cause) for a long time. There was no bone cancer, but she had arthiritis in both front elbows.

Her pain had gotten so bad that medicine could not control it. She was on rimadyl and tramadol. The vets said amputation was a last resort and didn't offer much

advice on what to do. Not their fault, but I am heartbroken that I didn't see amputation as an end to her pain although the operation and recovery would have been somewhat traumatic. She was tinkling all over the house even before her lame leg got worse and I thought that wouldn't change, but maybe she would have gotten better. Now I will never know. Choose life!

Kathie. 2 years ago

That is very sad, but, we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

If you have or get another dog;

I'd change vets, unless there's something else I'm not understanding.

Carol 2 years ago

You have been a great help and I value your advice.

I have a senior "tiny" poodle (5.5lbs). She has arthritis, congestive heart failure and 6 weeks ago she had her front right leg amputated. I believe she's adjusting well but I worry about her left shoulder being strong enough to support her. I hear it making the same popping sound that the right shoulder made which led to the amputation. Can you offer me suggestions for strengthening her left shoulder?

Kiri Francy profile image

Kiri Francy 2 years ago from USA Author

Hi Carol, I'm glad to hear your dog is adjusting well. I don't know any exercises, but I bet your vet can help. Good luck!

Tripawds 2 years ago

Carol, it's not necessarily about keeping the shoulder strong but about developing good core muscles and balance to help keep her body aligned properly and avoid putting excess stress on that limb. If at all possible, a visit and eval with a certified canine rehab practitioner (CCRP or CCRT after their name) will pay off immensely. Find one at: Good luck!

Kiri Francy profile image

Kiri Francy 2 years ago from USA Author

That's great info. Thank you so much, Tripawds!

Tripawds 2 years ago

Anytime! 3-paws up to you and your girl!

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