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Do you have what it takes to care for a special needs pet?

Do you have what it takes to care for a special needs pet?

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Perfectly imperfect. Pets with unique traits can bring so much joy into our lives.

While it’s not common for Midlands Humane Society to have dogs or cats with only three legs, it does happen. Often referred to as a tripod, pets missing a leg at the shelter is often the result of trauma, infection or disease.

MHS works with partner veterinarians to help these animals through amputations if that is deemed the best course of action for their long- term health and happiness. Three-legged pets can live long and healthy lives with minimal adjustment to compensate for their missing limb.

Best Friends Animal Society provides the following tips on keeping a three-legged cat or dog safe and happy.

Tips for adopters of three-legged cats

Never let the cat outside unsupervised and if you want your cat to spend time outdoors, teach her to walk with a harness and leash, or construct a cattery to enable her to enjoy the outdoors safely.

If your adopted cat has recently lost a limb, be patient and supportive during the adjustment period. Most three-legged cats adapt well and, in time, become as active and energetic as they were before losing the leg.

Although you should keep a close eye on your three-legged cat, encourage independence and avoid being over-protective. Your cat must learn how to compensate for the missing leg. For example, the cat needs to build up additional strength in other limbs, so don’t carry her everywhere.

Cats with a missing foreleg may have trouble landing properly when jumping down from a high place, so place plenty of soft cushions around for safe landings. A cat with a missing hind leg may not be able to jump up very high. For such a cat, a multi-level cat perch with a staggered-level design may work better than one with a vertical post design.

At first, your cat may need assistance with grooming areas that would normally be groomed by the now-missing leg. Cats are resourceful, though, so your three-legged cat may devise new ways of grooming. Be cautious when touching your cat near the stump of the missing leg because this area may be very sensitive. To make your cat’s favorite spots more accessible, install ramps. If the windowsill is a special place for your cat, put a chair close by to make it easier to access.

Make sure that food and water are within easy reach.

Using the litter box may be challenging at first and you can encourage your cat by helping to cover and dig, and by ensuring that the litter is kept clean. You may need to adjust the size of the litter box based on your cat’s abilities. Depending on what limb is missing, the cat may not be able to stoop down and may stand to urinate, so you may need to get a litter box with high sides.

Maintain a healthy diet for your cat. Three-legged cats should not be allowed to become obese because they have fewer limbs on which to distribute their weight.

Tips for adopters of three-legged dogs

Have your dog on a leash when walking and always keep your dog in a fenced-in area when unsupervised outdoors. Three-legged dogs may feel more vulnerable, so increase your dog’s confidence by exposing him to new experiences … but allow him to do it at her own pace.

To help keep the new experiences positive, be sure to reward and praise him. It’s natural to feel over-protective toward a dog who has lost a limb but it’s important to let a dog be a dog.

Maintain a healthy diet for your dog. Three-legged dogs should not be allowed to become obese because they have fewer limbs on which to distribute their weight. Exercise the dog regularly with short, frequent walks and swimming are excellent ways to keep your dog physically fit. It may be easier for a three-legged dog to hop along at a quick pace rather than to walk slowly so watch for signs of exertion and stop to rest as needed. Ask your vet which supplements will help to support your dog’s joint health.

Provide raised water and food bowls, so that your three-legged dog can drink and eat without having to bend down.

Watch for elbow hygroma, a fluid-filled swelling around the elbow that may occur when there is too much weight on one elbow.

Take good care of the dog’s remaining foot pads. Keep nails short and trim the fur at the bottom of your dog’s feet for comfort and to prevent slipping. Stairs, uneven ground and raised surfaces may be difficult for your dog to navigate, so be patient and provide help as necessary.

Be aware of slippery surfaces in your home. Three-legged dogs have less balance and can easily slip while on hard surfaces such as wood, tile, linoleum, or marble. This is especially true when dogs are running or playing. To prevent slipping, put down throw rugs and runners.

Check for uneven ground in the yard, and make sure that there are no deep holes. Three-legged dogs can trip on uneven surfaces and hurt themselves. Clear away piles of sticks and leaves in your yard. Larger sticks may catch on a dog’s nails and cause damage. You may want to provide soft, elevated surfaces for your dog to lie down.

For larger dogs, consider purchasing a lightweight harness with a handle on the back to help you lift your dog in and out of vehicles or out of harm’s way.

Three-legged dogs may feel vulnerable in the presence of unfamiliar dogs, so be aware of the body language of all the dogs. Dogs carry 60 percent of their weight on their front legs, so if your dog is missing a front leg, protect the remaining front limb from strain or harm.

Some ways to do this — use a car seat harness with wide chest bands. Dogs missing a front leg may easily jump or climb up onto raised surfaces but have problems getting down. It may be best to keep your dog off of the furniture.

Pay attention to the kind of toys you are providing your dog to make sure the type isn’t causing excess strain on joints that are already stressed.

For more about caring for and training pets, visit

MHS Pets of the Week:

Lefty is a male neutered Border Collie. He is 5-months-old and very outgoing. This young lad is incredibly active and would love an active home with children over 5-years-old.

He doesn’t need a fenced in yard but will need lots of playtime outside to burn off some energy. He will need further training as he is just a puppy.

Medusa is gorgeous 6-year-old spayed female domestic shorthair with piercing eyes.

Bluebelle is a 6-year-old spayed female hound mix who arrived as a stray. This poor girl arrived to us in rough shape — she was very skinny and appeared to have been out on her own for a while. She has bounced back and is now ready for a forever home where she can get the love and TLC she deserves.

Bluebelle is very social and seems to like everyone she meets. We think she will fit in to a home that has kids of any age and another dog her size. She is too vocal for an apartment setting.

Neela is a 4-year-old spayed female Siamese mix. She is still a very young cat but is much too heavy for her own good. Neela will need an owner dedicated to helping her shed some pounds so she can fully enjoy playtime.

Check our website, to see these pets and all their friends. We are open Monday to Friday noon to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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