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Why Longer Walks Won’t Strengthen a Tripawd’s Leg Muscles

February 27th, 2012 · 21 Comments · Mobility

After amputation surgery, a three legged dog needs time to build up muscles in remaining limbs. But walking won’t do the trick. According to canine fitness experts, only core strengthening activities will increase muscle tone and keep your Tripawd steady on his paws.

Walking is great for endurance, but it does not build strength.

Thoughts About Strengthening Your Tripawd’s Limbs

Even though a Tripawd can go on long walks after recovering from surgery, that doesn’t mean he should.

Your time will be better spent by taking a few minutes each day to practice core strengthening activities.

A dog’s core muscles (or abdominals) are like a human’s: they support the back muscles which in turn help support the entire body, maintain balance and allow us to work out other parts, like the leg muscles.

Tripawds Spokespup Wyatt Ray Dawg is a good example of what can happen when you dedicate your recreation time to canine fitness games that strengthen core muscles.

Nearly three years after beginning our work on improving his core muscles and balance capabilities, Wyatt is stronger than ever.

We did it by using equipment like the games created by FitPAWS canine conditioning gear, but read on for more ideas about how to strengthen your three-legged dog’s legs.

Getting Stronger One Game at a Time

As you can see in the above photo of Wyatt Ray running, his remaining rear limb was extremely weak and his slope was extremely pronounced. That photo was taken less than six months after amputation.

Today, this photo on the right shows his improvement, almost three years after amputation. His stronger core muscles are better able to support his entire body, his rear leg has gained power and more obvious definition.

Today he has better spinal alignment and longer endurance that helps him during playtime and walks. Staying strong will also reduce joint stress as he ages.

Can you see the difference in the two photos?

Strengthening Tips for Tripawds

  • Take shorter, more frequent walks (no more than 20 minutes each).
  • Practice proprioception (“body awareness”) by balancing on uneven surfaces, like walking over small hedges, up and down curbs, and stepping over sticks and logs.
  • Keep food proportions small (notice how you can see the faint outline of Wyatt’s ribs in the above photo). Tripawds should be thinner than quadpawds to ease the strain on their joints.
  • Play with FitPAWS canine conditioning gear several times a week, but make daily games your goal.

Remember, you don’t need to invest a lot of money into canine fitness gear. And you can also build your own dog fitness equipment, or use simple objects like couch cushions and pillows! Here’s a list of places to help you get started.

Recommended Reading:

Tripawds Gear Blog: Fitness Tips for Tripawds

Tripawds Gear Blog: How to Build a Homemade Agility Course

Tripawds Gear Blog: More Fun with FitPAWS Balance Discs

Tripawds Gear Blog: Stay Strong with Maggie’s FitPAWS Workout

Tripawds Downloads Blog: Get Fit with a DIY Balance Board for Dogs

Tripawds Gear Blog: FitPAWS Wobble Board Builds Amputee Confidence

Tripawds News Blog: California Animal Rehabilitation Center Recovery, Fitness and Diet Tips

 NOTE: We are not veterinarians. All information provided here is based only on our own experiences caring for Jerry and Wyatt, and the experiences of other Tripawds members. Please consult your vet or do further research before implementing any new fitness regimen into your dog’s treatment plan.

 

 

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • KViz and Pegz

    This was a great article…thanks! Another reason why the Tripawds Website rules!!

  • jerry

    Aww shucks, thank you! It’s the Tripawds who are our muse, they bring it out in us!

  • maggie

    I’m soooooooooooo happy for you Wyatt! You DO look much stronger now!!!

    Tracy & Maggie

  • Lucy's Mom

    Lucy’s amputation was done on her front left leg. Should the exercises be different to help build up strength?

  • jerry

    Great question Lucy! I meant to address this in my post. We were told by a rehab therapist that overall, strengthening exercises are the same for front and rear-leggers, but a few exercises can be done in reverse to focus on the front limb area.

    As you see, Wyatt is standing with both front paws on the balance disc. For a front leg Tripawd you would move the disc or other unstable surface (couch cushion) to the front limb, to work the rear.

    Front leg Tripawds generally build up strength a lot faster since they naturally carry more weight on the front legs before amputation, so their bodies are used to shifting all of their weight forward. If your leg isn’t “Arnold-ized” already, it will be soon enough and you’ll have some heavy muscles there.

    Whether a dog is a front or rear legger, remember that it’s important to help your dog gently stretch before and after exercising to help alleviate any stress from over-compensating for the missing limb.

    Hope this answers your question.

  • admin

    @lucysmom Unstable surface work like this should benefit all tripawds, front or rear. Once Lucy has these exercises down, you can increase the difficulty by trying to get her to keep her back legs on the disc while she stretches. Thanks for asking and good luck!

  • Gina

    EXCELLENT READ! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Jane

    Our Goldie, a 15 1/2 year old Lab, just underwent surgery on her left rear leg and is now a tripawd. 3 days out of surgery and she’s trying to get up and move on her own. We’re to take her back to have stitches removed in about 10 days and she’s already showing signs of wanting to get up and go.

    Our front yard is rather uneven and after reading your pointers, I think it might be a good place to help with her rehab. Also, our street is only 1 block long and that might go with your pointers about a short walk as well.

  • admin

    Thanks for the comment! Sounds like Goldie is in good hands.

  • Nancy

    Our 9 year old golden, Katie is going in in 2 weeks to have her left hind leg amputated. At a loss as to how to start to rehab her. We have stairs, will she ever be able to master stairs again?

  • admin

    Sorry to hear about Katie. Every dog is different but she will likely be taking to the stairs in no time. We lived on the second story at the time of Jerry’s amputation and he refused our help going up and down within a few days. Please post in the forums or search all blogs for “stairs” for more information, videos and advice. And don’t miss our three legged dog rehab videos too!

  • Tracy

    My dog is a rear legged amputee. She can go down stairs but upstairs is a no go without my help. But not all are like her in that sense.
    I do regular PT work with my dog. Some of it is a link at the bottom of this blog 🙂

    Tracy, Maggie’s Mom

  • welovelira97

    Sorry to hear about Katie. Lira, my golden just turned 9. She is almost 1 year post amputation and she is doing great. Yay! She was climbing stairs to the second floor of the house within a few weeks of her surgery. She too had a rear limb removed. I was so worried about how she would do but she has adapted so well. She actually runs better than she walks. Getting up from a lying down position is still pretty slow but she is a little on the heavy side but once she is up she is great! I think this is more related to traction on the hardwood floor than anything else really. Lira did not want help from us to move around either. If we tried to help she wouldn’t move. She didn’t need a harness, she just started moving and has been great since. I will be praying for your Katie..just remember that all dogs are different…so don’t get discouraged should you feel she is progressing slow. It can be a long recovery.

  • jerry

    Thanks for sharing Lira’s story! You’re so right, all dogs are different, and far more resilient than silly humans give them credit for.

  • Nancy

    Thanks for all the good advise. Trying to stay positive and hope I can give her the best care possible.

  • Emily

    We live in San Francisco. I like to think Dixie’s daily walks up a giant hill to the park help strengthen her core. She gets up those hills faster than the tourists! Once we get up the hill, she jumps up on the short wall surrounding the park (which is rounded/sloped on either side; not a flat surface) and walks like a cat along the wall into the park. We used to say she was party billy goat when she had four legs — guess she’s still got it!

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  • Tammy

    My lab/mix Coco is 85lbs she just had her right front leg amputated due to bone cancer 6 days ago and has been home for 3 full days . She is approximately 9 1/2 years old. The vet has not been very helpful about telling us what to do to reabilitate her. My question is how much should we be making her walk other than outside to do her stuff. By the time she walks across a 20 foot deck and down a ramp her remaining legs are shaking. I dont know how far to push her to walk. Any information on how to help her recover would be grateful

  • jerry

    Tammy, sorry to hear about Coco. Please visit our Forums where the community can better help you OK? Also see Jerry’s Required Reading List. Keep us posted!

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