The story of Sunday the Tripawd Rottweiler
And what a story it is. We’ve adored exploring her background and how she ended up having ground-breaking osseointegration surgery.
It’s a heart-warming outcome and we hope the future in delivering the best treatment outcomes regarding amputation prosthese for humans and animals alike.
Firstly, before we get into Sunday, tell us who you are, and how you came about having a 3-legged Rottie:
I’m Matt Breeds, a 38-year-old human and animal chiropractor from Sydney, and Co-Director and Founder of the Animal Rehab Klinik.
Sunday is a 3.5 year old female rottweiler, my fur baby, and osseointergration implant pioneer, hydrotherapy expert, and ARK resident guard dog.
The way I came about having a 3 legged Rottweiler is that a very kind vet nurse had temporarily rescued her from a horrific start to life, and was looking for a suitable home for her. She contacted us at ARK and said,
‘I have a 3 legged dog that needs some help walking, do you mind if I bring her in so you can have a look?’
So of course, we said yes. The day that she brought Sunday into ARK, I immediately saw her and just knew, this dog is going to change my life. I almost burst into tears on the spot and had to ask my business partner Rhys to do this consultation. Mid way through, she mentioned that she was looking for a forever home for the dog and asked if we knew anyone.
Me, not having a dog at that stage, and living in a small apartment with lots of stairs, was a terrible candidate to care for her, but I immediately knew that it was going to happen anyway.
I tried to talk myself out of it for about a week but couldn’t stop thinking about that beautiful little dog. My parents were overseas on holidays for a few months, so I moved into their house, gave notice on my rental unit, and started looking for a home that I could take my new fur baby into. So I rescued her when she was about 2 months old and super adorable (I think she still is!)
How old is Sunday?
When did Sunday have her rear left leg amputated?
She had her leg amputated at about 2 days old.
We know that Sunday was born in a very poor set of circumstances. I haven’t been given all the details, but the puppies were born on a garage floor in the western suburbs of Sydney somewhere, at the start of winter, to very unethical owners.
She was one of 3 pups from a larger litter that actually lived. As some passed away from exposure to the elements.
We think Sunday was born in the ‘breech’ position, so the mother dog would have reached around to help pass her through the birth canal and in the process, had to grip Sunday’s foot with her mouth, and likely removed all the soft tissue and skin from the foot in the process.
She was left at the vet with her skeleton leg showing and some skin hanging on, so the vets bravely decided to remove the bones from the ankle down and use the remaining skin to cover the stump left at the end of her shin bone.
Tell us about Sunday’s personality, what are her best traits?
She has a big personality. Very loving to the people she knows and needs to be introduced to new people and dogs before they are on her ‘safe list’
She is very loving, very affectionate, loves a cuddle (one of my guilty pleasures is to have a 20min arvo power nap on her giant barney bed) and she cuddles up with me like a little spoon.
She is very obedient and will do whatever I ask her to do or not to do, even if it’s difficult for her.
She looks a bit scary, and some people cross the street when they see her coming, but she is a gentle giant J
Mostly she like to go for a walk and a sniff and do lots of sleeping in between.
Does she have any naughty behaviours we should know about?
She can be a little protective. Loves to go and bark at people who walk to close to our fence. She has a bit of a terrifying bark too!
I had a behaviourist come out and help me with teaching Sunday to let me change her prosthetic attachments around, (because she was a bit scared of people touching it) and she said that there is a part of it that must be her genetic heritage. Another factor is that because animals have a fight or flight response, because Sunday hasn’t been able to walk or run much before, she has an overdeveloped fight response, because she can’t run away.
This has actually significantly decreased since her surgery, so now she knows she can run and get away from a threat, she has settled down a lot.
How old was Sunday when she was able to trial her first prosthetic leg?
Well, she has around 20 prosthetics, and I think she would have tried her first one at around 6 months old?
Because she needed them immediately in her life, we opted to use 3d printed prosthetics, because she kept growing out of them so often. These were difficult to get the fit an attachment right, as she was so small, and it is a very unusual place to have an amputation, so there was a lot of trial and error and unique design ideas that we had to come up with.
Now that she has had her osseointergration surgery, she has the titanium implant interface, so that we can easily change them as she needs.
What struggles come with having a dog fitted with prosthetics?
Well we tried 2 types,
1: 3D printed external prosthetics.
2: Osseointergration prosthetic.
1: With the 3D printed types, they were exactly what she needed at the time, as she had about 20 different designs as the was growing from a puppy into a full-sized dog. Because of the rapid changes in her size, proper fitment was always an issue that meant the performance and comfort of the devices was inconsistent.
But due to the ability to change them quickly meant that we were easily able to always have one on had that would fit.
2: The osseointergration device is a permanent, in bone fixture.
This means that there is a short metal post that sticks out the end of her shin bone that we can attach various devices to. There is no turning back now that she has this operation. And although she was a pioneer for this operation, and probable on of the first 5 dogs in Australia to have this done, we had to wait until she had reached skeletal maturity before using her adult bones in an operation.
We are still in the development stage of what is the best device to have attached to Sunday’s osseointergration.
At ARK we have a pressure sensitive gait analysis treadmill that we use to assess the suitability of each design to see how well it works in use, as compared to the other leg.
How has The Animal Rehab Klinik played a role in Sunday’s journey?
Well without The Animal Rehab Klinik (ARK) there is no way that Sunday could have got as far as she has. Because she wasn’t able to walk properly until September last year, she basically did swimming for the most part of her exercises. This was particularly important through her formative years of bone development.
If she had done lots of walking on the ground, she definitely would have overused her right hind leg and resulted in early joint degenerative changes which we really wanted to avoid.
Over the 3.5 years she did approx. 370 water treadmill sessions at an average of about 40mins and 2klms per session about 3 times a week with a total of about 15000 minutes and 750klms of swimming. Working at ARK also provided the opportunity for her to come to work with me and keep me company.
What does her day to day routine look like?
AM I wake her up with a big cuddle for a few minutes on her giant barney bed,
Take her out to the garden for a sniff around and a trip to the toilet. Go back to bed and do some grooming and paw licking and rolling around on her back, yawning and being cute.
If it’s a work day, I’ll pack her breakfast, put her in the back of the car and go to work while she hangs her head out the window to sniff everything that goes past.
Arrive at ARK, set the place up and she gets herself into the hydrotherapy treadmill to do some morning exercise to strengthen her leg. (If it’s a weekend, we just go for a walk along the esplanade at Cronulla).
Then she dries off, runs around ARK like a maniac for a few minutes and then has a rest for 30mins of so. Then she eats breakfast and I’ll get stuck into work.
She hides out the back in the kitchen under the desk snoring for the rest of the morning.
I usually drop her home at lunchtime, and she has another nap and plays in the garden, and my dad comes over and spends some time with her.
In the evenings, we often go for a short walk, have dinner, and relax for the evening.
Usually ends up in another cuddle on the giant barney bed, where I’ve often fallen asleep and spent the night on it too.
Then we do it all again!
How often do you engage in rehab, or alternative treatments eg. Hydro?
I think Sunday must be one of the most rehabbed dogs in the world at the moment.
Almost every working day of my life at ARK she has come to work and either done water walking or hydrotherapy for 30-60mins.
We do lots of massage at home and occasionally use the class 4 laser we have at ARK too.
Over the 3.5 years she did approx. 370 water treadmill sessions @ an average of about 40mins and 2klms per session, about 3 times a week with a total of about 15000 minutes and 750klms of swimming.
Now after her osseointergration implant operation she does water walking about mid-thigh deep 2-3times a week.
Roughly 40mins and 1.6klms (about 2.8klms per hour) which is good hard work against water resistance. The goal is now to build muscle and ligament strength in her leg, which we expect to have 80% done in the next 12 months.
It’s a slow process but were doing what we can to build her up in a controlled environment and minimise the risk of injury between sessions.
This is Sunday 16 weeks post surgery with a full length prosthetic
What are some considerations for living with a dog that has a prosthetic leg?
- Protection and hygiene of the wound site:
This is essentially an open wound for the rest of her life, so making sure it stays clean, and what it gets exposed to, minimise the risk of infection. Additionally, the vulnerability of mechanical damage from bumping it on things is a consideration.
- Using the right attachment at the right time:
She has a protective cage, a little rubber nub, and a few full-length walking legs, but as she is missing her ankle joint, is uncomfortable for her to leave a long leg on while she sleeps. When the wound needs cleaning and drying off she uses the cage and when she is relaxing around the house, or sleeping, the short rubber protective nub is the best one to use. We may come up with new designs and idea over the next few years too.
- Being mindful of her ability and limitations:
As she has only had a useable leg for the past 5 months, but been alive for 3.5 years, she has underdeveloped muscles, ligaments, and bone density in her operative leg. Because of this, she can’t just immediately run around like a normal adult dog.
It should take about a year of carefully prescribed and controlled exercise to get adequate muscle bulk on her leg, with the necessary thickening of her supportive ligaments before we can expect her to be as strong and as stable as she will get.
What does Sunday eat?
Most days she gets fed AM+PM, and I prepare 4-5 days at a time.
Breakfast / Dinner:
Meat: ½ a Kangaroo, salmon, or chicken big dog patties
Biscuits: 1 cup of royal canin rottweiler kibble
Veggies: either some broccoli, or ½ carrot
Liquid: ½ cup of home-made beef bone broth with turmeric, black pepper, and some veggies for flavour.
Supplements: 2 x Antinol, rose hip vital, spirulina, coconut oil, CBD oil, glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM joint support.
Lunch: a carrot, or some leftovers or pineapple
Treats: Dehydrated Liver treats or a bit of whatever im eating ( as long as its not on the naughty list!)
How long have you been using Antinol for?
I think about 3 years I think? We met a lady from Antinol at the dog lovers show a few years back, and after hearing Sunday’s story, she recommended we try it.
As we where looking at supplements to help support the animals we look after for the Animal Rehab Klinik, we ordered a load and have been using it on our clients and giving it to Sunday ever since.
Have you noticed any changes?
Well as Sunday has been going through so many changes, it was hard to tell if there were any dramatic and immediate ones, but I know that her body needs the ingredients to heal and thrive as best she can, so she has been on a high dose for a most of her life.
What are your goals for the future?
Well the immediate ones are to design and test more devices to attach to her osseointergration implant to make her as functional and comfortable as possible. Hopefully the ideas and testing that we do can be used to help many other animals in the future.
Animal Rehab Klinik https://animalrehabklinik.com.au