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Post-Surgery Pain in Tripawd Dogs and Cats, Part 1

Here at Tripawds we’re always learning something new. Until we met veterinary pain management expert Dr. Mike Petty, author of the must-read book, “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs,” we thought phantom pain was the only type of post-amputation pain that dogs and cats experienced.

pain management, tripawd, dog, cat, surgery, phantom pain

Thanks to Dr. Petty’s help, we now understand that Hyperalgesia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) are two other common painful conditions that some, but not all amputee dogs and cats will experience after surgery. Below you’ll find descriptions of each. Next week we’ll tell you how to alleviate these conditions.

Please remember we are not veterinarians and this article is not meant to replace your own veterinarian’s guidance. Always work directly with your own veterinary professional for the best and most appropriate care for your three-legged hero.

For Part 2 of this article, see: Prevent, Avoid and Treat Pain in Tripawd Dogs and Cats, Part 2

Max on a painful day
Max lays in cold snow to help with pain.

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain is the brain’s way of telling the body “Hey? Where’d that leg go?!” when it sends a signal to move the missing limb. The nerve is trying to control a limb that doesn’t exist. It’s a sudden, frightening occurrence that we’re seldom prepared for. Tripawd dogs and cats with phantom limb pain will suddenly yelp, cry out, jump up or constantly lick the spot where their leg used to be.


In his book Dr. Petty describes hyperalgesia as:

“Hyperalgesia means that when a painful stimulus is applied to a nerve, the pain that is felt by the dog is much greater than what would be expected by the stimulus. For example, we all probably have stubbed a toe or slammed a finger in something. Of course it hurts at the time of the injury, but in many cases, just a small bump of the same area at a later time, often within an hour or two, causes as much if not more pain than the original injury. This is hyperalgesia or “wind-up” pain.”

Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)

According to this article by Dr. Petty, “MPS is commonly one of the most significant pain issues found in amputees.” It’s a complicated condition and his book describes it in scientific detail but in short he says MPS is described as:

“This painful condition can often become the primary source of pain, and may not even occur in the affected limb, but elsewhere as a result of attempts to compensate for the missing limb by subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) shifting weight to the “good” legs.”

Here’s a video from Dr. Petty about MPS:

Preventing and managing these painful conditions is a matter of working with your vet before and after surgery. Next week, we will share suggestions for managing it, with tips from Dr. Petty and our long-time community member, veterinarian Dr. Pam Wiltzius. Stay tuned!

More Reading

Tripawds Best Pain Relief Tips for Tripawd Dogs and Cats
Post Amputation Side Effects (this article is about dogs but much of it applies to cats too).

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