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What to Expect: Better Post-Amputation Pain Relief for Dogs and Cats

Post-amputation pain relief for dogs and cats is a learning process. Some need more pain medication, some need less. Fine-tuning the frequency and dosage of medications is a team effort between you and your veterinarian that takes place during the first week or two of recovery. Here’s how to make that process easier for everyone.

3 Steps to Better Post-Amputation Pain Relief for Dogs and Cats 

better post-amputation pain control for dogs and cats

Every new amputee needs excellent pain management. Preferably a protocol that follows the most recent American Animal Hospital Association Pain Management Guidelines. We find that new Tripawds have smoother recoveries when they come home with at least one anti-inflammatory like Metacam, one opoid like Tramadol, and a nerve-pain reducer like Gabapentin. The new 3-day pain relief injection called “Nocita” can often replace some or all of these. Ask your vet.

Look over your pet’s post-operative pain medications. If you don’t see these drugs listed, call your vet immediately to ask why not.

Check out the difference between a pet who has been given post-operative pain relief, versus one who hasn’t, and you’ll see why we are such big advocates for the best post-amputation pain relief possible:

If you stick to the prescribed medication schedule, things should go OK and your pet will rest comfortably. However, every animal responds a bit differently to drugs. Some need more, some need less. Unfortunately, our pets can give us almost identical signals when trying to communicate their need for more or less medications. 

It’s your job to watch for the most common signs that your Tripawd needs an adjustment to the medications your vet has prescribed. Watch for it during day two after coming home from the hospital. Common signs that medications need fine-tuning include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vocalizations

Follow your gut instinct. If you suspect the medication needs fine-tuning or changing, it’s up to you to advocate for your Tripawd. Here’s what to do before calling your vet:

Step 1: Take good notes about why you believe your animal is in pain.

Write down your impressions. What exactly is your dog or cat doing to show you they hurt? When does it happen? How often? Write down the symptoms and have those notes ready when you call the vet.

Step 2: Call the clinic and let them know you believe your Tripawd’s medications need adjusting. 

Let clinic staff know that you’ve written down your pet’s pain symptoms and would like to discuss the medication schedule today. Remember, you’re not bothering your vet by calling, you’re being a good advocate for your pet. 

Step 3: Don’t take no for an answer. 

If your clinic dismisses your concerns, or perhaps says they will not prescribe different medications, ask to speak to the practice manager. Pain medication alternatives exist, and a good practice provides them.

However, before continuing the discussion, be mindful that veterinary practices are super cautious about releasing pain medications because of the human opioid crisis. Calmly let the practice manager know you really don’t want to change clinics during recovery, but if you don’t get better pain control for your Tripawd, you will have to look elsewhere. You can do it!

Recommended Reading

How We Can Help Our Tripawds Get Great Vet Care

Tripawds What to Expect During Amputation Recovery Series

15 thoughts on “What to Expect: Better Post-Amputation Pain Relief for Dogs and Cats”

  1. Hi there! I am fostering a sweet 1-2yr old dog that received a front leg amputation due to a deformity.
    Today is 5 days post op and I just feel he is in a lot of pain. The first 2-3 days he was doing great and moving around now it’s a hassle trying to get him to get up and he cries/barks at the slightest touch. The vet gave me 4 medications:

    Gabapentin100mg 2x/day
    Rimadyl (carprofen) 75mg 2x/day
    Cephalexin 300mg 2x/day
    Rilexine 75mg 2x/day

    I’m curious your thoughts on the medication? The dog is medium size maybe 30 lbs or so?
    It seems to me that Rilexine and Cephalexin are the same medication, and I’m worried he’s getting too much.
    I also think the gabapentin is a pretty low dose for the fact this is a major surgery.

    • Hi Julie. Please hop over to our Treatment and Recovery Forum so we can help you better OK? Remember we are not vets. IMO however, you are correct, 100 mg Gabapentin 2x a day is incredibly low even for a dog that’s just 30 lbs. Your vet is probably being overly cautious but it’s time to call them and let them know your dog is hurting. Ask for an increased dose of Gabapentin and a new rx for Amantadine. As for the Rilexine and Cephalexin, why is he getting two kinds of antibiotics? I think that’s what the Rilexine is, right? Did he have other issues before amputation? I’ll see you in the Forums OK?

  2. My 3 month old puppy lost 1 hind leg due to a car accident. He also has a small crack in his pelvis. He is a blue heeler. When I first brought him home he was crazy, barking incessantly in the kennel. When I took off his cone to eat or drink he was going mad biting and licking his body not just his stitches. He was given tramadol and carprofin. I was going crazy as he was going crazy!!! On the 3rd day of this the vet took him off tramodal. I had to leave him with first overnight as I had to go to a funeral. When we came back he seemed calmer, but now he’s not eating, so I haven’t been able to give him the carpofin. And I’m out of it, the vet said to crush it and put it in a seringe (I decided to go ahead and try the tramodal since I’m out of the carpofin). I’ll get more medicine tomorrow tho. Anyway, does this sound normal to you? I’m wondering if he just didn’t get his body to rest at all for 3+ days due to his craziness with the drugs in his system.

  3. Nocita was extremely helpful. Those 72 hours of pain relief Moose got was very helpful to get him home and settled and for us to adjust to our new reality. Knowing it only lasted 72 hours also gave us the opportunity to evaluate changes when he did start having pain.

    • I’m so happy to hear that it helped. And yeah that is a good point about knowing exactly how long it will last. Great job! We hope Moose is doing well.

  4. My dog is just hours post op. They have given me gabapentin, carprofen, buprenorphine, tramadol, and cephalexan. Sorry if the spelling is wrong. It’s midnight and I’m exhausted. I’m a relative of the vet and I feel like they’re doing everything possible to keep her comfortable, 110lb Rotti, but I kind of feel it’s overkill. Thoughts?

    • Hi Bridget. Sorry for the diagnosis. No, this is not overkill and it sounds like your vet is giving some good pain management. Try to put yourself in your dog’s paws: amputation is a major surgery that needs major pain management for at least 10 days or so. Work with your vet if you feel it is not enough or too much and join us in the Forums for faster help from the community.

      • I’ve created an account! So happy to have found such a supportive community. Roxy is 9, 110lb Rottweiler, that was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her front right leg. Yesterday, was her amputation. She’s been kept pretty comfortable with the arsenal of meds. My next question is when does she go to the bathroom? How do I help her? It’s very overwhelming and I feel pretty helpless.

  5. Luke4275–why is it funny? My pup goes in tomorrow morning for his surgery and they said that’s likely what they’ll give him in addition to his carprofen and gabapentin that he’s already taking

    • Hi Bekka, I think he is referencing how Tramadol has made news recently about how it wasn’t as effective at managing pain as vets thought it once was. However, this information is based on a study for dogs with osteoarthritis, and they looked at Tramadol when given alone without other drugs. When it comes to amputation, so far vets are still prescribing it along with gabapentin and a NSAID (carprofen) because the drugs are supposed to work synergistically. If you have questions tomorrow be sure to ask your vet OK? And good luck! Let us know how things go, we are sending lots of pawsitivity your way!

  6. Funny how tramadol is still listed as first choice of pain meds. I’ve never heard of the injection called nocita? Does anyone use this? I will investigate. Its sad when an amputated pet goes home with poor choice of pain meds

    • We used nocita for my dogs amputation. I feel it did work well. They inject it as they are amputating. They use it inside the nerves themselves. It wears off about about 3 days.


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