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What to Expect: Amputation Recovery Time for Tripawds

Besides asking “How long until my dog or cat figures out how to poop?” the second most asked question new members ask is “How long is amputation recovery time for Tripawds?” Today in our What to Expect series, we’ll try to answer that as best we can.

What’s the Average Amputation Recovery Time for Tripawds?

In general, amputation surgery recovery for amputee dogs and cats generally lasts anywhere from two to four weeks. But it can sometimes take longer depending on the animal’s age, size, weight and other pre-surgery health conditions.

Tripawd Cat Recovery
Ivy the Tripawd Cat recovers from amputation surgery.

Cruise through our community and you will see that many new amputee pets get their sparkle back around the time stitches come out, but some will take longer. And it can take several weeks before many Tripawds build enough endurance to go on a short walk of five to ten minutes, tops.

If you think your Tripawd is slow to get back to the new normal, remember that the amputation surgery recovery experience is both similar and different for everyone. Dogs and cats are a lot like people when it comes to surgery recovery:

  • Some new Tripawds won’t let you do anything for them because they think can do it all themselves.
  • Other new Tripawds are drama queens seeking sympathy from everyone around them, expecting to be hand-fed and babied.
  • But all pets will look to you for guidance. Whatever energy you project during recovery, they will reflect it right back to you. The more positivity you put out, the easier recovery will be.

The Dos and Don’ts for a Good Tripawd Recovery

Tripawd Dog Recovery
Ziva the senior Husky recovers from surgery in her crate.

Don’t get discouraged if you think progress is slow. It’s natural to compare your pet’s recovery experience with others, but don’t do it. All pets come into recovery from different places in their lives. Some are very young, some very old, some were highly active, some were couch potatoes. The recovery experience is as unique as your dog or cat. Your Tripawd will heal at a different pace, on her own time.

Do remember to embrace the little milestones. Is your pet eating? Drinking? Eliminating? WOW! That is seriously pawesome! Take time to celebrate! Those ordinary things we used to take for granted are miraculous after something as major as an amputation surgery. Progress can be so gradual that you may hardly notice it. But it is happening, and your pet will get to the finish line too! 

Don’t try to speed things up. Many people encourage their new Tripawd to do too much physical movement too soon after surgery. This is a time to be conservative with your dog or cat’s activity. For example, your dog should only be going on leashed bathroom break walks until the vet says otherwise. Your cat should not be allowed free-roam of the house just yet. Manage your Tripawd’s activity closely and you can prevent painful muscle strains.

And finally, Do make it a goal to get to the “new normal.” Aside from your pet’s physical activity restrictions, try to get those other routines back in place as soon as your Tripawd comes home from the hospital. Animals love routine, and it’s good medicine for recovery. 

For example, once the haze of anesthesia and opioids wear off, encourage your pet to get up and go to their feeding station instead of hand-feeding at meal time. And don’t sleep on the floor with your dog or cat if you live on a single-level home. Finally, don’t fall apart emotionally if your pet takes a stumble. That’s part of learning process of being a new Tripawd, and if you don’t react with panic and fear, they won’t either. 

We understand that you’re about to enter a very difficult time in your relationship with your pet. It won’t be easy, but the stronger you are during recovery, the easier it will be for everyone.

Got more amputation recovery time questions? Come join us in our Treatment and Recovery Discussion Forum topic. We’ll help you through recovery every step of the way!

Learn more about amputation recovery time for Tripawd dogs and cats, and more,
in the Tripawds e-books library!

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32 thoughts on “What to Expect: Amputation Recovery Time for Tripawds”

  1. My kitten, about 7 months old just had a front leg full amputation following a dislocated elbow injury. She is 4 days post op and in an e-collar. She is so hard to keep from being active ! She was feral when I trapped her initially as a 5-6 week old kitten and has always been extremely high energy. She will NOT rest in a crate. I have kept her mostly in a bedroom but am finding her on dressers and trying to climb. I keep removing one thing just for her to figure out how to get into another situation. Anyone ever had to resort to sedation to get them through this or should I trust that her being confident and capable of jumping and climbing is a good sign ? For context she is not feral any longer. She sleeps on my bed and is super affectionate just has these wild moments still.

  2. Hello,
    My 10+/- rescue Rottie Brutus has been home 1day since left hind amputation due to osteosarcoma.
    Luckily it didn’t turn up on X-rays but haven’t received info from bone biopsy yet. Is this a death sentence?
    His remaining right hind leg has significant arthritis. How realistic is it to have repeated activity on it. He is big almost 140. I will get him to lose weight but am tentative to overwork it. I have a good vet & feel like I’ve asked these questions but am still confused on what’s next. He is resting, has fentanyl patch. Should I still administer tramadol or gabapentin for pain? He ate & drank. Threw up a very little bit. Even hopped up the steps to get inside/outside but no pee or poo allday! I will try again tomorrow with sling & assistant. This article really helps. I have hope! Thank you!!

  3. My 3 legged cat was born with 3 legs but she recently just got it fully amputated so the bone isn’t sticking out anymore. I have tried multiple different cones but she won’t wear any of them. I am trying to find a sock/t-shirt to put over it. I’m just wondering if someone can help me create something to cover it until the stitches are removed? She won’t stop licking/biting them.

  4. My cat is just a year old he got hit by a car in the middle of the night. Then crawled his way all the way back to our door. We took him to the vet he said if he survives(eats, drinks, and goes to the bathroom normally) through the weekend at home we could take him in on Monday to get his back leg amputated. His growth plate was too damaged to heal on its own and his leg was mangled other than that he was healthy. He came home the day of the surgery which is today. He’s already eating, he went pee(after a lot of struggling), he has a soft cone on, he’s had his pain medication. I just can’t help but worry cause he seems aggravated all the time. He will toss around and make noises frequently. Then just stare at the floor for a while then repeat and whenever I try to pet him or help him he “yells” at me. Am I doing something wrong, is there something else I can do to help, is what he’s doing normal, and should I tell the vet about his behavior. Any help would be amazing cause god knows I don’t know what I’m doing.

  5. Hello, my 1 year old cat had his rear leg amputated on Wednesday. Today he came home from the vet. My poor cat cannot have opioids because he gets a really bad reaction to them. So he came home with 2 pain meds. His incision sight is about 5 inches long. I didn’t expect it to be so long. He has eaten well since being home. I just don’t know what to expect from here on out. He was meowing a lot so i emailed the vet and i increased one of the pain meds. He just can’t seem to get comfortable. He wants to lay and sleep on the incision sight but its not comfortable so he isn’t sleeping well. He sleeps in like 20 min increments and adjusts and meows and then falls asleep again. The incision site is red and puffy and the vet said that was normal and there was some liquid but that would get absorbed over the next few days.
    He is pretty weak on this good rear leg so he kind of walks a little then plops down and then meows and then walks a little. I assume that normal but not sure.
    If anyone has any tips or just can relay there cat’s recovery that would be helpful. Oh he does hate the cone so i got a soft cone and then got him a t-shirt that goes over the incision so that i don’t need to use the cone when he eats or sleeps. so i interchange them.

  6. I’ve had my outdoor cat Kitten for 12 years now. A couple of weeks ago she went missing for 2 weeks in really cold temperatures. She came back on Thursday and her Right front leg was broken in half with a large wound like she was attacked. She ended up getting the leg amputated yesterday. When she got home she hobbled around a little, ate and used the bathroom. This morning she is VERY tired, but ate a whole can of cat food in bed with her meds. I called my vet to ask about her being so lame and sleepy and she said that it’s completely normal. As long as she continues to eat and drink. Thank you all for your stories they are really helping me. Xoxo

    • Lyndzie I”m sorry to hear about Kitten but so glad she survived. Yes it is a lot of work going through surgery recovery so it’s smart of you to reach out to your vet to confirm everything’s good. Please consider joining our Trikitty Discussion Forums for more input from the community OK? Best wishes to you both, keep in touch.

  7. We had a very similar situation with our cat. Same leg amputation, though part of his femur was left. For the first few days he was listless and barely ate at all and I think maybe it was a combination of anesthesia wearing off and the copious amount of drugs he was on. He’s still on the same drugs now, but a week later he’s VERY much improved. My best advice is to consult with your vet if you’re worried. We’ve been feeding him Hill Science Diet Urgent Care a/d on the advice of our vet, since it’s very calorie dense and he doesn’t have to eat as much to get the calories he needs.

  8. My (very strong, vital & playful) 18 year old Maine Coon, Captain, just had his right rear leg amputated to the hip 3 days ago. I built him a ramp to get up and down from his chair and a small step to get in & out of the litter box. He’s getting around okay, and hustles it to his usual spot for feeding, but other than getting up for food and bathroom breaks he’s just sleeping constantly. I know his body is doing a lot of work to recover, but I’m worried because he is eating and drinking so much less than he used to. I’m giving him the most calorie dense foods I can but I’m worried about him getting adequate nutrition to fix himself. Is this a product of the pain meds? Or a sign of something else wrong? His stitches and skin look good and his eyes are still bright.

    • Hi Captain and Magf, welcome. It’s natural to be concerned, amputation is not an easy journey. BUT, three days is not a long time after surgery, especially for a senior kitty. Try to picture yourself in his paws: most humans who just has a leg amputated would not be getting up and moving around, or too enthusiastic about anything, at this point. It may be a couple weeks before you see his sparkle come back, but try not to worry. Yes, the pain meds decrease appetite. Talk to your vet about trying an appetite stimulant, try making your own (scroll down for cat-specific tips) and be sure to check out our e-book, Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats for more tips. Also please join our Discussion Forums for lots of help from the community. See you there!

  9. Why should you not sleep on the floor with your cat post-surgery?

    I ask as my feline friend had a front left leg amputation earlier this month. Normally, we sleep on the bed together which is roughly 2 feet off the ground. I tried sleeping on the couch while she slept on the floor but she kept staring at me all sad and I finally set up a spot on the floor and she’s slept with me each night.

    I’m hoping this isn’t bad!

    • Hi Sydney, great question! Well, we’ve talked to vets who tell us that changing the sleeping routine can be stressful for both the Tripawd and the parent. I think if your cat is happy with you on the floor then it’s fine but the sooner you start to normalize the sleeping routine the better. Also consider pet steps so that your cat can get up and down from the bed safely.

      • Just in case someone else has this issue, we removed our bed frame and box springs for now. The mattress is on the floor. Our new tripod Kitty is happy. We’re happy, and we’re all getting sleep. Win/win!

  10. My Benny had leg amputated today due to i osteosarcoma. Brought him home around 5. He has slept most of the time. He has been whimpering for the past hour or more. Is that normal? I did get him to take his pills with some meat. Thank goodness! Any suggestions for post surgery care would be appreciated so much!

    • Best wishes for Benny! That type of behavior sounds perfectly normal for a dog that came home from amputation surgery the same day. He will still be coming down of the anesthesia medication for a while, and needs nothing but confinement and rest right now. Make sure you stay on top of the pain management, consult your vet with any serious concerns, and find many other posts about what to expect here in the Tripawds News blog. Or, start here for help finding the many other resources and assistance programs.

  11. Hi our. Chocolate lab, Allie had bone cancer and had to have her front leg amputated on 12/19 The first 9 days were terrible, she did not eat for 9 days or want to get up. At one point she went over 30 hours without urinating. On the 9th day you can imagine how happy we were to find her standing and walking. Then she started to eat. 3 weeks into recovery we were feeling good then vet said she had dead skin in the area of the surgical site. We were relieved to learn it was not cancer, but once the stitches were removed we found this gapping hole. That is why the skin died, it did not connect to tissue under it. We’ve been nursing the whole for 12 days, it seems to be healing. Our last vet visit our vet said there was area the size of a pencil that is several inches deep with a hole. Is this normal? Is this bad veterinary work? Why is this not stitched closed? Really does seem like there is any thing to stitch to. So far it’s healing. The bummer is she can’t take chemo until healed and she is on pain medication and she is held back from being herself on pain medicine. Anyone ever heard of this? Thanks for any insights.

    • Hi Allie and family, welcome. We’re so glad she is on the mend! Fear not, others have gone through similar wound issues after amputation surgery. No, it’s not necessarily bad surgical work, it’s just something that occasionally happens. Sounds like your vet is confident it’s healing, that’s great! Please come to our Discussion Forums where we can help and support you on your journey OK? Hope to see you there.

  12. Hello, I am writing for some advice about my 13 year old jack russell Sonny. In the summer of 19 he developed a mass cell tumour. The tumour was removed however it has came back with vengeance. Our only option now us amputation, however he is of an age and has a heart murmur. Is this a massive risk. We and the vets think he could pull through and live another happy year or so. I just want other peoples perspectives? Thanks, Alice.

    • Alice, I’m sorry to hear about Sonny. To get other perspectives, please post in our Discussion Forums “Size and Age Matters.” My own perspective is that if you get at least two or three opinions from veterinarians, you can make a more confident decision. For a small dog, 13 isn’t that old and Sonny could go on to have at least a few more years of quality time. Good luck and please go to the Forums where the entire community can help you better OK?

    • My 18 year old MC cat just had amputation surgery due to a tumor that grew out of control. He also has a congenital heart murmur. His surgery was 06/30/2020. The big concern due to his age & murmur was him surviving anesthesia.
      He did just fine in the surgery and was using the litter box on day 2. It all depends on the animal. We always knew Captain was a strong lively guy and we had a lot of hope he’d be ok. We did try to emotionally prepare that he might not make it, but his quality of life/pain from the tumor was bad enough that it was the only choice left for him. You know your boy, and you know what’s right for you. I’m here if you need to talk.

      • Hi. My 15 year old cat had a front leg amputated yesterday due to cancer. He cannot move at the moment and just pretty much sits on the floor. He hasn’t drunk anything yet but has eaten. I’m very anxious about his recovery and fear he’ll never learn to walk again.
        Can anyone reassure me that his is normal?
        Thank you so much

      • Natasha, it’s good that your cat ate something but please contact your vet about your cat’s behavior. Don’t wait. Your cat needs to stay hydrated or it could lead to serious problems. Is this behavior normal? Yes and no, all cats are different, but what you are describing sounds as if your cat needs his pain management adjusted, or may have something else going on that your vet needs to know about. Also, come to our Discussion Forums for more insight from the community. Best wishes to both of you.

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