Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is your home to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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Hi yall. My little boy Fleape (pronounced Filipe) had his front left arm amputated in early December due to a de-gloving incident in November. He is an 8 year old ragdoll. I've had him since he was a tiny little kitten- he was abandoned by momma.
All of his life he has been the life of the party- always making friends with EVERYONE and everything. He was the most social cat I have ever met- he had such a huge personality. We are now a little over a month since his surgery. He hides in my closet all day, every day. I take him out to snuggle but he immediately runs back to the closet. He doesn't engage in the ways that he did before. While he can get around fine on 3 legs, his confidence in doing so is really low and he walks really low to the ground and with a lot of trepidation. He eats and drinks fine and has been using the litter box fine but recently has started peeing outside the litter box.
All of this is heartbreaking- he feels like a shell of the cat I knew before. I keep telling myself to be patient, and that he may never be the same after what happened, and that's okay. To be honest though, I am worried sick and I am afraid I made the wrong choice. He seems so depressed, I'm just at a loss of what to do. Any advice and encouragement is incredibly appreciated. Any ideas on how to handle the litter box situation is equally appreciated as I am a renter and can't have him doing this!
Hi Fleape and mom, welcome. Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.
I'm so sorry to hear about his recovery challenges. What you are describing sounds like pain signals . Have you talked to your vet about this?
Also about his walking on floors, do you have traction put down for him? Are your floors slippery? If so, that may be one reason why he's not anxious to walk around much.
But everything else definitely sounds like he is having some pain-related issues that haven't been addressed. What kind of pain control did he come home with from the hospital? And how long was he on them?
If you haven't already, an assessment by your vet is definitely in order. One of the biggest issues we see after amputation surgery is unaddressed pain, so this isn't unusual at all if that is what's going on. Once you get pain under control it's remarkable how quickly a cat or dog's personality comes back.
Make a symptoms list, and how long each symptom has been going on. Then give your vet a call to book an evaluation to see what they have to say about his behavior. Keep us posted OK?
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome.
I'm sorry your boy is having so much trouble!
Is he on any pain medication at this point? Did the accident include any other injuries? One possibility is that he is in pain.
HERE is some information on identifying if your cat is in pain.
While most dogs and cats are off pain meds 4 weeks out it could be that he needs them a little longer.
How did he behave between the accident and the amputation surgery? Was he acting like his normal self or was he acting more like he is now?
And- how sensitive to change is he? You said he was the life of the party but is set in his routines? My Pug Maggie lost her back leg to a cancer tumor and spent the next 6 weeks in bed. I thought I had made a terrible decision choosing amputation. In hindsight it made sense since Mag was stubborn and set in her ways. Any little change to her routine could put her in a funk. Once she decided to accept her new normal she hopped happily through life for almost 4 years.
Of course let your vet know what is going on. It doesn't happen often but once in a while we hear about a pet who had an internal stitch cause a problem or there could be a phantom pain issue.
HERE is some information on Phantom Limb Pain.
HERE is a Forum Thread on Litter Box Issues.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy
Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.
1999 to 2010
Thanks for the replies! He was on pain meds for the first few weeks- the vet wanted to take him off after a week but I insisted that he stay on meds for another 3 weeks because he seemed to be in pain still. He was on gabapentin since the surgery but started acting more skittish about 2 weeks ago. I thought maybe he was experiencing some trauma and fear with actually being forced to take the meds so I thought I'd take him off the gabapentin to see how he responded but not much has changed. I'll make an appointment with the vet to see what they say.
He was hit by a car- that was what caused the de-gloving. Between then and amputation, he was very much his usual self- very social and sweet, and in a lot of pain still. The amputation seems to be the catalyst for the major shift in personality.
He has always been my 'road cat', meaning, I have moved around a lot in the past 8 years and he has always been really adaptable and easy with the changes. I will say, as he has gotten older, change has been a little bit of a challenge but I would never call him stubborn.
I like the idea of traction . I do not currently have any traction on the floor for him which I agree, would be helpful for him.
17 January 2023
Hey there! Reading your post I wanted to ask: do you know if Fleape has arthritis? If he's dealing with that on top of amputation pain then I can imagine that maybe the gabapentin isn't enough. When you see the vet, I would recommend asking about arthritis and if that's the case, ask about Solensia. It's new monthly pain medicine for arthritis in cats but it is a little pricey because of how new it is. It's what I was doing for my cat Jelli before she injured her front leg and it did seem to be helping before her accident.
Best of luck to you and Fleape!
Ah OK thanks for clarifying. Let us know what the vet says. Also consider the Tripawds Rehab Reimbursement Fund can reimburse for your first rehab visit , which is an evaluation to assess pain management needs. It sounds like the skittishness could be the result of some type of amputation related pain that is not being managed with or without the Gabapentin. A rehab therapist can pinpoint the cause, and often much faster than a general practice vet. But it's always a good idea to start there first.
22 February 2013
The only other thing I'll add from our "rare occurrences tool box" is to have Bet double check to make sure not sutures/staples have been left in.
As suggested, try and get a Rehabilitation Specialist to check him over too. As me tioned, arthritis may now be showing up. Adjusting to three legs after amputation may have brought an unnoticed "injury" from the accident to the forefront once he was on three. Perhaps a sprained back, maybe disc issue, etc. Just throw out FWIW stuff.
Keep us posted.
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!
19 May 2022
Welcome! So glad you found us here, want to thumbs up all of the advice you've gotten so far - when in doubt ask your vet!
+1 on the Solensia, it was night and day for my senior tripawd's mobility after a full recovery from surgery. She had arthritis in her other joints that made adjusting to the new balance and getting around a lot harder, which made her less likely to move around and would walk very low to the ground. Now she's getting around a lot easier and confidently.
If everything checks out at the vet and his pain is addressed, know personality changes, especially going from being outgoing to antisocial, can also mean he's feeling insecure and vulnerable. An outgoing cat is confident because they know they are safe putting themselves out there. After a trauma it's normal that they may be skittish about new situations, especially with a new body balance to get used to.
In my experience, this is a time and patience thing. He may need to re-establish that he's safe and can relax. You can set up a few little spots where he can hide at floor level outside of his closet, like draping a blanket over a table or chair in a room you spend time in and putting a bed or soft spot underneath where he can watch what's going on but can't be surprised from the back or sides. In the beginning, make sure there are clean lines of sight from one to the other and traction on the floor in between so he can plot a straight line course to it when he wants to move. Don't be afraid to take him from one to another so he knows they're there. Eventually he'll start claiming spaces himself, but have patience with him, and yourself. You made the right choice.
One of the best things for traction I've found are cheap rubber backed bath mats. they give them something to hold on to and won't slide from underneath him, and they're washable too.
I am also a renter, and one of the things I did to protect floors was buy a big box of puppy pads to line around the litter box by a few feet. If you put a waterproof pad underneath (even something like a garbage bag) and pee pads on that, then you can protect your floors while he learns how to make the litter box work for him.
This is a process, and the two of you are in this together. One month out there is still so much going on with him physically with recovery, trust that the cat you love is still in there and will be back when they're ready. Also, we're always here if you need us.
Senior trikitty Luanne had a right forepaw removed in May of 2022 and is still going strong! Here's our story.
*UPDATE!* We went to the vet yesterday and he got a Solensia shot. The vet wasn't totally sure what could be wrong but said that it was worth a shot. So far today he has been walking with a bit more confidence which is great!!! I know that it takes about 2 months to really see improvements but I am liking what I am seeing today. I talked to a rehab center about getting him in but want to wait since the closest facility is about an hour and half away from where I live. We've also been keeping him outside of the closet where he normally hides, and I think it is helping his spirits. When he's sequestered in there, I think he is in a dark hole. Before, when we would take him out to cuddle or interact, he would be shaking sometimes. Now, he has been more social and even mewing at me!! No more shakes. All are tiny improvements but lifts my sprits a lot. I know that we still have a long way to go but to know that he might not be in so much pain is surely a light shining down on us. I'm slowing going to introduce him to the rest of the house again (with some improvements to help him along the way) and see if his mobility and willingness to explore improves, and also to see if he stops peeing everywhere! Fingers are crossed.
Also, thank you so much for your thoughtful responses, it touched a nerve with me and I wept feeling understood in the struggle to care for my little guy. He is truly the love of my life. I believe in his recovery and it sure helps to have a community of people cheering us on.
Hi everyone! Just wanted to give an update! Fleape is doing AMAZING! Thank you all who suggested Solensia- it has made THE biggest difference in his life! He has stopped peeing outside of the litter box and has even been venturing downstairs without coaxing. He has been running and jumping and playing. I am so incredibly grateful for this medicine and all of the support received here. My little boy is back!