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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

Tripawds is the place 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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Member Since:
10 July 2021
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10 July 2021 - 6:14 pm
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Hi all!  This is my first post here, and honestly, I joined the group because I need some wisdom from those of you who have so much more experience with our three-legged friends.  

We've been cat fosters for two years, and have handled a number of different issues, including some feral cats - but Trike (our tripod foster) is just so different from all others we've worked with.  Here's his story:

Trike came to us at 12 weeks of age with a broken leg - no clue how it happened, as he was found and brought to the pound.  X-rays showed fractures of both epiphyseal growth plates in the femur.  He was put on cage rest for two weeks to be sure he was otherwise healthy, and then scheduled for his hind leg amputation at 14 weeks of age.  While on cage rest, he was happy, calm, and purred non-stop.  Didn't complain about the cage rest, didn't climb the walls (we'd had a previous foster with a broken leg who ALWAYS climbed the kennel walls!), and was just a really good boy.  Fast forward to the amputation - I called to check on his post-op recovery and they told us that he'd be ready to pick up later that afternoon, but that they needed to see him calm down a bit because he was VERY angry when he came out of anesthesia.  Interesting to me, as he'd never shown anything but an easy going, laid-back personality.  They felt it was likely a frustration with the cone, and that it would settle down - and it did, as far as we could tell over the week that followed the surgery.  He wasn't a huge fan of the cone, but overall, he seemed to do well during his recovery, and within a week was trotting around the first floor of our house like you would expect from a kitten.  pain management was limited - I believe he had four days of oncior and a week of buprenorphine?  He had been on both for the two weeks prior also.  He's generally a purring, snuggling, playing machine.

Ten day post-op, we took him to the shelter to have the stitches checked, and the shelter director asked to meet him - and when we handed him to her, he growled and hissed like I'd never seen before.  Just very, very agitated.  We'd seen little bits of spits or hisses when interacting with our other (numerous) pets, but minimal, and just what we'd call typical interactions as animals meet each other.  But he was MAD when she held him - and then even more so when we took him back to the vet techs who removed the stitches.  Clawing, biting, hissing - like a Tasmanian devil!  We got him home and all was well again, though with his cone removed, he did have a tendency to move somewhat quickly into a biting play.  Not the attack biting like we'd seen at the shelter - just an excessive use of his mouth.  We curbed that fairly well with stern "No!"'s and putting his cone back on if he continued, and he took the hint and stopped that behavior.  

About 10 days ago, we tried to move him into the kitten room at the shelter, as his incision had healed beautifully and he was ready to find a home - but he went nuts in that room, hissing and scratching and chasing and attacking the other kittens.  None were hurt, but he was a serious bully and couldn't stay there.  He also hissed and growled and clawed at EVERY human that went near him (my daughter is a volunteer at the shelter and was there the whole time he tried to move in - she was no exception).  She brought him back home, and he was once again fine.  We have two dogs, four cats of our own, and five foster cats that he interacts with, and he doesn't display that behavior with any of them. My husband came home from a trip and met Trike for the first time - Trike was loving and sweet.  The only time we've seen the angry behavior at home was one night when Trike slept in my daughter's room instead of mine - he was growling and hissing at the two cats in her room (that he interacts fine with during the day), as well as at her, for a couple of hours.

Since some "moody" kittens have recently moved out of the kitten room at the shelter, we figured we'd try to move him in again today - but as soon as his carrier entered the room, he started thrashing around.  Same outcome, same angry hissing/swatting/biting at any human (again, including my daughter).  I went into town and brought him home again, and he has since been his usual laid-back self, lots of purrs and snuggles.

Adding one tidbit to this - he does have an occasional quiet yowl that he lets out, with a hiss or growl, somewhat randomly and sometimes when I hold him/move him in my arms.  I've presumed those were perhaps moments of pain/phantom limb pain?  But other than those rare moments, he's just chill here at home.  So...any thoughts on whether this bizarre "new environment" Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde stuff is related at all to the amputation - or some other behavior issues we need to investigate?  Have any of you had any similar situations where all seems well but certain situations trigger a rather frightening and extreme response post-amputation?

Thanks for any help!

Julie

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10 July 2021 - 10:24 pm
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Julie, welcome. Your future posts won't need approval so post away. I'm on my phone now but wanted to get your post approved so others can see it and chime in.

This is a really tough situation. There is something about the shelter that is really freaking him out. Maybe a certain smell or a bad memory, but if he's not acting so mad at home and only there, it's the only thing I can think of. 

I'm going to think about this and get back here with some thoughts tomorrow so stay tuned!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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10 July 2021 - 10:38 pm
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Thank you so much!  

Yeah, I'm wondering if it could literally be a psychological issue.  He came here was a broken leg and was taken care of, and safe.  Then he left the house and came back without a leg...  Is it possible that he is associating leaving the "safety" of the house with the potential for trauma?  Or am I applying too much human psychology to him with regard to some sort of triggers?  In case it is relevant, the shelter isn't where he had the amputation - the vet clinic is in a different location.

I look forward to any further thoughts you might have tomorrow or at any point in the near future!

Virginia




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10 July 2021 - 11:03 pm
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First of all, thank you for helping  all these 💖

Not a kitty expert st all, but sure seems like something  is happening  in the shelter that scares the heck out of him.As Jerry said, possibly  a smell, etc.  Is it a kill shelter?  Obviously  an animal can smell fear and death.  Also he may still feel very vulnerable  relatively  soon after the amputation  and becomes aggressive  as a result.  That and possibly he is experiencing  some pain that is causing Mum discomfort and he needs a low dose med for a bit longer.

Dunno....just throwing stuff out there.

Kitty members  will chime in with some of their expertise.   I k ow some use a calming spray or diffuser called Fenway (I think).

Tha ks magazine for all the help you provide  these dogs and cats.💖

Hugs 

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!

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10 July 2021 - 11:16 pm
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Hi!  Thank you for your kind comments - we love fostering!!!!

Interesting thoughts and ideas!  It is a no-kill shelter, so there really shouldn’t be any fear. The cats live in personality-matched colony rooms until adopted, unless they have medical issues that require a foster home like ours. There is feliway used throughout the shelter and the cats are visited and played with daily. Our whole metropolitan area has been no-kill since this shelter opened over ten years ago. ❤️  It’s a really great place - but that doesn’t mean it can’t somehow be triggering a fear response in our little guy. 

On The Road


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11 July 2021 - 9:46 am
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Is it possible that he is associating leaving the “safety” of the house with the potential for trauma? Or am I applying too much human psychology to him with regard to some sort of triggers?

Boy, anything's possible, there's so much that isn't known about animal cognition. But as humans we often tend to overthink things when it comes to our animals. With the shelter doing everything to eliminate fear and stress, I'm wondering if maybe he got into a fight with another cat in that room and nobody knew about it? 

It would be interesting to see what happens if someone approaches him while standing outside the shelter? Have you tried that?

If the sudden yowl happens more often I would investigate further. Phantom pain tends to happen when an animal is just laying around or trying to get comfortable. It's sudden and sharp and you'd know it when you see it, at least with many animals.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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11 July 2021 - 11:54 am
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Hmmm, we haven’t tried having someone approach him outside the shelter, no. Do you mean directly outside the shelter, or just anywhere that is not our home?  

His first Mr. Hyde moment was before he ever went into the kitten room, though - with our shelter director and then the vet techs when he had his stitches removed (that was all the same day). He didn’t try to “move in” until about two weeks after that. My daughter was in the room monitoring the transition most of the time, and any attacks between cats were initiated by Trike. 

It’s just so very odd. And frustrating, because we want him to find a wonderful home, you know?

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11 July 2021 - 12:52 pm
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I would say try both, outside the shelter and anywhere that isn't your home.

OK so you're saying he had the Mr. Hyde moment on the same day he had his stitches removed? Before or after they took them out? Well, I can't blame him if that's the case. They may have pulled something the wrong way and ouch!

You will find him that perfect home, I have no doubts about that. My guess is the more time that passes between the amp and whatever kicked this off, the less he will be so reactive. But it can't hurt to keep investigating in the meantime. I'm curious what you find out!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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11 July 2021 - 12:58 pm
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The first Mr. Hyde moment was before the stitches were removed - about ten minutes prior, while we were waiting for the tech to be ready for us. 

I really appreciate the help in thinking through this!  We’ll definitely try working on exposures out and about in our community and at the shelter!

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11 July 2021 - 7:30 pm
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Hmmmm.....so before? Wow! Maybe it was the anticipation that got him worked up and now he's got a solid memory of the scary incident stuck in his memory. Gosh what a puzzle!

I'd love to learn what you discover. I'm going to get one of our cat experts over here to see if she can share some thoughts.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet



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12 July 2021 - 8:22 am
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Wow, so sorry you are going through all of this. Um, Huck was a feral stray that had his leg broken somehow, we don't know what happened to him. We isolated him with a huge dog crate and bed off the frame in our spare bedroom for recovery and hopes of domesticating him. We introduced him to our furmily slowly, and if one of us was not in the room then nobody but Huck was in the room. I played music for him and kept cat tv on for the brief times that he was alone. 

When he approached the time to remove sutures, he did get grouchy and snappy some. I think the sutures really get uncomfortable and theres a lot of stress on the incision causing it to get itchy and picky. We had to watch him closely after too because I didn't want him going buck wild with the incision and licking it back open. 

He did have some phantom limb discomfort, and we had him on gabapentin for about 3 weeks total before weaning him off. 

You don't know Trike's background or what happened to make you find each other's paths. Some of this sounds like he might have some discomfort as he is still healing? And all in all maybe all the back and forth is a little overwhelming? I am certainly not an expert, but we have 3 formerly feral furbabies and a big white marshmallow that nopawdy wanted. I agree.. something is triggering this. He might be having some phantom limb pain on top, and after all that he has been through he just might not be reacting really well to all the extra stimulation. Some cats do not do well in a shelter setting. Same for dogs. Maybe you could speak with the vet about extending his gabapentin and try to keep him quiet for a week or so to see how he does? This is a big transition for him and for you and maybe it is just too much too soon. There may be a nerve where he had his amputation that is still healing, and maybe he is just being protective of himself.

I may be totally off the mark here, but you have him and he has you so what do you have to lose?

I hope you are able to work this out so that it is a win win for everypawdy, good luck!

Hugs,

Jackie and Huck sp_hearticon2

Hugs,

Jackie, David, Bo, Andy, Oscar, Phoebe, and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry

Huckleberry's Blog

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12 July 2021 - 8:25 am
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Pain can trigger aggression in cats. If Trike was on pain meds for the 2 weeks prior to his surgery & then starting showing unusually aggressive behaviors shortly after being weaned from the pain meds after surgery, I'd reevaluate his pain levels first. He might be happy & active in the home & able to manage his pain where things are familiar & he knows that he is safe, but the stress of being around strangers (human & animal) in an unfamiliar environment could make the pain unmanageable & he could be lashing out in fear & hurt. Attacking the other kittens could be his way of keeping them away from him.

Also, my 3-legged cat takes much longer to warm up to new animals & environments than any of the other cats I've had or fostered. He is generally a friendly, loving, & bold little guy, but new places, animals, or people make him nervous & it takes him longer to acclimate than it does my other cats. I *think* it's because he can't jump up as high to escape and/or defend himself as easily as his brothers & sister can. Even my angry 16-year-old torti acclimates to new situations faster than my tripawd boy (who is only 2 years old). I don't know if this is typical of feline tripawds because he's the only one I've adopted...I've fostered tripawd kittens but never for longer than a few weeks.

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12 July 2021 - 10:08 am
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GREAT insight! Thanks for sharing!

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
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12 July 2021 - 12:19 pm
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paws120 said
Wow, so sorry you are going through all of this. Um, Huck was a feral stray that had his leg broken somehow, we don't know what happened to him. We isolated him with a huge dog crate and bed off the frame in our spare bedroom for recovery and hopes of domesticating him. We introduced him to our furmily slowly, and if one of us was not in the room then nobody but Huck was in the room. I played music for him and kept cat tv on for the brief times that he was alone. 

When he approached the time to remove sutures, he did get grouchy and snappy some. I think the sutures really get uncomfortable and theres a lot of stress on the incision causing it to get itchy and picky. We had to watch him closely after too because I didn't want him going buck wild with the incision and licking it back open. 

He did have some phantom limb discomfort, and we had him on gabapentin for about 3 weeks total before weaning him off. 

You don't know Trike's background or what happened to make you find each other's paths. Some of this sounds like he might have some discomfort as he is still healing? And all in all maybe all the back and forth is a little overwhelming? I am certainly not an expert, but we have 3 formerly feral furbabies and a big white marshmallow that nopawdy wanted. I agree.. something is triggering this. He might be having some phantom limb pain on top, and after all that he has been through he just might not be reacting really well to all the extra stimulation. Some cats do not do well in a shelter setting. Same for dogs. Maybe you could speak with the vet about extending his gabapentin and try to keep him quiet for a week or so to see how he does? This is a big transition for him and for you and maybe it is just too much too soon. There may be a nerve where he had his amputation that is still healing, and maybe he is just being protective of himself.

I may be totally off the mark here, but you have him and he has you so what do you have to lose?

I hope you are able to work this out so that it is a win win for everypawdy, good luck!

Hugs,

Jackie and Huck sp_hearticon2

  

Jackie, thank you for sharing this!  Your Huck sounds a lot like our Trike in terms of their backstories.  He's never been on gaba at all - not sure why, as I see it often in this forum - but he was on Buprenorphine and Oncior longer than is typical use, so maybe they didn't want to add gaba on top of those?  I do suspect some lingering pain - perhaps he just needs more time to heal those nerve endings?  

Yes, he has us, and I'm in no particular rush for him to leave.  Our last foster to leave us was here for nine months...but we do have a total of 8 cats (6 are fosters), 2 dogs, 2 sugar gliders...and as of two nights ago, 9 domestic bunnies (3 adult females, 6 juveniles/babies) that were part of a mass rescue of over 50 rabbits from a yard...and the three adult females in the group are all pregnant, and one gave birth this morning to at least 6 wee ones...  So needless to say, we do have our hands full, and I always want to be cognizant of spreading our resources too thin.  But we do have time, space and love for Trike, so until he's ready, he is welcome here. sp_hearticon2 I just hope to figure out what is causing his troubles so I can move him toward healthy and happy and ready for his furever home.  Thank you so much!

Julie

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12 July 2021 - 12:24 pm
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hiccup19 said
Pain can trigger aggression in cats. If Trike was on pain meds for the 2 weeks prior to his surgery & then starting showing unusually aggressive behaviors shortly after being weaned from the pain meds after surgery, I'd reevaluate his pain levels first. He might be happy & active in the home & able to manage his pain where things are familiar & he knows that he is safe, but the stress of being around strangers (human & animal) in an unfamiliar environment could make the pain unmanageable & he could be lashing out in fear & hurt. Attacking the other kittens could be his way of keeping them away from him.

Also, my 3-legged cat takes much longer to warm up to new animals & environments than any of the other cats I've had or fostered. He is generally a friendly, loving, & bold little guy, but new places, animals, or people make him nervous & it takes him longer to acclimate than it does my other cats. I *think* it's because he can't jump up as high to escape and/or defend himself as easily as his brothers & sister can. Even my angry 16-year-old torti acclimates to new situations faster than my tripawd boy (who is only 2 years old). I don't know if this is typical of feline tripawds because he's the only one I've adopted...I've fostered tripawd kittens but never for longer than a few weeks.

  

This is really helpful - thank you!  Do you think he needs to be back on pain meds, or just given time for any further healing to occur?  The info about your 3-legged guy really helps also - we often look at how quickly and "easily" these animals rebound, compared to when a human loses a limb.  But really, the transition is likely just as difficult for them, they just don't show the weakness out of survival instincts.  If it's time he needs, we're happy to give it.  I just don't want to be missing signals that he should be treated for pain if that's the case.  I'll mention it to the vet tech again - and also our shelter director, as she has two tripawds also and may have some thoughts on his treatment.  

Thank you so much for sharing these ideas and insights!

Julie

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