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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Wednesday evening, one of our cats injured himself somehow and broke both his tibia and fibula on his right hind leg. It’s been a whirlwind of rushing Ziggy to our primary vet, being sent to an emergency specialist vet for sedation X-rays and a diagnosis, then taking him back to our primary vet as the plate and pin surgery for his tibia was prohibitively expensive.
He’s only a year old so he was an excellent candidate for amputation of his leg. Our primary vet and the medical director of the facility performed his amputation early Friday afternoon and he came through with flying colors. He has about a third of his femur left, rounded off and wrapped with healthy muscle to protect the bone. They kept him overnight for observation, and we picked him up Saturday morning.
When we brought him home, it took a little work to get him out of the carrier. He’s kicked off his soft cone three times. When we first got settled in the bathroom we set aside for him, he was understandably having some issues. Growling in either pain or frustration when he tried to move, but he did stand up a few times, drank a good bit of water, ate a little bit of wet food, and even somehow managed to climb into our bathtub. We were worried because there’s no real ventilation in the bathroom, and it was getting extremely hot in there. Our original plan was to get a baby gate so that the door could be left open, but the tub adventure was too much.
We rushed to buy a large dog kennel instead. He’s had some accidents, which we expected, and he’s had a couple of doses of pain meds and one of his anti-inflammatory. My concern is that once we moved him out of the bathroom and into the dog kennel, he sort of… switched off, I guess? I don’t know if he just exhausted himself or if this is a cause for concern. We know it can take a few days for them to start to bounce back a little, but I guess he was showing so much interest earlier between eating, drinking, purring and kneading when we went to visit him that now I’m panicking a little.
We lost our first furbaby almost exactly a year ago so we’re a little paranoid, I guess? For the last four or five hours, Ziggy’s just been laying on a folded blanket, staring off at nothing. He hasn’t moved, he hasn’t tried to get up or switch positions at all, he’s snoozing some but mostly just doing a 1,000-yard-stare at the wall. There’s no interest in eating or drinking, no real reaction to our other cat losing his shit and screaming at the door every time one of us goes to check on Ziggy. If we go out there, he opens his eyes a little to see who it is and then just goes back to staring. His paw pads and ears were cold, so we’ve put a large blanket over the kennel and used a towel to block a draft that was coming from another room.
Is all of this normal? Should we use a medication syringe to give him small amounts of water if he won’t drink on his own? I guess we just have no idea if we’re seeing any red flags, and we’re so worried that everything is a red flag in our panicky brains. I was hoping that someone here might have a little more experience with the period immediately following the surgery.
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.
I’m glad you found us- we have lots of members who have been through recovery with their cats and can provide lots of input and support.
One question that will help us help you- what pain meds did he come home with? Some of what you describe might be signs of pain or side effects of pain meds. Sometimes an adjustment is needed in pain meds or dosing schedule to get the maximum benefit. Be sure you keep your vet informed of what you are seeing with Ziggy.
Stay tuned for input from our Cat parents!
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
27 July 2014
Hi Ziggy and family,
Sorry to hear Ziggy’s accident required a leg amputation. What you’ve had to say seems quite normal to me.
The first day they still have some of the surgical drugs in their system and then it seems to get a bit more challenging when they are home with us. My vet took Mona to his house for the first night and I picked her up the next day and he said she did great at their home in their bathroom with the heated floor. When I got her home she tried to escape the room through a screened window. I was given buprenorphine (an opioid) and Metacam (anti-inflammatory and pain relief) for Mona. After I gave her the medication she slept a lot in a cosy closet but when it was time for her next dose of medication shortly after she’d went from zero to 100 and raced around the room then collapsed. I preferred it when she was resting!
What kind of medications is Ziggy on? The stare is likely from being somewhat stoned. At least he’s resting and doesn’t seem to be in pain. If it continues call the vet to see if you should adjust the dosage or schedule.
What kind of food is Ziggy eating? My vet sent Mona home with canned kitten food and she loved it! They get a lot of moisture from wet food so you don’t have to worry about him drinking water. Certainly syringing water into his mouth can be helpful. Remember it’s ideal to get some food in his tummy when taking an anti-inflammatory. Will he lick some wet food off your finger?
It’s good you covered Ziggy’s cage. Cats like a cosy den when not feeling well.
Let us know how Ziggy is doing.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
Awww poor guy. I can only imagine how stressful it is for all of you right now, I’m so sorry this happened.
Yes do let us know what kind of pain meds he’s taking. I’m thinking that he’s stoned from the meds. Many times a new Tripawd comes home from the hospital, bounces off the wall for a day or two and then has a “crash” and sleeps the rest of the week. Generally if the patient is drinking and eating a little something, even a treat, and eliminating (poop may be delayed), then it’s a normal recovery. If Ziggy is not doing these things, let your vet know, just to give yourself some peace of mind OK?
Good move to set up the kennel and get him in a quiet place. You’re doing great, hang in there and keep us posted!
P.S. Our e-book, Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats , has lots of good info to help you in this transition to life on 3 legs.
Thanks for the reassurances!
Ziggy is currently on one daily tablet of Onisor, 0.25 ml of buprenorphine every 12 hours, and 1 ml of gabapentin every 8-12 hours. So it’s a lot of painkillers, and I think maybe I was expecting more sleepy and less blank staring.
The good news is that he’s been much more engaged the last few hours. He ate a bit this morning, we had a can of Hill Science Diet ID formula and he ate a bit of that, and we got him to eat a little spray cheese. I know that has a ton of salt so not a lot of that, but it’s what our vet uses to distract them for temperature taking.
He’s been standing a bit, managed to get to the litter tray for a pee, responding more to his brother meowing in the other room, so a bit better all around. I’m a bit concerned about some small amount of weeping from his incision, but I’ll call the vet in the morning about that. And I discovered that what I thought were attempts to get out of the crate were actually efforts to get me to hold him, so he’s had a few good long and very careful snuggles against my chest.
Might be a seroma , I’m not sure. Understandably he’s not at all keen on me touching anywhere near the incision but I don’t see any balloon-like puffiness, and the fluid coming out is kind of watery blood in color which is why I’m concerned, as that was listed on my cheat sheet as something to call them about.
The Onisor is for 3 days (so two more after today), I’m guessing we have maybe 6 days’ worth of the buprenorphine (the vet pre-loaded syringes of that for us) and who knows how much gabapentin, since that’s all in one big bottle.
So the issues that will prompt a vet call are the weeping and the fact that I can’t really get him to eat much, though I think maybe my wife has a magic touch that I don’t with that. She’s getting some very much needed sleep right now, but she should probably be awake soon and I’m sure she’ll try to coax some more food while I catch a nap. I’m just spending some time with our other cat, since he’s having some anxiety tantrums about us being out of the room. We didn’t want him batting at Ziggy through the crate but he’s, uh, very vocally disapproving of not being right in the middle of everything!
How’s he doing today? Has he eaten anything?
A seroma is a mix of blood and water. As long as it’s more watery than bloody you should be good but let us know what your vet says.
Aw, thank you so much for checking in!
We ended up having to take him back to the vet this morning. There was a spot in the middle of his incision that was sluggishly leaking blood – about a drop an hour which she wasn’t too concerned about, but she thought it might be better to look to be sure. He would only eat a little and only if we forced him – good water drinking and peeing, though! – but she said they have food that I think she said was kitten distress food? All I remember was that it was canned and high calorie, so even if they had to mix it with some water and syringe feed him it would help.
The vet is literally right at the end of our street so it only took a minute to get there, but I think the movement (both car and him) didn’t help. You were right in that he did have a seroma , but it seemed to have ruptured a little while we were in the car (he was sitting in a little puddle of junk when I went to check on him), and she said there was a lot of pus mixed in, from both the spot we were concerned about and the top of his incision closest to his head. She numbed it and then flushed it out several times until the fluid ran clear and it for flushed again this evening, and he ate a little more but they syringed him some as well. They’re keeping him overnight, and even though tomorrow is her day off, she lives just as close as we do so she’s going to stop by in the morning to flush it again, and if it’s running clear we can bring him back home again. Of course he tried to kick the stitches so they put him in a hard cone and sent a pic, and man does he look mad!
Of course as soon as he got there, he ate 3 meatball-sized chunks of the food they wanted to give him without any effort. Ornery cats, LOL. She said it’s a pretty common thing to happen to cats like him – another vet there adopted a stray who had to have an amputation and the same thing happened to that cat – about 1 in 4 will have a little issue like this, possibly because it’s so hard for them to manage the litterbox at first without getting it on themselves. The first time he used the tray he ended up mostly just laying in it, so that might have been the problem, and when I tried to help him stand he acted like he wanted to get out without peeing so I left him alone.
So a little bit of a hiccup, but still hanging in there!
Heyyyy! I hope things are better today and he gets to come home. Yeah unfortunately sometimes there are hiccups like this. Sorry it happened!
Your vet sounds wonderful! With that kind of experience and quick action I’m sure Ziggy will be back at home and feeling good in no time at all. We would LOVE to see the pic of him in the cone! Here are instructions for adding images to the Forums.
Oh, regarding the litterbox…did you happen to see this post, Litterbox Tips for Tripawd Cats?
I am SO EXCITED to report that Ziggy is back home now, and it’s like we got a completely different cat!
They did three rounds of flushing and sent us home with some Veraflox to add to the rounds of medicine. We’re down to 2 times a day for the gabapentin, last day of Oncior tomorrow and a few days left of buprenorphin.
He’s eating the high-calorie food without any forcing, he even ate one of his normal kibbles as soon as it was offered. He’s standing up a lot more steadily now and he seemed to have a slightly easier time with the litter box this time… he was just really fussy about it before, so the combination of different box and weird litter is making him mad. Of course the cone and the crate are also making him mad, so there’s a running theme here.
The best parts are that his incision looks SO much better now… but mostly that he’s actually engaged with us and what’s going on, listening and responding to his brother’s yowling, etc. I sat down with him to pet him and when he looked at me, I could see my boy in there again. I’m sure you know what I mean!
I’m not awesome at figuring out how to get pictures on here and I’m mobile which makes it a little more difficult, but if anyone wants to check in/follow, our Instagram is @herbie_and_ziggy and I post about them pretty regularly. Right now Ziggy is having a very supervised grooming session.
22 February 2013
Catching up on all of Ziggy’s challenges, just in time to celebrate all the good news!!! YAAAAY FOR ZIGGY!!! And YAY for you for being such a good advocate for Ziggy amd for being so tuned into him! Yes, we know exactly what you mean about seeing your boy “in there” again. So thrilled to read all this good news! Keep on keepin’ on Ziggy!!
Here’s a link for adding images . A techie will come along (I’m not one) and give you better instructions👌
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!
I couldn’t figure out how to post a picture that wasn’t absolutely enormous-looking on my phone, so here’s the 2-picture album instead. Sorry for a little incision ick, but I figured most people here would be used to it!
Oh Ziggy is PAWESOME! What a handsome boy! I’m so so so glad you are seeing that sparkle come back. YES! I know exactly what you mean and there is no better feeling than to know that our new Tripawd hero is back on the road to recovery. Your vet is truly amazing with her patients.
Hope you don’t mind but I just had to share the images here:
Don’t worry about resizing the images, our Forums will smoosh them down to fit properly. All you need to do is copy the image and paste it into the Forums as long as you have it hosted somewhere, like Imgur etc.
Would you mind if I put these photos in our image gallery? They’re fantastic!
And count us in as IG fans, we’re there!