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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Houdini!! I mean Ziggy. You are a very determined cat. If you only know that if you left the stitches alone in the first place you wouldn’t have had to go through this is the first place.
What is amazing about cats is that their spine is extremely flexible and their shoulder blades are loosely attached meaning they can squish into small spaces. The day I brought my cat home after her amputation she flopped down on the floor then suddenly leaped onto a window sill. The window was partially open and she quickly crawled up the 1-inch space between the windowpane and the screen. Yes, she had one less front leg and scapula but she did fit. Unfortunately, I panicked and did not get a photo.
Many cats don’t like cones. Mona didn’t have to wear one and she didn’t bother with her staples. Thankfully you were able to find something that worked for Ziggy, although temporary… I’m sure everyone is looking forward to next Wednesday.
Overall Ziggy is doing great and adapted very well. I have cardboard storage boxes all around my house for Mona which were important for her dismounts since she’s a front-leg amputee. Although she can jump up easily she now uses them for going both up and down. Over the years she has stopped her crazy acrobatic feats of ledge walking but that may be due to age, she’s now 14. To get on and off my high bed Mona jumps on a box to a chair to the bed.
Thanks for letting us know how well Ziggy is doing. The photos and the cone/shoelace details are priceless.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
Yeah, they’ve gotten into some pretty wild spaces. We actually almost “lost” Ziggy when we first brought him home. There was a space under the kitchen cupboards between the dishwasher and the wall that we couldn’t see unless we were literally laying on the floor looking up underneath the lip of the cabinet. The only reason I found out it was there was when I happened to look down and saw the back half of him as he was shimmying in there. I panicked and dragged him out by his back legs/butt and then taped that up immediately, but it was pure luck that I caught him in the process.
Amazing and terrifying the trouble they can get into! And glad Mona adjusted to her boxes… Ziggy has the opposite problem, getting up onto smooth surfaces is a problem since he can’t get a grip with his claws. We’ve been stashing a bunch of boxes so we might drag some out to help him get to his spots, though there aren’t many he can’t get to other ways. Our whole office is basically one big U of desks/tables and their tree is at one end, so he can get up that way if he stops being a butthead. Sometimes he won’t go that way because I’ll pet him if he walks in front of me, and often he’s in an anti-petting mood. Cats, right? LOL
OMC! I am hysterically laughing at Ziggy’s vampire face photo, this just made my day!
What a joy to know that he is doing so well. That boy is really good! And not bothering his stitches? I think that he was trying to tell you “Look, trust me, no, really, trust me!” all along. But I do love that kitty cone you made for him, it’s such a great idea. Thank you for the explicit directions, links and photos. Mind if we share this in the Tripawds Gear blog ?
He’s made an excellent recovery, bravo to all of you! I’m so happy you came back to update. Give Ziggy and Herbie some extra scritches from us.
P.S. When I went to the StackExchange site and asked Admin “What is this?” because I’d never seen it, I got his attention. Apparently it’s a place where the uber-geeks of the world hang out, even more geeky then Reddit?! WOW! Stick around my friend, we can always use the extra help with tech support 😉
LMAO, I’m glad you liked it! We affectionately call him Mister Teefies a lot because he makes that face when we lean over to pet him, but that was a way more pronounced version and I couldn’t believe he held the pose long enough for me to get a picture. It’s my favorite picture ever of Ziggy, that’s for sure!
The stupidest part is that on one of his overnight stays with the vet (I forget which one), he got the cone/donut off and ripped out two and a half staples, which is exactly why we were so panicked about keeping him in the cone to begin with. I’m not sure why he suddenly decided they were fine with him. Maybe it’s finally healed enough that they don’t itch, maybe it was something with the other meds that he’s no longer on, who knows. He’s also stopped grinding his teeth which I’m VERY relieved about, since that sound was sending chills down my spine in a really bad way. Please feel free to share any of it to the Gear blog – if anyone else has a tricksy animal and that helps them out then that’s great. We genuinely lost a lot of sleep because we had to watch him 24/7 there for a while and it was no fun at all.
I’d never heard of stackexchange either and I wanted to thank the person who posted that initial diagram, but I’ll admit that I couldn’t figure out how to get 50 points of karma or whatever within a few seconds, so I gave up and wandered off. I definitely plan to stick around though, since I feel like we had a kind of bizarre journey with Ziggy’s healing and got a lot of feedback from the vet regarding what was normal and what wasn’t. If I can help someone else in the future, I’d like to do that!
That picture is meme-worthy! Think of something good to say and watch Ziggy’s fame take off!
Oh yeah the teeth grinding, I forgot about that. So glad it stopped. I think that boy was really testing you throughout the recovery. He sure had a lot of quirks and was so into ripping off that cone at first, more than most we’ve seen here. He’s keeping you on your toes! I hope now you’re getting some well-deserved sleep and R&R.
Ok so I’m not the only one who hadn’t heard of stackexchange, whew!
Thanks for the ok to post your kitty cone mod, I can’t wait. You are already helping others in so many ways. Ziggy’s recovery story is one for the record-books that’s for sure. I’m sure there’s lots of other great tails coming our way!
He’s like a comedic vampire, that silly boy.
Like I said in another post, the medical director who’s been working with cats and dogs for 35+ years has never seen an escape artist like him, and that was BEFORE he was taking off the lace harness! I think rigging the cone to a walking harness might also work, but I’ve never actually seen a cat harness so I’m not sure if that would actually go well.
We have two really funny cats! Herbie is quite the personality all on his own. Usually Ziggy is the low-key and chill one, but this brought out a whole new side of him! Herbie’s just kind of alarmingly smart about everything else, which means we’re really in trouble.
Hard to believe there’s anywhere geekier than reddit, right? Lol!
Unfortunately Ziggy has decided he’s just not quiiiiiite done with everything yet.
Since his suture removal, there’s one spot at the “head” of his incision where the vet had to kind of tuck the skin in to close things off, and it made a little pocket, or bellybutton as the vet calls it. I kind of figured that would be slower to heal since it doesn’t really get any air, but it’s still been leaking some clear to pinkish fluid, enough that it gets a tiny bit crusty at times. Yesterday I thought he felt very warm, but our AC was broken for a few hours and we live in Texas so I thought I was just being paranoid.
Nevertheless, I called the vet just to ask if this should be worrying or if it was normal and she wanted to see him. My heart dropped when she called back this afternoon and asked if my wife and I could both hear her okay.
It turns out that the infection that we took him in for shortly after his surgery apparently never really went away, and moved to the bit of his femur they left in there. Additionally, the infection must have weakened the muscle that they wrapped around the end of the bone because it’s completely gone, and it’s basically just the end of his bone right under his skin. Looking back, I have noticed that he’s been less and less happy with his stump being touched and now it makes sense as to why. That pocket of skin didn’t really heal up because his body is using it to drain fluid related to the infection, which is why it’s still pink and not clear.
We had two options here, and all four of the vets consulted on this today. Either we could try aggressively treating with antibiotics and hope we get the infection this time, or they could do a smaller surgery and just remove the piece of bone. While we don’t want to put him through another surgery, with a bone infection we don’t want to risk his life just to keep a bone that will probably cause him issues later, since it’s not padded anymore like it was originally. He’s back on Veraflox until Monday, and she and another vet are going to consult on a firm treatment plan and will call us tomorrow.
Right now the plan is to take him back Monday and they’ll do a smaller incision to remove the remainder of his femur, and they should also be able to eliminate that little pocket of skin too. She wants to keep him for a few days after that since he had such a rocky start at the beginning last time… and this probably means a cone again, hahaha. Definitely not ideal (and we’re kinda bummed because his fur has really started to grow back, LOL) but hopefully this will get rid of the infection and spare him a lot of discomfort later on down the line.
This has been such a rough process for all of us, especially Ziggy. Please keep us in your thoughts and send good vibes… feels like we’re almost back to square one here. 😔
Unbelievable!! Poor Ziggy. Poor you!
Okay, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the vets leaving stubs behind because we’ve seen a number of problems with the partial amputation. I wonder if they’ve ever done a study on a partial versus a full amputation. Maybe your vet knows.
My cat Mona is a front leg amputee. My vet was initially going to remove just her leg (potentially cancer) and he phoned the big city specialists who told him the standard is now to also remove the scapula.
What’s important now is that Ziggy can heal safely without an infection. An infection can make our pets feel lousy. Perhaps that’s why Ziggy has become so skittish.
You sure have a lot of stamina and a great attitude. I’m sending good thoughts and vibes for an easy surgery and recovery.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
The vet actually did talk to us about that a little bit, and she said basically the best practice advice seems to flip flop back and forth every year or two. In Ziggy’s case since it was trauma to his lower leg and not cancer, she left about 1/3 to help him balance and all. It was perfect at first, the muscle healed well, it was really well-padded. It probably would have been fine had he not gotten that initial infection, and even then she said it was really unusual for it to have moved into the bone like it did since he was on Veraflox the whole time.
Had I been given a choice and knowing what I know now, I think I would have just asked for the whole bone to be removed instead. And even so, I’m not upset with the vet at all. I think Ziggy is just one of those cats that had really be run of weird and worst-possible results here. Infection, necrotic tissue, incision reopening, and now another infection. Or more of the same infection, whichever. Our vet was horrified when she felt around and pretty much just felt bare bone under the skin, and she got pretty choked up relaying it to us.
Another one of the vets there actually has a tripawd of her own, an accident victim that the owners felt they needed to have euthanized but the vet fell in love with her. She had a partial bone that had to be removed as well because of pressure sores.
Aside from being skittish, which has faded slightly, Ziggy’s actually been really great. If it hadn’t been for that little leaky spot I never would have realized he was sick at all. At this moment he’s in his spot in my recliner nestled against my leg, happy as he can be. It’s a little bright spot to know that he’s not in excruciating pain at the moment and that it’s not so sure that emergency surgery was needed or anything.
We did have a really upset moment earlier and I had a little bit of a cry, but we try to stay upbeat about things. If we’re happy Ziggy tends to be happier too. Give Mona some love for us, too!
I’m sorry you are facing another surgery.
FWIW- I would have chosen the mid-femoral amp too. I don’t have cats but I’ve had two rear amp small dogs. My first, Maggie, had a mid femoral amp with the little stump wrapped in muscle. My current Tripawd, Elly, had her entire femur removed. Maggie had much better balance, her back didn’t rotate as much when she hopped, and she had a much better base for sitting. The only times I’ve seen problems here with a rear stump was when the muscle wasn’t wrapped around, or when the stump was way too long. If I’m ever faced with making the decision again (Elly had surgery before I adopted her) I would choose mid-femoral so I think your decision making was sound.
I’m only talking about leaving a stump for rear amps- we’ve seen over and over here that a front amp stump leads to problems.
Elly does fine without a stump, I’m sure Ziggy will too. Hopefully the recovery from this surgery will be faster- you are doing a great job staying positive!
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
Thank you Krun! We didn’t really get a choice about whether or not they did the femoral amo but the vet really did weigh the options and explained her choice to us. She’s never steered us wrong and she always errs on the side of caution so I trust her. But it’s nice to hear that this isn’t a weird place to have the amputation done!
I’ll admit that seeing the bone stub was kind of creeping me out more and more but now I know why, because that padding has slipped. It’s frustrating because she said it looked so nice when they closed him up initially, and when he had to go back for the tissue removal and revision the muscle was already healed up so we’ll.
Of course now my only concern is getting rid of that infection and after losing our first baby boy last year, we don’t want to risk anything worse happening to Ziggy so the bone needs to go. At least they can get rid of that weird skin pocket at the same time… and then the cone adventure begins all over again, noooooooo. LOL
22 February 2013
Ypu had just a “little bit of a cry”?? I would have been stone cold bat 💩 crazy hearing all thos and then trying to decide the best option for Ziggy!!
The only question I would have, and you may already know, is needing to know if surgery is almost 100% curative of the infection. Also, wondering if keeping Ziggy on the same antibiotic is a route they want to revisit. Obviously that anti didn’t keep the infection bay.
Jist so bummed uoj are hav to deal with this. Good for you for sensing some just wasn’t right and feeling like he had a temperature, plus the leakupy “belly button”.
Thanks for taking the time to give us such an informative update. We’re learn so much for everybody ‘s experiences….especially the “weird” ones!😉 Hoping things finally go smoothly for you and Ziggy!
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
PS. This may have been annj underlying cause of some of his jumpy behavior.
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!
To be honest I kind of expect the worst every time I take him there, and after the initial shock of the accident and hearing them say he might need an amputation, I’m kind of numb to the rest of it? Line don’t get me wrong, when she said he had a bone infection I started crying because I was afraid she was about to say that they couldn’t fix it, but when she said they could I calmed down. There was a LOT of crying about the initial amputation though.
She seems really confident about the surgery. The infection is in the bone so removing that should remove the source of the infection, and of course she put him on an antibiotic now to they to clean things up prior to the surgery, and he’ll be on them for a while afterwards.
I’m definitely going to ask her about whether or not we should try a different antibiotic though, since he was on Veraflox for nearly a month and somehow this infection still took hold.
I’ll fully admit that I tend to be pretty paranoid about the cats and their health, but so far I think only one of the vet runs turned out to be nothing much. Ziggy rightfully hates the carrier now and does whatever he can to avoid it. Mostly we just want our poor sweet boy to be healthy again.
I’m happy to hear that your vet had discussed the pros and cons of leaving a stump. It’s interesting that they flip/flop on this type of amputation. Unfortunately, feline research is lacking for a variety of reasons so in some areas it may be hard to determine “best practices”. Cats are very different than dogs and their flexibility and jumping ability and to survive falls amaze me. Thankfully you have a great vet who was able to express her feelings about the infection spread. It shows she really cares. Veterinary care is a very stressful field.
Tears are a stress release. Cry when you need to.
Mona received your loving this morning. Sending love and snuggles Ziggy’s way along with healing thoughts.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
Not to interrupt this thread- but Kerren, I was thinking about the rear amp thing last night after I posted and about how dogs and cats move differently. While my experience makes me believe that a mid-femoral amp is better for dogs (assuming its feasible) I don’t know enough about how cats move to know if it’s truly better for cats. Another thing Maggie’s surgeon told me that a mid femoral amp was an easier surgery than removing the entire femur so that Maggie wouldn’t have to be under as long. Maybe that was a factor for Ziggy’s surgeon.
And I have heard about the back and forth on which type of amp is better- and I’m not sure there is a conclusion. Maybe it’s like removing the scapula in dog front amps, assuming they get sufficient margins it seems to be a surgeon’s choice.
It would be interesting to query our rear amp members and see what type of amp they had and how the cats are doing.
And now- back to rooting for Ziggy!!!
Have the cultured the infection? Knowing what the infection is helps decide the that the antibiotics are correct.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls