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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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Decision to amputate?... 14 y/o kitty with fibrosarcoma
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Forum Posts: 43
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17 February 2021 - 3:29 am
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Hello – thanks for all the great advice and sharing on these boards. It helps to know we aren’t alone in this.

Our 14 y/o (spayed, indoor only) cat Yum Yum was diagnosed with a fibrosarcoma on her right front leg a few weeks ago. After testing, CT scans and consult with oncology specialist, we decided on a tumor removal as the initial sample biopsy showed low grade cancer cells. Unfortunately the full post-op biopsy has now come back as high grade/aggressive. Sigh… best laid plans, right?!? She is otherwise perfectly healthy although overweight (14 lbs but she has always had a round frame). She recovered well from the removal surgery (although I hate the first 24/36 hours after hospital discharge because the meds make her pace around, she always does this after anesthesia).

So after consult with the specialist, we have been offered:

* amputation of full limb and “shoulder blade” (CT scans show no spread but of course one can never be sure on a microscopic level)

* “inhibitor” medication to slow cell divison

* combination of above

Radiation is not really being considered (both specialist and we prefer not to go this route as too invasive/hard on her). Chemotherapy drugs are not being considered as they would cause kidney shutdown and we would lose her to that. 

As an indoor-only cat, she’s got her usual (fairly lazy average house cat) routine of lots of napping plus two active periods (early AM and late afternoon) for exploring, waking people up, asking for snuggles, etc. She does play with string toys. She’s very sweet and purry and just loves to hang out with us best of all.

I have done a lot of reading about Tripawds and we are prepared to give her the tools, time, safety and space she needs to adapt. She has moved overseas with us twice (by airplane!) and always settles in as soon as she sees us, her bed and food bowls. No behavioral issues associated with the moves. So she’s fairly resilient that way. She DOES skitter when the doorbell rings or when someone comes into the house, so we would need to make sure she has “hidey holes” everywhere as a Tripawd.

So ultimately my question is, do we take the chance and amputate hoping for another 2-3 years (or possibly more) of cancer-free life, although as a tripawd. I suppose my biggest fear is that we amputate and she never feels like “herself” again since she is a bit of a chonker and might struggle. And also what if we amputate and the cancer is back in a couple months. We would have put her through this for no “good” reason other than hope.

UGH. We have dealt with cancer multiple times before with our other dogs & cats, but it was either successfully resolved surgically or we knew palliative care was the only option. This no-man’s-land of indecision is awful. 

I am trying hard to separate my own hesitancies and fears from the equation, but as we are all human and no one has a crystal ball, we know how hard that is.

Any honest thoughts or comments would be appreciated. Thanks again for being here as a community. It really does help.

The Rainbow Bridge



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17 February 2021 - 11:14 am
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Hi Yum Yum and furmily, welcome! Your future posts won’t need to wait for moderation so post away.

You’ve done an amazing amount of homework and research, very impressive! Yum Yum is a very fortunate kitty to be so loved by her humans. She also sounds like a very cool cat, I love that she’s so relatively easygoing. That can work in her favor as a Tripawd. To answer your question:

So ultimately my question is, do we take the chance and amputate hoping for another 2-3 years (or possibly more) of cancer-free life, although as a tripawd.

Well I was about to type something then I saw something else you said:

no one has a crystal ball,

Bingo! You answered your own question! Seriously though, odds are very good that she will bounce back to her usual self after recovery. 99% of cats really do, in fact, I think they are often more resilient as Tripawds than dogs! And although she might be 13, she’s not that old for a cat. You’ve already seen how well she can bounce back after anesthesia and a surgical procedure. As long as post-amputation pain management is good, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t bounce back from a limb removal too.

Yes, her weight will be an issue in the long run if you don’t help her lose weight. Tripawds do best when they are slim. I know that weight loss can be tough for cats, but you can work with your vet or even a vet nutritionist if necessary to help her drop the pounds. That is a temporary problem that most people, when they are truly dedicated to resolving it, can overcome in a matter of weeks or a few months sometimes. So other than that, it sounds like she can have a good quality of life.

As for the cancer returning, well, you’re right. Nobody knows for sure what can happen. You are doing all the right things by talking to specialists and considering your treatment options. Even if you decide not to pursue further treatment other than amputation, if the cancer does come back you’ve given her the ability to live a pain-free life on three for a while. I always suggest trying to put ourselves in our pet’s paws. What would it feel like to walk around with a slowly growing, invasive tumor? Most humans wouldn’t tolerate it. But animals are so stoic, they will tolerate things until they are really, really bad. And by then it might be too late to do anything about it. 

In short, amputation isn’t always the best decision for every animal but based on what you’ve described, Yum Yum sounds like she would do pretty well after recovery and some weight loss. Be sure to check out our What to Expect articles and Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats for more info, and stay tuned for feedback from the community. Keep us posted!

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Forum Posts: 43
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17 February 2021 - 2:47 pm
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Thanks for your kind words, Jerry. Happy to hear from anyone else who also wants to chime in. Hubby and I discussed it again this evening and are leaning heavily toward doing the amputation to give Yum Yum every chance.  Will definitely keep everyone posted as we go along. It’s a learning process for all of us! 

Florida
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17 February 2021 - 5:00 pm
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Welcome to you and Yum Yum! (love that name btw)

She sounds like a good candidate for amputation. 14 is oldish, but not too old, especially for an indoor-only cat. And 14 pounds sounds like just 2-3 pounds overweight, which should be easy enough to drop. There are lots of articles and tips on this website regarding trimming down your pet. I also recommend downloading the e-book, lots of good stuff in there pre- and post-amp.

Michigan


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17 February 2021 - 5:22 pm
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Hello and Welcome to You, your husband, and Yum Yum

So sorry you had to find us. Jerry has given you excellent advice, and I ditto all of it. You are not alone, and you are not entirely in no man’s land, ok:) we have all walked, hopped, and live in no man’s land!😁

So ultimately my question is, do we take the chance and amputate hoping for another 2-3 years (or possibly more) of cancer-free life, although as a tripawd. I suppose my biggest fear is that we amputate and she never feels like “herself” again since she is a bit of a chonker and might struggle. And also what if we amputate and the cancer is back in a couple months. We would have put her through this for no “good” reason other than hope.

Ok, we all understand the agony here. We promise it is the hardest decision we ever had to make to take a leg, and no, there are no guarantees with any cancer! We make this decision out of love for a quality of life, not always time. Your scans are clear microscopic cells are always a fear, yes.

They must feel Yum Yum is a good candidate for surgery? 

What do you feel?  What decision can you live better with?

Can you live with not taking the limb and cancer taking her?

Can you live with trying? Worse case, cancer comes back. When? Will it? NONE US KNOW. This a chance we all take we get all the information from the experts and make the best-informed decision we can.

We take the limb for the quality of life and HOPE and PRAY for time. What we get is all different. I will add prognosis is an educated guess! far many creatures outlive those, and some do not. 

This decision we cannot make for you. We can only add our own experiences. We all make this horrible decision out of love wanting the best for our furmily.

I am trying hard to separate my own hesitancies and fears from the equation, but as we are all human and no one has a crystal ball, we know how hard that is.

Yes, we all understand! This is when you MUST listen to your gut instinct; What do you think is best? Trust your gut, ok. NO, we do not like the feeling in our guts when it says to take a limb. Look at it differently; it means cutting cancer off at its source! Having a quality of life for whatever time you are gifted.

I know what helped me come to terms with taking a limb was tripawds!!! Posting here, getting all the advice, reading blogs, watching videos, and seeing, a cat on three legs can have a quality of life. Purrkins was in no way ready to end his life. Is Yum Yum? Any indicators? 

We will never regret our decision. Purrkins will be on three legs for five years; this July, he had a low-grade STS on his wrist. He was 6 when diagnosed, and we took the leg. 

Recovery is no picnic, and what makes or breaks recovery is proper pain management . A lot of us had to advocate for more meds. You know this going into if you chose this route and ensure you have adequate meds coming home or getting more asap if needed.

Purrkins can do all things on three legs. Cats are amazing and do adjust. Taking a leg we humans can help in several ways. Scratching one ear;) Steps to favorite locations, rug runner so they don’t slip—raised feeder, modified litter box. 

Let us know how else we can help – what other questions do you have? 

Hugs & Scratches to Yum Yum, please!

hugvirual.gifImage Enlarger

Holly & Purrkins💝💝💝

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17 February 2021 - 5:37 pm
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My 12 1/2 year old cat had a fibrosarcoma in her rear leg and we went for amputation a month ago. The situation is slightly different as she is quite small, the cancer was not particularly aggressive and it was a rear leg but while it was a hard decision I would do it again without hesitation.

Of course I am lucky as it appears to have gone well, but if it does go well your cats quality of life will not be adversely affected at all, especially as she is an indoor cat.

One area where our cats are similar is that my cat is also definitely “skittish”, all it needs is for someone to knock on the door, or heaven forbid, enter the house and she is behind the sofa for hours.

She seems very content with her lot since the amputation and has so much more energy than when she had the tumour, amputation is horrible and the possible complications are dreadful, but everything that I have seen shows that cats can be just as happy on three legs rather than four. Given the choice I would choose amputation over cancer as long as there was a realistic expectation that there would be at least a prolonged remission thereafter. 

I love my tripaw even though she shamelessly prefers my wife to me.

  • "what shall be done for these innocents? I have been warned not even to raise the question of animal immortality, lest I find myself “in company with all the old maids”. I have no objection to the company" - C S Lewis (The Problem of Pain)
  • "Mr Toplady was touched by the cruelty of the scene, and exclaimed, ' Who could bear to see that sight, if there were not to be some compensation for these poor suffering animals in a future state' 'I certainly hope,' said my grandfather, ' that all the bulls will go to heaven; but do you think this will be the case with all the animal creation' 'Yes, certainly,' replied Mr Toplady, with great emphasis, ' all, all!" - Josiah Bull (recording a meeting with the great A. M. Toplady, author of "Rock of Ages" in "Memorials of the Rev. William Bull of Newport, Pagnel")
  • "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God" Luke 12:6
Forum Posts: 43
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18 February 2021 - 1:40 am
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Thanks, everyone for your kind replies. After much thought and talking to other Tripawd families and knowledgeable pet-owning friends, we’ve decided to proceed with the amputation. Will probably start an updated thread here to keep everyone updated. Getting supplies together and waiting to hear back from the specialist’s office regarding scheduling. I have some questions about pre-op gabapentin to discuss with them (some report improved pain management if it’s started shortly before the procedure). Thankfully this facility believes pain management is a primary focus of care. They are also open 24 hours (as they are also a trauma hospital) so in that regard we are very lucky.

Someone on this site wrote that once you’ve done the research and made the decision, proceed forward without second-guessing. That is the attitude we are going to take. So, onwards! We will do whatever is best for our girl.

– Jessica & Yum Yum

(and hubby, who not-so-secretly loves this kitty)

(Gnosis, LOL at the person preference. So true sometimes!)

(Holly & Purrkins, thanks for the onesie instructions and your blog. So helpful!)

Michigan


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18 February 2021 - 2:26 am
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Someone on this site wrote that once you’ve done the research and made the decision, proceed forward without second-guessing. That is the attitude we are going to take. So, onwards! We will do whatever is best for our girl.

Yes, make the decision. Don’t look back and move forward; full steam ahead!

You have done your research, kudos and you are in excellent hands! Yes, we agree on pre-Gaba we wish we would have known and done!

Have this discussion and aftercare meds!

Glad to hear Purrkins blog was helpful; that was our hope to help others by sharing our story. Time to make some new onesies!

Have questions going furward, ask ok.

Smooch to Yum Yum, please.

Hugs
Holly & Purrkins💝💝💝

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18 February 2021 - 6:41 am
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Amputation surgery tomorrow Friday 2/19/21

Spoke to surgeon directly and inquired about gabapentin pre-op. He said that is not something they do, instead using a nerve-blocker during the procedure which lasts for 12 hours post-op. Then “serious” pain meds to come home with. Will keep Yum Yum at least overnight and possibly an extra day if she needs additional pain management . She does *not* relax when at the hospital so we agreed getting her home as soon as safely possible WITH excellent pain control is a priority. She is his only procedure tomorrow and he is on duty all weekend as the Pet ER surgeon so she will be well monitored.

To do’s over the next 2 days: organize medication/notes chart, sew onesies, wrap shelving rubberized “grip” fabric to make “ramps”, set up XXL dog training crate as recovery room/quiet space, set up low-entry litter box, stock up on smooshy cat treats & chicken for roasting, order harness with large open armholes (to help balance if needed), *breathe*

…meanwhile… SHE is snoozing in her plush bed!! smiley9 She just chirrups at me like, “stop worrying!”

(Sorry if I’m rambling… using this forum as a notepad and also to record things for the benefit of other Tripawds)

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18 February 2021 - 9:44 am
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Hello

It is nice to meet you and YumYum though I wish the circumstances had been better!  My reply might be a bit late, as I do not check in here often, but please take that as a good sign of how well an older tripawed cat can have life!  Almost 4 years back  following a dog attack, Tuxedo my cat (who did not have cancer) left me with a terrible choice.   My choices were put him to sleep or amputate rear leg & partial pelvis and pray that the spinal cord was not damaged.  Needless to say, me being here tells how that turned out.  So I can fully relate to the tough choice of the desire to not put one’s loved pet through a life altering procedure and potentially having the result not turn out as well as one might hope.

The real reason I am adding my two cents, or perhaps in my wordy case $2, is the overweight portion.  Well Tuxedo was almost 10 years old & ~15# when he lost his leg.  As he approaches 14, he still is a chunky boy whose weight varies between 13-14# despite my best efforts to get him to slim down.  Despite his weight, he gets around wonderfully for a chubby critter, including non sanctioned roof visits.  Do not ask how as I have no clue.  So please even if  YumYum is a bit overweight at this point, try not to let that add a worry.  Afterwards you can try to help her slim down.  If possible try to keep focused on the good things.. she is here with you, able to share her love and life with you in a relatively painfree manner and you are giving her a chance to kick cancer’s butt.

If I can help in any fashion, please private message as I am not on here often.

Hugs and best wishes!

-Dawna, Tuxedo, Lilly, & Angel Dazzle

Virginia




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18 February 2021 - 9:47 am
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Jist catching  up on your sweet Yum Yum.  You are doing an excellent  job of covering  all your basis and prepping for Yum Yum’s recovery.  

And you are not rambling  at all!  We appreciate  you sharing  your “to do” list.  It all helps everyone  on the site.

As you can see from all the great feedback you have gotten, YOU ARE. NOT ALONE!  Stay co and let us know how we can help.   Our kitty members  are well versed in everything  involved with kitty recovery.

Hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

PS.  Part of your prep work needs to include  YOU!!  Get some rest….and eat lots of chocolate 👍

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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18 February 2021 - 11:53 am
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Thanks, Virginia and Dawna! So glad to hear that although Tuxedo is a bit of a hefty boi, he is getting around just fine! I am going to try and relax as much as possible tonight. Chocolate sounds good. Will keep everyone updated how it goes tomorrow. Thanks for all your support! sp_hearticon2

The Rainbow Bridge



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18 February 2021 - 1:09 pm
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Alright, breathe and relax. You can do this! We will be thinking of you and Yum Yum. Sounds like you’re all set for a great recovery!

And remember, if the pain control she comes home with doesn’t seem to be working, it’s your right to advocate for a different approach. Don’t be shy! 

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
Latest Tripawds News
Read my story here.

Support the Tripawds Foundation!

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18 February 2021 - 4:00 pm
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Hello Jessica and Yum Yum,

So glad you decided to go with amputation. My cat, Molly, had a different type of cancer (bone cancer). Since her lungs looked clear, the oncologist recommended amputation, so we made a call the same day for an amputation surgery appointment. This was the only way to give Molly a second chance at life. No regrets! Did Yum Yum have any chest x-ray done? I’m sorry that your surgeon is not prescribing gabapentin pre-op. Our oncologist prescribed gapabentin for two weeks prior to surgery. Molly also took it for another week after surgery along with pain med (buprenorphine). From my observation, Molly’s recovery was fairly smooth. She only developed feline herpes during recovery. She did not show any signs of pain. I’m hoping that the surgeon can prescribe gabapentin for post-op. I know a couple other tripawd parents noticed a difference in their kitty’s recovery after the kitty takes gabapentin. You’ve prepared well. Yum Yum is so lucky to have you as a mom. Please keep all of us posted. *Hugs*

Jane

Michigan


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19 February 2021 - 4:48 am
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We are thinking of you today—a nerve-wracking day as you wait.

Lots of breathing today ok inhale for four, hold for four and exhale slowly, loudly for eight. REPEAT.

We look furward to seeing Yum Yum is seeing lots of pink elephants. Update us when you can, please

Yum Yum, we are holding your paw!
Hugs
Holly & Purrkins💝💝💝

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