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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My gorgeous tabby girl (cat) of 13 years had her front right leg amputated four weeks ago. This follows a major operation three years ago to the week, for removal of a fibrosarcoma which included a course of chemotherapy.
Her recent amputation results are that we have removed this latest synovial sarcoma cancer and I am hopeful that she will continue on with a happy life for many more years – she is a very special soul.
My concerns are with her recent amputation and how to best help her recover. For the first two weeks, she would not move from her bed and was constantly fearful but since the stitches were removed, she has progressed a little, however she is still very scared.
I am thankful that she loves to be held and appears to feel safe once on my lap however, she previously was such an involved confidant girl and is now quite frightened.
My concerns are;
- She is very scared when on the floor/ground in the home (she is an inside cat) and after using the litter tray, immediately runs (hops) to somewhere secluded to hide (under a bed or in a box).
- She is also not strong on her three legs yet (having a very ungainly gait with belly close to the ground), although I am hopeful that this strength will come in time.
I wondered if anyone else had experience of this type of fear from a previously brave soul and how long it took for them to get confidence. Is there anything I can do differently to help her recovery – mentally and physically? How long before they stop trying to use their missing limb? Has anyone used an animal physiotherapist with good results?
I would be sincerely grateful for any advice to help get her through this a little easier.
Hi and welcome! Your future posts won’t need to wait for approval so post away. What’s your kitty’s name? You take such great care of her, I’ve got all the confidence in the world that together you two can get all the happiness and fun back into her days. Here are some of my thoughts fwiw.
Is there anything I can do differently to help her recovery – mentally and physically?
First, how are your floors? Do you have traction ? If your floors are slick, she may have had an accident at some point, which ruined her confidence on them. You really want to add no-slip surfaces to your home, along with ramps and steps to help her get into her favorite sunbathing spots and up and down the perches she used to enjoy.
Next, the fear that you are describing really sounds to me like pain signals . We tend to talk about that a LOT around here, but that’s because oftentimes a cat or dog has unaddressed pain after amputation. Cats are really, really good at hiding pain and their cues are subtle. Hiding and non-social behavior are very big clues that something hurts. Has your vet addressed her for any pain signals ?
How long before they stop trying to use their missing limb?
Tell us more about that, is she trying to use hers? How so?
Has anyone used an animal physiotherapist with good results?
Absolutely! In fact we are such big believers in physio therapy that the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit if you see a credentialed practitioner! Check out one of our latest cat physiotherapy success stories:
My cat Mona had her amputation when she was 8 years old. She adapted well and I put out boxes (some people use steps) for her to get up and down from the bed, couch, chair, etc. I believe the boxes gave her confidence and makes it much easier on her remaining front leg. It does take them a bit of time to adjust to having only 3 legs.
Mona has her special places she likes to sleep, including under a desk, in a spare bedroom. She also likes to eat mini-meals many times throughout the day and night. She had changed since before her amputation and has created and decorated her new home.
Shortly after Mona’s amputation she saw an animal chiropractor and she loved the sessions. Most cats get arthritis and aren’t able to move as well. You can have your cat assessed and learn some massage techniques to help her out. Sometimes cats get laser therapy for arthritis.
Recently Mona started on a very low dose Metacam for her arthritis in her pelvis. I think it helps her move easier but she moves a bit slower than she used to. She still goings up and down stairs and can run very quickly when she chooses to.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
Hi and thank you
Her name is Tabitha and I have a mix of floor boards and carpet. I have now put rugs down to see if it helps but her fear seems very much associated with being on the ground. If I pick her up she purrs. She is eating well which seems like a good thing although, she eats some and then runs off to hide in a box or similar. I have only three small stairs in the house and I put a ramp down but she will choose the stairs instead.
When she is on my lap, I see her try to reach up with what used to be her leg (as she used to like to touch my face or stretch her arms) – I think she gets distressed when nothing happens.
She has gone from being a very involved girl and being around me all the time, to hiding in boxes. A small positive is that she still likes sleeping on the bed and is very attached to me once there.
I will make another appointment with the vet and see if there is anything else causing this behaviour and find out about local cat physiotherapists. It is very distressing to see and I wish I could do more.
Gosh I’m so sorry that you’re facing this hurdle. I’m also wondering if an appointment with an animal behaviorist can help, should the physiotherapist not be able to pinpoint the cause of her anxiety (although I’m hopeful that it can be resolved with a good evaluation).
When you call around for physios, keep in mind that there are no official feline physio programs (at least that I know of) so most physios who work on cats are trained at the canine-centric schools and then get hands-on experience with felines in the real world. In other words, if you call a clinic and ask for a feline physio and they say they don’t have one, just ask if their practitioner has experience doing physio with cats.
If you’d like help finding either practitioner let me know.
Thanks for your last reply. I have been back to my vet and it appears that Tabitha’s fear is likely pain related due to her back ie a nerve may have pinched or she has hurt it while trying to get around post amputation. She is now on cortisone and some natural anti-inflammatories plus a little gabapentin – I am hopeful this will ease whatever has happened. I will now pursue the physiotherapy option to further see if this will help – just wondering if there is there a register of reputable people (I am in Australia), that is available? I might search some of the forums as well to see if anyone else has experienced back issues after their operation.
Thanks for all the help
22 February 2013
So glad you got the cause figured out forTabitha. The cortisone, so e pain management and rest should make difference. We do see a tweak with muscles, so e, disc, etc when dogs and cats are in the early part pf recovery. It is soooo easy to overdo with a misstep, or a turn or jump. It doesn’t take much.
Kotty mem may have more specific information for you.
Let us know how she’s doing.
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 took my tripawd Mona to a vet who did animal chiropractic treatments. She showed me neck, spinal and pelvic massages and exercises for Mona. The chiropractic treatments helped her move smoothly. She loves massages. The exercises didn’t do much for her because she had good range of motion and balance already.
So you could google “animal chiropractor Australia” or “animal physiotherapist Australia”. I think you’ll find most of the physiotherapy is for dogs only.
I seem to recall someone had posted exercises for cats. I’ll look for them for you.
Some vets provide acupuncture for pain.
Thanks to Holly and Purrkins:
just wondering if there is there a register of reputable people (I am in Australia), that is available?
Jacqueline, that’s great that the pain cause has been diagnosed, the medications should hopefully make a difference. One thing we’ve learned from therapists is that quality pain management is a multi-modal approach, meaning that it usually takes a combination of medication, physio exercises and therapies like acupuncture to fix the issue.
Regarding directories: the Canine Rehabilitation Institute has a list of Global Practitioners, many in Australia. Scroll down to search. As I mentioned, you won’t find any with feline rehab certifications, but most work on both species and treat enough cats to know what they’re doing.
You may also want to check the CCRP Australia directory.
And if you can’t find anyone, I have a friend who is an Australian vet/therapist living in the States, who may be able to connect you with someone close to you. Let me know if I can help.