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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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Helping a fifteen year old cat recover (cancer, right foreleg)
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Member Since:
19 May 2022
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23 May 2022 - 6:50 am
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Hi Everyone,

I've been lurking for a few days and figure it's time to pipe up. A couple of weeks ago, my fifteen year old heart cat was diagnosed with a spindle cell soft tissue sarcoma, and every vet we've talked to has reccomended amputation as the best course of action for her.

As all of y'all know, the time since has been an absolute rollercoaster of emotions from guilt to grief, sadness and fear, but I've come to some kind of acceptance of it - I'd rather take the chance of improving her quality of life than the certainty that she has cancer and is in more pain that she's letting on. The surgery is later this week and I'm trying to get as ready as I can for what's coming next.

We have a big animal hospital nearby and she'll be gone a few nights, so I'll have a few days to get everything set up before she'll be home to recuperate.

I have a two story house, and work from home from one of the bedrooms. I spend most of the day either there or the the primary bedroom, so it makes sense to me for her to spend the first few days on the second floor with me (with the stairs completely blocked off). In the primary bedroom seems like it may be the best for her to land for the first few days since it's where I spent the most time.

I've bought one of those little playpen tents for her crate rest, so she won't have free movement unless she's supervised, but what should I do about the times I'm not in the bedroom? Of course I want to keep her right next to me more or less constantly in case she needs anything.

Should I have alternate crates for rest in the rooms I spend time in? Can I take her in a carrier downstairs to watch the bird feeders for a bit? Am I overthinking this? Any advice would be most appreciated. 

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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23 May 2022 - 10:28 am
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Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm glad you decided to post and share your story, what is your girl's name?

I don't have cats but what I've learned from our kitty parents is that no matter where you keep her make sure there is no furniture she could get under or behind where it would be hard to get her out.  And also make sure there isn't places she would try to jump up on, or more importantly for a front amp- down.

I would think you need to see how she is dealing with her recovery before you make too many plans.  She may want to just hibernate in her new tent, or she may want to be with you all the time.

Have you looked through this forum for ideas? Three Legged Cats.

Here is a link to the Reading List, lots of info there on preparing and dealing with amputation.

And there is an ebook just for kitty amputees.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 May 2022 - 11:32 am
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Hi and welcome! I'm so glad you decided to post. It's not easy having a senior cat in this situation but all in all it sounds like the vets believe she's a good candidate for surgery, which is awesome. And if it's any comfort, she's not the oldest cat who has ever joined us either. Cats can be so young at heart! Age is just a number to them. Cats also handle life on three legs pretty darn well, much better than dogs.

A senior cat's recovery may take longer than a younger cat's bounce-back, but they do get there. Good pain management is essential, and will save your sanity too. Be sure to find out what meds she is getting so you know what to expect. I like that she is staying a few days in the clinic, that will be so helpful.

It's awesome you can work at home and supervise her! I don't think it's a big deal to gently move her to other rooms and keep her in a contained environment like a playpen or carrier, as long as you know she is safe and comfy. She may not want to move a whole lot during the first few weeks so if you see she isn't stressed when you leave a room, she's probably OK to be left alone so she can rest. Your main goal is to control and stay ahead of her pain, and make sure she doesn't overdo activity so her body can heal.

You are not overthinking at all, there's lots to consider and we are here to help!

Member Since:
19 May 2022
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23 May 2022 - 1:26 pm
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You all are absolute angels. I really appreciate the quick responses and resources, and reassurance! Her name is Luanne. 

It sounds like a lot of it will be just seeing where she's at and meeting her where she is. I will definitely ask the doctor about pain management .

One thing I'm worried about is stairs, since we have bedrooms / office upstairs and kitchen / social stuff downstairs. I hadn't thought of how going down stairs would be harder than walking up, but that makes a lot of sense. This may be in the links that y'all shared but how do you safely get them used to a full flight of stairs again after they're healed up?

Member Since:
23 May 2022
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23 May 2022 - 5:13 pm
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How is your kitty doing? 

We have a boy kitty (Shadow) that was recently injured (Friday while we were at work) and it turns out he's dislocated his left ankle joint and broken his tibia. He's 12 years old. I'm really pushing for the amputation as he's so incredibly full of life otherwise. His blood work was great and he doesn't have any other issues.

I worry about the recovery because I am a teacher and can't take any time off and my husband is a landscaper and now is his busy season. 

I'm going to get a crate from a friend that will hold his litter box, his bed and his food comfortably. My husband can check on him during the day, but we can't be home with him all of the time. 

Do you think he will be okay as long as we manage his pain and keep his dressings clean/changed? Oh yeah, are you using a "cone of shame ?" I'm also curious about the body suits but our vet said they tend to chew on them and get them wet when the wound begins to heal and itch.

Thanks for any thoughts or feedback. This is a really hard place to be in. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 May 2022 - 10:49 pm
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but how do you safely get them used to a full flight of stairs again after they're healed up?

Hey there so glad we could help you feel a little better!

You will be surprised how well she handles the stairs! See

I do have some ideas/thoughts for you that I will share in the AM, stay tuned!

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 May 2022 - 10:53 pm
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Do you think he will be okay as long as we manage his pain and keep his dressings clean/changed? Oh yeah, are you using a "cone of shame ?"

@niconico welcome. Please start a new forum topic all your own so we can answer your questions directly and follow your story more closely ok? I'll be back in the AM with some thoughts. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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24 May 2022 - 11:55 am
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I wanted to share these videos of Tripawd cats using stairs.

But first, here a bi-pawd who joined us, Three Paw!

And here's Sebastian!

and Purrkins

You will be amazed at how well Luanne does once recovery is over!

Member Since:
19 May 2022
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24 May 2022 - 1:01 pm
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O_O that bi-pawd is incredible!

It's so good to see that cats can get up and down stairs once they get healed up. Think I'm just going to have to be patient and see how she does.

Update on Luanne, she's doing well, goes in for prep tomorrow and surgery Thursday. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, the big hump on her arm doesn't seem to be causing her any discomfort, though she's wobbly and limping a bit. True to form, she supervised my assembly of the playpen, and moving furniture to accommodate it. I've left some toys and blankets in there in case she wants to check it out with the doors open so it's not a shock when she's locked in there when she gets back. 

I'm trying to keep busy and move forward. I keep thinking about how she'll only be able to make one biscuit, which is random and kind of heartbreaking. Accepting this is about to happen, and if everything goes to plan the recovery that will follow has not been a straight line.

I know so many of you have loved a pet the way I love this little floof. Thanks again for your support and advice! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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24 May 2022 - 6:15 pm
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I'm glad you enjoyed the videos!

Yes, patience is required, absolutely. This experience really brings that home. And it really does make us better humans too.

Glad that Luanne is doing well overall. Cats are so stoic! I'm sure she is wondering what the heck is going on with the home redecoration, but that's really smart of you to allow her to check it out. The more familiar you can make her recovery room right now, the better.

Now, although she'll only have one paw, you will be so impressed at how she relearns how to do things she enjoys! They figure it out!

Yes we all love our animals tons around here, you are in good company.

Member Since:
19 May 2022
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26 May 2022 - 11:25 am
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Hey everyone, 

Just a quick update that the CT scan was clear, so it looks like the cancer hasn't spread. They're doing the amputation now.

Handing her off to the hospital yesterday was really hard but today I'm feeling a lot better, maybe because things are out of my hands. I've controlled what I can control and given her the best shot I can. Now it's wait and see. 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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26 May 2022 - 12:34 pm
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Oh that's good news! I remember that scary day when we waited for the same results.

Thinking of you and sending tons of pawsitivity! Keep us posted.

Member Since:
19 May 2022
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26 May 2022 - 6:28 pm
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The surgery happened without any complications, and she woke up from anesthesia! 🙏

They're going to keep her overnight but I should be able to get her back home tomorrow. I can't wait!

Jerry thanks so much for checking in. I really appreciate it! 


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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26 May 2022 - 9:19 pm
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Just catching up on your sweet Luanne in time to say congratulations on having a successful surgery! I

You've gotten wonderful advice and support from everyone and I can only say ditto. Try and get some rest while you can knowing that Luanne is in good hands at the clinic tonight. She's not feeling any pain and, in fact, probably seeing a few pink elephants.😉


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!

Member Since:
19 May 2022
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28 May 2022 - 9:01 am
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Thank you Benny! 

Update on luanne, we got her home from the hospital yesterday and it was a pretty rough evening all told. She was blissed out on pain meds but I spent most of it watching her try to get out of her carrier and then tire herself out and take a little snooze.

After a couple of hours, I got out one of those lick pads and the churu treats out and as soon as she smelled it she actually launched herself at me like a little furry snake and started lapping up the treats and making happy noises. She had a good dinner, got all her medication and fell asleep with her head in my hand actually purring! 

She had an accident so we had to change her suitical, (so glad I bought two!) And that's when I actually saw the incision. That was one of the hardest parts so far. It doesn't matter how much you prepare yourself mentally, it's a really, really hard thing to see for the first time. And it brought up all those negative feelings, and the grief was overwhelming. I was actually physically sick. I know we do this for our pets, not to them and I had to keep telling myself that.

And despite that, I'm so glad I made the decision to go through with the amputation. Through the whole evening, she was not in pain, was acting loopy but completely normal otherwise, and as soon as I saw her lap up those treats I was overwhelmed with relief. I would do it all again.

Last night she couldn't get her shoulders off the floor, but today I woke up and she was in the perfectly formed loaf you can see below. She's not quite hopping yet but I can see she's well on her way. 

Expecting a lot of "big feelings" in the next few weeks, but it's worth it. 

Thank dog for good vets and all of you. I've been looking through the resources here and the support and advice and everything has been incredible. 

A loaf of cat in a pink onesie.Image Enlarger

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