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 senior cat (12 y/o and about 2-3lbs over weight but on a diet) will be undergoing a partial rear leg amputation surgery in 2 days. I’m from a small town so we have to drive him 3 hrs away to the vet. My questions are (sorry if some are dumb but nobody I know has had a pet go through this). What do I bring with him to the vet? Tips on after care? What should I be worried about/watch for? About how many days will the vet keep him? Will he get depressed? These are just some of my many questions.. I’m in desperate need of help I love my kitty and want him to get better.. thank your for reading.
Hi Natalia, welcome. We are sorry you found yourself here but hope to make the transition easier for you and your kitty. What's his name and the reason for the amputation?
What do I bring with him to the vet?
Many people bring a shirt or something that smells like them to the vet on surgery day. This can help comfort your kitty while he is recuperating there. Review this post: What to Expect on Amputation Surgery Day for Your Dog or Cat
Tips on after care?
First be strong and know that recovery is only temporary. Your cat will likely be doped up and wobbly because he will be on pain killers and he just had major surgery.
You will want to keep your cat in a confined area of your home. Some people use dog crates for confinement, others keep their recovering cat in a room. Just make sure that your cat is not able to jump on furniture or hide under a bed (block off underneath the bed with pillows or just put the mattress on the floor).
Make sure your cat comes home with good pain medication. For more tips see:What to Expect: Post-Amputation Pain in Cats
What should I be worried about/watch for? About how many days will the vet keep him? Will he get depressed?
Many cats have difficulty with the litter box. You'll want to get one with low sides, or make one out of cardboard. Don't change the litter if your cat is picky about that kind of thing but do make it easier for your cat to get in and out.
Your vet will hopefully keep him overnight, but do make sure there is someone there 24/7. All recovering amputees should have overnight care with someone present to check on them. Otherwise your cat is better off at a 24-hour clinic or at home with you. Since the clinic is so far away, you'll want to have after-hours contact information in case something about your cat's recovery is worrisome and you need to get in touch.
No, cats and dogs don't get depressed. They react to pain medications and the exhaustion of just having major surgery, which may make them seem depressed, but they don't struggle with the same kinds of issues that we do as humans. What your cat will do is reflect your emotions. So stay strong, pawsitive and keep a cool head and your cat will project that right back to you. It makes for a much easier recovery.
You can also call the Tripawds Helpline if you want to chat on the phone.
I hope this helps. Stay tuned for feedback from others and meanwhile see all of our posts about Trikitties and life on three legs. Keep us posted!
Hello and welcome.
I'm sorry you are having to face this with your boy.
And hey- no such thing as a dumb question around here! We were all new at this at one point in our journeys. Before my Pug Maggie lost a rear leg to mast cell cancer I don't remember even ever seeing a three legged dog.
One question I have for you- what do you mean about a 'partial' rear leg amputation? Maggie had what is called a mid-femoral amp but that is a bit misleading since really only a small piece of her femur was left and it was wrapped in muscle and too small to get in the way or for her to try and use it. If that is what you mean then that should be fine. We have seen a few amps here that leave too much or all of the femur and those kind of amps can lead to trouble later on.
Jerry gave you great answers and links- let us know what other questions or concerns you have.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
Hello and thank you for your replies! My boys name is Pablo<3. The reason for his amputation is we took him to the vet a month or so ago because he’d been treated 2 times before for a “mass” on his foot(he was treated with clavomox and a Cream), long story short it didn’t go away so I was given Clavomox once again to give him (2 week treatment they’re pills) but this time I wasn’t given Cream (don’t remember what it was sorry..) and the vet and I decided amputation would be better than going straight for euthanasia or leaving the mass on his foot. We’re still not 100% sure but we think it’s cancer but not sure what type.. to answer the question about the partial amputation I was told that my vet would leave the femur but take off his lower leg/foot.. for a litter box I bought a shoe tray that only has a lip 1” tall (1” lip goes all the way around) should this be okay?(I’m not worried about having to sweep or vacuum litter I honestly don’t care what I have to do I just want to help my boy have a good quality of life). Thank you again for your help!
From what I know and what I've seen here I wouldn't leave the entire femur in one of my pets unless I was planning on using a prosthetic device. You might consider a second opinion from a ortho surgeon. Also- if it is cancer you might want to talk with an oncologist if you have access to one. Sometimes the type of amputation is determined by the type and location of the cancer.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
My vet told me he wanted to leave as much femur as he could.. he said something about it helping since he’s a bigger boy but I’m not sure if that’s correct.... but my boy may also be getting a cart/wheelchair to help him..
.... but my boy may also be getting a cart/wheelchair to help him..
We've seen many cats adapt to carts, but who recommended that? Has he been evaluated by a certified veterinary rehab therapist? Self-prescribing a cart or using wheelchair that has not been properly sized and fit or without proper training can do more harm than good. See the many wheelchair articles and videos for details.
While there is no certification for feline rehab, most clinics with a CCRT or CCRP should be able to help and determine if it's time for wheels. And the Maggie Moo Fund for Tripawd Rehab can cover the cost of the first consultation.
11 July 2016
Hello and Welcome sorry you have to join us
The reason for his amputation is we took him to the vet a month or so ago because he’d been treated 2 times before for a “mass” on his foot(he was treated with clavomox and a Cream), long story short it didn’t go away so I was given Clavomox once again to give him (2 week treatment they’re pills) but this time I wasn’t given Cream (don’t remember what it was sorry..) and the vet and I decided amputation would be better than going straight for euthanasia or leaving the mass on his foot. We’re still not 100% sure but we think it’s cancer but not sure what type.. to answer the question about the partial amputation I was told that my vet would leave the femur but take off his lower leg/foot..
Where on foot is the mass? Did the vet do any diagnostics on Pablo's foot needle aspirate, X-rays of the foot? Chest x-rays, bloodwork was done or will be? I would highly suggest these are done to know you are helping Pablo with the amputation. Not all masses are what they appear to be. Noone can tell by looking at a mass what it is without diagnostics. I understand the thinking remove the mass and pain, but some cancers present in the digits that are not the primary cancer would you still amputate? Has this been mentioned? By seeing an oncologist & doing diagnostics, you will know if amputation is still the best choice..
We have seen many cats with partial amputations that end up needing another surgery to correct it so please read the link that was provided and ask these questions for Pablo. Wheelchairs and carts should only be used if needed and fitted by professionals. Admin has directed you for furhter information to read.
Cats do amazingly well on three legs. I always suggest steps for our kitties on three so that we can protect that remaining limb from more wear and tear. Purrkins has steps to his favorite layabout spots to get down safely.
TRY not to worry about the extra weight right now KUDOS to you for being aware and working on it! In recovery, they are likely to become finicky from the pain meds, and you will need to be prepared to pull out any of Pablo's favorite foods. I'm not sure if your cutting calories or on a particular diet but for recovery do not restrict food or types. Wet food is best that way you don't have to worry about them getting the moisture they need. You can get the diet dialed in after recovery. Losing a limb will take more dialing in as they tend to be less active. In no way does that mean less quality of life they have bouts of energy and act like normal kitties but tend to have bursts of energy play for shorter periods at least that is how Purrkins is. He lost his front left leg due to a soft tissue sarcoma on his wrist 2.5 years ago.
Have the discussion on pain management it will make or break recovery we see it too often our cats need more than three days worth of pain meds we are taking a limb it is major surgery. Purrkins came home with Buprenorphine and Gabapentin he ended up on Buprenorphine for 10 days and Gabapentin for 14 days.
As Jerry has said depending on the clinic doing the surgery if they are 24 hours staffed would depend on if Pablo should stay overnight! If they are NOT 24 hour staffed do not leave Paublo there to recover, terrible things can happen. Become the 24-hour staff yourself and have an emergency contact in case you need one. It is ideally 24-hour staffed, and Pablo stays on some good hospital meds and can be monitored.
Purrkins stayed 3 nights 4 days which seems to be a long time compared to what most and IMO he was in excellent care but for his purrsonality should not have been kept that long. Most are kept at least overnight & some a couple of days it depends on the kitty and the clinic and in some cases finances.
We had Purrkins recover in a spare room we gutted and put the mattress on the floor we had exercise foam mats down for his recovery process. If you have hardwood or laminate floor using yoga mats or carpet runners are helpful for traction . Most cats like to hide when they come home this is normal the cat is injured and wants to protect itself. Provide a nice cozy den. Purrkins chose the closet in the spare room and we rigged him a bed in there. Some people use dog cages, and a few have used tents. You want to be able to access them easily for meds. We had restrictions for 14 days until the stiches came out.
Your litter box should be great and you may or may not need to assistance into the box the first day home. As far as litter scatter for long term get a good litter mat, it will become your BFF, and like you, most of us could care less in recovery and only want the best for our kitties.
We have a forum post on litter box you will likely find helpful.
Litterbox tip for tripawds member tips
Take some time and please read the links that have been provided & dig around on the site we have loads of information. And let us know if you have other questions.
Scratches to Pablo
Holly & Purrkins
To answer about the cart/wheel chair , the vet said it may or may not need to happen depending on how he adjusts to walking (as I said he’s a bigger boy). But yes if he ends up needing one I will make sure he sees who he needs to as I want to make it as easy as possible for him.
The mass is on the top of his rear left foot and is starting to over-lap 3-4 toes. No the vet did not try to open his foot because you can tell it’s all tissue (it was at one point open and he tried to see if anything would come out but all that did was old blood and it was only 4-5 drops) the vet has not done X-rays yet as his main office is 3 hrs away and he travels to my town once a month (or every 5 weeks)to see the animals here, the vet will be doing blood work tomorrow when he gets back to the main office(I have to meet my vet half way so he can bring pablo back with him to the main office). We’ve tried to treat it 3 times (the mass) and it won’t go away and ive been noticing smaller masses coming up on the same leg(also lower part). Thank you I’ve been really trying to get his weight down he’s always been a bigger boy but never had problems till now, but as for eating after surgery my vet and I aren’t too worried that he won’t as he LOVES food haha. But I will definitely grab some wet food in case rather be safe than sorry:) thank you for your advice/help, yes I will continue reading forums and blogs likely way past my boys recovery haha!
So sorry to hear Pablo's situation.
While I have no experience with cancer, my cat Tuxedo lost a rear leg and partial pelvis (hemipelvectomy) due to a dog attack. That was well over 1 & 1/2 years ago. He was 9 or 10 at the time. Like Pablo, he was and also still is a bit on the chunky side. It was very close to his estimated birthday so I do not know which age for sure. He gets around fantastically now. Truly amazing what that little critter can get up to despite his disability. Run, jump, climb. You name it he has likely done it. About the only issues he has now are balance/stability related, because of the missing pelvis. If caught unaware, he often gets toppled over. Dazzle my other kitty loves to exploit this because Tuxedo is such a bully at times. So if Pablo is moderately active now, I suspect he will not need a wheelchair or cart.
The best advice I can offer is make sure amputation is necessary & if so, consider taking most if not the whole leg so Pablo does not repeatedly injure it trying to walk on 3 1/2 legs so to speak. Get lots of pain medicine. Tuxedo was on that for a full 7 days. Cat proof your home before Pablo comes home. Especially make certain he can not get under the bed. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to get a cat out from there if it does not want to come out. Tuxedo spent one night at the vet, though they wanted me to come take him home sooner. Evidently he was constantly howling for attention. Also do not underestimate the speed of a new Tripawd kitties. First thing Tuxedo did after coming home was to slip past me and out the front door. Literally the only reason I was able to catch him was because of the cone on his head. It would not fit between the porch rails. So try to have some one else there for the uncrating if possible. While Tuxedo was recovering, I used old pizza boxes as temporary litter boxes with no issues. So I suspect your shoebox lid will work fine, though it might be a bit small. In addition to wet cat food, might want to have a bit of dry around too. After the surgery, I had trouble tempting Tuxedo to eat. He turned his nose up at all the wet smelly food. The chicken flavor of the Delectables dry cat treat was all he would touch.
Anyway, I am rambling. But if you have any specific question about what I went through with Tuxedo's recovery, please let me know. His recovery was far more involved than most I have read about on here, likely in part because he is such a stubborn and fiesty critter. He might be the shiny example of what not to do think.
Hugs and best wishes,
-Dawna, Dazzle, & Tuxedo
Hello and thank you for your reply! The shoe mat is about 1 1/2ft long and about 1ft wide (no lips on it over 1”) Hopefully it’ll work if not I’m sure I can find something. Pablo is very low energy he loves his sleep and food so hopefully he’ll eat after. Kinda a weird question but should it take long for him to start using the litter? Also should I keep him on his wood based litter or should I switch to something else?
Kinda a weird question but should it take long for him to start using the litter? Also should I keep him on his wood based litter or should I switch to something else?
There are no weird questions at all, promise.
It's been my experience that animals don't come home until they are urinating on their own. So technically he should already be using the litter box before he gets home. And I'm no litter expert but what I've learned from other Tripawds members is that if your cat is picky about any litter changes, to leave things as is. But if your cat allows you to experiment occasionally, the Dr. Elsey's Senior Cat Litter gets rave reviews.
Tuxedo first used the litter box the day he came home. But I have read of others taking a bit longer. My vet recommended using coarsely shredded newspaper for litter, because he had concerns of the clumping stuff getting in Tuxedo's incision. Note, due to how Tuxedo lost his leg he had many other wounds to heal as well. So again, he may not be typical. Many on here report using their regular litter with no issues.
My vet told me today that Pablo May be gone for 7 days... broken hearted and I’m going to miss him lots but not letting him see me get sad about it:( it’s weird since he’s always my support.. he said it may be so long because he wants to wait till he pees/poos and eats/drinks.. and it may be a day or two before test results or something.. hopefully it’s less than 7 days keeping hopefull because I know my boy is strong. He leaves tomorrow around 1pm.(13hrs from now)