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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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Be More DogWhat does it mean to Be More Dog?

Find out in Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now by Tripawds founders Rene and Jim. Learn life lessons learned from their Chief Fun Officer Jerry G. Dawg! Get the book and find fun gifts in the Be More Dog Bookstore.

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Member Since:
8 November 2020
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13 November 2020 - 1:38 pm
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For those that aren’t following my cats blog, Amber is officially home from surgery!!! She seems to be doing well but I had some questions I was hoping my fellow tripawd pet parents could answer... I did purchase the book but I have yet to completely finish it!

1. She is very wobbly. I am guessing this is due to a combination of the pain killers and being newly three-legged. How long does it take for cats to build up their strength and become more mobile?

2. I have read on here that cats can be very stoic when it comes to pain. I am worried that due to my work schedule, I will not be able to give her the gabapentin every 8 hours on the dot. The label says 8-12 hours but I want to try to stick to 8 hours as close as possible to keep her comfortable. What should I be looking for in terms of signs of pain or discomfort?

3. Having an amputee pet is completely new for me. Where can I find more info on phantom limb pain? How do I know if she is experiencing phantom limb pain?

4. Amber is a little overweight. She is currently about 12 pounds and should ideally be closer to 10 pounds. She has been free fed dry food her entire life. She used to also get one can of food per day but we have since cut canned food from her diet to try to help with weight loss. While she is in recovery, I plan to feed her canned food until she eats more regularly. I would love to hear any tips on how to go about this safely and even any tips from pet parents who have transitioned their cats off of a free fed lifestyle to scheduled meals!

On The Road


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13 November 2020 - 5:15 pm
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Alissa I'm so glad you posted here. Amber's blog is turning out to be so fantastic, one that we will refer members to for years to come so thank you for keeping it so thorough. Here is where you'll find more help from community members. I'll kick things off by trying to answer your questions:

1. She is very wobbly. I am guessing this is due to a combination of the pain killers and being newly three-legged. How long does it take for cats to build up their strength and become more mobile?

I think you're spot on. Medications, exhaustion does that. Her little bit of extra weight also impacts things (but don't panic, that, like recovery, is temporary and you're on the right track by wanting to help her lose it). Cats typically follow a dog's recovery timeline, which I know is a wide range but within 1-2 weeks most pets are showing some pizazz again. 

2. I have read on here that cats can be very stoic when it comes to pain. I am worried that due to my work schedule, I will not be able to give her the gabapentin every 8 hours on the dot. The label says 8-12 hours but I want to try to stick to 8 hours as close as possible to keep her comfortable. What should I be looking for in terms of signs of pain or discomfort?

These pain signals articles have images you can check out, which show cat's faces they make when pain is present. It's also in the Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats book you've wisely purchased 😉 Generally speaking by the time pain signals are visible, the pain will be twice as hard to control, so you want to stay ahead of it. Is there any way you can get someone to come give her the meds? Or day board her during the rest of her recovery time? That would be such a huge help to control her pain levels.

3. Having an amputee pet is completely new for me. Where can I find more info on phantom limb pain? How do I know if she is experiencing phantom limb pain?

Fear not, most of us were in the same boat. If you click on phantom leg pain you'll find our best tips and the e-book has cat info too. Generally, a cat will suddenly yelp, cry out and maybe run away from herself without warning. It is startling ad sudden. You will know it when you see it. Has she exhibited any of these signs?

4. Amber is a little overweight. She is currently about 12 pounds and should ideally be closer to 10 pounds. She has been free fed dry food her entire life. She used to also get one can of food per day but we have since cut canned food from her diet to try to help with weight loss. While she is in recovery, I plan to feed her canned food until she eats more regularly. I would love to hear any tips on how to go about this safely and even any tips from pet parents who have transitioned their cats off of a free fed lifestyle to scheduled meals!

This is one that is best left to our TriKitty members! I know it's hard to get a dog to lose weight but it's even tougher for cats. Our Tripawds Nutrition blog weight loss tips has good info that can help you get started, and of course your vet will want to be part of the effort too. It's a team effort and it takes patience and time but it works! 

Does this help? 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet

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13 November 2020 - 8:57 pm
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Thank you Jerry for this response! It is super helpful! It appears she has not experienced any phantom limb pain yet!

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14 November 2020 - 9:40 am
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Hi Alissa, Good luck to Amber.  My cat Gizmo is also recovering from surgery Day 9 post op.  Thanks for the questions I was also just wondering about phantom limb pain. I was just watching him I think try and scratch his ear with the leg thats missing.  His side was going and the he kept tilting his head. I scratched it for him but was also wondering about phantom limb pain or was he just forgetting its gone.  Hope Amber feels better soon.

Best

Cassie

Virginia




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14 November 2020 - 10:17 am
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Good feedback Gizmo!

Yes, it's up to us to provide an extra "paw" when it comes to good scritches all over.!👍   

If Amgethad phantom  pain versus  the "itchies", you would DEFINITELY  know it!

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!

On The Road


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14 November 2020 - 11:58 am
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Oh for sure, phantom leg pain is much different than air scratching or random stump twitches. I'm glad it sounds like Amber and Gizmo aren't affected.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene
tripawds.com | tripawds.org | bemoredog.net | triday.pet



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14 November 2020 - 1:01 pm
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Good going Amber! Yes, cats are stoic so it's good to learn how to read your cat.

You'll see Amber progress rapidly on her strength and mobility as she heals. There will be a few small spills but that's to be expected. Imagine waking up after a leg amputation and going to take a step and falling because your mind and body did not "know" your leg was gone. I'll give you a clear example: after Mona healed, she did have a couple of strange body jerks and spins. I noticed it when she was down on the ground and when she got up rapidly she would spin in circles. A physiotherapist said her spinning was likely related to proprioception which is the body’s sense of knowing where the limbs are. Mona’s body would spin not knowing the one leg was no longer there and learning to rebalance. She stopped spinning in time.

Some cats with rear leg amputations start walking backwards whereas front-leg amputees don't. I suspect it's also related to proprioception .

I had a hip replacement and also had nerve twitches where my leg would jump - it's a normal part of healing.

As for weight control: determine the best weight and the amount of calories for the ideal weight. The vet can advise you on this. The amount on the bags tends to be too high in my opinion. Weigh out the appropriate amount of food for the day on a scale to be accurate. Include any treats as part of the daily allowance. You can feed from one bowl or spread the food out through the house in multiple bowls. I feed my cat Eli 3 portions a day and feed Mona separately otherwise Eli will also eat hers. A new study found that cats who are fed one big meal each day may be more satisfied and beg for food less than cats fed multiple smaller meals. Here's more info: https://nypost......er%20meals.

Hope this helps,

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

Florida
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14 November 2020 - 4:44 pm
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Hi Alissa and Amber,
Welcome to Tripawds! I've been enjoying your blog.
I don't have much advice as I got Jet well after his surgery/recovery, but I can tell you the "air scratches" (good term, Rene!) are normal. Jet does air scratches often.
As far as weight control, I agree with everything Kerren said, especially not to trust what the bag or can says as far as the portion size. I feed my two cats three times a day as well. The big change I made was improving the quality of the food. The cheapo stuff you find at the supermarket is akin to junk food. And most of what I've read is that wet food is preferred to dry food. I typically feed them wet in morning (Nulo), dry for lunch (Wysong Vitality), then a combo of both in evening. A couple times a week I give them treats. And sometimes human food, especially if I have ham out.
Keep up the good work!
Brad and Jet



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15 November 2020 - 8:03 am
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Hi Allisa and Amber!

Huck had his right rear leg amputated due to traumatic of unknown sources. He was a feral stray that spent most of his time in our yard people watching, lol. He disappeared for several weeks and came back dragging a leg and skinny. 

We trapped him and found out we had 2 choices. Amputation or euthanasia. So we had the surgery and rehabilitated him in our spare room. Our rehab was double fold: surgical recovery and efforts to domesticate him. 

We did get to learn how to read each other well, especially with the caution that we had to take in the beginning. Once he started to ambulate better and was healing up we did indeed see phantom limb breakthrough. It was only because of the fabulous people here that I knew what I was seeing, and was able to get really good feedback. We got another prescription for gabapentin, and gave it to him regularly for a few weeks. After that we dropped the dose a bit at a time, and the phantom limb pain went away.

The best way to describe it, is that he would be in the middle of doing something, say playing with one of his new brothers or walking to look out the window, and all of a sudden he would stop, swing his head around, and aggressively try to clean the area. It was very different from that adorable little twitch that they do when trying to scratch an ear with a leg that is no longer there. ( I give him a good ear/chin/neck scratch when I see him doing that and he loves it) Sometimes he would jump first, just out of nowhere, and then groom that area. When I say 'jump' it is more like when you get static electricity shock. 

We used to free feed also, but between Huck and Andy we needed to dial that back. They get fed twice a day now, and I know when it is meal time, lol. They all come looking for us, hahah! It does help though, neither of them need to have any more weight than they already do. 

I hope this helps. I have not seen your blog, I will look for it. Sounds like so far you guys are doing great!

Jackie and Huck sp_hearticon2

Hugs,

Jackie, David, Bo, Andy, Oscar, Phoebe, and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry

Huckleberry's Blog

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