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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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Senior cat amputee
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Forum Posts: 6
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16 September 2021 - 8:27 am
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Hi everyone! My name is Katie and we live in San Diego. I've been lurking for a few weeks while we had tests done and Max was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. His right front leg was amputated on Tuesday Sept 14.

Max is 15, has hyperthyroidism and a slightly enlarged heart and a heart murmur from the hyperthyroidism. Luckily the CT scan was clear except for the leg and he was a good candidate for amputation.

I wasn't sure what to expect. He was there one night and we picked him up yesterday. When we picked him up he was growling (both kind of funny and really sad), pretty grumpy, and he smelled really terrible. He managed to get the e-collar off in the box on the way home. He HATED it. I think he had also maybe been laying in his own pee, poor thing. So we got him cleaned up, put a modified onesie on him and WOW what a different cat. I have been shocked at how incredibly happy and amazingly mobile he is. Like he is really, really happy. Belly rubs, chin scratches, head bumps, never-ending happy purring, all of it.

He's eating and drinking and taking meds pretty much like normal. I'm telling you, he's a really happy cat! I wasn't expecting this level of normalcy at all.

I am extremely concerned about pain management and like some of you, I was just send home with an NSAID (Onslor) and the Gabapentin I'd already been using. He did get injections of Nocita and BupSR which are supposed to last 72 hours. I fought pretty hard for more pain meds, but to no avail. I'll monitor him closely on Sat and if I start to notice a change in behavior, I'll call and get some meds. He's also letting me ice him without much fuss.

We have him confined to my sewing room and we're using the bottom tray of a small dog crate as a litter pan (we switched to that a few weeks ago since he was pooping everywhere even after we modified the regular litter box to have a lower entrance) lined with a piddle pad and covered with a layer of litter and cat attract additive. It works pretty well for him, at least for the urine. We scoop when we see it and change the pad/ all the litter weekly. Hoping he starts pooping on the tray... that would be awesome. I also got the 15 degree tilted food/ water bowls on a small pedestal and they have been fantastic.

I've been having issues with the neck of the onesie stretching out and exposing the incision. I got the 0-3 month size and he's a big orange tabby (13 lbs before leg was amputated). I finally safety pinned it closed much more tightly on each side and that seems to be working well. He doesn't seem overly interested in licking it. He goes to groom it, licks fabric and gives up. He is SO happy not to be in a cone.

I really appreciate the Purrkins onesie post!! Purrkins looks so cute. Max looks like a drunken sailor with the huge stretched out neck- lol!

I have a second cat (same age), but she doesn't seem to be interested in seeing him yet.

I will keep you all updated and just wanted to thank you all so much for all of the info and resources on this site. The info been so helpful as we navigated this. I know to post pics on here that I have to have them on a blog somewhere, so maybe I'll get that started. Thanks again! Fingers crossed as he continues to heal.

The Rainbow Bridge



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16 September 2021 - 10:19 am
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Hi Katie and Max, welcome! We are sooooo glad things are going really well! And that you decided to chime in and share Max's experience during recovery. We get lots of folks like Chloe's Mom, who had vets tell her to forget amputation on her 14 year old cat (feel free to chime in there!). As we told her, the best vets in the world say that age should not exclude an animal from amputation surgery, every situation is different and you have to look at the whole picture, not just age. So your Max is definitely proving that, AGAIN! smiley_clap

I love the idea of using a dog crate tray for a litter box, great job there.

Yessss photos would be great!

This is how adding images to the Forums works.

  • Upload pics to a photo sharing site like imgur.com or your own Tripawds blog (https://tripawd...../supporter). Pictures and video have to be hosted (live) somewhere other than in the forums.
  • Once the photo is uploaded somewhere, right click and copy the Image URL or just copy the image if you’re on a phone
  • Return to your Tripawds Forum post and paste the image URL (or the image itself) in your post. It should automatically appear. 

If you’d like help figuring out the process let me know.

We can't wait to "meet" Max and follow along on the rest of his recovery. And also, since osteosarcoma is so rare in cats, we are curious to see treatment recommendations by your vets.

Oh by the way, it sounds like the clinic is on top of pain management so that's good. He came home with a typical combo of meds, so your vet was probably being cautious in not allowing more meds at this point (so Max isn't too wonky during recovery). You are already really in tune with Max so yep, watch his pain signals and if you notice them worsening let your vet know. It may be just a matter of tweaking the Gabapentin dosage and frequency. 

Let us know if you have any questions. Your future posts won't need approval so post away.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Forum Posts: 6
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16 September 2021 - 2:46 pm
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Thanks for the welcome! Think I figured out pictures. I'm interested to see what the histopathology shows and if they recommend chemo. The surgeon says only about 5-25% of these cases metastasize, so it'll be interesting to see what they recommend based on the margins they got.

It's crazy out there in Veterinary land! I had a hard time getting Max seen. He presented with a small limp that I thought was a bruise or sprain or something. I called about 5 days after I saw no improvement and I had to wait over a week to get him in to my vet. The urgent care and emergency places wouldn't even see him if the leg was weight bearing (it was at the time). Then after the fungal results were negative (another week), I was referred to an oncologist... and the wait times were a month+ for a consult. I got on waiting lists all around the county and miraculously got a next day appt from a cancellation up in Carlsbad.

It was about 6.5 weeks total from noticing the limp to amputation. It gave him lots of time to get proficient on 3 legs!

It's funny, I guess he's considered Super Senior, but he doesn't act it. He has slowed down over the years, but he still has plenty of cattitude. I felt like I had to tell the oncologists that he has plenty of spunk and spice left so I could make the case for amputation, but luckily we were all on the same page. I also made sure they checked and rechecked for any arthritis issues that might affect his ability to recover. I haven't noticed any issues over the years, but that doesn't mean he wasn't compensating. They didn't find anything that would be a problem. He has a repeat echo in Dec (he goes every 6 months) for his heart to make sure it's still doing okay.

Please excuse the hodgepodge floor coverings! I donated my inexpensive yoga mats a while back because they sat rolled up under a bed for years. So we're using a rug pad with a towel on it (so it doesn't shift) and some foam interlocking thingies until some new cheapie yoga mats arrive. He does tend to slip around on the hardwood, so the extra traction is super helpful.

I hope if anyone is out there considering senior cat amputation that this helps! 

Modified OnesieImage Enlarger

Flat seam on onesieImage Enlarger

Max with stretched out neckImage Enlarger

Modified litter panImage Enlarger

Tilted bowls make eating easy!Image Enlarger

The Rainbow Bridge



Forum Posts: 30560
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16 September 2021 - 8:55 pm
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Oh wow thank you for the great photos, they are super helpful. That's something about how you had all those yoga mats sitting around for a while. Who knew?!

I'm so glad you got o to the clinic sooner. Was it Dr. Ogilve's, Cal Vet Specialists?

You are not the first person to tell us about the long waits for specialty care, it's a wild time for vets and people.

Have you seen Jill the cat's blog? She's one of our longest live Trikitty osteosarcoma survivors and she had chemo:

https://jillsjo.....pawds.com/

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 September 2021 - 9:21 am
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This is Chloe’s mom…so great to hear and see that Max is doing so well. Yes, I had two vets tell me they would not recommend amputation on a 15 year old cat based entirely on her age. And now after seeing speaking to another vet yesterday, 2 that say cats do just fine and that she has no hesitations. It’s all nerve wrecking but provided that all her scans look good we will be doing surgery next week. I also happened to find out this week that a friend I haven’t spoken with in 10 years went through a similar experience last year and she now has a 15 year old front leg amputee cat who she said recovered quick and gets around just fine with zero issues so that is also reassuring.

Virginia




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18 September 2021 - 10:51 am
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Katie and Max, you are both doing a great job!  I made a post on your vlog also, but just want to  add how lucky Max is to be having  such exquisite  care.  Clearly  a very well loved voy!♥️

Chloe's Mom....so happy to hear how well things are going.  And thanks  for taking the time to share Chloe's experience...very Inspawrational and reassuring. 👍

Hugs

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!

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13 October 2021 - 10:44 am
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Eek! It's been a while. Max's surgeon was Dr Osmond at Cal Vet Specialists. He saw Dr Carter for his initial consult. Dr Osmond did a fantastic job! The histopathology showed osteosarcoma and they said that the amputation was curative- no chemo or radiation needed. They also said the prognosis is about 2-4 years. Eh, at that point he'll be 17-19 (if he lives that long), so that was fine with me.

I can't believe it's been a month. Wow. His 2 week checkup went well and they said I could stop the Gabapentin without weaning. I was wary and halved the dose. It didn't go well. He became very twitchy and super afraid of everything. It was weird. So we went back up and have been on a nice gradual taper the last few weeks. We switch to 50 mg per day today (he was on 200mg daily when we started weaning). I don't expect any issues.

We also got overexcited and I couldn't wait to get my sewing room back so we moved all his stuff out too soon. I forget he's old and change is hard. That resulted in some cat pee (luckily on his blanket). So we have been gradual and deliberate about it. That litter tray made it another week before I couldn't stand it anymore and we moved it back with the other litter box in a different room. I plopped him on the tray to show him where it was and that was that.

He's consistently pooping on the tray! Woohoo! I don't think we have plans to try to get him back in the litter box, even with the lower entrance that my husband cut. The tray is a big ol pain in the neck because the liner gets gross and smelly with cat pee, but he seems to like it and no messes outside the tray means I don't wanna mess with a good thing. We've gotten fairly adept at changing the liner under the litter every few days.

He and Gracie had zero issues reintegrating with each other, thank goodness. Sometimes Max can be a real tyrant but it hasn't happened. I often find them canoodling together and we've had no issues resuming feedings together.

The healing process has been mostly easy and without issue. Almost zero oozing from his scar. I know he's old and healing... but he wasn't really himself until a few days ago. I wondered if Max as I knew him was gone. Then, like a switch flipped, all of a sudden he wanted to spend extended periods of time on the couch and he looked longingly at his normal perches. I got him some pet stairs before the surgery (we have 4 sets now). I needed treats to show him how to go up and down, but he figured it out and seems to be happy with more freedom. He's not consistently using them, but I think he's still building strength. He was exhausted after my first attempt and and slept for several hours.

His fur is growing back nicely and all the scabby bits are (finally!) gone. Oddly, he didn't overgroom his scar, but he did overgroom some areas on the back of his neck which scabbed over and looked and felt really gross. So the onesie went back on for a few days. I think now that the fur is growing back he has more to lick and the issue hasn't happened again. We have really low humidity, so I think it's drying out his skin.

He really likes when I rub/ massage the whole area around his scar.

I knew he was really "back" when he wanted to chomp a plastic bag (UGH), go outside and roll around on the concrete, and sit on the bed with me for morning lovin. His old routines are slowly coming back, which makes both us of really, really happy.  I was trying not to get discouraged that he wasn't really himself, but I was having a hard time imagining another 2-4 years with an aloof Max. He just needed some time to heal and gain some strength. Thank goodness.

Mom! This ugly quilt makes the best bed!

I'm so glad we did the amputation! I need to find the thread and check on how Chloe is doing (and I'm glad you found some vets who would operate!). I'm glad you didn't take No for an answer. Age alone should never be a discriminator.

The Rainbow Bridge



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13 October 2021 - 11:30 am
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WOOOHOO! Katie this is so wonderful! You have great timing: we just got a Tripawds Helpline call from someone who has a 16-year old cat facing amputation. I just sent this wonderful update to him. Thank you for sharing.

Good to know about the Gabapentin tweaks. So many of us want to see our pets off the pain meds but sometimes you gotta take things even slower than usual.

Max looks GREAT! And super spunky too. He is such a smart guy for figuring out the steps. What wonderful photos!

Cats are so interesting when it comes to recovery and we learn so much from folks like you who take time to inform us on how it went. Like for example, about putting your sewing room back together. Most dogs would like "whatever" when the room goes back to how it was pre-surgery, but yeah, for cats, it's mind blowing to change it AGAIN. So I appreciate this kind of detail, I'll try to remember to tell folks like our Helpline caller to go slow with change.

Anyhoo, thanks again. Love love love this great news! Max is such a rock star!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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13 October 2021 - 1:00 pm
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Thanks Jerry and you're welcome! I'm glad it's helpful.

I think he really liked his cozy little recovery room and the routine we had going. He was just a bit confused when everything went away- haha. I didn't do a good job of showing him the new litter box location (totally my bad- I thought he could smell that stinky thing). But I also know he was super happy to have free roam of the house. But losing the onesie and the sleeping area under my sewing table and moving the litter box and the food bowls was a bit much all at once.

Another thing- I bought an orthopedic bed (the teal thing in the pic with the stairs) for his recovery. I shouldn't have. He hasn't touched it once. He much preferred an old folded quilt topped with the blanket we use to protect the back cushion of our couch. I tried covering the orthopedic bed with his blanket so it would have his scent but that was a no-go.

He normally slept on the couch with Gracie every night, which is why we didn't have a cat bed previously.

The stairs weren't cheap. But totally worth the investment to save his front leg from too much strain jumping down. I have been a bit paranoid that he's gonna injure his remaining front leg. I can tell he feels stable and they're nice and firm. They are Best Pet Supplies Foldable Pet Steps from Amazon. They have little rubber dots all over the bottom so they don't slide, which I really appreciate.

He's a trooper and I'm so proud of him!



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13 October 2021 - 1:06 pm
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So glad you are all doing well! I did have similar issues with Huck, and unlike your situation Huck was a rehabilitating feral kitty so I did also have a hard time gauging what was what. What I did know was that he had started to look for our attention, cuddles, and us spending time with him. When I was weaning him down he got all wired up one evening and almost nailed me big time. I have to be honest, he scared the poopicon out of me, lol. I had already been advocating for his pain meds, and when I added some back he went right back to the kitty that was taking leaps and bounds to live his new life as a formerly feral tripawd. 

I was using a spare bedroom as his guest suite, so I was able to just leave the door open and gradually move things out. I don't think I moved his box until he was comfortable, and I added a new box right in the upstairs hallway a handful of feet from where he had been rehabilitating. I still have the box there in case one of them wants more privacy but they mostly use the downstairs box. 

Way to go on doing so well with Max! Clearly he is getting everything that he needs. You guys are rocking this!

Hugs,

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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13 October 2021 - 5:56 pm
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Thanks Jackie and Huck!

Yup. He turned psycho kitty on us and freaked out, ran away at a gallop, and hid. Scared me too! I immediately increased the dose back up. The gradual wean has been much better. He still sometimes goes slightly psycho kitty (acts like I'm gonna chop off his head if I try to pet him), but we just keep him at that dose for a week and he normalizes. I don't think he needs the Gabapentin anymore, but don't want that crazy freaked out cat to return, so we're keepin' on the slow decline.

Our other cat was camped out in the guest bedroom with the regular litter box and her food bowls since she adopted that room as her own when we moved in 9 yrs ago. She hadn't been coming out to the kitchen to eat right after Max got home, so we made some modifications. Lots of changes. Max ended up in the sewing room so we could keep a close eye and he wouldn't disappear under a bed (not really his style but since the amputation he seems to be under the master bed more). We have a 1400 sq ft house, so it wasn't a far trek back to the regular litter area. I think he just got used to it being in the sewing room. Live and learn! I did a huge happy dance when that tray made it back to the guest room.

That's so awesome that you've been able to rehabilitate a feral AND amputee! Huckleberry sounds like a very lucky and happy cat!

The Rainbow Bridge



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13 October 2021 - 6:46 pm
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You know, the more I read about cats and their people, the more I am amazed at how cat parents are so in-tune with their kitties, and so patient! Is your other cat coming out into the house more?

Thanks for the scoop on the stairs! I'll be sure to feature them in our Gear blog . And oh my gosh the bed....yeah, that tends to happen with some animals. It happened with our Jerry, while our Wyatt could go from bed to bed and as long as it was cushy he didn't care what he slept on!

Great info as always.

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Virginia




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14 October 2021 - 8:48 am
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YAAAAAAY FOR MAX!!!  So thrilled to read how he is reclaiming  all his mold routines....and adding bring nice to Bracie as part of his routine now!

You and Jaxkie have really thrown out so many helpful  tips when it comes to kitty recovery.   The expertise  shared from first hand experience  is phenomenal!  Thank you both for that👍👏

And the pictures of Max are adorable.  He styles his shaved fur like a fashionista😎   He's a very handsome boy.

Hugs

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!

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