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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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Stressed & worried owner - newly adopted tripawd advice/encouragement
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Member Since:
20 April 2022
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21 April 2022 - 1:03 am
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Hello /wave

I’m sure many of us have been in the situation of stress/anxiety/guilt/worry about our little tripawd kitties when they’re not feeling well. I know I am right now as I’m working to bring in my newest old man: Gandalf the Earl Grey. I adopted him last week after he had a rough patch before a kind Samaritan brought him to one of the local shelters. Aside from his mats and malnutrition, they noticed he was in pain from one of his hind legs, and made the decision to amputate it for his ease and comfort. This was two months ago and during his post-op healing he lived with a foster. He healed well and was motoring around fine with his remaining back leg in his little foster room, putting weight on it, hopping around, getting up and down with relative ease. The only issues he had were an on-off appetite with little interest in most foods and a one-time seizure occurrence which bloodwork and neurology follow-ups found nothing for the cause.

Enter me last week. I fell in love with him instantly. I’ve had cats all my life and have gone through medical ops with them. I brought him home last Wednesday and everything was going smoothly as planned. Gandalf has the living room to adjust into while my other cat Freja has the bedroom, closet, and bathroom. They’re slowly meeting one another, a few cursory hisses here and there. He immediately started to eat consistently, adjusted to his new litterbox and space.

However, I noticed on Sunday he was having difficulty getting around and his backend losing balance. The imbalance was making it difficult for him to get and out of the litterbox, and his back foot was sensitive to my touch to which he would growl and pull it away: clearly a sign it was hurting. Since my living room is concrete with vinyl flooring, I rearranged his items to make him a smaller home base so his back foot wouldn’t be hitting the hard surface too much until he built up more strength.
Monday, he started to struggle getting up the makeshift step I made from a box, lower than the ones he was using at his foster’s. I had recently seen a TikTok of another cat who just had her hind leg amputated, and she was started on PT early on. So, it got me thinking Gandalf may need PT since he is starting to put on some weight and could benefit from core and leg strength to better support himself. That’s when I stumbled upon Tripawds and looked through some of the resources provided and offered; I found a few rehab specialists in my area and bookmarked one who appeared to be an ideal fit.
Tuesday morning, I was so worried because Gandalf was starting to flatfoot his back foot when walking and would eventually resort to dragging it after a few steps. I rushed to buy a rug for his home base since the one I’ve been waiting on got backordered until the end of June. I stayed home for the morning to monitor him and contacted the rehab I bookmarked the day before: scheduled an expensive consult for next week. I called an emergency vet to ask about possibly bloodwork to see if his flatfoot is possibly related to CKD. After a bit of discussion with them, I decided to monitor him on my camera while I went to work for the afternoon, and take him to the emergency vet if I wasn’t seeing much improvement in his choice of backfoot movements. To my relief, he was started to walk a little normal again with the carpet, so I decided the flooring must have been the issue and perhaps he strained or pulled a muscle on the hard vinyl flooring.
And now we come to today, Wednesday. Everything started well and Gandalf was doing quite well. I went to work and checked in on my camera a couple times. I watched him fall in an effort to get on his box because he’s relying on mostly his upper body to pull himself up now, and then in shock and laughter, watched him assess his options and climbed up on the arm of my brand new couch (if only I knew, I would’ve purchased that pet damage warranty for it, haha). I come home to find he wasn’t able to stand up his backend enough, so he had a little collection of squished poop smooshed on the edge of his cubby nest. I giggled about it as I cleaned up and decided to swap out his litterbox to one that isn’t as deep. I dug around and found a collection of boxes to make him a set of stairs with various steps at lower heights. I noticed he was having a little bit of incontinence when scooting around, but have read a bit that can happen from the stress and straining of not being able to stand up: the bladder is squeezed during efforts of movement. He’s still eating and drinking fine; he still wants constant cuddles; he’s still trying to use his back leg when he moves around. If I catch him moving around, I try and help him do so with his leg under himself.

My mental state has been mostly positive these past days; readjusting Gandalf’s accommodations to alleviate any pain until his consult and cleaning up after him without any disappointment or disgust since he can’t help it; monitoring if I need to get him into an emergency vet. But…a few hours ago I completely broke down. I feel like a terrible cat mom because I can’t just make him feel better instantly. I feel like I “broke” him and am wracked with tremendous guilt. Normally, I would just take him to the emergency vet to be safe, but because of the price for the consult and helping my friend pay for her cat’s dental appointment next week, adding in a sudden emergency vet bill for an exam and follow-up tests or scans, is making that decision uncomfortably difficult. I haven’t been able to get Gandalf set up with his pet insurance either yet because his general exam with his primary care vet isn’t until next Friday.

Am I doing the right things in the meantime? Or could I do anything better?

Next week just can’t come soon enough because I want to help my little Gandalf so much right now.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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21 April 2022 - 11:22 am
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Hey there, welcome to you and Gandalf. Thank you for adopting him and doing so many terrific things to make sure he has a great life. 

None of this is your fault, you really did your research and are providing the kind of accommodations he needs to get stronger. I especially love that you created a smaller home base for him. My initial concern when reading your story was I thought he might be running all over the house and getting too tired that way, but nope, you did exactly what needs to be done by creating that small space. From that, to the carpet, to the low stairs and litter box, those are all key mods that should be done. 

One thing I don’t see is how are you keeping him from jumping? Can he access any heights? If so, that could also be causing his weakness.

We often see situations like this (post op injuries/muscle strains) when rescue cats and dogs go straight into foster care after surgery, and these kinds of mods aren’t made by the foster parent (mainly because they aren’t informed by the rescue….our goal at Tripawds is to bridge this gap, we are trying to get in front of more rescues to prevent that situation). So I don’t know if Gandalf’s foster made these accommodations or not. If not, then his weakness was just a matter of time. 

As you can see he is adapting despite the hurdles. No it’s not great right now.  But he’s eating and drinking normally and he’s not showing pain signals right? I’m kinda guessing this is not an emergency situation (always go with your gut though, if you think it is). I’m thinking it would be OK to wait until next week but if you see any changes in his behavior I would see if you can get in earlier.

What did the therapist tell you? When can you see them? I’m so happy you found our rehab reimbursement program info!

Don’t beat yourself up. You are a terrific, patient Tripawd mom giving this kitty such a great life. You and his vet team will figure this out soon! 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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21 April 2022 - 2:31 pm
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GQNDOLPH IS SOOOOO LICKY TO JAVE YOU AS HIS FUREVER HOME!  You are  the perfect hooman for him and have already done far more than most!  

As Jerry said, you did your research and upu really ate wiite well k formed on “everything kitty”.  Helping a tripawd adapt after the major surgery  and the. Thru the recovery  phase is no picnic.  And no matter how well prepared  we are, little ‘hurdles” pop up here and there.

No, you didnt “break” him….you saved him!  You are his hero and are doing ever exactly right to help him love lofe to the fullest.  As Jerry said, when amputation  cats and dogs go straight  into foster, the recovery care is not always simply because  of the kind person being uninformed  of the needs at first.  Often a pet will overdo things the first couple of weeks, bit  the  resulting “issues” don’t  show up right away.  The Rehab appointment will be a tremendous help in identifying how to get Gandlph  back to being the Tripawd RockStar we know he will be!!

Please give yourself a pat kn the vack for doing such an outstanding  job of caring for Gandolph.  Bringing  a new pet j to the house  can be stressful enough….bringing  a new tripawd in jist adds another layer of stress at first.  I’m sure you are exha mentally  and phusically  trying to be such a stellar caregiver (and you are).  So be sure and B R E A T H E. and get some rest!!!


Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and MerryMyrtle 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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