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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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5 Days Post Op Screaming Episodes
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Livermore, CA
Forum Posts: 4
Member Since:
27 September 2010
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28 September 2010 - 2:03 pm
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My 1 year 10 month old Scooter had his leg amputated last Friday after an accident at the creek led to a nasty infection with antibiotic resistant bacteria. 


Over the last several days he has been having these screaming episodes where he wakes up and starts howling and screaming.  He is not in pain as far as the vet and I can tell.  When you palpate the area he doesn't respond to any pain at all.  After the screaming is done he is totally fine and goes back to being a happy go lucky 3 legged dog.


We have him on Rimadyl for inflammation and I have been giving Tramadol as needed. 


I am speculating that this is something psychological where he wakes up and forgets that his leg is gone and kinda freaks out.  I  have read a little on here about phantom pains but I was wondering if anyone else has experienced it and if so, how long it lasts and if there are any recommendations on how to treat/prevent/console him. 


We know this was our only option for recovery for him but would like to make this transition as easy as possible.  Thanks in advance for any advice/comments.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Forum Posts: 4344
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28 September 2010 - 2:26 pm
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Welcome Scooter's mom,

I'm so very sorry that you are experiencing these episodes.

It sounds like phantom pains for sure!  So many have gone them.  The drug of choice is Gabapentin.


I haven't gone through an amputation but other's will chime in and help you.  I think you have to have your vet get the gabapentin from a drugstore.  But it should help. 


Good luck and keep us updated,

Comet's mom

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Forum Posts: 856
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30 July 2010
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28 September 2010 - 2:57 pm
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Scooter probably has phantom pain . No experience with that since Chloe didn't go through it post amputation.  It't highly unlikely that he “freaks out” because his leg is gone.  Dog's don't have the same emotional attachment to limbs like we do.  Makes it easier for them to bounce back post amp laugh unlike us emotional humans.

From reading the forums on other dogs with phantom limb pain, Gabapentin is the drug of choice.  Recently Sammy went through this and he eventually recovered.  Here is a link to that forum.  If you scroll about half way down Sammy's family (fightingforsammy) discusses first issues with phantom pain .  If you browse through the rest of the forum, you will see he no longer experiences phantom pain  smile

Good Luck!

-Chloe's mom

Chloe became a rear amp tripawd on 7-29-10. Another tumor was removed on front leg 2-20-14. Found 3rd tumor on neck 2-2015, but she's still kicking cancer's butt at age 14. Chloe's blog

The Rainbow Bridge

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28 September 2010 - 3:41 pm
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Hi Scooter's Mom,

Wow, sorry he lost his leg that way, poor guy. Thanks for joining us here.

Yes indeed, that sounds like Phantom Limb Pain. You can read more about the causes and management of it in this white paper that Tripawd Calpurnia's Mom wrote.

It's usually very temporary and will go away once Scooter's brain realizes what happened. Lots of dogs get it, and Gabapentin is the drug of choice for managing it. Definitely talk to your vet about getting some.

Feel better soon Scooter!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Madison, WI
Forum Posts: 264
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14 June 2009
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28 September 2010 - 9:09 pm
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Yoda had episodes very like what you're describing.  In his case, it subsided before I figured out/learned here that it was likely phantom pain and could be helped by Gabapentin.   Luckily for Yoda, I don't think his episodes lasted more than 5 days, peaking around day 3 and then dropping off to I think never again.  But it really varies, from what I understand, so you probably don't want to count on them going away – it's just too hard on your pup and you.  If I had it to do over again I would have insisted with Yoda's vet that we try Gabapentin.

I actually had it to do over again with my dog Gerry, who came next and I fostered through his amputation (adopting him later).  And I think he had some episodes too, though his weren't as clear cut because he was having other issues at the same time, with his tummy and reacting to his pain meds in various ways.  Still, I did try to talk the shelter and their vet into getting him Gabapentin, but I was overruled.  I think a fair number of vets yet don't believe dogs are capable of experiencing phantom limb pain (like it's some higher function only human brains can do), though in the case of Gerry's vet at that time, she believed it was possible, but didn't believe any kind of medication can help.  Well, tripawds owners here say differently, as does Pam in the Ask A Vet forum and she's a professional.

Gerry got past his episodes.  However, unlike Yoda, I suspect he has had an episode of phantom limb pain since, but only once.  I took him to see a chiropractor soon after an episode of inexplicable crying out and that was the chiropractor's guess, as he couldn't find anything wrong with him.  I haven't sought medication for him yet, since it has been so rare so far.

So that's all the input I have.  Best of luck with it and don't forget to take good care of yourself too so you're strong for Scooter!

Yoda&Mom united: 9/5/06 …….… Yoda&Leg separated: 6/5/09……… Yoda&Leg reunited: 10/14/09 ……… ……………….………….………….……. Yoda&Mom NEVER separated! …………………….….……....….…… Though Spirit Yoda currently free-lances as a rabbit hunting instructor for tripawds nationwide

Livermore, CA
Forum Posts: 4
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27 September 2010
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28 September 2010 - 10:41 pm
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions.  I will talk with my vet about getting some Gabapentin.  This is such a great forum for dealing with so much of the unknowns.  So glad I found you all!

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29 September 2010 - 9:19 am
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Yep, sounds like phantom pain , Gus started about 5 days post op, sounded like he got hit by a car, and at 3:30 in the morning it doesn't do much for your sweet dreams, but as we all know at this part of the journey you don't get much sleep anyhow. We started him on gabapentin at that time and I think it helped but it didn't completly take it away. His lasted about 3 weeks, with the episodes getting milder as time went on. He would have maybe a couple a day. I just stayed with him while he was having them and he seemed ok once they were over, but they will tear your heart out whille they have them. Good luck, paws up, spirit Gus and Dan

My buddy Gus had a left front amputation on April 7, 2010 and lived a great life until July 26,2010

Greater Western Washington area
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29 September 2010 - 5:51 pm
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I had a hard time with my surgery vet and Sammy's life-long vet getting a perscription for Gabapentin.  I guess it is new enough out there that some vets don't know about it yet.  It took me getting together with his chemo vet, (Now his permanent vet) to get him set up with some.  The first day after we started him on it, his episodes were less intense but came at quicker intervals.  By the 3rd day on it, he was fine.


Good luck, I know how heartbreaking thier crying can be!


Elizabeth and Sammy

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,

leg fractured 8/27/10,

leg amputated 8/30/10


I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us.  Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.

The Rainbow Bridge

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30 September 2010 - 10:08 am
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Fight for your right to Gabapentin, Tripawds!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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Read my story here.

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