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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27 December 2016
I’m glad to have found this group. We have a beautiful 3-year-old Siamese cat named April and the vet just told us her hind left leg needs to be amputated due to an injury. I’m concerned about what her life will be like after the surgery.
The injury occurred last week after April didn’t come in one night. The next night, she finally came in, but she was limping around and not putting any weight on her injured leg. The bottom of her leg was flopping around, which really concerned me. She seemed to be in some pain and discomfort but by the time we took her to the vet yesterday, she was starting to briefly put some weight on her leg, just to catch her balance, and was acting like it didn’t really bother her anymore, although she still couldn’t walk on it. The vet did an X-ray and told me she had totally dislocated her foot and the ligaments were so destroyed that there was nothing they could do. She consulted with another vet and they both agreed that a cast would be unlikely to resolve the problem, so they’re recommending amputation.
We have no idea how she hurt herself, but the vet speculated she might have gotten her leg caught in something since there was no outward sign of trauma. She used to like to walk along the top of our fence and I wonder if she might have tripped and dislocated her leg as she was falling down.
Fortunately, we found a low-cost veterinary surgery clinic nearby that will do the surgery for a third the regular cost, but it’s still a big expense so we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for it. In the meantime, the vet thought April must be losing feeling in the leg because she didn’t seem bothered at all by the vet touching it, so at least she doesn’t seem to be in pain anymore.
We have another cat that is indoor-only and that was originally what we wanted April to be, but we found her as a stray kitten and she insisted on going outside as much as possible. Ever since her injury we’ve been keeping her inside and she spends a lot of time meowing to go out. The vet said to keep her in until the surgery but she thinks April will adjust well to 3 legs and can even go back outside eventually. We’re thinking we’ll try to make her indoor-only since there are a lot of other cats and dogs in the neighborhood, although the vet thinks she’ll still be able to defend herself okay. I’m also concerned that a 3-legged Siamese cat could attract unwanted attention from a bully or something. But being outside was such a big part of her life before her injury and I’m worried she’ll be depressed being confined to the house. Is it better to let her back outside eventually if she’s happier that way?
What can I expect her quality of life to be like after the surgery? My only consolation is that since she hasn’t been using her injured leg for several days now, it might not be as much of an adjustment to have the leg taken off. Still, she occasionally uses it for balance. How long is it likely to take her to completely adjust to the amputation? Will she still be able to jump up on chairs, window ledges, beds, etc. easily?
Thanks for any advice!
18 October 2009
Hello and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.
I’m sorry to hear about April’s accident.
My current Tripawd is a small pug mix named Elly who lost her right rear leg after being hit by a car at 7 months old. I adopted her when she was 10 months old and she is now 2 years old so being a Tripawd is pretty much all she knows. She does pretty much everything a dog her size and age can do including stairs.
Our cat members will be along to give you some great advice specific to your concerns and questions. In the meantime you can look through this blog post with lots of links about amputation and recovery for cats.
Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls
Hello, in November, we had the leg of our 4 year old cat amputated. He bounced back very well, but he took 10 days post op. I think because hus leg was a source of pain, it was a relief to amputate it. He now runs fast, climbs, etc. I suspect your cat will do quite well. I would not let your cat back outside and suspect she will adjust to this given her injury. You can perhaps give her time outside in an enclosure or something fenced.
22 February 2013
Awww…sorry your sweet April is having to deal with this. It does sound like she’s already getting used to the tripawd prance!
It IS major surgery and it does take about two weeks, more or less, to get throw the surgery itself. There will be an adjustment period mobility wise, but April will get the hang of things!
And you’ll find ample support and information here from our great cat family members!! They’ve been through it and have seen it all!!
If my feeble memory serves me correctly, we have a longtime Tripawd kitty member named Fang who is an outdoor kitty. Fang has been living life to the fullest for years!!! 🙂 🙂
Other kitty members can give better advice than I. And Cami has already advised keeping her inside. Just to add another perspective, , I would think she would do just fine as an outdoor kitty. It’s what makes her happy! It’s who she is!. It’s what she does! And I could also be waaaay wrong!!
Will look forward to following April’s journey!
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!
Cats adapt well to 3 legs. Initially it’s essential that you keep your cat inside, probably in a room alone so she can be as inactive as possible during recovery. Also she’ll need to adapt to using a litter box.
My tripawd Mona goes outside but stays very close to the house either on the front steps or on the patio/garden area. I’ve seen her venture to the back of my property but comes immediately when called. She sleeps under a bush in a fenced area during the summer and spends most of the day inside in the winter. If there is sun she’ll sleep on the deck. She always has quick and easy access to the house.
As for “unwanted attention from a bully” – I don’t believe cats or dogs would even count the number of legs before picking a fight. If April is a scrapper it would be safer to keep her inside.
As for using a “low cost vet”, you would really want to compare what you are getting in the estimate. This is major surgery and you want a vet who can do a great job without any complications.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona
PS, our tripod cat (front leg amputated in Nov) jumps from the floor to surfaces which are about 3 feet tall and can climb something even higher. He runs better than he walks–the rhythm is better for him. He goes super fast down long flights of steps. You can Google tripod cats on YouTube for inspiring gymnastic-type jumps..
We also recently learned that our newly adopted rescued kitty will have to have his rear left leg amputated. The surgery was put on hold due to the holidays and will be scheduled for next week. Sami has been with us just a month. After losing our 18 year old Maggy Cat, we approached a neighbor about adopting a stray she had been feeding (but who received little attention and no medical care). Even though he was living as a feral cat, we recognized that he was very domesticated and starving for attention. We believe the injury is due to an accident since his tail is also broken. We knew there was a problem with his leg but were not quite prepared that amputation was the only option. I thought it would be “easier” since we adopted Sami knowing there were medical problems but it is not. I’m encouraged by the success stories of other tripaw parents. When is April’s surgery scheduled? Maybe we can “compare notes” during their recovery period. I’m really curious about what the first few days will be like and how we should prepare.
Hi Catmom and Sami’s mom! Welcome! I’m so glad you found us so that the amazing TriKitty parents here can put your fears at ease. Flip through the community’s TriKitty blogs and news stories and you’ll see that there is definitely quality of life after a cat gets a leg amputated. And yes, Fang, one of the first TriKitty bloggers here, is an outdoor kitty and even as a senior he’s doing fantastic!
I’d agree that when it comes to lower cost amputation surgeries, you have to look carefully at an itemized estimate. You really want to make sure your vet is following the latest pain control guidelines before and after surgery. It will really make a difference in how your cat recovers, and even how much sleep you get.
If you have other questions, let us know, we’re here to help!
Samicatmom and Catmom,
We cut the sleeve off a sweatshirt and used the upper arm part as a vest by cutting leg holes. This kept Rocky away from his Fentanyl pain patch that stayed on close to a week and prevented him from bothering the incisions. He moved around pretty much immediately, but not a ton. We moved the water bowl and food bowls close to him. Oh, and he stayed at the vet for one night. We had no pain meds needed after the Fentanyl. He was mildly depressed until day 10 when he really perked up. He is more active now than before surgery. I can compare our bill to your estimate if you like. Keep us posted!
11 July 2016
Hi Catmom and April,
We are sorry your April injured her leg and your dealing with amputation.
I agree since she is already favoring and not using the leg it will make her transition easier.
Just because she doesn’t appear in pain doesn’t mean she is not. Cats hide there pain really well!
I ditto the cheapest surgery, cheapest ,I would question why is it so much cheaper and the quality of care you are going to get.
We all realize the cost is alot either way. I dont know if your familiar with Care Credit or if its a option for you . Its a credit card most vets use and will have no interest for a agreed amount of time. Its a option to make monthly payments.
Do you have a Veterinary College near you?
As for recovery it will be two weeks before stitches or staples are removed. That is when they are allowed to go back to normal lives.
Recovery is no picnic! Make sure to do some reading on medications etc, Jerry provided the link above. It will make a difference on recovery!
I personally would make her a indoor cat. Do you want to take the chance on another injury outside or fight with another cat?
You can still take her outside and supervise her, leash train her, make indoor living more inviting, add window seat, toys, & play time. All of that should help transition her to stay inside. Get a pheromone diffuser going until you see she is happy inside. Its ultimately your decision ,and everyone will have a opinion one way or another .
This would be the perfect time to get her adjusted to indoor only and she has to be indoor no matter what ,until she is healed from the surgery.
She will be able to do all things on 3 legs as she does on 4.
There will be a adjusting period and relearning.
She will have more issue getting up then coming down, since she will be a rear leg amp. But she will get that down too !
Cats do great on 3 legs but remember you want to keep those 3 legs in good condition.
By providing some assistance with boxes, chairs, steps, any way to get up and down a little easier ,they will help to protect the remaining limbs.
I take extra precautions, I do not want to take a chance on something happening to Purrkins others 3 legs.
Have more questions , please dont hesitate to ask!
Keep us posted please!
Holly & Purrkins
Thank you for the information about using the sweatshirt sleeve. If possible, a picture would be most helpful! Do they have to wear that plastic funnel-type collar after surgery? That would be awful. I did find fabric ones online so if he has to wear it I need to get it ordered!
Thanks to all for the link on post-op and managing pain. It sounds like the Fentanyl pain patch is the way to go!
I’d love to know estimates for the upcoming surgery and care. No one has put an exact dollar figure to it and it sounds like there is a wide range based on where you live.
I will look for the bill tonight and try to post. The surgery was done at a 24 hr specialty clinic, oncologist, in Atlanta, GA, so that probably all made the price high. I will send a pic of the vest. If he did not wear the vest, he wore a blowup, inflatable ecollar. He would not leave the stitches alone so we alternated collar and vest. Removing the vest let his skin breathe. The Fentanyl patch is hazardous if consumed so that was another concern.
Sami Cat’s Mom said
I’d love to know estimates for the upcoming surgery and care.
Ask and you shall receive. And yep, it depends whether or not a specialty clinic with board-certified specialists do the surgery.
I’d like to add that I live in a small town and the vet who did Mona’s surgery is not a specialist. He consulted with the “big city specialist” who confirmed it was bet to take the scapula with the front leg. I also saw the surgical room and met the team who would be with Mona. It seemed like 3-4 others and lots of equipment and monitors so I was confident. My vet took Mona to his home for the first night to monitor her.
Mona did not require a collar or clothes because she did not fuss with the stitches. I don’t know how the vet knew but he said that she didn’t need anything. It seems as though most cats need some protection for the incision.
I agree that the pain control is essential along with an emergency number so that you can call the vet at anytime.
The vet sent Mona home with canned kitten food and she loved it so getting her to eat was not a problem.
I suspect your cats surgery may be a bit easier because it’s due to injury not cancer.
Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona