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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Harry the Cat - Just Diagnosed (Hi)
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Member Since:
2 October 2016
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2 October 2016 - 7:28 pm
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Hi All

I found this site, cruising for general information about limb amputation in cats, and am a bit overwhelmed by all the information and trying to find bits about cats in particular ...but am still thrilled the community exists as this is a pretty scary thing to go through alone.

Harry (the handsome fellow in my avatar) is my only pet and I love him to bits. He is eight and has had a worsening limp since the end of August. I took him to the vet who suspected soft tissue injury and put him on painkillers/anti-inflammatories for a while and said to see how things went. The limp got better, but then in the last week got dramatically worse, to the point where he wasn't putting any weight on it at all. I took him in yesterday for X-rays and was gutted to hear that he has bone cancer. I was in such a state, I can't recall whether it was radius or ulna, but a patch near his wrist is almost eaten through...SO, they're either going to remove the one bone (radius or ulna) or amputate at the shoulder. 🙁 

Yesterday was a nightmare. Once getting the initial news, I approved further x-rays (chest) to see whether it had spread, and spent an hour driving around preparing myself to have to put my wee one down within the week. Fortunately it hadn't spread to the chest...which seemed to be the main concern. I wonder now whether they should have done full body x-rays to check for spread....does anybody have any ideas about this?? I was hugely relieved that he gets to live, I'm just worried I'm letting myself be foolishly hopeful. And, of course, I'm terribly sad and worried that he has to have major surgery and may struggle to heal and adjust to life on three legs :`( 

Harry is a big boy and will need to lose weight ASAP (we've been trying for a couple of years, but he wont eat prescription foods and he's already not eating terribly much...he's just an apartment cat who doesn't get much exercise...although I started lead training him this Summer.....I suppose I'll have to look into different vests now....). He also has feline asthma, although it's not very severe and not medicated for it at the moment (his chest x rays actually showed his lungs being totally clear at this point)... I just worry. 

I'm not ready to say goodbye to him, and I hate seeing him scared and in pain. 

He's on some more serious painkillers now, until Friday when his surgery is scheduled. The vet is going to let me know Monday or Tuesday, following a consultation, whether we're going for the single bone or full limb amputation. In the mean time, I'm having a hard time thinking straight and have a crap tonne of work to get done, but just want to cuddle my baby. 

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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2 October 2016 - 7:59 pm
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Hi and welcome, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry you are dealing with cancer in your handsome boy.  You have found a great place for information and support.  While those of us with dogs still outnumber the cat parents, we can all relate to the devastation of the cancer diagnosis and amputation.

I did a blog search on cats and got these results.

And here is a link to some of the kitty blogs on the site.

I know in dogs that OSA tends to met to the lungs and xrays of the lungs is the common test done.

The cats I've seen here adapt wonderfully as Tripawds, I don't think I've seen one yet that didn't cope with being on three. 

You will hear from some of our kitty members soon, I added 'cat' to your topic title to alert our cat family.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Member Since:
2 October 2016
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2 October 2016 - 9:40 pm
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Thanks so much for your response. I appreciate it, and it's reassuring to hear about positive recovery. My vet says it's usually a few days and they're adjusting - which really surprised me. I was expecting months or something...I just get anxious that Harry will be the exception. I'll start with those search results you shared. . It was actually a blog I found in my initial searching that lead me to this place. 

I just want it to be next week, and the surgery done already. 

Minneapolis, MN
Member Since:
23 April 2016
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2 October 2016 - 11:27 pm
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Hi.  Glad you and handsome Harry have found us.

Since my own Tripawd dog had a different cancer, I am not an OSA expert at all, but in all the reading I have done on this site and in experience of my friends who have had pets with OSA, it seems more common for the spread to be to lungs first before a different limb which is why vets don't push for more comprehensive x-rays or scans.  So I think you should take comfort in the fact Harry's chest seems to be clear; Harry is still a relatively young cat and I would bet he is going to do just fine!!

Sending you and Harry a lot of warm thoughts and heart

Lisa, Minneapolis

On October 27, 2016, nearly 6 months after amputation, and 18 months since his cancer likely started, we lost Pofi to a recurrence of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in his spine quite suddenly.  His canine sister also succumbed to cancer on March 1, 2019 - we lavished her with our love in the interim, but life was never quite the same without her only real canine friend. Cliff kitty had to leave us, too, suddenly, in August 2019. Lucia kitty grieved all these losses, but helped us welcome two new Lurchers into our home and our lives, Shae and Barley.

Blog: Pofi, Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Amputation

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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3 October 2016 - 10:12 am
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I'm sorry to hear about the diagnosis. Although it seems to be rare in cats there is a cat here (can't remember the name, Jill I think) who had the same cancer and continued to happily survive for a number of years.

My cat Mona had her front leg and shoulder amputated in June 2014 due to a cancer caused by a vaccine. I live in a small town and the vet was only going to take the leg but the "big city" vets said the shoulder need to go also. I don't think it's worth amputating only part of the leg unless you will have the cat fitted for a prosthesis which is an expensive venture. You may want to ask why the vet would even keep any part of the leg and even shoulder. The remaining parts wouldn't be useful for anything and would just get in the way (my opinion only).

The first few days are difficult but mainly due to managing the pain with medication. My little Mona gets around really well and has now decided she needs to protect her deck from other cats. She's become confident, bossy, and fierce while remaining loving and cuddly.

I've also had a challenge helping my cats control their weight. I weigh it out carefully, feed them twice a day in separate areas and do not give them treats. They get "snacks" between meals which is their kibble (part of the food weight for the day). It works well for Mona and she slowly lost weight. Please remember cats should not lose weight quickly so be patient.

Let us know how you are doing and it you have any questions. 

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

Kansas City
Member Since:
9 September 2016
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3 October 2016 - 10:30 am
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Kitties rock on three legs!!

I just went through amputation with my dog, Daisy, which is what brought me to these forums. (And she's recovering very well from the ordeal.) However, it was my three-legged cats that completely took away any hesitation I had about removing Daisy's leg.  I found Merlin and his brother Rasputin in the barn as kittens. Both were missing the same part of a hind leg on the same side of their body.  The vet said wild momma kitty likely ate it off.  Rasputin was lost to natural causes three years ago.  Merlin is still kicking it at 13 years of age.  And he's fat.  And he does not have arthritic issues.  He has his place on the table, washing machine, couch...wherever he wants to go, and if the younger cat tries to share his space, he's more than happy to give her as many whacks in the face as it takes to get her to run off.  He runs.  He plays.  He makes wild leaps from one piece of furniture to the other. He's all cat.

Now, granted, he didn't have to go through amputation and recovery.  That is an ordeal, no way around it.  But once recovery is over, cats do very well on three legs. 

Merlin was left with his stumpy.  For years he'd bang it and then hobble around obviously in pain.  That finally stopped, but again, it was years. I would highly recommend taking it off at the shoulder or hip and getting rid of any parts that can be whacked in a leap or a pounce or a tussle with the carpet (because carpets have to be put in their places every now and then, you know!).

Good luck and keep us posted!

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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3 October 2016 - 11:37 am
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I love the insight everyone has given you! Ditto everything they said, and just want to add:

So are they thinking that your Harry has osteosarcoma?

Also, we did have one member, Ted & momma Wanda, go through an "ulnaectomy" recently and it was the first time since we began in 2006 that I can recall anyone having it done. The leg needed to be amputated anyways. Here's Ted's story.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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3 October 2016 - 12:20 pm
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Hi , Im sorry you have to be here and are dealing with cancer and amputation. You found the best support groups ! Our 6 year Purrkins had his front left leg and shoulder amputated 9 weeks ago due to soft tissue sarcoma on his wrist.

We were not given the option of a partial amputaion.
We had chest xray, ultrasound, bloodwork , urinalysis done to rule out cancer spread. Im not familiar with the protocol for bone cancer.

Read all the kitty blogs you can it will help prepare you .
Cats do extremely well on 3 legs! You can work on his weight later.  The recovery is no picnic the first few days are rough!
Make sure you have a good pain management in place before bringing him home. Ask about Gabapentin for phantom limb pain also.

Kerren said it best in her blog and its great advice! “Make the decision, live with it and don’t look back.”
Remind yourself your doing this for him not to him. You are getting rid of his pain!

We are here for you and will get you to the other side keep us posted please.
Big hugs to you both
Holly and Purrkins

Member Since:
14 February 2016
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3 October 2016 - 12:54 pm
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Otis had osteosarcoma in a front leg, and the chest x-ray (as well as an x-ray of his other front leg to check for arthritis or other conditions which could limit his ability to get around on three legs) were all that was done.  Osteosarcoma commonly spreads to the lungs first - I think this is why the protocol is chest x-ray, rather than full body x-ray.  (But I am not a vet - just what I have picked up during Otis' journey).

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

Member Since:
2 October 2016
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3 October 2016 - 7:23 pm
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Wow, thanks so much, everyone. I really appreciate your comments. The vet didn't use any term other than bone cancer with me. 

Kazann, I also had the concern that part of the limb would be left and cause more issues than not, if only the ulna were removed, but I was confused. The radius would still attach elbow to wrist. He would have his whole leg but less support in the forelimb (imagine losing one of the two bones in your forearm). In the end, however (following consultation today), they've agreed that taking the whole thing is best. I was prepared for that, and healing is apparently easier this way anyway. I'm adjusting to the idea. If he's three legged and pain free and happy, then I am happy. Reading everyone's positive outcomes is so encouraging. I'm currently mostly worried about the procedure and recovery...and whether he will be the exception to what seems to be the rule of quick and easy recovery...

While they're adjusting, don't they topple over and land right on their incisions?? It makes me cringe just thinking about it. Poor mites.  

pain management is something I'm worried about as well. Do they really experience phantom limb pain? How do you tell? He's on tramadol and metacam until his surgery. He actually seems to like the metacam, which is a first for medicine. Tonight was his first dose of tramadol, which did not go foamed and drooled and went hop-running away from me, but I think he kept some of it down because he has big stoner pupils going on at the moment and he's not in play mode. The vet didn't say anything about additional meds, but it sounds like we'll carry the tramadol through...

Oh gosh. Today I told my class (I teach high school). I have no idea why. I didn't want to, but we do a monday morning check in and it just came out. Totally unnecessary, and I don't especially want them to know and ask questions about it when I'm upset, but it's just taken over my brain. 

I also bought a couple of onesies which I've read as suggested to prevent his licking at his local walmart had a limited selection, so they're hilarious and I look forward to laughing at Harry when he's less miserable and I'm in a state to appreciate the humour. 

Thanks again. I appreciate the support so much. 

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2 October 2016
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3 October 2016 - 7:37 pm
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Oh. and thanks as well to those who mentioned their husky babies doing alright on three legs or losing weight. Harry usually gets a full can of Friskies Tasty Treasures with cheese (he loves cheese and wont eat salmon, so this is the only bulk box I generall get:P) and just under a quarter cup of dry Whiskas Oral Care whatever. He weighs 16.4 lbs. lol. He has a large frame, though. He was the biggest in is litter and couldn't support his weight without doing the splits until he was almost six weeks. The vet suggested cutting down to 3/4 can for now. But I'll need to do some calorie comparisons because Harry is not very satisfied..we need some bulkier, lower calorie options


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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3 October 2016 - 10:01 pm
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Gosh! Just catching up!! WOW!' That Harry sounds like quite an incredible kitty!!

So glad the Tripawds Kitty Team are here to offer first hand insight!!

Hope they'll chime in again as I thought Tramadol wasn't the usual pain med for cats, but...And I never can think of the name....kt starts with a "B" and "B" is better for kitties!

Stay connected...try and get some rest...okay, at least stay connected!!


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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22 February 2013
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3 October 2016 - 10:04 pm
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A d yes Kerren, it was Jill who beat that piece of crap disease for over two hrs and actually passed from something most likely not related to osteo. She was, indeed, a true survivor!

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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27 July 2014
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3 October 2016 - 10:45 pm
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To respond to you question about toppling over: initially Mona would squirm around the floor like a worm and then suddenly race around the room. She was a little nutty from the pain meds. As the medication come out of their system they figure it out really quickly. Harry may do face plants when jumping down from high places so eventually you'll want to put out boxes or stairs so he can climb down and no jump down.

For some reason Mona likes to rub her cheek on the floor. Even 2 years after her amputation when she rubs on her amputated side she topples over slowly. I don't know if it's intentional but it doesn't hurt her.

Mona's amputation site was always exposed, she didn't wear a cone, didn't bother with the stitches and would even sleep on them. I figure if it hurt them then they wouldn't do it, well, maybe once then they know. As my vet said, cats are very resilient.

Mona was on buprenorphine (the B word Sally was looking for) as the primary pain killer. I was told to give it to her 3-4 times a day. I chose every 8 hours but I think she would have been better at 6 hours because it the pain seemed to be starting up before the 8 hours. She was also on Metacam which I put in her wet food. The buprenorphone is easy to administer because it just goes on their gum. By the way Tramadol is bitter. I've taken it myself so I understand why Harry ran away.

My vet sent Mona home with tins of wet kitten food. Wet food is better than dry so you don't have to worry about water (although ensure it's available). She loved the kitten food so eating after surgery was no problem. Where Mona chose to pee was a problem though...

While trying to lower Harry's calorie intake you can start introducing other activities to distract him from food. Such as playing with feathers, brushing, or hiding the kibbles under blankets so he has to work for the food. I would even toss the kibble across the floor so Mona had to run for it.

I think it's great that you told your class about Harry. It's a learning experience for them and they will will relate to your vulnerability and empathize.

I hope you take some photos of Harry in his onesies - I would never have gotten one on Mona so good luck with that.


Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona


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11 July 2016
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4 October 2016 - 8:55 am
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Every kitty every animal is different on recovery. I would not call it a easy or quick recovery. It is major surgery and it will take months to be completly healed. You will see Harry get back to himself more after his stitches are removed and off he pain medication .
pain management we were sent home with were Buprenorphine and Gabapentin.
Bitter medicine I mix a tad of tuna juice or sardine juice in with and syringe it.
That helps them not foam and drool it masks the meds.

Here is some links to phantom limb info .

Pain indicator information

Alot of info in one place

When I bought Purrkins home and let him out of his carrier. He flopped and flopped all over it was awful to watch! I had read so many times to let them figure it out on there own. That just didn't help either of us ! I gently guided him! I had to hold him up in the litter box to go potty at first. I just helped him to get stable and let go and showed him how if that makes sense.. That worked so much better for us! I think a lot has to with personality of the kitty.
I think everyone and every animal is different and you do what works for you and your animal.
We did use onesies and t-shirts on Purrkins he didn't mind them at all.

Just my opinion, but i think going into a major surgery and dealing with cancer with a little weight on is a good thing. You can work on his weight after he recovers. He may lose weight during recovery. You'll just have to see. We are working on Purrkins weight now. He doesn’t have any problems getting around.

You’ll want to work on core exercises with him if you can. Thats important in all tripawds.
We do them a couple times a day now. I posted a video on his blog. That was right after surgery . Its what I call up up. Others call it Meerkat pose.

We used exercise floor pads all over in his room as he recovered to help with the mishaps as he was learning .

We made a lot of changes in the house rearranging furniture , added rugs, stairs, raised food and water bowl.
I think its great you shared with the class!

I hope i didn't overload you. 

Purrkins blog is

Holly & Purrkins

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