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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Seeking advice for little Rita! Post-op injuries/ complications, following an amputation when she was a kitten
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Member Since:
28 November 2023
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28 November 2023 - 2:07 pm
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Hi All, I'm seeking advice following a bit of a journey with two sisters (Rita and Fiona) who both had the same back leg cut off when they were kittens. Sorry in advance for all the detail but the backstory and failed fixes are all part of the advice needed!!

First off, it wasn't a professional job (there are some horrible people out there). Long story short we adopted them both from a rescue centre when they were pretty tiny kittens. We wanted to keep them together, and have been trying ever since to get the little legs to heal up well enough for them to go back to normal. They're now almost 7 months old. They move around happily, are agile, and generally seem content and cheerful, but there's still a fair bit of growing pains, and phantom pains.

Phase 2: Cones of shame were a semi-permanent feature, and some attempts at bandages were made by the vets, with little success and fierce protests.

Phase 3: When they were spayed the vets also took a little of the loose skin around the area to try and pull it over the exposed area, stitch it up, and give it a better chance to heal. We wanted to avoid full amputation as we felt they'd been through enough, and we could see they still used it for balance and movement.

Post-op: One of them is healing well, and furring over the stitches - but Rita (the smaller and feistier of the two!) has had a few complications and trips back to the vet. Her sister is staying with neighbours, so they have a better chance of recovering well. Recently, Rita bust one of the stitches, and managed to cut her leg a little too, but the vets sewed it back up. Bigger cone.

Phase 4 - the pressing bit: Then, something happened over the course of this morning - either she bumped it badly on something, managed to get the stump into the even larger cone, or she's been having a growth spurt that the stitches were too taut for (or a combination of all three, or none of the above!) - but a part of the healing tip has *popped* out. Basically, there's an open cap at the tip of her short leg, and the furred part has slipped up, leaving about half an inch exposed. Bigger cone being installed as we speak.

We're booked in for her to get stitches in the afternoon tomorrow, but any - ANY - advice would be appreciated.

Any creative solutions you've tried, pain management routines to help with recovery like this, ways to keep her entertained in the hours when we can't play gently with her... We both work from home, and I've been keeping her in the room with me, but it hasn't been an easy couple of weeks and it would be good to hear from anyone with experience of similar scenarios.

We really don't want to do the full amputation if we can (sensibly) avoid it, and after the previous surgeries will need a little time to save up again. No suggestions too small!sp_hearticon2


Thank you,

Regina (and Rita!)

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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28 November 2023 - 9:13 pm
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Hi there and welcome! Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away.

Wow what a situation. Bless your heart for taking on these two innocent kitties. I'm so sorry that happened to them but they sure found an incredible human to help them live their best lives despite the hardships they endured so early in life. People like you restore my faith in humanity. Thank you!

So, as you can see, sometimes leaving as much residual limb can be a problem-free experience, and sometimes it's fraught with wound healing issues like this. You got one of each. Ugh! What a challenge for poor Rita.

At some point there just isn't enough skin left to pad that bottom part of her limb. Tissue might also be getting more damaged by repeated attempts to repair the incision.

I would ask the vet when they will decide that the leg is no longer repairable. It sounds like things might be getting to that point. That leg has been through a lot. You may also want to have a heart-to-heart with Rita to get a sense of what she thinks about all this. I know it sounds nutty but animals communicate to us in their own way, if we are still enough to listen.

A cat on three legs gets along even better than a dog does. If she does need a full amputation it really isn't the end of the world as you can see from our community.

Please let us know how the vet visit goes and what they say.


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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29 November 2023 - 10:41 am
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Hi and welcome,

Two tripawd kitties! Thank you for rescuing these two im sorry you are having this issue.  

Any creative solutions you've tried, pain management routines to help with recovery like this, ways to keep her entertained in the hours when we can't play gently with her... We both work from home, and I've been keeping her in the room with me, but it hasn't been an easy couple of weeks and it would be good to hear from anyone with experience of similar scenarios.

Yes, many use dog playpens or dog crates to restrict activities. Parkland Pet Portable Foldable Playpen Exercise Kennel Dogs Cats Indoor/Outdoor Removable Mesh Shade Cover

pain management - have they been prescribed Gabapentin? It is for phantom limb pain & pain, and it is a bit sedating at first, which is helpful to keep them resting more. 

Hoping the vet visit went well.

Scratches to Rita and Fiona, please. Hugs

Holly, Purrkins, and Saxton in the sky 💫


Member Since:
28 November 2023
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2 December 2023 - 2:26 am
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The biggest thanks to you both, Jerry and Holly. I genuinely felt a wave of comfort reading your responses! It’s good to know there are people like yourselves sharing guidance.

The vets didn’t technically have room on the day, but I think they are quite invested in these two and really seem fond of them (even though I think they get the less sweet end of the stick when it comes to going near those legs, or the sedation process, which has had to happen a few times now).

They’ve added fresh stitches, and a bandage which they will remove in a few days, also under anaesthetic. Rita can retract the whole part in, crafty gal, so it has to be immobilised to some extent for the bandage to stay on. We’re going to ask them about the long-term plan once we see how the initial round of healing has gone - as you said Jerry, things might be getting to that point, if the tissue is getting too worn thin.

She’s on antibiotics, anti-inflammatory (Inflacam) and a sublingual analgesic (which she hates!) - but i’m going to ask about Gabapentin at the next visit, thank you Holly.

Let’s see how it goes


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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2 December 2023 - 5:59 am
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Sublingual analgesic- Buprenorphine.
I'm relieved to see they are giving excellent pain management . Yes, most cats don't like it, but it's short-term and needed. I still would like to see the gabapentin in the mix.

Where are you in the world? 

We will keep our fingers and paws crossed Rita will heal and be done with this, and please KNOW 100% that IF the rest of the leg does indeed need to go in the future. It is one more surgery, one more sedation, a couple of weeks of great pain meds (recovery), and another visit to get the stitches out, and she is back to being a kitten in all aspects. I don't mean to make light of amputation surgery is a big surgery, and recovery is no picnic, but she is already a tripawd kitty, and I think she will do great if it is needed.

Thanks for the update, and keep us posted, please.
Scratches to both the kitties, please.


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