Leg amputation for my foster kitty. Help?

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Millie ~*~*Foster*~*~

Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 2:57am PST 
Hello all. I have a few questions regarding the amputation of my foster cats' back leg.

If you read her profile, she was found with a bloody stump for a leg and also very pregnant. She is now at my house and the kittens are at the shelter, waiting to be adopted. I told the director of the shelter I would hold onto Millie until she dries up, gets fixed, gets her leg amputated and heals up.

So far, she hasn't dried up all the way, so I'm waiting for that. But now, I'm biting my nails in nervousness. I've never had a cat of my own or even a foster to get such an extensive surgery. The biggest surgery one of my cats got was a spay. That and another had some skin tags removed. So, I'm a tad nervous about the whole ordeal.

So, my questions are:

1) What can I expect when they are finished with the amputation? (It's the whole back thigh. The phalanges, metatarsals and the tarsals are gone.) I'm assuming antibiotics and pain medicine, but is there anything else I should do when she comes home?

2) It's an very well known animal hospital, not just a vet.. If that helps any. How long might they keep her after the surgery?

3) How will she be able to move around after the surgery? I have her confined to a cage, because of the kittens that she had and also, I don't want her coming into much contact with my other guys.

4) She also HAS to have a high lipped litter box, otherwise she backs up so far and misses the box entirely. Will that pose much of a problem?

5) Just how on earth, when she heals up, will she get around? I know I've read stories about it, but will it be a hassle for her? Right now, she TRIES to use her bum leg to walk around, and gets around pretty well, but you can tell it just has to be uncomfortable.

I think that about sums it all up.. I'm just nervous. I haven't talked to anyone else about this really. If you've seen any of my other dilemmas on here, you'll find that I have a tendency to OVER WORRY and I make everyone else around me go crazy with all my "what if"'s and constant "Oh my god, what's going to happen if this happens?" and numerous e-mails to the director of the shelter. And frankly, I don't want to do that this time around.

So, hopefully you guys have some knowledge that you can pass on to me, whether it be from your own cat getting the same procedure or a vet or vet tech that can give me some insight, or even a website that could be useful! Anything would be great.

As I said before, it'll be a bit yet until this procedure is done, so I would love as much information as I can get for it before it all goes down. So I'm prepared.

Thanks a lot and I look forward to hearing from you all!

Nuk Anuk

Couching Tiger
Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 3:40am PST 
Hi Millie, try to relax. As catastrophic as amputation sounds cats and dogs quickly accomodate and adjust very well to 3 legged (or even 2 legged) status.

From your profile I read that it's one of her rear legs.
For the rear leg, there are two techniques that are commonly used. The first is a “high femur” amputation that results in a short, well padded stump at the level of the rump/thigh. The muscles of the mid-thigh are cut and the femur (thigh bone) is cut close to the hip. When the tissues are sewn together, this provides good padding for the pelvis when the pet is lying down and offers a cosmetic appearance by maintaining symmetry of the rump area.

The second technique is often used when the disease or trauma of the rearleg is in the thigh area; the leg is removed by “coxofemoral (hip) disarticulation”. This means that the leg is removed at the hip joint; only the pelvis and the surrounding muscles remain. This amputation technique is very successful as well, with slightly less padding over the amputation site and a less symmetrical appearance.

Although people are often interested in 'saving as much of the leg as possible', this is generally not recommended by the ACVS (American College of Veterinary Surgeons) in the majority of patients. This is so that any remaining portion of the leg does not become a problem for the animal. Any portion of a limb that remains may become traumatized during daily activities or interfere with movement.

After Amputation
For the first few days to weeks after surgery, there are some things you can do to help her adjust and recover.

Please keep her pet in a comfortable, safe indoor location for 24-48 hours until she is very steady on her feet. Do not allow free access to stairs or slippery floors.

She may be groggy for a few days. She may whine, cry or appear more anxious than usual; this may indicate pain/discomfort or side-effects of the medications. Call your veterinarian for assistance with medication adjustments or return for exam and additional pain medications as needed.

For back leg amputees your veterinarian may give you a sling to use for under her belly during the first 7-10 days to assist when walking or going down the occasional stair and to prevent falling on slippery surfaces.

She will probably come home with some form of oral pain medication, at the least, an anti-inflammatory aspirin-like drug, but she may also be given a narcotic pain patch. Address any questions that you have about your pet during the post-operative period with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Avoid any rigorous activity for 4 weeks.

Monitor appetite and attitude. If both do not return to what you know as 'normal' for her, call your veterinarian or return for progress evaluation and problem-solving.

She should have a bowel movement within 5 days. In the hospital and at first at home, she may need assistance with posturing to defecate; supporting the rear leg or holding her under the belly may be beneficial. Some animals take longer for their first bowel movement depending on when they last ate prior to surgery and when they started eating after surgery. It may at first be abnormal in color and consistency. If you have any concerns, please speak with your veterinarian.

You will be asked to monitor and confirm that your pet has urinated within 24 hours of returning home. If she does not, or you notice any problems related to urination, please speak with your veterinarian. She may need assistance with posturing to urinate; supporting the rear leg or holding her under the belly may help.

She may need a shallower litter pan to make bathroom trips easier.

You will need to look at the incision on her hip twice daily. It should be dry, slightly red along the margins, and slightly swollen/thick on the edges. Over several days, it should lose redness and swelling.
Incision problems to call your veterinarian about:
gapping (the edges should be exactly touching)
discharge (other than small amount of crusting)
swelling (other than slightly raised skin near edges). Some bruising is normal and will resolve in 5-7 days.

Do not allow her to lick or chew the incision. Animals tend to want to lick early in the healing period and this can compromise the incision and predispose to infection. If necessary, please use an E-collar or cover the incision area with a customized t-shirt or shorts if you must leave your pet unattended.

Rearlimb amputees tend to return to near normal mobility; forelimb amputees need to adjust their gait more significantly. But, young to middle aged animals who were healthy and athletic prior to their amputation rarely look back! They can romp and play and run with the crowd.
For the older animal, learning to move after an amputation may take more time. They may need help on/off the couch when they didn’t before.

Ideally, she should be kept on the thin side of normal her whole life. Any minor orthopedic condition can progress with arthritis over time with excessive, wear & tear; carrying less body weight will reduce the energy she must use and will relieve some of this stress on the joints of the remaining 3 limbs.

She should be walking within 2 days of her ampuation fully recovered by 4 weeks. Depending on your veterinary hospital she will spend the first 2-3 days in the hospital. At the very least she will spend 1 postoperative day in the hospital.

You will be amazed at how she moves around even 3 days after her surgery. Cats are amazing in their ability to balance and redistribute their weight among 3 legs. The first time after she has recovered and you see the speed of her run, just smile and marvel at how adaptable our animal friends are.


Tripods are- Terrific!!
Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 4:46am PST 
Millie, I am a rear-leg amputee; my leg was amputated at the upper femur at about the age of 5-6 weeks (see my profile). I also have a brofur Rocky at home who is a front-leg amputee. We are both very active kitties; there is never a dull moment at our house. My mom also has fostered other amputee kitties in the immediate post-op phase for the shelter where she is a volunteer (she's a nurse, so the shelter uses her for the post-surgical fosters a lot). The last foster we had was a rear-leg amputee with a hip disarticulation; she was also quite young, about 9 weeks. By the second post-op day, she was up and about in her cage, and after 2 weeks was able to jump onto the couch and play with the rest of us, including the dogs (with supervision of course, so our play wouldn't be too rough). Eventually she went to her forever home, and the new family reports that she is happy and active, and very much a loved family member. Oddly enough, our shelter has a list of people who want to adopt the special-needs animals, and the three-leggers usually get adopted rather quickly. There are a number of groups on Catster especially for three-legged animals, including Tripods Rule (which is my group--an invite is on the way for you). There's lots of experience and helpful advice to be found in these groups--with their large memberships, someone almost always is able to answer just about any question you may have. Good luck with your upcoming surgery. Feel free to p-mail me with questions as they arise.hug

Emma Barrett

It\'s good to be- the Queen
Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 5:17am PST 
Dear Millie's Foster Mom:

First, Bless you for taking in the mama cat, helping to find homes for her babies, and see that her medical needs are taken care of.

Our meowmy has never had experience with a cat who had to have a leg amputated, but we did want to post and let you know we are sending LOTS AND LOTS of purrs and prayers that Millie does well after her surgery. You have already gotten some great information from kitties who have had the surgery.

Please post and let us all know how she is doing.

Emma Barrett, Louis Armstrong, Benny Grunch & Pete Fountain

Millie ~*~*Foster*~*~

Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 5:29am PST 
First of all, thank you all for your purrayers and support. Second, I want to thank you guys for all the information. I do plan on printing them both out so I can re-read them. I guess I over analyze too. x.x Anyways, as said before, I am going to keep her confined to her cage that she seems quite comfortable in.

I will have to see how she does with her large litter box. She doesn't need to use her 1/2 leg to hoist herself in it and she is very strong on her intact leg when she uses the box. I loathe the idea of giving her another box.. It would be her 4th box. I've tried 2 others, the third, which is being used right now, is the perfect one. She can back up all she wants and still make it in, and because she kicks litter like crazy, the high lip makes it so she can't kick the litter outside the box.

She is still young, but she is large. Not fat wise, but just big. She's lean, but she well is just big.

Again, thanks everyone for the support and info, it is greatly appreciated!

-Millie and Foster Mommy

Millie ~*~*Foster*~*~

Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 5:57am PST 
I couldn't edit my post but I just had a quick question.. How long does the surgery usually take? While I am worried about everything, I also am very interested. smile I wanted to be a vet tech but decided to become a volunteer instead. But, that hasn't stopped me from being interested in the veterinary field.


Tripods are- Terrific!!
Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 6:25am PST 
Depending on the extent of the debridement (removal of dead tissue) and muscle resection needed, as well as the expertise of the surgeon, the surgery can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Both Rocky's and my surgeries were in the 45-minute range, from first incision to final suture. Of course, induction of anesthesia and post-op recovery from the anesthesia add to the time. It usually takes a couple hours for the kitty to start to wake up, during which time they are given IV fluids, and usually antibiotics, since any surgery involving bones carries a risk of infection. Both of us were on oral pain medications for the first few days, and oral antibiotics for 10 days (both of our surgeries were due to mangled limbs from trauma, and my injured leg was already infected when I was brought to the shelter). Both Rocky and I did great; in fact yesterday I celebrated my 2nd birthday with tuna and treats, and Rocky will be a year old next month!dancing

Millie ~*~*Foster*~*~

Purred: Sun Jun 15, '08 9:21am PST 
Ok. Thank you!

I have a picture of what her leg looks like on her profile, so if that could give you any idea just what type of surgery it'll be. Everything else is healthy on that leg, there's no infection or anything. (I was sure to check it out very carefully when I got her.) The flesh had already healed and everything.

Also, she needs her rabies shot, a spaying and a tooth removed. Will they do all of that with one visit? I don't assume so.. possibly just the spay, amputation and rabies shot. Her 1 canine tooth is chipped in half, but she eats fine with it. I don't think they'll make it harder for her to eat by a tooth extraction.

Millie also has a bit of an anxiety problem. When I first got her, she was super freaked out, and was like that for a couple weeks. She still can get that way if there are sudden movements, loud voices or anything else like that. I fear she'll have another anxiety moment when she gets back home.

-Millie and Foster Mommy


Tripods are- Terrific!!
Purred: Mon Jun 16, '08 7:41am PST 
From the picture on your page, it looks like they could probably do either type of amputation, but your vet would be the best judge in this case. Some vets prefer to remove the thigh and disarticulate the hip to prevent contractures or arthritis in the hip. As for the tooth, again it's a judgement call. They may do all the procedures at once to prevent having anesthesia a second time, especially if Millie is really freaked out by being handled and being around strangers. If she only needs one canine removed and the rest of her teeth are okay, it shouldn't cause her too much difficulty in eating; she may just need wet food for a couple days afterward. Hopefully, all this will take place fairly soon; now that her kittens are gone, her milk should be beginning to dry up, and the sooner she gets all her problems under control, the sooner she can find her furrever home.

Millie ~*~*Foster*~*~

Purred: Mon Jun 16, '08 2:52pm PST 
Thank you for your information. I still am worried, of course. Even though she isn't my own cat (I kinda wish she were in a way), I don't want anything bad to go wrong. Although I know I can't really change anything that might happen, I still.. worry. *sigh* But again, thanks.. All of you.

I will keep you all updated on how she's doing and when this is all going to go down.

-Millie and Foster Mommy

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