Is Amputation a Good First Choice for a Mass on a Cat’s Leg?


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I have a friend who has a 9 year old cat diagnosed with a tumor surrounding bone in her hip area. Unclear if it cancerous or benign.

Suggested intervention is to amputate the hind leg because it is not clear (a) whether tumor can be removed successfully without damage (my best guess from hearing description of cat’s limited mobility & sometimes losing balance/falling over when trying to walk is that tumor may be involving sciatic nerve) and (b) if tumor is cancerous and may

Friend is obviously very concerned re: amputation and seeks advice. My suggestion was do biopsy, if non-cancerous try removal of tumor before more drastic measure of amputation. But, I am not a vet so would appreciate any advice.

Money is an issue here, though not the primary concern. Cat is much loved; apart from mobility issue does not seem to be in pain, good appetite, is not obese but somewhat ‘plump’. Many thanks.

Linden, NJ

I agree with you, Lisa. There is a basic rule of mass removal: it’s always best to know what you’re removing before you remove it.

If the mass is cancerous, amputation may indeed be the only realistic option. But amputation is a big deal. Sure, cats (even plump cats) get around just fine on three legs. Similarly, human amputees adapt and get around fine for the most part. But that doesn’t mean I’d volunteer to have a leg amputated unnecessarily. And I wouldn’t put my cat through an amputation if it might be avoided.

If the mass is not malignant the limb might be salvageable. And, the surgery to remove the mass might be less costly than an amputation.

In my opinion, the best interests of your friend’s cat will be served by identifying the nature of the mass before attempting to remove it.

A biopsy is likely to yield a diagnosis, but there may be an even simpler (and less invasive, and less expensive) way to get an answer. Fine needle aspiration is similar to a biopsy, but unlike a biopsy it generally does not require anesthesia or sedation. A small needle is directed into the center of the mass, and a small portion of the mass is aspirated into the needle. The aspirated sample can then be expressed onto a microscope slide for analysis by a pathologist.

Fine needle aspiration is not guaranteed to lead to a diagnosis, but it very often does. Since it’s relatively inexpensive and pain free, it’s a good way to start. I hope the mass turns out to be benign.

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