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What is Amputation?

Amputation in cats is a surgical treatment performed by a veterinarian, usually used as a last resort, to remove a limb or the tail that cannot be saved due to excessive damage. Examples of situations that may require amputation of the affected limb include severe trauma from an accident, genetic defect, or cancerous tumors that cannot be safely removed without removing the limb. Front or back legs can be removed and cats, due to their agility and adaptability, generally adjust well to one leg being removed. If more than one leg is removed your cat will require a specialized cart for mobility. 

Amputation Procedure in Cats

If it is determined that a limb requires amputation surgically, your veterinarian will perform a urinalysis, blood chemistry and blood count to determine overall health of your pet and, if amputation is not urgent, treat or address any conditions required prior to surgery.

If cancer is present, biopsies of any tumors will be performed prior to limb amputation to determine the type of cancer and the risk of metastasizing. In addition to biopsies, X-rays may be taken to determine if tumors have spread to other parts of the body.

You will be required to have your pet fast and restrict fluid the night before the surgery. When you arrive at the veterinarian they will use intravenous anesthesia to put your cat into a deep sleep prior to inserting a tracheal tube that will be used to maintain the anesthesia with gas. The area to be treated surgically will be shaved and cleaned and surgical drapes used to maintain the sterile area for surgery. 

Your veterinarian will perform surgery to remove the limb and ensure that all vascularization is attended to. Most foreleg amputations involve the entire limb up to the shoulder (scapulothoracic disarticulation) . If a hind leg is being removed it may either be performed at the hip joint or the upper part of the femur (high femur) which will leave a short stump.

The surgical area will be sutured and the wound bandaged. Antibiotics may be administered prior to surgery and post surgery to prevent infection, if deemed necessary. Your cat will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them licking or biting the wound or sutures. 

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Efficacy of Amputation in Cats

Amputation is used when a limb cannot be treated by other less invasive means. Removal of the limb is effective in resolving the condition, providing infection or cancer has not spread to other parts of your cat’s body. Usually the whole leg is amputated so that movement is not interfered with, and most cats adjust well within a few days to weeks, as removal of the limb is usually preferable to the pain and immobility present in the limb prior to amputation. Cats do not usually use prosthetic devices, as other animals may, as they are not widely available for cats and are usually not necessary for your cat to be sufficiently mobile, provided they have three functioning legs remaining.

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Amputation Recovery in Cats

After amputation surgery, your cat will require hospitalization for a few days so medical staff can check on wound healing and check for infection. Your cat will be prescribed a strong pain killer immediately after surgery, restricted to cage rest, and fitted with an Elizabethan collar to prevent interference with the wound. Your cat may show signs of bruising due to localized bleeding under the skin at the site of surgery, this bruising is not painful. Many cats start walking on three legs within 12-24 hours after surgery. When your cat is sent home for recovery they will continue to be prescribed painkillers, usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers, and possibly antibiotics. Owners are advised to check the surgical wound for symptoms of pain, inflammation, redness and discharge. If any symptoms of infection appear you should address them with your veterinarian immediately. You should restrict your pet's movement for several days after surgery and limit exercise for a few weeks post surgery. Your cat should be kept inside while recovering and you may need to modify their environment, for example putting a ramp in place so they can access a favorite perch or moving bedding to a lower location to prevent exertion. Because cats are agile naturally, they usually do well with only three legs and adapt so they regain much of their mobility. Cats do not usually show signs of emotional distress as removal of the leg is usually less traumatic than the condition that precipitated the removal. Phantom pain in the missing limb is rare in cats. Your cat will need a follow up with your veterinarian for wound inspection and removal of stitches. Any concerns you have should be followed up with your veterinarian. Cats usually recover within a few weeks of surgery.

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Cost of Amputation in Cats

Surgical amputation ranges in price from $800-$2,000 dollars depending on the cost of living in your area. This generally includes initial visit, tests, including x-rays, and the surgical procedure. In some cases amputation may be a more cost-effective option than alternatives for complicated, extensive treatment of the condition.

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Cat Amputation Considerations

Usually surgical amputation of a limb is less traumatic and painful then the condition that the amputation is treating and recovery is complete.

Cats that have spinal problems may not be good candidates for amputation. Cats with arthritis may also have more trouble adjusting to life with three legs, but the condition does not preclude amputation, it may require extra attention and adaptation to the cat's environment to manage it. 

Also cats with diabetes and obese cats are at higher risk; diet to manage weight or diet and treatment to manage diabetes are factors in recovery.

There is a risk of hemorrhage and infections as with any surgery, but this can be mitigated with careful monitoring by the veterinarian and the pet owner as well as antibiotic treatment.

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Amputation Prevention in Cats

Many condition requiring amputation are unavoidable, for example cancer or birth defects. Severe trauma caused by accidents or fights with other animals, however, can be avoided by keeping your cat indoors and cat-proofing your home. Cat-proofing includes ensuring that hazards in your home, such as heavy items that could be pulled over on your cat or unstable elevated areas that your cat could access and then fall from, are removed or made inaccessible to your pet. 

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Amputation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Siamese

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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Random Pain

My cat had her rear leg amputated two weeks ago just over and is taking gabapentin can I give her Clonopin along with it and she is having these random pains where she gets up and hisses is this normal

Jan. 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

This isn't typically a medicine we would use, no. Rather, I would ask your vet about the option of medicine such as meloxicam and buperenoprhine, which should help.

Jan. 4, 2021

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mixed breed cat

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Two Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

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Multiple Infected Abscesses

Her back leg has 4 abscesses that have burst and is draining puss

Oct. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. Abscesses in cats are relatively common and do require vet care. Without treatment, these abscesses will cause pain and could even lead to sepsis (a dangerous infection of the blood). To treat them, a vet may need to lance and flush them. They will also prescribe antibiotics and anti inflammatories. To prevent the cat from licking them, she will likely need a buster collar as they heal. If she tolerates it, the fur should be clipped and they should be cleaned 1-2x a day with salt water or a medicated wash such as dilute Chlorhexidine.

Oct. 27, 2020

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Dusty

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American Short Hair

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8 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Limited Movement

Today my 8 year old indoor cat dusty fractured her leg in multiple places. She loves running through the house jumping about so when she let out a shriek after jumping off the kitchen table we got worried. After heading to the vet and having x-rays done we were informed she has a mass which they believe is a tumor on her back left knee. Her leg was fractured in to many places to repair and at the moment our only option is to have her euthanized or to amputate and then possibly go through rounds of chemotherapy. We love dusty she is a glue in this househole. I have no doubt in my mind she could adjust to having three legs. Our question is with her age is it smart or responsible as a pet owners to put her through the potential chemotherapy afterwards. The x-rays currently show the tumor is only in the leg and we have to wait a day for the specialist to call because it's sunfay. At the moment we have her bundled up and on pain medication until Monday morning then we must decide weather to undergo the proceedures or have to day goodbye to our dearly cherished family memeber. Please let me know if this will prolong her life or just cause the last bit of her time here to be agonizing

Sept. 23, 2018

Dusty's Owner

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Hudson

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mixed

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17 Months

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Serious severity

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Leg Injury

My Hudson is 17 months old. He came in 1 morning limping & by evening his right rear foot was swollen. Vet examined him the next morning & we decided that his leg had been caught somewhere cutting off blood flow. A week & 1/2 later the foot & part of the leg are dead. There is infection as new little pus pockets keep appearing above his bandage. He has been on antibiotics from the start. The vet cant see him again until the day after tomorrow. Vet says recovery from amputation is long and hard & they have to relearn how to walk. I also worry about infection in his system. Only other option is euthanasia. I dont know what to do.

Sept. 22, 2018

Hudson's Owner

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Blue

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Siamese mix

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7 Weeks

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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She’S Not Putting Weight On It

We have a 7 week old kitten who fell off the back of the couch and hit a suitcase on her was down. X-rays show that she’s broken her right hind femur just below the ball that goes into the socket. It’s almost broken clear through. We have one vet (orthopedic surgeon) who says he can operate for $3000 and save the leg but have another vet telling us that it’s highly unlikely, considering how tiny she is, that the leg will heal & that it should just be amputated. Thoughts??

Sept. 20, 2018

Blue's Owner

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?

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Calico

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3 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Leg Amputation

i just rescued a 3-4week old kitten from under my house. when i bathed her i saw that it only had three legs. the area looks mostly healed and not infected but it def happened from trauma and still healing, the bone isnt exposed but has a red bulb coving it. i cant afford to take it in to the vet but am self caring for her. any advise? it eats when bottle feed and poops when stimulated , doesn't seem t bother her?

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Freddie

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Domestic Short haired

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3 Months

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Crushing Injury

Question for anyone who is able to answer, I took my kitten Freddie to the vet today as he was limping and was bleeding. The vet told me that his hind paw had been crushed by something that it may need to be amputated. I'm just wondering how easy is it for him to adjust to only using three legs? Especially since the leg going is a hind leg.I realize that because he is relatively young he should be able to recover but I definitely need that piece of mind :)

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Lucky

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short hair

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18 Years

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Broken Leg

My cat Lucky is 18 years old, he broke he back hind leg according to x-ways the vet took. He recommended either going to the surgeon for pins to fix it, amputation or euthanasia. I dont want to do the last. Hes not that active of a cat anymore usually sleeps a lot. When he was let out of the cage after the vet still with the leg broken he booked it down the stairs. I need advice if the pins or amputation is better option.

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Franklin

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Gray Tabby

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2 Years

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Critical severity

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Infection

We are dealing with a cat who just turned 2years old. He has sliced opened his leg to the tendon (long cut down his right back leg). We are being told $2.3K-$3.5K to remove his leg as surgery may not be possible and will have complications. Surgery was quoted at $2K. Really that much for removing a leg? Does this seem crazy to others??

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Juno

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Black

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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Lethargy

My 11 yrs cat had a rear leg amputated because of FLVaccine injection site sarcoma. A month and a half out, she experiences pain and confusion when walking and the gabapentin meds are hard to administer so it is hard to get enough of it into her mouth. Between the pain of the surgery and the recovery process, I am questioning whether it would have been better to put her down.

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