Digit Amputation in Cats

Digit Amputation in Cats - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention

What is Digit Amputation?

Digit amputation is a surgical procedure used to treat conditions affecting the toes that are unresponsive to conservative treatment. Amputation is the treatment of choice for digit cancers. There are two types of digit amputation: partial and total. Partial amputation is the removal of only part of a phalange, or toe. Total amputation is the removal of the entire phalange. Cats that undergo digit amputation may also require additional treatments in order to manage the underlying condition.

Digit Amputation Procedure in Cats

  1. The cat will undergo preoperative testing to ensure it is safe to undergo anesthesia.
  2. General anesthesia and analgesics will be administered intravenously.
  3. The surgeon will clean the toes prior to amputation.
  4. The surgeon will make the initial incision into the skin.
  5. A tourniquet or stay sutures will be used to cut off blood supply to the toe(s) requiring amputation.
  6. A scalpel or laser will be used to remove the toe(s), surrounding collateral ligaments, and extensor and flexor tendons.
  7. The surgeon will then close the wound using absorbable sutures.
  8. The cat may be hospitalized following surgery depending on its condition.
  9. A pressure bandage will be applied for up to forty-eight hours 

Efficacy of Digit Amputation in Cats

The efficacy of digit amputation will vary based on the condition it was used to treat as well as which toes were amputated. A cat’s third and fourth toes bear the majority of its weight. If these toes are amputated, a cat will have a more difficult time adjusting. In cats diagnosed with cancer, the prognosis will vary based on the type of cancer diagnosed. Squamous cell carcinoma treated with digit amputation tends to have a better prognosis than melanoma.

Digit Amputation Recovery in Cats

Analgesics will be prescribed to manage postoperative pain, and antibiotics will also be prescribed to prevent infection. Cats will need to wear a bandage for one week following surgery to prevent contamination and wound rupture. Cats should be able to bear weight on the limb after it is released from the hospital. However, activity should be reduced or prohibited for up to three weeks after surgery to prevent delayed healing. Owners should monitor the surgery site each day to ensure bleeding, swelling, and/or drainage has not occurred. A follow-up appointment will take place two weeks after surgery to remove sutures, monitor healing, and administer additional treatments.

Cats that have been diagnosed with malignant cancers will also require radiation or chemotherapy. Four to six rounds of chemotherapy are usually administered at three-week intervals. Radiation treatment will begin two weeks after surgery, and will take place five days per week for up to twenty-one sessions. Short-acting anesthesia will be required for these treatments. Cats that have been diagnosed with melanoma may benefit from a melanoma vaccine.

Cost of Digit Amputation in Cats

The cost of digit amputation in cats will vary based on standards of living and additional costs incurred, such as preoperative testing and additional treatments. The average cost of digit amputation is $350.

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Cat Digit Amputation Considerations

Complications of digit amputation, although rare, are possible, and may include:

  • Infection
  • Wound rupture
  • Tumor recurrence
  • Lameness of the limb

Most postoperative complications resolve fairly easily and quickly. In rare cases, digit amputation will result in loss of limb function or lameness. Additional surgery may be required to correct this complication.

Digit Amputation Prevention in Cats

Cats should be prohibited from engaging in activities that may result in severe trauma to the toes, including falling from heights and being struck by a vehicle. Genetic and cancerous conditions cannot be prevented. Cats diagnosed with a genetic defect or cancer should not be bred.

Digit Amputation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals





6 weeks


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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Black Growth Back Foot Pads
Hard black growth back feet , also has diarrhea, received today from a humane society

Nov. 4, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

0 Recommendations

Hello so sorry to hear about your kitten. It would be best for your vet to examine your cat. Parasites can commonly cause her to have diarrhea. A fecal test can be run and determine what medication is needed to help your kitten's diarrhea. Your vet can also look at the hard spot on the paw and see what is causing it. Without a picture, it is hard to tell you the cause.

Nov. 7, 2020

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Short haired cat



1 year


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Toe Removal
My cat is going to have his 3rd toe on his front paw removed in 1 week. I adopted him from a shelter 3 months ago and since that time he has been chewing on his front paw. He has seen 5 vets and each time was treated for the wound but he was never given an x-ray. I took him to a veterinarian school where they sedated him, took x-ray's and did a thorough exam of his paw. It was determined that his third toe is basically unattached to his foot. Because I adopted him I do not know his health history or what may have happened to him. Will he be okay without his third toe and will he stop chewing?

Sept. 26, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. With out knowing the whole situation, it is difficult for me to answer that question, but it seems that your veterinarian feels that this will help. If the toe was a source of pain, then this should stop the chewing, yes.

Oct. 16, 2020

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