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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 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Digit Amputation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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kitten

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6 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Black Growth Back Foot Pads

Hard black growth back feet , also has diarrhea, received today from a humane society

Nov. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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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

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1 year

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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

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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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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Francine

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DSH.

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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More Lethargic Than Normal.

Hello, My cat had her fourth carpal digit removed on May 29, 2018. A biopsy revealed the condition to be "Lymphoma with necrosis and chronic inflammation. No boney involvement". As of today, 2 1/2 months later, the adjacent digit reveals the very same symptoms, redness and chronic inflammation that doesn't respond to either a dermachlor rinse or clavamox 2x daily. I feel certain that this digit will have to be removed too. My cat's vet is on holiday until September (approx. 3 weeks from today). The inflammation to my eyes seems to change daily. I'm waiting for a referral from her vet to have another surgeon do and examination and presumably a second amputation. Do you have any thoughts about this? Specifically, can my cat walk missing her two middle toes? Also, do you feel 3 weeks is too long to wait as the inflammation seems to increase almost by the day? Thank you! Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/treatment/digit-amputation

Aug. 15, 2018

Francine's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Generally three weeks is not a long period of time, however if you are seeing daily changes to the digit you should visit another Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side. The two middle digits are the weight bearing digits but depending on the next examination it may be recommended to make a paw or partial limb amputation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 16, 2018

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Bebe

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Tabbie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Fractured Toes Aren’T Healing

My cat fractured 2 toes on a hind leg a month ago and it hasn’t healed at all. Vet suggested amputation. Will he be able to live normally when he heals? He is quite the jumper. Can he still go outside?

Aug. 9, 2018

Bebe's Owner

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1 Recommendations

The loss of a digit or two will have some effect on movement but not much, it depends on which toes are being amputated (the middle two are more weight bearing that the outer two). You should see which toes are affected and how he adapts to amputation before thinking about letting him outside. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

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chispi

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Cat

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Hello, my cat had two of her fingers amputated because of a tumor eating her bone. All the tissue was taken out. We live in a little village in Argentina and I wanted to ask you. How do we try to keep the woud clean. She does her business in a woodpelled and sme earth since she does not seem to wan to go only on the woodepelled. her ittle paw had for two days a cover but she shook it right off. we clean it ones a day so far with hidro and proxide and she is on antibiotics. How can we also prevent that the caancer spreads without chemeo since we have no access to this. Thank you very much

Aug. 5, 2018

chispi's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Depending on the type of cancer, you may not be able to prevent it from growing, as some cancers do come back. Her surgery may have taken all of the cancer away, and it may not come back. You can ask your veterinarian more about what type of cancer they think it may have been and what you might expect as far as it coming back. To prevent infection, you can continue to do what you are doing, keeping it clean with an antibacterial wash and keeping her on her antibiotics. I hope that all goes well for Chispi.

Aug. 5, 2018

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