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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.

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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

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Ask a Vet

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Maui

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domestic short hair

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Exposed Bones
Panting
Crying
Limping

My cat came home with a mangled front paw. Pretty much half of his paw is missing and one toe looks to be hanging on by a thread. He was able to put weight on it but limping. Immediately took him to the nearest emergency clinic that was open and that I knew could handle complicated surgeries. They were talking about limb recovery surgery or a possible amputation at the wrist. I've never heard of lower limb amputation in cats. I thought that they just had their whole leg amputated. $2300 just for his care in the hospital, not including surgery. Does this seem right? Can he be a happy cat without a paw? If he has a couple of toes left, can they just amputate the broken toes? My poor guy.

June 12, 2018

Maui's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Cats can do quite well with amputations, and they would be able to give you a better idea as to what amputations might be best, since they have seen Maui. If he does have the amputation, he will need to be an indoor cat, as it would be very dangerous outside for him with that limitation.

June 12, 2018

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Fred

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Unknown

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Odor

I adopted a cat 2 days ago that had a recent toe amputation. It has a foul odor, but there is no swelling or drainage. He is eating and drinking water. He is active and playful at times. Is the odor normal? What can I clean his toe with?

May 17, 2018

Fred's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

A foul odor after a surgery is never normal, whether there is swelling or drainage. I'm not sure what medications he is on, but his toe may be infected, and he should be rechecked, either with the shelter that you adopted him from, or your veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for him!

May 17, 2018

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