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Fang's Story

Cat Amputation – Our cat's transition to having three legs instead of four

2 Weeks after Amputation

November 16th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang on Day 10

Fang on Day 10

It’s been two weeks now since Fang had his front left leg amputated, and really I could not be happier with the outcome of this whole endeavor. I never would have imagined that things could be so normal after what seemed to me like such a catastrophic and life-changing loss. Fang can do everything he used to do – he runs, he jumps up and down from things, he plays, he rolls around happily, he purrs and loves life. And all this while his wound is still in the process of healing! I’ve not had to change a single thing in our house to better accommodate him.

Here are some of the highlights of week 2 of Fang’s recovery from becoming a three legged cat:

Day 8: Going Number 2

Yeah, it probably shouldn’t have consumed my life as much as it did – but not going number 2 after a large surgery can be a big deal! Anesthesia and pain medications slow the digestion process way down, and sometimes it can slow down so much that the body can’t get it going again so well! A lot of people said I should expect a bowel movement after 3-4 days – well that certainly didn’t happen! But, after 8 days and 1 small dose of Miralax he finally went. I’ve never been happier about poop….

Fang Loving the Outdoors

Fang Loving the Outdoors

Day 10: Fang Gives Us the Slip

By day 10 after Fang’s operation, he was back to getting up to sleep on top of the bed rather than under it, going into the rest of the house, and just generally being part of the family again. I was still keeping Feral, my fat cat, away from him, but he had already re-met and had the same mutual distaste for Mamma-Kitty that he always had and they were their normal snotty selves with one another. His personality was still strange – he wanted desperately to go outside, he hated using the litter box, and he spent a lot of the time acting a bit gloomy.

So on day 10, I walked into the house and Fang hopped out right into the yard. He had been in his usual spot whining at the door, and for some reason we didn’t think about it and Fang was out before anyone could catch him. So we went out looking for Fang around the yard (mind you, we have a bit of property). He still had his staples in, and I didn’t want anything to happen to them. Eventually we found him…

I have never seen Fang so unbelievably happy. He was rolling and stretching and grooming and sun-bathing – his demeanor was entirely different. He ran around in the fields, and eventually found himself a nice high spot on the wall to sleep in the sun. That’s when I knew, 100%, that Fang was not only going to be fine – but that he would thrive. He was not gloomy about his arm! – he was gloomy because he was cooped up inside! His full personality came back within one hour, and it hasn’t left since.

So, yeah, we kept letting him out when he wanted to go. Would the vets say that was a good idea? Maybe no. Do I think it’s necessary? Heck yes. His confidence, happiness, and energy far outweighed any potential costs. Besides, his incision was nearly healed anyway… just a bit scabby.

Fang's Staples on Day 3 v. Day 10

Fang’s Staples on Day 3 v. Day 10

Day 10: Fang and Barrel meet

I was warned that with cats, after the recoup period where the household kitties aren’t together, there is a fairly good chance that the cats will not get along as well as they once did. The smell of the vet and the lack of interaction can deteriorate a once good relationship between cats, and the owner might have to put in some ground work to get everyone happy with one another again. People suggest doing positive things while they’re near each other, switching bedding amongst the cats so that they can get used to the new smells, etc. Well, when Fang booked it out of the house we didn’t get to do any of those things. He met Barrel, our fat cat, pretty quickly. I was worried because, while they get along well and can often be seen cuddling, Barrel does sometimes try to assert dominance over Fang by biting and playing rough – and Fang is much smaller and now has only three legs. Well, I’m happy to report that things were completely normal between them. In fact, after smelling each other Barrel licked Fang on the head a few times and was off to do other things. I have since then seen Barrel try a few dominating moves, but Fang batted him away just like he always did, and Barrel took the hint.

Fang and Barrel's first interaction since amputation

Fang and Barrel’s first interaction since amputation

Day 13: The Staples Come Out

The veterinary office said to wait for 14 days to have Fang’s staples removed, but at this point he was already going outside and had gotten one staple turned on something, somehow. It wasn’t bad, but I knew it was time to get them removed. I emailed the vet, she said yes, and off we went to the vet’s office. I hated taking Fang back to the vet when he had just gotten his personality back – and he hated going as much as I hated taking him. But I had looked online about taking the staples out myself and, because I don’t have the special tool to do it, I would have done more harm than good. It took all of 5 minutes for them to remove the staples, there was no charge, and we were back home shortly thereafter. Fang didn’t do his usual after-vet run under the bed – nope, he went right back to the spot on top of the bed he was laying before that and rolled all around on the side where the staples were. I imagine they were itchy and bothersome, and he certainly seemed happy as a clam to have them out. Just one more happy surprise, I suppose. 🙂

In the end

I feel like there’s just not a whole lot more recoup to go… I mean, realistically at this point he’s pretty much exactly like he was before. Sure he hops now instead of walking but he gets around as quickly as always, runs brilliantly well, and lands perfectly without hitting his “bad side”. It doesn’t even make me sad to look at him without his arm, because he just doesn’t seem to miss it. Even my dad, who really sincerely believed that amputation was not the way to go, is thrilled at how well Fang gets around and how normal his life is.

So, there it is – the answer to the question that horrified me only two weeks ago: Would Fang be okay? Heck yeah – he’s more than okay! So here’s to our newly tri-pawd cat, living life like he always has! Active, healthy, and happy. 🙂

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1 Week after Amputation

November 10th, 2012 · 4 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang Under Dining Table

Fang watching the living room from his post under the kitchen table

It’s been seven days since Fang’s amputation. This week has taught me that in many ways, what a lot of people have told me is true – this process is much harder on mommies than it is on kitty. Fang could get around immediately, and continues to improve every day. His confidence has been rocked a bit, for sure – he’s hiding more than he used to, because I believe he’s less confident that he can defend himself, but it’s been getting better every day. Just last evening he decided to join us in the living room for a while – he was under the coffee table of course, but he still came out there to visit and that was lovely.

I do not believe he misses his arm – but I do think he realizes that something is different, and he’s learning to cope with that. He can still jump onto things, over things, and off of things, even with his staples and one less leg. He even runs on the slippery hardwood floors without issue. In fact, I haven’t yet seen him try to do anything he couldn’t do. He’s got a wonderful appetite. He purrs when I pet him and rolls onto his back like he always did. He’s even jumped up into bed with me once or twice over the last week. He doesn’t hate me, or blame me, like I was deeply afraid of. And he’s not sad, which is the most important of all.

Some people might read this and say “My God, he’s hiding under the bed so much! He must be horrified!” But, being under the bed isn’t really a new thing for Fang. It was always one of his favorite spots, even as a four-legger. It’s true that he’s spending more time under there than usual, but then again he’s spending a whole lot more time INSIDE than usual (forced, of course), so I really have nothing to compare it to.

All in all, this is turning out to be a much, much better experience than I had dreaded. I have full confidence that Fangers will very quickly get to be back to his regular personality.  I whole heartedly believe he’s okay – and so I’m okay too!

Still no poop but… we’ll get there. Lol.

Fang lays around under the coffee table in the living room - one of his favorite pre-amp locations

Fang lays around under the coffee table in the living room – one of his favorite pre-amp locations

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Day 6 – Biopsy Results

November 9th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang Wants Out of the Office

“Okay mom, you MUST let me out of this room immediately.”

So, it’s been 6 days since Fang’s surgery and his biopsy results finally came in. I have to say, I’ve been having nightmares that (1) it was a cancerous tumor that might have spread to the rest of his body, and (2) it was a “mineralization of muscle” that would not have actually required amputation. I think I may not have mentioned on this blog that the day before surgery I finally received a call from a specialist vet who told me that it might be mineralization of muscle and, if that was the case, he might not need the amputation if it did not continue to grow. He also said that this was extremely unlikely and pretty positively two weeks after biopsy Fang would have to go straight back into surgery to remove his arm. We opted not to put him through two surgeries and two recoup periods – especially with such slim chances. But the idea has certainly haunted me.

The results are that it was a chondrosarcoma (a BENIGN tumor of cartilage). This means that we won’t have to worry about cancer having spread to the rest of Fang’s body! No more x-rays to check for cancer, and no cancer treatments. This is great news. The vet also assures me that this would have required amputation, as it would have continued to grow and hurt him (as we had originally believed). So, good news all around. We avoided disaster and my baby is likely to have a nice, long cancer-free life! I am just so absolutely relieved.

In other news, Fang still hasn’t pooped, but the vet continues to not be alarmed. Apparently the pain meds and anesthesia tend to slow down the digestion system, so it’s not that unusual for them to take a while to get back into the groove of things. It’s best to provide him with fiber and more fluids, and add water to their food. She suggested to try canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), or if he won’t eat that, a little powdered Miralax on his food (1/2 tsp). If we see him straining, then it’s more likely time to visit the vet.

Fang sleeping on the bed

Fang sleeping on the bed

Last evening he decided that it was time to leave the office, so he went to the door and when I opened it he ran (RAN, not walked quickly) to the front door to beg for a while. It was a pretty darn good run too – it didn’t seem hard or strained. It looked even more natural than his walk. I was pretty proud of him! He certainly didn’t get to go outside though, so in frustration he went into the bedroom and laid under the bed. Later that night I hopped into bed (happy to not be on the office couch) and he hopped straight up there and laid next to me. There he stayed, sleeping contently, until about 3:30AM when I must have done something (like shot my hand out and smacked him or who knows what in my sleep) because he yipped, which woke me up, looked at me very meanly, and jumped off and went underneath the bed. That’s pretty much where he’s been all day today, though he did come out to eat breakfast and dinner.

So, just to be clear, so far I’ve nearly hit him in the face with a door, ripped a bunch of fur off of his foot, and smacked him in my sleep. No wonder he doesn’t trust me! Lol. Ah well, I’m trying here!

On to another day! 🙂

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Day 5 – After Amputation

November 8th, 2012 · 3 Comments · Fang's Story

Château du Fang

“Château du Fang” – with his little hind paws sticking out the bottom.

Fang’s coffee table has now become Château du Fang – I just removed the lower shelf so he could sit up while he’s in there, and now he’s got a little tent like structure. He seems to like it. I also have his litter box in there out to the side which makes him feel more comfortable using the potty away from prying eyes. Now that he’s off of pain medication he seems more like himself and much more awake. He’s still sleeping during the day, but he always did that. He doesn’t seem as sick, drugged out, or shaky, and that’s much better. He also doesn’t seem to be in any pain – he even lays on his “bad” side so it must not be that tender. I’ve even felt good enough about him that I’ve been able to leave the room for bits of time, which is nice. I was finally able to take out the garbage, feed the chickens, etc so… It felt food for me too!

I should mention that he still hasn’t pooped – I told the vet but she didn’t seem worried. Might be constipation from the pain patch, which should now resolve itself. And I’ve been giving him really liquidy foods so he might just not legitimately have to go yet. That’s really the only hang up at the moment.

Oh, and we have not needed to use any onesies or the cone at all. He just isn’t interested in the staples. He gave the ones he could reach some light licks, but that’s fine (there’s a reason cats lick their wounds, ya know. It’s quite clean). As long as he doesn’t bite at them, he’s in the clear as far as I’m concerned.

Onto another night we go!

A blurry Fang sitting under the desk

A blurry Fang sitting under the desk

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Day 4 – After Amputation

November 7th, 2012 · 5 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang Under The Desk

“It’s okay, I still love you mom.”

So, it’s day 4 since amputation. After the first day, Fang took to resting a whole lot more. He pretty much spends his days sleeping under the coffee table, which we turned into a little tent type place (with a blanket over it). He seems to like the dark, so I’ve been keeping the room mostly dim (though it’s starting to make me depressed – remember, I pretty much haven’t left this room since he cam home). Yesterday he was rather chipper and followed me to the door when I went to get him food – unfortunately I didnt know that and when I came back in I nearly swung the door into his face. He freaked out and ran under the coffee table and did not come out again that night or all this morning. He was even to afraid to use the litter box and peed on one of his blankets which I obviously had to take out of the room. Poor baby. Just a few hours ago he finally hopped underneath the computer desk and laid against my feet as if to say “It’s okay, I still love you mom.” It made me really happy. I think he was feeling better.

So, naturally, when I realized that we needed to go to the vet to take off his foot pain patch (fentanyl) I didn’t want to since he hates the vet and he was finally loving me. I mean, last time he went to the vet he had an arm off so I figured, in the interest of stress relief, why couldn’t I just take the patch off myself? I emailed my vet of course to ask, and she said it was fine. I just needed to be sure to dispose of it where nothing can get to it, because it’s fatal if swallowed or even if it’s ripped a little and the slow-emitting med system is disrupted and something touched it. Dangerous stuff. So, I figured, “okay I just have to take it off quick like a bandaid and it’ll all be good.

Let me tell you – removing the fentanyl patch is not fun and it does not make you kitty’s favorite person. They did NOT shave under the patch and tape, so basically all the tape I had to remove ripped off a TON of Fang’s fur, which naturally doesn’t feel good. At this point he’s sort of aggravated with me, but he’s happy to have the tape almost off, so he pulls his foot sometimes and licks me but mostly lets me work. But, the patch itself is stickier than the tape! Wayyyy sticky in fact! And, once it’s exposed you cant just leave it alone because if he licks it that’s really bad. So, I’m pulling off the patch and he’s GROWLING at me, and hissing, and biting, and it obviously feels terrible. I’m frankly worried that I’m ripping off his SKIN (I wasn’t but, it’s that sticky). I finally get it off, Fang is back to looking at me very distrustfully and I am definitely feeling some of the effects of the fentanyl (was not wearing gloves… should have been, for sure).

All that hair came off with the patch - it was not shaven beforehand. *faint*

All that hair came off with the patch – it was not shaven beforehand. *faint*

So, you know, if you decide to do that yourself…. note that your cat might be pretty annoyed with you.

Additional note from the vet’s: Called because I wanted to make sure I didn’t need to do anything other than rip the patch off and got this extra tip: There is still medication in the stickiness left after the patch is ripped off – it shouldn’t be enough to hurt kitty since by the time you remove the patch it should be nearly out of juice anyway, but at the vet they use a wet rag with soap to get some of the sticky off kitty’s foot afterword. So, if you do it yourself, don’t forget to wash kitty’s foot a bit.

Otherwise, things are going well. I’ll just keep on keeping on!  (I still do not feel comfortable enough to leave him alone at home so I’m not going in to work tomorrow – luckily it’s a part time job I’d be missing and my career job is from home anyway, but I can’t imagine what I’d do if I actually HAD to go to work during this recoup. That would be… hard, for sure).

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Day 3 – After Amputation

November 6th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Fang's Story

Last night at about 3:00AM (I was up, of course, and in the office with Fang), he got up, walked around a bit, ate his first dry food since the surgery, and decided to lay down on the blanket next to the coffee table instead of underneath it. I guess he’s feeling less afraid now, which makes me happy. 🙂 He’s also realized that he can use his new situation to his advantage, i.e. sitting up and staring me down until I pet him constantly. Only then does he lay down and sleep (whilst I’m petting him, of course). If he wakes up and realizes I stopped, he’s back up and staring me down again, lol. I know he’s playing me but I don’t care – I’m glad to see his mood improved. He has continued trying to remove his fentanyl foot patch off and on – not horribly but, as you’ll see in a note farther down the page, it’s something I’ve got to watch. He’s also started to get a bit of crustiness on the tippity top of his wound at the shoulder – I’m pretty sure that’s just scabbing though (that’s what it looks like to me anyway). He’s still not too bad about trying to lick the staples either so, all in all, we’re doing well. I would like to share some tips I’ve learned (so far) for future cat amputee parents (below):

Fang Sleeping Out

Your blankets would look dirty too if you took them with flash!! (maybe) o.O

Tips I’ve Learned (so far) About Three-Legged Cat Recovery

(1) Don’t be surprised or annoyed when your kitty ignores some of the things that you prepared for their recuperation period (i.e. pet beds, a new low litter box, new toys, easy-to-eat-foods). Just let them lie on, play with, or not play with whatever the heck they want. It’s their time anyway.

(2) Don’t be surprised when kitty decides that the recoup room that you have chosen is not the one for them (if you let them into the rest of the house). Just move what they need into whatever room they choose. They’re obviously more comfortable in there anyway.

(3) Block out the first week (at least) of their recuperation time so you can be home. Even if you were optimistic about kitty’s recovery, you don’t want to leave them alone if at all possible, and not for very long. They like your company and really, they need you to watch them.

(4) At the same time, don’t mess with them too much. If kitty says “not right now, mom and dad”, leave them be a while. You can stay near enough to hear kitty, but give them their space if they want it. Cats can be solitary animals, and messing with them might just stress them out even if they love you.

(5) Kitties want to be UNDER things while they recoup. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this beforehand, but I wish I did. If you choose, say, your bedroom as a recoup area, kitty will almost immediately go under the bed where you can’t reach or check on them AND you won’t be able to gently and nicely pull them out without hurting them so, ya know, plan for that.

(6) You can’t pick them up. There’s just no good way to hold them – their chest and side have stitches/staples (at least for front amps) so, plan for that as well. You might have to let them go where they want so make sure they can’t get anywhere you don’t want them to go.

(7) Clean the litter box every time they use it. Kitty will, at least once, hit their staples/sutures into the litter while trying to dig or jump into the box. You do NOT want anything more dirty than it has to be getting into that wound!

(8)Vets may not agree with me, but for ME, Fang was much happier with no cone or onesie on. Now, we haven’t gotten to the itchy stage yet, so this might change, but if they don’t need it and you can watch them very carefully, they might have a much better mood and be less stressed without the extra accessories.

(8)Don’t help them unless you have to. They do so much better when you let them figure it out themselves, even if it hurts to watch. This, of course, does not apply to letting them do something that will rip their stitches/sutures.

(9)I was not previously aware of a very important piece of information that I’d like to share: The fentanyl pain patch on the cat’s foot cannot be tampered with. It’s a big deal, and I’m glad I looked it up. If it is torn or cut it can let all the medication out to the cat at once and be fatal. And, of course, the same thing happens if kitty manages to ingest it. So, watch your cat like a hawk. Fang has already messed with his multiple times, and the cone doesn’t help stop him from getting to his back foot, where the patch is.

(10) Kitty can still make some pretty crazy jumps – so if you’re using a baby-gate in the doorway, consider using two (one on top of the other). Fang jumped his on day 1. Awesome, but probably not good with the staples and all.

(11) If they act like they don’t have an appetite, try a different food (especially a liquidy one). Fang has not touched his dry food since he’s been home – he’ll only eat wet food and cat milk, and mostly just want to drink the juice. He also decided he’s too good for “whitefish” flavor and won’t touch it. Kitty might very well be playing you, but let them! It’s only for a couple weeks anyway.

(12) By enough supplies BEFORE you bring kitty home. I have to try to plan a run to the grocery store because I didn’t buy enough cat food he likes (playing me), and it’s a headache because I don’t want to leave him alone.

That’s about it for now. As I learn more, I’ll share it!

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Day 2 – After Amputation

November 5th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Fang's Story

Yesterday Fang decided on the office as his recoup room rather than the bedroom where all of his stuff was set up. I decided this might be better anyway as I didn’t want him jumping up onto the bed and getting rolled over or something during the night. So, I brought his blankets, litter box, and food into the office and made myself comfy on the couch where I spent the night waking up every 30 minutes to check on him. I should note he didn’t bother to use the bed – he just slept under the coffee table. Ah well, you can’t tell a cat what to do.

Fang's under the coffee table sleeping arrangements

Fang’s under the coffee table sleeping arrangements

Anyhow the night went fine – he didn’t get up save to reposition himself. This morning he got up to use the litter box, walked around the room a bit and then went back under the coffee table to sleep. He’s taking a much more restful approach to today than he did yesterday. I gave him some organic refrigerated cat food this morning and he didn’t want it. I thought he’d lost his appetite, but then we gave him some regular old canned friskies and he ate all of it. Psh, cats have no taste at all.

And that’s about it for today – he’s just been sleeping and sleeping. He purrs when I pet him and rolls over onto his back like he always did. I wish he’d lay on his blanket instead of the not-so-clean floor under the table but, what can you do.

He’s still not interested in his staples, and he only messed with his foot patch once so, so far no need for cones or onesies yet 🙂

It’s still a bit sad to see him without one leg but… I’m keeping my chin up.

Fang's Missing Leg

Already begging to go outside

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Day 1 – After Amputation

November 4th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Fang's Story

Sleeping the first day home after surgery

Sleeping the first day home after surgery

We brought Fang home today after his front left leg amputation. I will admit, the staples were startling for sure, especially at first sight. They had him in a cone, which he hated, so we switched him to onesies. After four hours he somehow managed to twist the onesie so much that his other leg was stuck inside it and the arm hole was over the staples and he was growling and kicking and just generally peeved about the whole cat-clothing situation. So, I had to cut some of it to get him comfortable again and he’s so much happier now that we’re doing a “watch to make sure he doesnt mess with his staples” method instead of the cone etc. The onesie is still there but it’s not doing a WHOLE lot of good, though it’s helping a bit. He also ditched our nice little bed we made him in the corner to lay under the bed. He seems much more comfortable down there and went immediately to sleep so we just left him be down there. Obviously, we’re checking on him every three minutes. Besides the growling and anger over the collar and then the onesie, he’s been sleeping pretty well, even purring and rubbing his face on my hand at one point. I think things are going to be okay – he’s already obviously figured out how to get himself over to and under the bed so I guess even drugged up with a foot patch he’s managing to get around alright-ish.

Oh and he has a major appetite – he didn’t eat anything at the vets but when he came home he ate like a pig (poor boy didn’t eat at all yesterday, so I imagine that’s why).

That’s all I can really update now. I need to go back and lay on the floor with him for a while (makes me feel better).

Additional edit: Fang just came out from under the bed, sat on my lap for a while, and then proceeded to get up and jump his little butt onto the bed to nap up there. I am amazed. Day 1 without one of his legs, and he seems to be doing alright. 🙂

Another update: Just now before I could stop him, Fang went over to the baby-gate at the door, leapt over it, landed on his one foot without hitting his shoulder, and went into the deep covered litter box in the bathroom (which he never ever uses – guess he didn’t like the one I bought and had in the bedroom..). I am shocked. He is such a gangster. Too bad now he wants to go outside and he’s peeved that we’re not letting him. He had a little fit at the door.

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Surgery Day

November 4th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Fang's Story

Fangers just before surgery, hanging out on his favorite outside bench

Fangers just before surgery, hanging out on his favorite outside bench

Yesterday, 11/3/12 was Fang’s surgery day. He had to be there three hours before surgery to have the iv and pain meds set up, be shaven, etc, so he needed to be there by 12:00pm (surgery was at 3:00pm). Naturally, I waited till the very last possible minute to get him there (I think we were literally there AT 12:00pm). I gave him a dose of Gabapentin and spent the whole morning cuddling with him on the bed. He was a little mean to me when I touched his lump so I think that it had finally started to bother him a bit. I figured it was “fortunate” that we were doing surgery that day (though it didn’t feel very fortunate). At 12:00 we took him to the vet with his Gabapentin (so they could give him some more last night) and a surgery technician came out and asked me questions about what stuff I wanted to purchase with the surgery (fluids, IV, etc). I had no idea what he needed so I just told her to let the vet (who I’ve been emailing with constantly) decide what to do. I was so glad that I had talked to her so much because I felt confident that she knew what we wanted in terms of pain prevention etc, and otherwise I would not have known what to write down on the sheet.

Then they took him away. It was heart wrenching for me – the last moment that I could say “never mind all this stuff, I’m taking him home and we’ll deal with it some other way”. Nope, that was pretty much the no-turning-back-point. I waited anxiously for a call at around 4:00pm (she said the surgery would take about 1 hour) but didn’t receive one until 5:00pm (she had another surgery before his). She said that there were no complications (other than him getting his claws into some of the nurses when they tried to take him out of his cage) and everything closed up nicely. She had changed the pain meds before doing the surgery because she found that the foot patch he had on counteracted the liquid pain meds she was planning to give him during surgery and post-op, so instead she used a drip. I was so glad that she took the extra time to make sure that he had the best pain meds he could have had.

He is now resting at the hospital waiting for me to pick him up after 10:00am. I really appreciate that this is an overnight hospital. I know he hates vets and I hate for him to be there, but I would not have been able to handle any after surgery complications. It’s definitely the only way to go, in my opinion.

I spent the rest of the night sewing the arms closed on onesies and cutting the other arms open more for his comfort, making a corner of the room all comfy with blankets and towels and a litter box which I hope he’ll use, putting a little heater in the room etc.

Now the recuperation begins. At least the decision making is behind us and the only place to go is up.

Surgery Overview (added later in hindsight)
– Took about an hour
– I used Gabapentin the morning and evening the day before surgery, and the morning of surgery. They gave him some more just before surgery in the afternoon, the night of surgery, and the morning after.
– Fentanyl foot patch was put on him three hours before surgery at the vet’s office to be kept on for 3-4 days after surgery.
– Morphine drip during and after surgery.
– Tramadol pills given to take home just in case additional pain medication was needed (it was not).
– They trimmed his nails while he was asleep at the vet. It is “normal” procedure and they will apparently do it unless you tell them not to, which I wish I had.
– He stayed the night at the vet to be picked up the next day.

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Pain Management – Dealing with Vets

October 31st, 2012 · 1 Comment · Fang's Story

Fang - The hunter

Fang – The hunter

This amputation is my first really major run-in with the vet. Sure we’ve gone there for shots (though rarely, and now that I know the rabies vaccination can give your kitties tumors, I’m probably never doing that again either!), and to get my doggy put to sleep two years ago (old age, throat collapse), but not for major surgery. I sort of expected that all vets would be equal and know what to do – wrong.

One thing I’ve learned is that you really have to take your cat’s medical care into your own hands and make sure that your vet is really doing what’s best for your baby. I am so appreciative that the people at Tripawds Forums know about what to expect and what to require as far as an amputation goes, because I was going into this blind. They offered these articles, which I highly recommend, about what to expect from the vet, and what to ask them about:

How to Choose a Veterinarian for Amputation Surgery

Dr. Kay’s 12 Things to Expect from Your Vet

I was also suggested by a few people (both at home and on forums) to go out and get a second opinion, which I would also highly recommend. I called the Vet School nearby, and a surgeon there was kind enough to say that he would consult with me via email regarding my cat’s amputation. Unfortunately, he didn’t email me back. However, I was lucky enough to be able to chat briefly with a vet on Tripawds Forums and it did make me feel a lot better. I wish the guy from the vet school would get back to me, but, I’m glad that I at least tried. Getting a second opinion helps to (1) make you feel better that you’re doing the right thing, and (2) figure out what the gaps might be in your current vet’s care and assess whether or not those gaps are okay.

For example, I love my vet – she has a relationship-based way of providing medical care and she is always willing to answer my questions by email during her off-hours. That’s a huge deal. She is also willing to let ME decide what we should do with Fang – she doesn’t presume that she can choose what’s best. She is also really flexible, and obviously feels like my comfort level is very important. The hospital she works at is open all night, with trained staff and at least 1 doctor there at all times. The surgery is done with two assistants in addition to the surgeon (my vet), and one of those assistants is trained well enough that they could actually perform the amputation themselves. All of these things make me feel much better about the amputation – and I would never have known if I didn’t ask (and if I didn’t know to ask – thanks guys).

However, there are some issues with pain management, and these are issues that you really really need to discuss with your vet.

Pain Management

People I’ve talked to about amputation (who have gone through it with their pets themselves) have been kind enough to tell me that vets have extremely different approaches when it comes to pain management. Apparently theories have changed over the years, so vets trained in the recent-ish past may not do as much to PREVENT pain as they do to treat the pain once it occurs. This is an issue, because there are things that can be done to prevent some of the pain from ever occuring.

The most important things seem to be: (1) administering Gabapentin before the surgery (2) using nerve blocks during the surgery, and (3) using a morphine drip during and after the surgery. Talking to your vet about these things is important. For example, my vet does not use Gabapentin, but was willing to try it because I asked. My vet does not use a morphine drip – they use a fentanyl patch which is a a pain patch put on his foot that releases fentanyl for about 4-5 days, that way he has it when he goes home too. I still don’t know if this is better or not, but I wouldn’t have known to even ask. My vet generally does not send home oral medication in addition to the fentanyl patch, but is willing to give me a liquid one as well just in case I need it.

After talking with her I feel much better about the surgery, and feel like I did something to help his recovery be better than it would have been otherwise. I also, through this conversation, found out that my vet is really flexible and willing to do things the way that I would like them to be done. She has been an excellent mediary between myself (no medical experience) and the medical world. I really appreciate that.

But remember that no vet is perfect. Phantom limb pain occurs in lots of cats (and dogs), but my vet had never heard of it. This was the most worrying thing for me, and one of the biggest reasons that I was seeking a second opinion. I am still unsettled about this issue, but feel like the additional pain prevention will also help to prevent the phantom limb pain. My vet believes that arthritis is not often an issue with three-legged cats, but forum members who’ve got three legged cats have recommended that I start Fang on a joint supplement. I love my vet, and I feel confident in her, but there are differences in medical opinion out there, and it’s your job as loving owner to find them.

My point is that the reality of the situation is that you need to ask and find out what is really going on at your vet’s office. You need to be sure that your vet is the right one for the surgery, and that their facility is the right one for the surgery. YOU need to do the homework and be an advocate for your pet because you cannot, cannot, cannot assume that the first vet you went to is going to be the best one for your kitty.

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