My cat has 3 legs – will this hurt his back?


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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra My cat has lost his front left limb. He does not have much of a stump and when walks his front is low to the ground. I am frighten this will twist his back and cause the other front limb to wear excessively which I feel will shorten his life span. Is there any artificial solution?

Jane Carter


Hi Jane– thanks for your email. You wrote that your cat has 3 legs – he has lost is left front leg. Certainly when an animal has 3 legs – there is more wear on those 3 than normal but most pets do great. Both dogs and cats. I don't know how awkward your cat is or how recent his leg loss but most cats really do very well. In fact, I have seen some cats run and had to do a double take to even realize they were 3-legged.

As far as the back – secondary back injuries from a gait problem are very common in people but relatively rare in dogs. And..there is really nothing you can do.

As far as "artificial solutions" – it is possible for animals to have prosthesis but it is very uncommon. They often don't deal with them well and they can be hard to fit. However, if this is something that interests you – I'd recommend that you go to a college of veterinary medicine closest to you and discuss this with the orthopedic surgeon there. They should know your options for your particular situation.

If you don't know where your closest school is – ask your veterinarian.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.