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Limb Amputation in Cats

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Indications for Amputation

  • Soft tissue sarcomas are a type of tumor that can develop on the limbs. In cats, fibrosarcoma is one of the most common. These tumors are malignant, but tend to be slow to spread to other parts of the body. They are locally aggressive, that is, they damage and invade the structures at their location. If they occur on a limb it is often difficult to get rid of the tumor in its entirety while maintaining muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and bone needed for normal limb function. Thus, amputation may be the surgical procedure of choice.

  • Another tumor, although uncommon in the cat, is osteosarcoma. This bone tumor in cats is less likely to spread to other tissues than it is in dogs. Amputation is an excellent way to control the local disease, the actual gross tumor on the limb.

  • Radiation therapy or combinations of radiation/chemotherapy in addition to surgery, may be appropriate for certain limb tumors. Treatment options can be discussed with your veterinarian or with a surgical or oncological specialist.

  • As in humans, even when money is not an issue, amputation may be the treatment of choice for limb trauma where nerve supply or blood supply is severely damaged or bone and soft tissue injury is beyond what can be repaired by modern surgical techniques. Damage to the nerves that supply the limb, for example following trauma that results in pelvic fractures, may be irreversible, resulting in a non-functional limb that drags. This may result in abrasions of the paw through failure of the animal to pick up the leg properly. Amputation may be indicated in such cases.

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