On October 8th, 2013, we dropped Harold off for his right rear limb amputation. Dr. Howard would decide how much to cut once he took his pre-op x-rays and saw whether there was involvement of the femur, or whether the damage was isolated to his tibia . We got a report at the end of the day that Harold went through surgery with flying colors and was resting comfortably. They said he was lying in the crate with his paws crossed. At home that means he’s relaxed.
Dr. Howard said that visible damage to the bone stopped at the joint, so he made the cut about mid-femur, leaving Harold with a couple inches of stump and most of his thigh. When we picked him up the following morning, we went over his x-rays with the doctor. In the few weeks between the first onset of lameness and moments before surgery, the tibia had cracked almost all the way through. We were lucky he didn’t snap is leg right in half! Every jump, hop, bump, and step slowly contributed to the increasing fracture, which was much clearer with the Vermont Veterinary Surgical Center‘s fancier, newer radiography equipment. We could also clearly see the cloudy lumps that were the tumors in the muscle and other soft tissues.
Dr. Howard also showed us the “gross surgical pics” that he had taken for his records (I won’t post those here out of respect for the squeamish, but I have copies and am happy to share if you are curious, just let me know). When I looked as his dissected leg, it was just full to bursting with tumors. Tumors everywhere. I said off-handedly that it looked like a piñata full of tumors, which got a chuckle out of all of our vets (we all have weird humors that match, what can I say). He had sent the leg off to find out exactly what kind of cancer we were dealing with.
Meanwhile, Harold was already up and hopping around and so done with the vet. I was surprised to find that the stitches had no covering, so there would be no bandages to change. We were instructed to inspect the incision site a couple times a day until the stitches came out. Some swelling and bruising is normal the first couple days and may get a little worst before it gets better. Things to worry about are limited to oozing and excessive redness. Otherwise, just let it heal.
Harold was also given a soft cloth Cone of Shame to wear. We were instructed that he should wear it constantly for the 2 weeks he had the stitches in because he should not lick the incision site. We complied for a few days, but found he was making himself crazy trying to groom other parts of himself, and he was very lethargic. We worried that he was a little depressed, grooming is a really important part of a cat’s psychological well-being. So we talked to Dr. Moore, his regular vet at Cats Vermont, who said it would be okay to give him as many periods of well supervised hat-free time as we could manage. She thought it would be better for his general psyche and comfort, which could only help his healing. We started with taking it off for periods when we could watch him like a hawk, like when he was eating.
Naturally, the first time I ran out of the room for 2 seconds where I couldn’t watch him, I came back and he was licking his incision. No way we were going to have one of those critters that has no interest in it. He managed to lick a little scab off and I was worried, but we kept an eye on it over the next couple of days and the spot scabbed back over fine. So, a couple of exploratory licks, even a little picked scab, the body can handle just fine. Good to know.
The dopey look in his eyes is the Buprenorphine, which he got for another 5 days to get him through the most painful post-op days. In our experience, the .3 ml we were initially given when he injured himself was too much. He got crazy confused. He couldn’t figure out how to walk forward, which freaked him out so badly I was afraid he’d hurt himself. Under instructions from the vet, we were allowed to decrease to .25 ml, which was quite a bit better. We made him a dark, soft, quiet place under my dresser where he could ride out the worst of the opiate haze, which usually hit about a half an hour after dosing and lasted a couple hours. The dresser area was where we saw him naturally isolate himself, we just made it more comfortable for him to hang out there. Post-op Harold had .25 for three days and .2 for two days and then done.
While he was on the heavy pain meds, he mostly just slept and decompressed. It was hard to watch him have so little interest in doing anything other than hang out on our bed. While we did notice that he was able to go up and down the stairs, get up and down off the bed & couch (with some steps that we made out of two short & tall rubbermaid storage container with carpet grip pads on the lid to prevent slipping), and even started figuring out how to wash his face, he was not really into it. My understanding is that bupe is a really powerful opiate, so it would be unrealistic to expect an animal on it to do anything but act stoned. Which he did.
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