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As you may recall, when I adopted Kissy I mentioned that she’d had surgery to repair a luxated patella — her left rear “kneecap” was literally all the way around the side of her leg — and I knew she was going to need more specialized veterinary attention to deal with whatever was going on inside her leg. On Tuesday, I took her to the vet because the limp she’s had ever since I adopted her was getting worse, and I wanted to know what was going on.

side view of Kissy's knee and lower leg

Kissy’s left knee is a mess. There’s a lot of arthritic changes and extra bone growth. Click the image to make it bigger.

They took some X-rays — for which Kissy had to be sedated because when they tried to put her bad leg into the right position for the radiograph, she screamed in pain — and a couple of hours later I got the first news.

She’s got a lot of extra bone growth in that knee, and the x-rays also showed that the bones themselves are pretty deformed — they’re almost bowed out and they don’t look anything like the bones on the other side. From that, and the way the muscles are anchored in weird places, Dr. Alden is almost sure that Kissy’s knee problem is due to a congenital deformity. The relief here is that she didn’t develop this problem because of trauma or abuse — there’s no sign of fractures or anything to indicate she was hurt.

In short, the poor cat probably has never had a pain-free day in her life! My heart breaks just thinking about it.

Dr. Alden sent the X-rays to a veterinary orthopedist for a consultation, and she even posted them on the Veterinary Information Network forum to find out if any other vets have run across something like this.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Alden called me with an update on the orthopedic consultation.

Kissy's X-ray

In this X-ray, the difference between the bones of the left and right leg is obvious. Her left tibia is extremely bowed when compared to her right one (arrows). Click this image to make it bigger.

Four different surgeons looked at Kissy’s X-rays, and the consensus is that to repair her leg would take three surgeries — one to straighten the bones, one to put the patella into place with the new orientation of the bones and repair her cruciate ligament (yes, she has a blown cruciate ligament too), and one to remove all the pins that were placed during the first surgery. Even after all those surgeries and the related pain and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, there’s no guarantee that the repair would give her less long-term pain or quality of life — or that they wouldn’t have to amputate the leg after all that.

Because of her severe arthritis and cruciate ligament issue, medical management wouldn’t be much use. Supplements like glucosamine/chondroitin and MSM work well for mild to moderate arthritis, but not so well for cases as severe as hers.

Dr. Alden told me that all the orthopedists agree that to give her a pain-free, high-quality life, amputation is the best option. I told her I wanted to think it over for a while before making a final decision, but I suspected it was going to come down to that.

I personally don’t have any issues with amputation or tripod cats. What’s important to me is that Kissy has the best possible quality of life. Dr. Alden also told me that every feline amputee she’s seen recovers very quickly, so I don’t have any concerns about a difficult recovery. Cats carry most of their weight over their front legs, so a rear amputation is generally less traumatic for an adult cat in that regard.

I’ve thought it over for a day or so, and talked to some friends about it, and at this point I’m pretty convinced that amputation is the way to go. The surgery and associated medications and pre-anesthetic blood testing will run me about $700, but that’s a small price to pay for Kissy’s health and happiness. I haven’t scheduled the surgery yet, but I probably will soon.

But before I do, I’m curious — do any of you have amputee kitties in your homes? How have they gotten along? How long did the recovery take? Please tell me about your experiences with kitties that are missing a leg.

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