1.13.17 Day 5 Post Op: Phantom Limb Pain

The following post operative complications were the main inspiration for us to share our story. We hope this information will help others navigate through difficulties in the post op period:

At 1:30 a.m. Munch was sleeping between our pillows like she usually does, and out of nowhere she darted out of bed and looked angry. I gave her pain medication 30 minutes early thinking she was restless from pain.  I brought her back to bed and caressed her head her until she fell back to sleep. She repeated the same stunt out of bed around 6:30 a.m., but no medications were due. Then at 10:15 a.m. she went to use her litter box, and while she was in there she went crazy as if she was in a cat fight with herself. I tried to console her as I took her out of the cat box; she was covered in litter at this point with litter in her eyes and mouth. I was completely horrified since this was the first time she had ever acted out like this. I called the hospital and by the time I was told to bring her in, Munch managed to rip off five claws from her back paws. I brought her into the ER and she needed x-rays of her bloody paws to determine whether she had damaged the bone and needed amputations of any digits. I couldn’t help but think, “how much more of her do we have to remove?” Thankfully, removal of the claws and wound care was what she needed. We were sent home with Trazodone (a sedative) to keep her calm, and arrived home around 9:00 p.m.

Once the sedation wore off from the ER visit, Munch was back to growling, screaming, and fighting herself. Around 2:00 a.m., we made yet another trip to the ER. Since she was a harm to herself, tranquilizer was needed. The doctors couldn’t figure out whether she was having a bad reaction to the pain medications or experiencing phantom limb pain. They put her on Gabapentin which helps with nerve pain, and applied a Fentanyl patch near her incision site for sustained pain relief. By morning she seemed to have calmed down but was still anxious, so we had to be present in order for her to eat and relax. Four days later, she was discharged; she adjusted to her new medication regimen and has been doing well ever since.

Takeaways from this experience:

Munch’s surgeon informed us that phantom limb pain post amputation is apparently uncommon in cats. She expressed that this was the first cat with phantom limb pain she had encountered during her lengthy career.

For anyone reading, here is a list of the signs & symptoms Munch exhibited:

  • Anxiety attacks, acting out while no stimulus was present
  • Screaming as if she was in a catfight, completely unprovoked
  • Growling and hissing
  • Inconsolable
  • Erratic movements
  • Ripping off claws during an anxiety attack
  • Scratching abdomen with back paws (photo below)
  • Rapid heart beat (felt when picking her up)
  • Drooling (I was concerned she was having a neurological issue, but actual pain was the cause)

One thought on “1.13.17 Day 5 Post Op: Phantom Limb Pain”

  1. Poor little sweetie. I’ve read about a few cats her with phantom limb pain but none to that extreme. You are taking such good care of her.

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