There is an active and ongoing debate about declawing cats.
We understand that there are circumstances under which this procedure may be the best choice for you.
We just want to make sure you have the “Whole” story.
Although we do not perform feline declaws here at Wainwright Veterinary Services for the reasons we will detail below, Dr. Goodbrand at Vermilion Veterinary Clinic has designed an intensive pain management protocol for declaws and is available to do the procedure there.
Dr. Goodbrand has designed a multi-modal pain management protocol which involves local anesthesia, slow release fentanyl patches (stronger than morphine), extended duration oral pain-killers, intravenous continuous rate infusion pain-killers while in hospital, and laser therapy of the surgery site for several days.
Research shows that if you block pain before it happens, recovery time is much quicker and long term complications are greatly reduced. This may seem to be going overboard when historically very little has been done for pain control, but the results speak for themselves!
So, if you have tried everything else, and still decide that you would like your cat declawed, we would encourage you to research the protocols being used and choose the best for your pet.
Remember, the procedure is irreversible and you have one chance to do it right. The protocol we use and recommend involves several days hospitalization and close monitoring, so it will likely be more expensive than traditional techniques which do little to manage pain and discharge patients earlier after the procedure.
There are a number of countries where it is already illegal or done only under extreme circumstances.
Currently, here is the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association’s posted position on the issue.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) strongly discourages onychectomy (declawing) of domestic cats for routine purposes. Surgical amputation of the partial digit prevents cats from expressing normal behaviours and causes pain. Veterinarians should inform clients of the potential negative consequences of declawing and educate them about tools and techniques available to prevent and minimize personal and property damage so that the procedure may be avoided.
At Wainwright Veterinary Services, Dr. Donna Turner and Dr. Judy McFarlen do not perform the declawing procedure for the following reasons:
1. Most owners do not understand the actual procedure nor the potential complications. Once clients have an understanding, most are willing to try other means to train or curb what is considered to be a natural behavior.
2. Declawing is a partial digital amputation which is equivalent to amputating a person’s finger or toe at the first knuckle.(2) There are 3 ways the digit is removed -scalpel blade, nail clipper and laser. Even with three developed way of preforming the surgery, sever pain, hemorrhaging and lameness can occur post-operatively.
3. Even though a lot of cats have no long term negative effects from the procedure, if it is your cat that has a long term complication, this is a 100% incidence. This can affect you and your pet on a profound and ongoing level, depending on the nature of the complication.
4. The vast majority of cat clawing behaviour can be curbed or properly directed through training, providing alternative scratching areas, frequent nail trimming or the application of soft paws.
5. Unless the claw is infected, severely injured, or neoplasia is present; this procedure is considered cosmetic and rendered unnecessary. (1)
6. Removing the claws takes away the cats primary means of defence and biting is often its replacement. Litter and the litter box as a whole may become avoided by the cat, leading to inappropriate urinating and defecation around the house. The natural behaviour of digging while using the litter box can be painful after a declawing procedure-cats can then associate the box with pain, and avoid it. (2)
(1) Birchard, Stephen J, and Robert G. Sherding. Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice. St.Louis,Missouri: Sunders Elsevier, 2006. Print.
(2) Robinson, Narda,DVM. “Declaw:Whom Are We Protecting.” Veterinary Practice News Aug. 2012: 42-43. Print.