Feline Declaw Procedure

Feline Declaw Procedure

Declawing felines is a controversial surgical procedure that involves amputation of the distal phalanx of the paws in either the front limbs only or all four limbs. In certain cases, this surgery can be beneficial to the bond between human and animal. In rare cases, it can be necessary to eliminate the risk of scratches to humans with certain conditions, such as blood clotting disorders. Here at Pondview Veterinary Clinic, we recognize that this procedure may be warranted in some cases. We also feel that it is our duty to the patients and clients that we serve to ensure it is done with a mutual understanding of the procedure, possible complications, and alternative solutions.

The process of declawing involves the removal of not only the claw that you can see but also the portion of the bone that is connected to the paw, more commonly known as the first knuckle. The idea is that this will prevent the regrowth of the claw, but it does not completely eliminate the risk of it. This is the reason we refer to this procedure as an amputation. Technically, there are five amputations done on each paw. A tourniquet is applied to the limb, and a guillotine clipper is used to remove the top portion of the digit and the claw. The opening is then closed with surgical glue. Please refer to the below diagram to visualize where the amputation is performed.

There is an inherent risk with any surgical procedure that is done, even when the best standard of care is given. Declawing is considered an elective procedure, which means that it is not medically necessary for the animal. Your pet will need to undergo general anesthesia for this procedure. Oftentimes, it is elected to perform declawing at the same time as a spay/neuter is performed. This eliminates the need for multiple anesthetic events and, therefore, slightly decreases the risk of anesthetic complications. If your pet is under the age of 6 months, they are too young for us to perform a spay/neuter surgery. We strongly recommend waiting until they are old enough to have both of these procedures done at the same time. If your pet is already fixed, we will need to do a risk/benefit analysis of placing them under anesthesia for a declaw procedure. Typically older cats have a more difficult time recovering from this procedure.

Possible medical complications of phalanx amputation include, but are not limited to:

  • Intra-operative hemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Post-operative hemorrhage (bleeding)
  • Complications with anesthesia
  • Chronic, long-term pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Nail re-growth
  • Lameness (partial or complete inability to bear weight on limb(s))
  • Infection

Taking away a cat’s claws is making a distinct change in their anatomy and will most likely affect their behavior in some capacity. Cats often use their paws and claws to express themselves. They enjoy climbing and scratching with them. If your pet is inappropriately climbing and scratching, try giving them a few scratching posts and a cat tree. Designate these areas for them to perform these behaviors. If your cat is not getting the idea, they make sprays that you can spray onto the scratching post and/or cat tree to encourage these behaviors. Catnip is also a great option.

Possible behavioral complications of the procedure include, but are not limited to:

  • Personality change
  • Biting
  • Litterbox aversion (inappropriate elimination of urine and/or feces)

Alternatives to try at home before considering a declaw procedure include, but are not limited to:

  • Toys and stimulation
  • Scratching posts
  • Artificial pheromones
  • Regular nail trims
  • Nail caps

Another consideration to make before deciding on a declaw surgery is if there is any possibility of your cat getting out of your home. A declawed cat must be kept strictly indoors for the rest of their life. If your cat escapes your home, they will not be able to appropriately defend themselves or climb to avoid danger.

We understand that this is a difficult decision to make, and we are here to help you every step of the way. We will require a consultation with a veterinarian before scheduling surgery for a declaw procedure. If you are interested in getting a consultation scheduled, please either call or e-mail. If you have any specific questions, they can be addressed at this time.