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Painted Sky Veterinary Services is a feline onychectomy (declaw) free practice.
A declaw procedure as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the surgical amputation of distal digit (last bone of the toe) and attached claw. If this procedure were compared to human medicine it would be the amputation of the tip of the human finger beginning at the last joint.
There are many known complications to this procedure both long term and short term.
Short term effects can range from:
• Post-surgical compression bandages that are wrapped too tightly, causing the foot to become gangrenous and necessitate amputation of the leg.
• Many cats continue to profusely bleed after initial bandage removal and require rebandaging.
• An adverse reaction to the general anesthetic, which can include death.
Long term effects range from:
• In instances in which the entire nail bed was not removed, one or more claws can grow back misshapen, useless, or grow back embedded inside the cats healed foot.
• If a surgical nail cutter was dull cats may experience shattered bones in their feet which can become seriously infected. This can be corrected only with a second general anesthetic and surgical procedure.
• Scratching is also a natural feline behavior that meets cat's many needs. Once their claws have been removed, they can no longer perform their natural stretching and kneading rituals, causing the build up of stress.
• Since a declaw requires the amputation of an entire digit cats also have to readjust body weight to ambulate normally. In doing so they are forced to place additional stress on joints, muscles and tendons/ligaments that are not equipped to carry the extra weight. These structures can then become weak over time causing many cats to experience debilitating arthritis in their backs and shoulders.
• Furthermore, cats without claws have lost their first line of defense, and because of this, can live in a state of stress. They cannot fight off other animals, or escape quickly from a dangerous situation. They may also become biters because they no longer can use their claws as a warning. Groomers, veterinarians, and people who care for declawed cats in shelters find many of them to be nervous, irritable, and difficult to handle.
• Finally, declawed cats are more likely to stop using their litter boxes. They may associate the pain they feel in their paws when trying to cover their waste with the litter box itself. They seek a less painful place for elimination, such as the carpet, bathtub, the bed or even piles of laundry. Even though there are effective ways to modify a cat's litter box behavior, it is a particularly difficult challenge because a declawed cat's aversion to the box is a direct result from pain association.
Scratching is a normal behavior for cats and in most cases scratching locations can be controlled. This can be achieved by providing the animal with appropriate surfaces to scratch on such as scratch pole/posts, boxes, etc, providing additional environmental enrichment (toys, play time), trimming the nails regularly, and/or the application of soft paws.
Painted Sky Veterinary Services feels strongly about our position to educate owners about the risks associated with declawing and discourage its practice in the future. We also are happy to discuss strategies to help you and your cat find a solution to unwanted scratching. Please feel free to call our office at 715-268-8131 with any questions.