2 Indications/UsesThe feline declaw, also referred to as the feline onychectomy, is the removal of the claw and the most distal phalanx of each digitUsually only done on the front paws; declawing all four paws is not recommendedUsed to stop a cat from scratching owners and destroying furniture, carpeting, clothing, etc., while exercising their natural urge to scratch
3 Indications/UsesCats scratch for several reasons besides to defend themselves: to sharpen their claws, to stretch their legs, to leave their scent, and to remove the outer layer of their claws that naturally sheds offThe declaw is used either prophylactically to stop damage from occurring, or as a last resort when unwanted scratching behavior is already present
5 TechniquesThere are 3 different techniques for the feline declaw: the Rescoe nail trimmer technique, scalpel blade, and CO2 laser techniqueAll 3 are effective when done properly and all have pros and consFirst the paws are surgically scrubbed but not usually shaved unless longhairedNot a sterile procedure because you cannot sterilize this area of the bodyWith the Rescoe and scalpel techniques, a tourniquet is placed around the patient’s leg distal to the elbow to control bleeding
6 Rescoe nail trimmerDuring the Rescoe technique, the nail trimmer is positioned between the second and third phalanxThe claw should be pulled cranially, and as little skin as possible should be removedA portion of the third phalanx is left behind, but the entire germinal layer is removed to prevent regrowth of the nail (very painful!)
7 Scalpel bladeThe scalpel technique uses a no. 12 scalpel blade to excise the entire third phalanxOnce the collateral ligaments are cut, the nail is cut away from the underlying tissue and digital padThe pad is moved out of the way to avoid inadvertent laceration
8 CO2 laserThe laser technique is very similar to the blade technique except that it uses laser energy instead of a scalpelThe surgical site usually doesn’t bleed with the laser technique, so a tourniquet is not necessarySaline-soaked sponges should be used to cover the remainder of the cat’s foot, instruments, and surgeon’s fingers to absorb extraneous laser energy and prevent iatrogenic laser burns
9 CO2 laserIt is best to use instruments approved for laser surgery to prevent reflected laser beams from inappropriately penetrating objects and tissuesEveryone in the room should wear safety glasses to prevent inadvertent ocular damageOne might argue that the laser technique is the best because there isn’t as much trauma and bleeding, but always be sure your surgeon has been properly trained in this technique!
11 TechniquesOne to two sutures are often placed to close the skin edges after the nail is removedSurgical glue (cyanoacrylic tissue adhesive) is used instead in some instancesSurgical glue should never be placed on the exposed bone of the second phalanx or dropped inside the wound
12 TechniquesAfter surgery, the paws are bandaged snugly with strips of tape and a gauze sponge over the excised digitsStrips of tape are placed longitudinally along the leg and distally around the pawTape is then placed circumferentially around the paw up to the elbowThe tourniquet is removed as soon as bandaging is complete
14 TechniquesThis is a very painful procedure, and analgesics should be administered pre- and post-operativelyA pure opioid agonist is best for the first 24 hours after surgerySome nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs can also be usedPain medication should be administered for at least 4 to 5 days postoperative
15 Techniques The bandages are kept on for 24 hours, but no longer After surgery, litter should consist of shredded paper or pellets to prevent accumulation of clay or sand in the surgical wounds with resultant irritation and infectionPaws should be monitored for hemorrhage, swelling, drainage, and redness
16 Supportive Scientific Data? The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners both say about the same thing on declawing; while it’s not considered medically necessary for the cat, it can be considered appropriate for cats that otherwise would be given up or for those whose owners are immunocomprimised
17 Supportive Scientific Data? There have been many studies on whether declawing affects a cat’s personality, and there has been no evidence to support that it doesMost cats don’t seem to realize they’ve been declawed when done youngThere is also no evidence to suggest that a cat will develop problems with using the litter box after being declawed
18 Risks Vs. BenefitsComplications of onychectomy can be divided into those that occur in the early postoperative period and those that occur in the late postoperative periodEarly complications include loose bandages and potsoperative bleedingCats should be checked frequently for evidence of loose, bloody bandages or complete bandage removal and severe hemorrhage
19 Risks Vs. BenefitsLate complications include regrowth of the claws, chronic lameness, or bothClaw regrowth requires reoperation and removal of remaining germinal epitheliumChronic lameness without evidence of regrowth may be seen with incomplete removal of the phalanx or cut foot pads
20 Risks Vs. BenefitsOther complications include radial nerve damage secondary to tourniquet placement and skin sloughing secondary to tight, prolonged bandage placementJust like with any surgical procedure, infection is a possibility, especially because this is not a sterile surgeryThere are no medical benefits for the cat unless there is a problem with the claw/phalanx itself and it needs to be removed for any reason
21 Other OptionsFrequent Nail TrimmingTrainingSoft Paws
22 ConclusionIn conclusion, declawing may seem cruel, but if it is a choice between declawing the cat and the cat not having a home, it is much better to declaw!
23 BibliographyMcCurnin, Dennis M. and Bassert, Joanna M. Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians, Sixth Edition. Philidelphia, PA: Elsevier Inc, 2006.Ecksten, Sandy. (2009). Declawing Cats Q&A: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives. Healthy Cats Guide. February 28,Marvistavet. (2009, August 19). Declawing and its Alternatives. February 28, and_its_alternatives.html.