It’s Not Declawing, It’s ‘De-Toeing’ by Dr. Karen Becker

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Story at-a-glance
-Declawing of cats is still legal in the U.S., and sadly, it’s still somewhat common
-It’s important to understand that declawing is not nail removal, it’s the permanent amputation of bones in each of your cat’s toes
-A recent study concluded that declawed cats have more pain and behavior issues than non-declawed cats
-The study’s authors hope their results will encourage veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats
-There are many alternatives to declawing your cat, starting with providing appropriate scratching surfaces and training kitty to use them

By Dr. Becker

I’ve written many articles here at Healthy Pets about the inhumane practice of declawing cats, a procedure called an onychectomy. The surgery has been banned in several countries, but continues to be commonly and legally performed in many others, including the U.S.

It’s Not Declawing, It’s ‘De-Toeing’

Cats use their claws for balance, exercise and stretching and toning the muscles of their legs, back, shoulders and paws. They also use them to hunt and capture prey, to escape or defend against predators and as part of their marking behavior when they live outdoors. What many people don’t realize is that declawing isn’t a nail trim, or even nail removal. It’s not even declawing, it’s “de-toeing.” The procedure removes not just the claws, but also the bones, nerves, joint capsule, collateral ligaments and the extensor or flexor tendons.

Cats are digitigrades, meaning they walk on their toes. Most other mammals, including humans, walk on the soles of their feet. Cats have three bones in each of their toes, just as we have three bones in each of our fingers — two joints and three bones. A kitty’s claw actually grows out of the last bone. This is very different from human fingernails, which grow out of flesh. Since a cat’s nail grows from the bone, it’s the bone that must be amputated to prevent the claw from growing back.

The declawing procedure involves cutting between the second and third bones, and amputating the last bone that contains the claw. This severs everything in the way — nerves, tendons and blood vessels. A front-paw declaw requires 10 separate amputations. If the hind paws are also done, that’s eight more separate amputations. Thankfully, hind paw declawing is much less common, but also much more painful for the cat.

Past research into the effects of declawing has primarily focused on short-term, post-operative changes. But recently, a small team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada published the results of a study to determine whether declawing increases the risk of long-term pain and unwanted behaviors in cats.1

Pain is actually very often the root cause of undesirable behaviors such as eliminating outside the litterbox and aggression, including biting. This situation is obviously harmful for the cat who’s in constant pain, and it’s risky for human family members who may be bitten. In addition, litterbox avoidance and aggression are two very common reasons pet parents give for relinquishing their cats to shelters.

63 Percent of Declawed Study Cats Had Residual Bone Fragments

For the retrospective study, the researchers looked at 137 non-declawed cats and 137 declawed cats, 33 of which were declawed on both the front and back paws. Of the 274 kitties, 176 were privately owned (88 declawed, 88 non-declawed) and 98 were shelter cats (49 declawed and 49 non-declawed).

All the cats underwent physical exams to check for signs of pain and “barbering,” which is excessive licking and/or chewing of fur. In addition, their medical records for the previous two years were reviewed for reported unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination, aggression and biting with minimal provocation.

X-rays of the declawed cats were also taken to check for distal limb abnormalities, including P3 (third phalanx) bone fragments. Sadly, well over half (86 or 63 percent) of these kitties showed radiographic evidence of residual P3 fragments.

Declawed Cats Had Significantly More Pain and Behavior Issues Than Non-Declawed Cats

The research team discovered that inappropriate elimination, biting, aggression and over-grooming occurred much more often in the declawed than the non-declawed kitties. The declawed cats had seven times the litterbox issues, four times the biting behavior and three times the aggressive and over-grooming behaviors as their non-declawed counterparts.

The declawed kitties also had almost three times the back pain of the non-declawed cats, which the researchers theorized could be the result of altered gait due to the shortening of the declawed limbs, and/or persistent pain at the surgery site, which causes compensatory weight shift to the pelvic limbs.

When an onychectomy is performed, the veterinarian is supposed to remove the entire third phalanx (P3) bone per the surgical guidelines set forth by the Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. The fact that 86 of the 137 declawed cats were walking around with P3 bone fragments means a significant number of vets aren’t performing declawing procedures up to standard.

These cats had even more back pain and undesirable behaviors than the remaining declawed cats, but the researchers also make the point that even when onychectomy is performed to standard, it doesn’t eliminate the risks. Residual pain in the declawed toes prompts many cats to look for soft surfaces rather than litter for purposes of elimination.

The researchers also explained that painful declawed cats may resort to biting when touched because their first line of defense, their claws, has been taken from them. Lead study author Nicole Martell-Moran, a veterinarian at a cat-only clinic in Houston, told EurekAlert:

“The result of this research reinforces my opinion that declawed cats with unwanted behaviors may not be ‘bad cats,’ they may simply need pain management. We now have scientific evidence that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than we originally thought and I hope this study becomes one of many that will lead veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats.”2

5 Ways to Minimize Cat Claw Damage Around Your Home

Scratching is a normal behavior for your cat. It conditions and sharpens his claws, allows him to get in a good back stretch and it’s also how he marks his territory, which is why cats return to the same place again and again to do their scratching. To avoid the damage those sharp little claws can do to both you and your belongings:

1. Supply your cat with appropriate scratching surfaces. Kitties vary in the way they scratch and the surfaces they prefer. Observe your cat’s scratching behavior and try to match your scratcher purchase to it.

Some kitties scratch horizontally. Some reach high overhead vertically for a good backstretch. Some lie on their backs and scratch a surface above them. Also observe what types of surface your cat prefers to scratch. Some cats prefer soft fabric while others like wood flooring.

If possible, buy or make cat scratchers that will satisfy both your kitty’s preferred scratching position and surface. This might involve more than one scratcher design.

Your kitty’s scratchers must be placed where they’ll be used. Clawing is in part a marking behavior for your cat, so she’ll probably return to the same place to scratch. Sticking the scratchers in out-of-the-way spots your cat doesn’t frequent is unlikely to encourage her to use them.

Once you’ve got your scratchers in position, encourage kitty to explore the scratcher using a lure like a feather toy or a toy with some organic catnip rubbed on it. Offer praise and treats each time she uses the post and especially when she digs her claws into it. Pet her while she’s using the post, and give her plenty of positive reinforcement.

2. Trim your cat’s nails weekly or at least every couple of weeks.

3. Protect any off-limits areas your cat is scratching. Use a combination of kitty scratching deterrents, including aluminum foil, double-sided tape, plastic sheeting, plastic carpet runners or car mats with the spiky sides up, or inflated balloons. If you’re covering surfaces you need to use frequently, like furniture, you can attach the foil, tape or plastic to pieces of cardboard and easily move them in and out of position.

4. Use herbal sprays designed to replace your pet’s paw pad scent markers on furniture or other surfaces with an odor that will discourage him from returning to that spot. I use citrus essential oils on the corners of my couch to deter scratching.

5. Consider covering your cat’s nails with a commercially available nail cap, which will protect both you and your belongings from kitty’s sharp claws.

[-]Sources and References

EurekAlert! May 23, 2017
1 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, May 23, 2017
2 EurekAlert!, May 23, 2017

Dr. Beker’s article here

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Dr. Marty Becker-The Evidence Against Declawing Cats Just Keeps Mounting

The evidence against declawing cats just keeps mounting

We’re seeing yet more evidence that not only does declawing not keep cats out of shelters, but it can cause a lifetime of pain and difficulty walking for cats who have undergone the procedure.

The routine declawing of cats, known as “onychectomy,” has become extremely common in the United States, but that’s not the case elsewhere — in fact, it’s illegal in many countries, and rarely practiced in most.

We in the veterinary profession have long justified performing this surgery by saying it would prevent cats from scratching furniture and other possessions, as well as people, in their homes, and keep them from being taken to a shelter or put outside to fend for themselves. We’ve also claimed that, when performed skillfully and with appropriate pain medication, it was not harmful.

I’ve written about post-declawing pain syndrome before, and a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery this spring reinforces my concern. The researchers found declawed cats are at risk of back pain and gait problems, retained bone fragments, and were more likely to bite and stop using their litter boxes. Additionally, they stated:

Declawing cats increases the risk of unwanted behaviors and may increase risk for developing back pain. Evidence of inadequate surgical technique was common in the study population. Among declawed cats, retained P3 fragments further increased the risk of developing back pain and adverse behaviors.

The use of optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risk of adverse behavior subsequent to onychectomy.

In another study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association late last year, the authors found that declawed cats who live with other cats are three times more likely to fail to use the litter box appropriately than those with intact claws:

(H)aving cats that had undergone onychectomy in a 3- to 5-cat household were all significant predictors of house soiling. Notably, having cats that had undergone onychectomy in a 3- to 5-cat household increased the risk of house soiling by more than 3-fold, indicating that the association between onychectomy and house soiling was influenced by the number of cats per household.

Compare this finding with the results of the analysis in which onychectomy status was stratified by the number of cats per household, which showed that onychectomy status had no confounding effect on this association. Taken together, these results indicated that when there were 3 to 5 cats in a household that had also undergone onychectomy, there was a greater risk of house soiling in that household.

Since litter box avoidance is the top reason cats are surrendered to shelters, continuing to use keeping cats out of shelters as a way to rationalize declawing seems increasingly insupportable.

It’s also worth noting that virtually all national humane organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Alley Cat Allies, AdoptAPet.com, the North Shore Animal League, Petfinder, and Best Friends Animal Society, as well as countless shelters and rescue groups across the country, vehemently oppose surgical declawing of cats unless medically necessary due to a condition such as cancer or severe injury.

I’m with them. I hope the rest of my profession joins us soon.

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Dr. Marty Becker Link To His Post

 

Video-Bad Veterinarians-Declaw VS Good Veterinarians-Repair Paws

The Truths and Myths About Laser Feline Declaw Surgery

There is a lot of talk about laser surgery being used in veterinary medicine. Especially when it comes to feline declaw surgeries. Unfortunately, a lot of what is said or even posted on web pages is a lot of hype. There have actually been very little scientific studies, especially blinded studies to prove a lot of what is said about laser surgery. Below is a list of truths and myths about laser surgery for you to review, so that you can make up your own mind on if laser surgery is what it says it is.

Statements made by laser surgery advocates:

1.) Laser surgery is less bloody than standard scalpel blade surgery.
-This is true; there is less blood with laser surgery than with standard scalpel surgery. This is because the laser instantly cauterizes or burns the vessels as they are encountered. That being said electrosurgery or radiosurgery units can achieve the same results that lasers can, and with less time and anesthesia.

2.) Laser surgery is less painful than standard scalpel blade based surgery.
-This is probably the biggest false statement made by laser advocates. With proper pre and post surgical pain control and nerve blocks, there have been no scientific studies showing that cats having laser declaw surgeries are any more or less painful than those having scalpel blade or electrosurgery declaw surgeries.

3.) Cats recover faster from laser surgery than with traditional declaw surgery.
-Once again this is a false statement that has been promoted recently.
There is no scientific proof that cats recover any faster from laser declaw surgeries than with scalpel blade or electrosurgery (radiosurgery) units. In fact a recent study showed that when you use lasers or radiosurgery an area of tissue surrounding the incision site is burned (cauterized), the body then has to take longer to bridge the gap at the incision site and heal versus with a scalpel blade incision, the incision forms a clot and has less work to bridge the gap between the incision site. Another study showed that Ultra High-Frequency Radiosurgery did less tissue damage around the incision site than either the laser or traditional radiocautery. (Reference – Radiosurgery: An Alternative to Laser in Veterinary Medicine (VET-340) Western Veterinary Conference 2004 A.D. Elkins, DVM, MS; DACVS Veterinary Specialty Center, LLC Indianapolis, IN, USA) The Arbor Ridge Pet Clinic

Link To Images In Video
https://plus.google.com/collection/of5KqB

Declawing Is Good For Veterinarians, But Bad For Cats
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/02/what-s-good-for-veterinarians-is-bad-for-cats.html

Chronic Pain Of Declawing
http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/chronic-pain-of-declawing/

Onychectomy Recovery And Behavioral Effects
http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/Onychectomy#Recovery.2C_health_and_behavioral_effects

Physical Consequences Of Declawing Including Not Using The Litter Box
http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/

Cats Hide Pain
http://pets.thenest.com/cats-hide-pain-well-6842.html

Questions And Answers About Declawing
http://www.pawproject.org/faqs/

Laser Declaw Video-Is This What You Want Done To Your Healthy Kitty?

Class Action Against Veterinarians Who Declaw
http://www.citythekitty.com/declawed-your-cat-join-a-class-action-suit/

Declawing Is Illegal In Most Countries But Canada And USA. Also, It Is Banned In Eight California Cities And Several States Have Landlord Laws
http://www.pawproject.org/legislation/

HUD Housing Does Not Require Declawing-Page 6
http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hmkp-114-ap00-20160524-sd002.pdf

Humane Alternatives To Declawing
Soft Paws Nail Caps Video-https://youtu.be/f5GwAKhqJF8
http://www.playfulkitty.net/2014/09/22/5-humane-alternatives-declawing-cats/
http://www.purrfectpost.com/declawing-cats-alternatives-to-an-inhumane-procedure/

STUDY: Laser Declaw Is Not Less Painful; More Declawed Cats Are Relinquished For Behavior Problems
http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/declaw-references

Declawing Statistics And Science
http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/declawing-and-science/

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#vetmed #vetlife #veterinary #vettech #veterinaryjob #vetschool #vetstudent

Kidnapped, Drugged, Amputated-Photos Of Declawing-Legal Animal Cruelty-Claws Pay Veterinarian’s Bills

 

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Just Don’t Do It: An Interview with Dallas’ PRO-CLAW Vet, Dr. Raina Weldon by Erin Flaherty

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Just Don’t Do It: An Interview with Dallas’ PRO-CLAW Vet, Dr. Raina Weldon

Erin Flaherty
Do not Declaw Dr. Weldon of the Cat Hospital of Dallas is PRO-CLAWwith Dr. Weldon
Dr. Raina Weldon has the distinction of being the only veterinarian in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex on the official Does Not Declaw List of Declaw.com. The owner and sole doctor of The Cat Hospital of Dallas, Dr. Weldon kindly sat down with us to answer a few questions about her decision not to declaw cats, her experience with the surgery and what Cat People absolutely need to know about a decision that will change your cat’s life.

Dr. Weldon, thank you so much for lending your expertise on declawing and feline health. First off – obligatory Cat Connection question – who are the cats you share your life with?

I am owned by 6 cats at home who range in age from one to seventeen years old. They were all rescues, most of whom had injuries or other issues when they came to me and were supposed to be foster cats until they were healthy enough to adopt out. I am a total foster failure and am no longer allowed to foster cats!

The cats are: Piglet, who was caught in a fan belt as a kitten; Pandora, who was feral and would not allow herself to be pet for the first thirteen years of her life; Catpurrccino, who was born with an eyelid defect; Odin, who had to have his eye removed at 4 weeks because of a severe injury; and Ghirard and Elli, two very shy but inseparable semi-feral cats. We also have an office cat named Seven who came to us as a kitten after she had been hit by a car.

Wow! Sounds like quite the menagerie, and it’s a good thing you’re a vet. Would you mind telling us a little about your veterinary training and how you came to own the Cat Hospital of Dallas?

I graduated from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. I was very focused on cats during vet school and wanted to work in a feline-exclusive practice, but those were few and far between, so I spent my first four years in a cat and dog practice in Arizona. The office saw far more dogs than cats, so I decided to resume my search for a job in a feline-only practice. After two cat practices told me that they would not hire me if I refused to declaw, I learned that the Cat Hospital of Dallas was for sale and decided that owning my own practice would allow me to practice feline medicine without violating my personal ethics.

It’s interesting that the entire course of your veterinary career was determined in no small part by declawing. Was your decision not to declaw a part of your training, or did you arrive at this understanding later?

We were not taught declawing in our surgery curriculum at Louisiana State, nor were we taught tail docking or ear cropping in dogs. We were only taught how to perform surgeries that had medical benefits to the patient.

Even before I knew what was involved with the surgery, we never had our cats declawed because it didn’t sound like a nice thing to do. When I was in vet school, I also worked as a vet tech part-time. The first time I saw a cat recovering from a declaw surgery, I vowed that I would never do that to a cat. The cat had been administered a pretty strong pain medication, but it was still vocalizing and frantically biting at its bloody bandaged feet. It was heartbreaking to watch, and I thought, “How can someone do this to a cat that they claim to love?”

You talk about feeling disbelief that someone could willingly do this to a pet, but I think that not many people know what the surgery actually entails. Would you mind describing it to us?

Of course! Declawing, or onychectomy, requires completely amputating the last bone on every toe, because the claw grows from that bone. If you leave a fragment of that bone, the claw will regrow, often in a deformed way that leads to infections and lameness years after the surgery. Most people who had cats declawed in the past had no idea that bones were being amputated because veterinarians did not explain the procedure, and unsurprisingly, clients knew even less about the potential for long-term pain and suffering.

And what of that long-term pain and suffering? You mentioned seeing the immediate effects during your days as a vet tech, but what can happen to these cats years after the amputations?

The most common complication is prolonged pain. I have seen cats who were limping because one paw was more painful than the others for weeks, months and even years after the surgery. I’ve seen a lot of claw regrowth years after the surgery, which can lead to infected wounds. I have seen two cats who lost all of the skin below the elbow after surgery because either the tourniquets or the bandages were too tight and cut off circulation. Both of these cats had to have skin grafts, and one had to have part of his foot amputated because of the infection. Other physical complications can include hemorrhage, infection and nerve damage. Unfortunately, some of the cats with claw regrowth, lameness and draining tracts will require a second surgery to remove bone fragments.

I have also seen behavioral problems, which can be very difficult to treat. Many cats stop using the litterbox after surgery and start eliminating on soft objects like rugs, sofas or beds, which tends to be a lifelong problem and often leads to the abandonment of the cat. Some cats do seem to increase biting behavior after surgery as well. We theorize that they either do it because swatting is no longer effective or because they are in chronic pain. One study I read surveyed owners up to 5 years after declawing and showed that 33% of the cats had developed these behavior problems after surgery. Sadly, a lot of those cats end up back at the shelter or worse yet: outside with reduced defenses.

So why do vets still perform this surgery? With the growing attention paid to the negative effects of declawing, I have seen many vets move from actively advertising for it to only doing it at the insistence of their client. What’s up with that?

Some veterinarians believe that declawing keeps cats in their homes, but there are certainly a lot of declawed cats relinquished to shelters or abandoned outdoors, and I’ve had two left in carriers in front of my clinic. That said, I’ve never had a client say that they were going to give up a cat or have it euthanized because of scratching behavior, but I’ve seen both happen because of inappropriate elimination that developed after declawing. I think there’s also a tendency to not stop doing something that we’ve always done and perceived as OK, but I think we’ve really been underestimating pain in cats and need to take a much closer look.

Unfortunately, as long as people ask for it and are willing to pay for it, many veterinarians will keep doing it until it’s illegal. Technically, now the AVMA and AAFP guidelines state the veterinarians should educate clients about the process, potential complications and alternatives before considering declawing. I also want to note that the CDC does not recommend declawing cats belonging to people with compromised immune systems.

I’ve heard a lot of people insist that because the amputations can be done with lasers as opposed to clippers, it is OK to declaw a cat. You hear a lot about “the right way to declaw.” What do you think of that?

There is no such thing as a pain-free declaw, and it has absolutely no medical benefit. The longest study I’ve seen tracked weight bearing 12 days after surgery, and it did show more weight bearing in the cats who had laser surgery. However, the weight bearing was still significantly reduced compared to the paw that did not have surgery, as only one foot was declawed for the study. I’ve had clients who had their cat laser declawed expecting it to be pain-free comment that the cats still appeared to be in pain. The reality is that you can expect the same potential complications with a laser declaw as with the clipper method. There is no “right way.”

You mentioned underestimating the pain that cats feel. Is that a human issue or part of the cat’s nature?

I think we’re terrible at knowing when a cat is in pain. They don’t whine and cry like dogs and humans do, so we erroneously assume that they must be OK. In declawing, if one paw is worse than the other, they may limp, but if both paws hurt, they can’t limp. We know that when humans have any bones amputated, it is very painful, so there’s no reason to believe that cats are any difference in their pain perception.

But most cats are very stoic about pain and are more likely to withdraw. It’s easier to assume that they must be OK if they’re crouched at the back of their compartment or not very active after surgery, but most cats will just suffer in silence. Cats have very strong instincts to hide injuries and illnesses because in nature, they are both prey and predator. Showing weakness can be dangerous. This is helpful in the wild, but detrimental when living with humans.

It’s understandable that people would prefer their cat not ruin a piece of furniture, but declawing seems like complete overkill. What do you recommend instead?

I try to get cat owners to start acclimating kittens to nail trims early on. Adult cats can usually also learn to tolerate nail trims, but it can take longer. Cats should always have appropriate scratching surfaces, and the areas you don’t want scratched, like the arm of a sofa, can be temporarily covered with plastic or double-sided tape to deter scratching while the cat learns to use the post. Inexpensive nail caps (Soft Paws/Claws, Kitty Caps) can be purchased at some pet stores, vet’s offices and online [Editor’s note: And at the Cat Connection!]. They come in many colors for the fashion conscious kitty, and most owners can apply them at home. I kept Soft Paws on all 6 of my cats when we got new furniture, and I put a different color on each cat, so if I found a nail cap on the floor, I knew which cat needed a replacement. Now they even come in sparkly and holiday colors.

Is there any reason you would suggest a cat be declawed?

Yes, if there’s cancer in a toe or if it’s so severely damaged or infected that there’s a medical reason to amputate – the same reasons a person would a toe amputated. As an aside, my great-grandmother had to have her big toe amputated because of cancer, and it took her months to learn to walk normally again – and cats who are declawed get 10 toes amputated [Editor’s note: For a front paw declaw only. For front and back, the number is 18] and have to walk immediately after to meet basic needs! It’s not a procedure to be taken lightly, nor is it something that should be done for any reason other than the ones I listed.

You are the only official “No Declaw” vet in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex listed on Declaw.com. While there may be others, they are not on the list. Have you acquired new patients as a result?

Yes, I’ve had several clients come to be because I’m listed on the Stop Declaw website. Recently, a cat owner I haven’t seen yet sent me a thank you card for not declawing and said she’d be in when her cats were due for their preventative care.

Well, this has been a real treat, Dr. Weldon. So many vets – whether they declaw or not – are unwilling to discuss this topic because of the controversy that comes with it. The Cat Connection thanks you for your candor and, of course, for not declawing. Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

I would encourage anyone who is considering having their cat declawed to thoroughly educate themselves. PawProject.org, StopDeclaw.com and the American Association of Feline Practitioners website catvets.com all have good information on the actual surgery and the potential complications. I think that fewer people are requesting declawing now because more information is available about the procedure. The fact that several cities in California have outlawed it and New York state is trying has also brought much needed attention to the controversial nature of the surgery.

Ultimately, I would say just don’t do it.

Yes, please, for the sake of your cat: just don’t do it.

http://www.thecatconnection.com/resources/2016/02/03/just-dont-do-it-an-interview-with-dallas-pro-claw-vet-dr-raina-weldon/

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