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DVC thoughts on declawing cats

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has recently released their position statement on the declawing of cats and we would like to share that information with you. We would also like to mention some issues of particular concern to the AAFP and how we address them at the Dougherty Veterinary Clinic.

We rely on the AAFP for a wealth of information including client education, veterinarian continuing education and current developments in medicine, surgery and behavior. Contributors to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, in which the position statement appears, include respected researchers and clinicians from academia and clinical practice.

The AAFP is opposed to declawing as an elective procedure. They recognize scratching as a normal part of cat behavior that serves several purposes that may benefit the cat. The AAFP encourages veterinarians to discuss ways that scratching behavior can be made less damaging to both the cat owner and the home.

Providing multiple scratching posts or pads with a variety of textures in various locations around the home is encouraged. Regularly trimming claws helps prevent damage and injury. Temporary nail caps can also make scratching less harmful and destructive. Scratching behavior provides visual and scent markers in the cat’s territory, so application of pheromone products in the home may alleviate the cat’s need to “mark” his or her territory. Finally, environmental enrichment is key to preventing undesirable behavior and reducing stress, anxiety or boredom, which can lead to scratching.

We feel very strongly that pain control during and after the declawing procedure is paramount. We sedate the patient with a combination of sedative and opioid pain medication, and then aseptically prep the paws. A local nerve “ring block” with a Novocain-like drug is done to temporarily numb the nerves to the toes. Additional anesthesia is provided either via injection or inhalation. We give postoperative opioids, both short and long acting, and dispense a feline approved non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Our technicians and veterinarians also counsel owners what to watch for post-operatively, with respect to signs of pain or infection. The cat owner will also have after hours contact numbers for the veterinarian performing the declaw procedure.

We at the Dougherty Veterinary Clinic recognize that, in some cases, opening your home to a kitten or cat in need means declawing. We strive to maintain the highest standards of surgical technique and pain control for our feline patients.