About Declawing Cats, by Dr. Corrine Brown

Declawing cats is a commonly performed procedure in which the entire claw is surgically removed. It is a technically challenging surgery as the claw must be completely removed from the end of the digit without damaging the bone that remains in the foot. If the claw is not completely removed, the bone tissue remaining may attempt to regrow, resulting in deformed, defective claw tissue which is either entirely under the skin or which breaks through the skin allowing infection to develop. This regrowth may occur in the weeks, months or even years after the procedure. The most difficult claw to remove during the surgical procedure is the dewclaw. As with any surgery, the skill and experience of the surgeon plays a significant role in the outcome of the procedure. There are few veterinarians with extensive experience declawing large cat species, which may be one reason these cats often develop complications after the declaw procedure.

Declawing a cat is the equivalent of removing a human’s finger tip, including the nail and bone up to the first joint of the hand. Ethically, the procedure is up to debate, but certainly medically one can imagine physical difficulties that can arise from this entirely elective procedure. The cat spends the rest of its life living and ambulating without the benefit of its entire anatomically normal feet.

In the case of Boudreaux and Batman, the front dewclaws were the problem. They were apparently inappropriately removed initially. As a result, over the course of years, the bone attempted to regenerate and claws attempted to regrow. The problem was not detectable by care takers until the deformed claws finally ruptured the skin and caused draining abscesses. Surgery was then required to make incisions in the skin over the claws and entirely remove the bone and associated deformed claw tissue. Had the declaw procedure not been performed initially, the animals would not have had to endure years of chronic pain culminating in another surgical procedure to repair the prior damage.

Written by Dr. Corrine Brown

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