Pet Corner: Laser technique best for declawing cats

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

One of the most contentious topics in veterinary medicine is declawing cats.

Onychectomy is the scientific term for declawing.

It is a surgical procedure of removing the entire toenail and nail bed of cat’s paws performed with the patient under general anesthesia.

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Through the years, many people have argued this procedure is cruel and unnecessary suffering for cats.

The controversy received national attention with state governments considering outlawing the surgery.

It is difficult to imagine cat owners supporting the idea of banning declawing.

There is no doubt locally there is a considerable demand from cat owners requesting the surgery.

Most people who oppose declawing believe the result is not worth all the pain and suffering.

Granted, the standard procedure using a scalpel to perform the surgery allows for significant bleeding, and cats are in pain postoperatively.

However, a surgical instrument called a CO2 laser has revolutionized declawing in cats.

Vets may prescribe antibiotics and pain medicine for the patient, but laser surgery reduces the potential for infection and pain following surgery.

With the older scalpel technique, a tourniquet on the leg is necessary to control bleeding during the procedure.

With laser surgery, vets do not need a tourniquet because the laser cauterizes blood vessels as it cuts.

Most importantly, the laser cauterizes nerves as it cuts, sealing off the end of the nerve, significantly reducing pain after surgery.

Laser surgery is effective in preventing postoperative pain, so no one should stress over the decision of whether or not to have their cat declawed.

The laser technique is much better.

I believe vets should perform all cat declaw surgeries with a laser.

Vets should not subject cats to the older, more painful procedure of using a scalpel.

As a cat owner, you should make sure your cat has the laser declaw procedure.

Cats living entirely indoors live much longer than cats that are allowed to go outside.

Anyone willing to keep their cat indoors should have the right to have them declawed which subsequently increases the likelihood of them living longer.

Cats instinctively scratch at certain objects which is how they mark their territory.

Behavioral training may reduce damage to your walls or furniture, but since it is instinct, it would be impractical and unfair to expect your cat never to scratch things.

Most people don’t want to have their furniture mutilated by their cat.

Many people can’t afford to replace their furniture if their cat damages it.

More importantly, cats living indoors are more likely to scratch young children or a baby.

Additionally, many older people have fragile skin which is easily injured causing bruising and bleeding.

Cat scratches tend to get infected easily, not to mention the potential for generating “cat scratch disease,” which is severe and difficult to treat. An organism called Bartonella often involving lymph nodes causes the condition.

Once a vet has declawed your cat, you should always keep your cat indoors.

Without their claws, they can no longer defend themselves from other animals and have a much harder time climbing a tree to flee from a predator.

If you are considering having your cat declawed, you should ask your veterinarian about the laser technique.

In general, declawing cats allows them to live strictly indoors which will enable them to live a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.