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Declawing Cats



Cats have a number of very powerful biological urges

Scratching is one of them.  They scratch to sharpen their claws, and to mark their territory.  It is a powerful urge with many social implications for cats.  Cats are, shall we say, more emotionally complex than dogs. 

There is some controversy both domestically and world-wide about whether it is ethically and morally right to declaw cats.  In America, most (but not all) veterinarians agree that when done properly, declawing can be a benefit to both the cat and the people involved.  Without a doubt is is a painful procedure, and absolutely must be done in conjunction with excellent pain control.

 

Declawing involves the surgical removal of the claws.


Declawing is widely accepted to be a very painful procedure

That means that pain management is vital.  At Westown Veterinary Clinic, we use a balancedmulti-modal, pre-emptive pain management system.  Multi-modal means that we use several different methods of providing pain control.  The different modes of pain control act synergistically to provide more complete pain control than any one or two modes could provide.  Balanced means that we use low doses of several different medications in order to minimize side-effects and to increase efficacy.  Pre-emptive means the pain medication is given before the painful stimulus.  Pre-emptive pain management techniques were pioneered in human hospitals, and have been adapted for use in animals by progressive veterinary clinics. When pain medications are given this way, the pain response is greatly dampened. Multi-modal means that we use several different kinds of medications that act in different ways to attack pain from different directions. pre-emptive pain management techniques were pioneered in human hospitals, and have been adapted for use in animals by progressive veterinary clinics. 

Young kittens do the best and have the fewest complications

Cats of up to 1 year of age typically do quite well.  Older cats are much more likely to have complications, including excessive pain, infection, and long-term pain.  The older they are, the more likely they are to have problems.  It is vastly different declawing a 5-year-old cat than a 6-month-old kitten.  It would take some extremely extenuating circumstances to convince me to declaw a ten-year-old cat.

 
Our standard protocol goes like this:


We feel that it is very important to do all that we can to make your cat's experience as pain-free as possible.  We use a balanced, multi-modal, pre-emptive pain management protocol.  Balanced means that we use low doses of several different medications in order to minimize side-effects and to increase efficacy, and multi-modal means that we use several different kinds of medications that act in different ways to attack pain from different directions.

Step 1:  The cats receive a pre-anesthetic injection of buprenorphine, an excellent long-acting pain drug for cats, Depending on the cat's temperament and mood, sedatives may be added as well to control anxiety pre-op and to provide additional pain relief.  This type of opioid medication is mode 1, and it is given in a pre-emptive pain fashion.

Step 2:  Anesthesia is induced with injectable IV drugs, and then the cat is placed on inhalation anesthetic.  The injectable drugs are chosen to take advantage of their inherent pain control properties.  This is mode 2, and it is also done pre-emptively.  The cat's blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and expired CO2  are monitored.

Step 3:  Nerve blocks are done with local anesthetic.  This is mode 3, and it is also done pre-emptively.

 Step 4:  After recovery, buprenorphine pain medication is given orally, and continued for the next  five or six days.  To this we add gabapentin, another pain medication that works by a different mechanism and which is particularly effective on nerve and phantom pain. 



The cost to declaw your cat may vary with each cat:

This depends on their individual needs.  We will discuss these needs during the pre-surgical exam.  In general, the young, healthy patients cost $185 in the summer of 2017.  There are additional fees for doing spay/neuter surgery at the same time. You will also need to purchase a bag of Yesterday's News, a paper-based litter for use during recovery.