Category: Surgery (page 2 of 2)

Declawing Cats – Why I’m Stopping

Declawing Cats – Why I’m Stopping

It is highly unlikely that there is a more controversial or debated topic amongst animal lovers even in the veterinary community.  I personally had not given it much thought until I met my colleague at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Jaime Buchanan.  She mentioned that I should watch “The Paw Project” (which is readily available on Netflix).  I watched it this past weekend and here’s my thoughts on onychectomy (the proper name for declawing).

my sweet cat Gremlin

my sweet cat Gremlin

I’ve been in practice as a veterinarian for almost 9 years now and I’ve declawed a number of cats.  I’ll admit, I even had my own cat, Gremlin, declawed almost 14 years ago.  Like many other people, I didn’t give it a second thought at the time as I had a waterbed and lived in a rented apartment where my roommates dog had already torn out a chunk of carpet.  Also like many other people, I didn’t really know what declawing was when I was a young first time cat owner who had not gone to veterinary school.  In actuality, it is the amputation of the third phalange of each digit (toe) – basically from the tip of your finger to the first joint.

film to end declawing

Paw Project movie poster

Watching “The Paw Project”, I was baffled why anyone, let alone who, would declaw a lion, panther, or other wild cats.  There were visible physical deformities that when watching, I attributed to a very poorly done surgery.  Namely, nails regrowing which is often the result of incomplete amputation of the bone the nail grows from.  Then they turned to domestic house cats as the focus.  This is not to say that house cats do not have any problems after a declawing surgery.  Undoubtedly, there is always a risk for complications such as open wounds, infections, remainders of bone left behind, damage to paw pads, or residual pain despite analgesics (pain meds).

pic from www.gopixpic.com

pic from www.gopixpic.com

What about the psychological or behavioral implications?  Well, this is part of the major dilemma.  Cats are typically declawed to avoid unwanted behaviors, namely furniture destruction.  Declawing a cat doesn’t remove that behavior…I see Gremlin making the same motions on a step stool all the time.  Opponents of declawing argue that declawed cats have more instances of biting and can be more instances of inappropriate elimination. Personally, I can agree with the biting aspect but find difficulty accepting the inappropriate elimination aspect as I see that almost daily in non-declawed cats and find the causes are infections, stress, or bladder crystals.  Yes, there are studies out there that discuss this but they are primarily retrospective studies involving asking pet owners.  Several of these are cited on pawproject.org under the FAQs.

Now Gremlin does not harbor any ill-will toward me because I had her declawed; she is bonded to me and very rarely is social with other people.  But for many people and their cats, the relationship may change.  That relationship is what leads owners to elect for a declaw procedure in the first place.  They think that by removing the cat’s ability to destroy furniture or scratch people that all will be good in the house.  Unfortunately, some cats who do begin to bite more as a way of defending themselves or communicating are very likely to end up outside, in a shelter, or euthanized.  Outside, they are even more helpless against other animals.

Plenty of color choices! pic from Wenn.com

Plenty of color choices! pic from Wenn.com

Nowadays, there are alternatives to declawing aside from nail trims though trimming a cat’s nails is much easier than black nails of a dog.  I always recommend to new pet owners to start playing with their kittens feet to get them used to being handled and also to start trimming every couple of weeks while they are young.  Soft Paws are plastic coated nail covers which can be applied with an adhesive and will last for several weeks.  The old standby is scratching posts.  Cats can be taught to go after the scratching post instead of your furniture by rubbing catnip into the material.  It’s best to let your cat choose the post, so give them a few options – carpet covered, rope, cardboard, etc.  Another product I became aware of is called Sticky Paws which is a double sided adhesive that can be stuck on objects you don’t want scratched and when the cat goes after that object the material will be unsatisfying to them and they can be taught to avoid it.

Let’s briefly look at the other pets in the house – dogs.  Dogs have been known to rip up carpets, chew couches, scratch up doorways but nobody ever considers taking off the dogs toes or removing all their teeth.  So why have we gotten into this acceptance of declawing for cats?  When I think about it this way, it becomes clear to me.

We have to start to make a change somewhere.  As of today, I am declaring that I will cease to do elective declaws on cats (this includes another type of procedure called a tenotomy).  The only situation that I would still do such a procedure would be if a medical reason for the cat to have a toe amputated was given (such as a tumor).  Next time you’re in to your veterinarian, maybe ask them how they feel and maybe it will make them step back and think.  As of 2014, declawing was banned in at least 30 countries and at least 8 US cities all in California (per The Paw Project).  The State of New York is also currently considering a law to join in the ban.  Someday maybe this procedure will be illegal elsewhere but until then, inform yourself and bond with your cat.

declawing is chopping off finger tips

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

Kittens & Broken Bones

Kittens & Broken Bones

Let’s take a little trip to the land of orthopedics!  Yes, bones can be a fun and fascinating part of the body but sometimes they can get broken.  For awhile, I thought about titling this “how to fix a broken kitten” except they’re aren’t really broken…just curious and sometimes a bit clumsy.  Unfortunately, cats & dogs are not like people in that you can tell them to keep things clean, stay rested, and keep a cast on at least not in all cases.  Let’s look at two different cases I’ve had recently here in Kingston and even in Florida.

The Curious Case of Skinny PeteIMG_1195

Look at him…he’s adorable!  But why does he get to wear that super cool looking bandage that makes all the ladies swoon for him?  Well, the owner & I still aren’t sure how he manage to break his leg.  Skinny Pete may have been climbing around a barstool and hit his leg awkwardly but that is the only suspicion.  Pete had a fracture of his radius, a bone in the forearm.  Oddly, he didn’t break the ulna right next to it.

Fractured radius

Fractured radius

Fortunately for Pete and his family, we were able to splint his leg.  The reason we could do this and avoid surgery was due to the type and location of the break.  For splinting or casting, you need to be able to immobilize the joints above and below the break.  The other component is that at home care and follow up must be done as directed.  Splints need to be changed every 7-10 days and at home they need to be kept dry.  Changes are required due to the risk of skin problems developing under the bandage material as well checking to make sure the splint hasn’t slipped.

Skinny Pete was brought back in diligently for rechecks and after a few weeks and with a very compliant owner, we were able to take the last splint off of Skinny Pete’s leg and give him a clean bill of health.  A lot of the outcome was made possible by his family following directions and following up as scheduled.

skinny pete Fx healed

Healed fracture

Goldy & the Working VacationGoldy fracture

Months ago I wrote about a stray cat my dad picked up that ended up having kittens.  Goldy is one of those kittens and curiosity got the best of him as he fell out of a second story window.  And while Goldy wasn’t so lucky, my dad was in that I happened to arrive home for a visit the next day and I could fix the problem for a fraction of the cost.  Goldy’s fracture is one we can commonly see in young dogs & cats, especially when trauma is involved or also when cats are neutered too soon (before 5.5 months).

Goldy post-op

Goldy post-op

Unfortunately for Goldy, surgery was the only real option for him as the fracture in could not be stabilized with a splint/bandage.  Just leaving the leg alone would not have healed as the constant motion of an active 5 month old kitten would not allow the boney formation to persist.  This type of fracture can be fixed but can be complicated with higher risks.  Luckily, there is an easier surgery with an equally great outcome.  Similar to a dislocated hip joint, we can remove the ball part of the joint and allow the muscles to hold the leg in a position as a false joint with minimal changes in function and virtually no discomfort.

example of post-op

example of post-op FHO/fracture

Oh the Ways Bones Heal…

Nowadays, both Skinny Pete and Goldy are doing well and running around at home.  They are just two examples of animals with broken bones with just two of the ways that they can be fixed.  More complicated can involve plates, pins, wires, and other complicated devices.  In the worst cases, amputation can be considered; and there’s nothing wrong with a 3-legged pet – I have one and he’s a normal cat!  The important thing when dealing with fractures is to have a conversation with your veterinarian to figure out the best way to help your furry friend and make sure that you follow up as directed to avoid complications.

Our 3-legged cat, Louie

Our 3-legged cat, Louie

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

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