Declawing & Dewclaw Removal by Dr. Longridge

What is a Dewclaw ?

This is the common name for the first toe (towards the inside of the leg).  The term is most often used in dogs to describe the “thumb” on the forepaws and, if present, an extra toe on the inside aspect of the back foot.  Most dogs do not have this extra toe on the back feet.  Some breeds, however, may have two extra dewclaws as a breed standard.

Do I need to remove them ?

We most often find that the front dewclaws, being firmly attached and parallel with the foot, do not cause any issues other than needing more attention for nail trimming; the nail does not contact the ground as often and so grows out faster than the others.  We do not commonly suggest surgical removal of the front dews.  The hind dews, in dogs, tend to be much more problematic.  They often dangle outwards from the foot, and the nails never wear down with exercise.  This combination makes them susceptible to ingrown nails or the whole toe being torn off, if it catches on something.  For this reason, we usually do recommend removal of the hind dewclaws in dogs

Is it an emergency ?  When should I have them removed ?

No emergency.  The most appropriate time to remove them is during your pet’s spay or neuter, while they are already under an anesthetic.

What is the aftercare ?

Very little.  The area(s) are usually bandaged for 2-3 days, and the sutures are removed about 10-14 days after the surgery.

Is this the same thing for cats ?  Declawing ?

No quite.  Cats can have hind dewclaws, and in fact some cats can have many extra toes…a somewhat common abnormality called polydactyly.  The dewclaws in cats, even those with polydactyly, do not often risk traumatic tearing, such as in dogs, but they do need diligent nail clipping to avoid ingrown nails.  The procedure, called declawing, is an elective surgery performed to stop cats from using their front claws to damage household items, people, or other pets.  It is the removal of the entire piece of bone beyond the last ‘knuckle’ on each front toe.

Is declawing painful ?

Yes it is.  But with careful rest and use of pain killers during surgery and post-operatively, this subsides quickly after the operation.

What is the aftercare ?

Strict rest for a week or two is the most important feature.  We take care of the first two days in hospital, to ensure that all is well after the bandages come off.  So long as everything is good, kitty-cat goes home two days after surgery. Accommodation and restriction should be made at home so that there is little possibility for jumping onto and off of furniture.  Ongoing post-operative lameness is often the result of “overdoing it”.

What about declawing the back feet of my cat ?

The back feet are not used to the same damaging extent as are the front feet, so declawing them is not necessary.  Like the front feet, they need to be trimmed to prevent ingrown nails.

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