Laser Declawing

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Many cat parents have gone through an internal struggle around the decision to declaw their cats.  Infact, a bill has just been introduced in Rhode Island that would prevent landlords from requiring that cats of tenets should be declawed. Some firmly believe it’s modern-day torture and avoid it under any circumstances.  For others, the decision is less clear.  It may be a matter of protecting the furniture or their children, or in some cases, to prevent situations that may require the parents to give up their cat altogether.

See our article on the facts about declawing

Fairly recently, laser declawing has entered the scene as an alternative to traditional declawing procedures.  Rather than clippers, a CO2 laser is used to perform the procedure, working to vaporize the tissue while sealing off the blood vessels and nerve endings.  The procedure itself, while performed with a laser, is still essentially the same – the third digit of the toe bone is sliced through, preventing the claws from growing back as long as the bone is properly removed.

Wagbrag did some homework to uncover the pros and cons around laser declawing.

Potential Advantages of Laser Declaw:

  • Seems more humane overall, and it’s certainly less gory.  Whatever the medical or scientific evidence demonstrates, there is certainly a psychological effect on the pet parents – they feel better inside about trying to minimize the trauma of the experience for their cats.
  • May be less painful.  Because the lasers seal nerve endings and cauterize blood vessels during the procedure, there is likely to be less pain immediately following the procedure.
  • A shorter recovery is possible.  Less bleeding means less bruising and inflammation, which can make for a more comfortable recovery.  However, it’s important to note that the cat still needs a couple of days within a controlled environment after a laser declaw.  Because there is likely to be less pain, the cat may unknowingly strain himself immediately following the surgery, so he must still be observed as with any declaw procedure.
  • Risk of infection may be reduced.  The laser kills bacteria it encounters along the way, decreasing (but not eliminating) the risk of post-operative infection.
  • It’s better than a shelter…right?  If the situation arises where “it’s the shelter or the claws”, then the laser declaw procedure may be a better alternative than a give-up to a local shelter.  Tempers flare on either side of this debate, and every situation is unique, but no one will argue that the chances of survival decrease dramatically when a cat is given up to a shelter that practices euthanasia.

 

Pitfalls of Laser Declaw:

  • Umm…It’s still a declaw.  Keep in mind that, laser or not, you are still removing the third part of the toe bone.  For those with philosophical or moral issues with declawing overall, the “how” of the procedure is not likely to matter much.  Laser declaw is not a silver bullet for the conscience, especially for those facing internal struggles with the idea of declawing their cat.
  • You’ll spend more money.  Laser declaw can add $100 – $200 + to the price of a traditional declaw.  Much of this is because the lasers themselves are very pricey.  Veterinarians must shell out a large amount to purchase the equipment itself, which they then allocate to their clients as a price increase over traditional surgery.  This cost may potentially fall as the use of lasers catches on more widely and becomes more standard in veterinary schools during training.
  • The pool of experienced providers is not very large.  It’s crucial to find a veterinarian who is experienced in this procedure, and properly trained, as mistakes such as burns can happen with lasers.  Sometimes, the training consists only of a seminar conducted by the laser manufacturer, rather than in an accredited veterinary school (where laser training is still not widespread).
  • Like traditional declawing methods, laser declawing is not a ticket to outdoor freedom.  If your cat will spend any time outdoors at all, reconsider declawing him.  Many veterinarians and cat shelters strongly discourage declawing any cat that will spend time outdoors, as the cat will have less of a chance of defending itself.  Yes, the cat still has its back claws – but would you want to go into a fist fight with one arm tied behind your back?  We’ll pass.

 

If you are on the fence about declawing your cat in general, it’s clear to see that laser declawing is not a panacea.  It is still the same procedure, albeit with fewer side effects from the surgery itself.  However, if you have made the definitive decision to declaw your cat, and you can handle the extra expense, you may want to consider laser declawing as a more comfortable option for your cat.  Be sure to do your homework to find an experienced and competent provider – ask the veterinarian how many laser declawing procedures they have performed, and where they were trained.

Photo: Courtesy of Muffet via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

 

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WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.

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