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Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association

Information and consent form for clients who request cat de-clawing

The NSVMA added a legislative change (Section 46) to the Code of Ethics in September 2014, whereby an owner who is requesting feline de-claw must be provided with a clear outline of the procedure by the veterinarian intending to perform the procedure, prior to the owner considering surgical consent. In addition, all owners requesting the feline de-claw procedure must read, and sign this document, before signing a general surgical release.

Background:

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association (NSVMA) recognizes de-clawing of the domestic cat is not normally a medically necessary act. However, there are circumstances where this surgical procedure may be used to support and protect the human animal bond as opposed to abandonment, relinquishment or euthanasia.

The NSVMA reviewed scientific data and supports controlled scientific studies that provide insight into all aspects of feline medicine. The NSVMA recognizes that feline de-clawing is an ethically controversial procedure; however there is no scientific evidence that de-clawing leads to behavioural abnormalities when compared to control groups. There is scientific data that shows that cats who have undesired claw behaviour are more likely to be euthanized, more readily relinquished, released or abandoned, thereby

contributing to the homeless cat population.  If scratching behaviour is an issue and may determine whether or not a cat can remain as an acceptable household pet, the decision to perform surgical de-clawing may be undertaken.

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association strongly believes that it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline de-clawing. There are significant misconceptions about normal feline behaviour, and veterinarians are routinely presented with frequently asked questions. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding de-clawing:

  • Scratching is a normal feline behaviour, is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and is used for claw conditioning (“husk” removal) and stretching activity.
  • Prior to considering de-clawing, owners must have provided suitable implements for normal scratching behaviour. Examples are scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching, and firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching. Positively reinforcing cats in the use of these implements is recommended.
  • Appropriate claw care, consisting of trimming the claws every 1-2 weeks, can be performed to help prevent human injury or undesired damage to household items.
  • Temporary/replaceable synthetic nail caps are available as an alternative to de-clawing to prevent human injury or damage to property.
  • If you belong to a household where cats interact with geriatric, diabetic or immunocompromised people, extensive education about infection and zoonotic disease potential should be discussed and documented at this time. Surgical de-clawing is an option in such households to help protect this group of people against life-threatening complications from cat scratches.
  • It is recommended that de-clawed cats be housed indoors or leashed when outside.
  • If surgical de-clawing is performed, appropriate use of safe and effective anaesthetic agents and post-operative pain medication for an appropriate length of time are imperative and not elective.
  • De-claw procedures involving all 4 paws are strongly discouraged and rarely warranted. 

The procedure:

De-clawing is the amputation of a cat's last toe bone (3rd phalange) and attached claw.  The dotted line represents the incision made to permanently remove the claw from the toe.

 

The skin wound is typically sealed with tissue glue or absorbable stitches. Most cats will require 10-14 days to heal following surgery. Recovery times may vary depending on factors such as age or weight of the cat.

While rare in occurrence, there are inherent risks with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to:

  •  anaesthetic complications
  •  bleeding
  •  infection
  •  side effects of pain medication
  •  pain - including the rare possibility of long term "phantom" pain

The surgical alternative of tendonectomy has been considered, by some veterinarians and owners, to provide unsatisfactory and deleterious results due to the overgrowth of nails, the need for more extensive claw care to be provided by the owner than if not performed, and the development of discomfort in some patients.

Consent:

I have read and understood the above information with respect to de-clawing and have discussed the same with my veterinarian. I am prepared to proceed with having my cat surgically de-clawed.

Signature of owner or agent of owner

_________________________________________________________

Signature of Veterinarian

__________________________________________________________

Date: ____________________________________________________ 

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I wanted to thank you again for your help last Friday. There are many animals on my farm. I love them all but I was particularly fond of little Gabby. It was only a couple weeks ago we saw her rolling in the dirt and so delighted with herself and I remember how she loved to lay on Jeff's chair and bat the tail of our other cat as she walked by. I had hoped she could have experienced more of these joys in her life.
Your skill in diagnosing and presenting her case and your compassion in helping me understand what was best for Gabby was very much appreciated.

Jacquelyn A.
Wileville, Nova Scotia

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