Many times veterinarians are requested to perform these
types of surgeries on our pets for various personal
and other reasons. Whether controversial or not,
the procedures continue to be performed. In some
cases these procedures are necessary, and in some cases
other alternatives may be chosen.
To learn more about each of these procedures, and for
possible alternative treatments, click below on the
procedure of interest.
Declawing Your Cat
Declawing is generally only performed on the cat.
The surgery involves general anesthesia. The cat's
claw is actually the third section of their digit or
toe, and it is this that is removed.
Preferably done on young cats less than 6 months of
age, cats of any age can be declawed. Recovery
is typically longer in older cats. Infection and
regrowth of the claw are the most common complications
of the procedure. Cats with rear claws left intact,
can still climb trees. Declawed cats however, should
be kept strictly indoors for their own safety.
Why declaw your cat is a common question, and one of
much controversy. Some people feel very strongly
against this procedure, and for personal reasons would
chose not to do so. Cats that scratch furniture
or people inadvertently, require something done to prevent
the damage caused by these cats. What other options
Clipping the nails on your cat is one way to prevent
the sharp hook-like nail from causing much damage.
Cat's nails tend to require clipping every 6-8 weeks
depending upon their rate of growth. Another option
available, involves placing a plastic sleeve over each
individual claw, using a product known as soft paws.
This product, available for both dogs and cats, uses
a plastic sleeve shaped much like the claw, and comes
in different sizes.
The sleeves are individually glued to the claw much
like false nails on humans. Difficulties arise
when the animal begins to chew at the covering over
the claw. This tends to occur more often than
not, resulting in removal of the sleeve by the pet prematurely.
Manufacturer suggests soft paws be replaced every one
- two months or so. Yet many cats manage to have
them off within days to weeks.
A third option available for cats is another surgical
procedure, in which the claw is spared, but the tendon
which causes it to come out of its sheath, is severed.
Thus the claw can no longer function by extending outside
of the sheath. The downside to this procedure
is that the nails still require clipping, for as they
grow, they extend outside of the sheath, and therefore
can still do damage by scratching.
Managing the cat which uses its claws to cause damage,
can be a difficult decision to make. Consult with
your veterinarian on which choice may be right for you,
and your cat.
Cropping Your Dog's Ears
Ear cropping is done on a select group of dogs for
cosmetic purposes only. Boxers, Great Danes, Doberman
Pincers, Miniature Pincers, Schnauzers, Bouviers des
Flandres, and American Pit Bull Terriers, are among
the more common breeds in which ear cropping is performed.
Usually recommended to be done around the age of 10-14
weeks old, the procedure requires full anesthesia.
The ears are then cut in a way that instead of flopping
down to the side of the head, they stand erect on the
head to a point.
In most breeds however, the ears require a period of
bandaging and support splinting in order to get them
to stand. This is essential for the ears to ultimately
stand, and if not done sufficiently, the ears may not
stand erect. The longer the ear length is, the
more time required for splinting is necessary.
Although breeders can perform this procedure, it is
best left to a licensed veterinarian, who has appropriate
anesthetics. Puppies who undergo this procedure
expect at least a few weeks of painful, sensitive ears.
Unfortunately, the splinting of the ears is necessary
especially during the early stages of healing, which
adds to their discomfort. Unless you're planning
to show your dog in conformation classes, ear cropping
is un-necessary, and therefore becomes personal preference.
Be sure and understand all that is involved not only
with the surgery, but afterwards during the splinting
procedures. Know what to expect, and when to seek
help during this time from your veterinarian, to avoid
ears that ultimately won't stand.
The Association of Veterinary Medicine (AVMA), has
recently made a statement regarding cosmetic ear cropping
and tail docking in the dog. Essentially, and
ultimately the AVMA would like to see this type of cosmetic
procedure discontinued for cosmetic purposes only.
Debarking Your Dog
NEW CONTROVERSY OVER DEBARKING
Recently, the New Jersey state senate has
unanimously taken the stance that debarking
surgery for the dog is inhumane. This proposal
is now in the senate for vote, and if it
goes through, debarking of dogs will be
illegal in the state of New Jersey. Penalties
for owners or veterinarians caught performing
this procedure will include fines as well
as prison time.
This proposal is controversial with the
owners of dogs known to have barking behavioral
problems, as well as with veterinarians
who perform this procedure.
Technically, the procedure removes the
folds of tissue in the larynx responsible
for sound production. Most dogs following
the procedure retain some audible sound,
but it is muted much like a whisper. The
amount of tissue removed from these cases
is less involved than that of a tonsilectomy.
Most dogs recover uneventfully; some require
medication to reduce post operative swelling,
and some develop scar tissue enough to allow
the bark to return.
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This procedure involves the removal of 2 folds of tissue
located on either side of the larynx or voice box in
the dog. The so called vocal folds actually function
to come together in order for the dog to make an audible
sound with pitch.
When removed, the sound made by the dog is much like
that of a whisper or a bark heard from far away when
the dog is right next to you. The effect of debarking
can be explained much like an individual trying to whistle
while the lips are apart. In order for sound to
occur, air must travel through a narrow opening in either
the voice box for a bark, or the lips for a whistle
Most cases of owners requesting their dogs to be debarked
are in locations where disturbing the neighborhood becomes
a problem. In some cases, household disruption
occurs as some dogs refuse to pay attention to owners
wishes for them to cease the barking.
Other alternatives to surgery are available.
These include electronic devices worn about the dog's
neck which emit an electric shock (much like that of
a static shock) when barking occurs. Remote collars
are activated by the owner. Self activated collars
do not depend upon the owner's presence, and are activated
ideally by the dog's bark. However, in some cases,
these self activating collars can discharge for reasons
other than barking, which can confuse and serve to de-spirit
Other collars can be worn which emit scents such as
citronella when the dog barks. These collars are
preferred over the electric devices, in that the startle
response is achieved in a less harmful process.
Sometimes, if the barking is only a problem when the
owner is present, using external devices to startle
will work. A favorite device used for purposes
of startle, is simply a can of coins that is shook sharply
toward the dog when the undesirable barking occurs.
This serves to divert the dog's attention toward the
can of coins, and away from the barking stimulus.
Choose wisely and smartly for your dog if barking is
a problem. Remember, if you live alone, or are
away from the house for periods of time, a barking dog
can thwart a potential robber from breaking and entering
your home. If complaints are occurring from your
neighbors however, common courtesy should direct you
to take appropriate action to ensure peace and quiet
in the neighborhood.
Docking Your Dog's Tail
This procedure is typically done on puppies between
3 and 5 days of age. No anesthetic is involved,
and the tails are docked to an appropriate length for
the breed. Some of the breeds normally docked
include the Rottweiler, Doberman pincer, Boxer, Schnauzer,
Miniature pincer, Toy Fox Terrier (amongst other terrier
breeds), Corgi, Poodle, and Sckipperke to name
This procedure is much preferred done while the puppies
are less than a week of age. Afterwards, the puppy
has to wait until it is of age appropriate for anesthesia,
which is much more involving a procedure, with a much
longer healing process. There is also associated
pain with the procedure when done on an older animal,
and complications include bleeding, premature stitch
removal by the dog, poor healing of the area, and more
chances for scarring to occur.
Unless the dog is being utilized for show purposes
in the conformation ring, tail docking is best left
undone if beyond the age of 5-7 days.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
has recently made a statement with regards to cosmetic
tail docking in the dog. Essentially, and ultimately
the AVMA would like to see this type of cosmetic procedure
discontinued for cosmetic purposes only.