View Full Version : declawing, debarking, banding tails, etc
01-17-2005, 03:17 PM
All right, so I know very little in terms of many aesthetic surguries like removing dewclaws, or making dogs have shorter tails. I'm sure there's a more technical term for the latter, but that's a telltale sign, excuse the pun, of my ignorance on the subject.
These operations tend to bring up ethical questions, so I figured I should know about these things if I want to be well informed. Many of the vets I've worked with refuse to do certain operations, and well, I was hoping we could get a good list of these operations and the reasons people do and do not do them.
01-17-2005, 03:37 PM
Dewclaw removal, ear cropping, tail docking, and declawing are procedures that are done for cosmetic benefit or the benefit of inanimate objects (furniture and carpets, in the case of declawing). As a doctor, my job will be to protect animals, not sofas.
As a doctor, my job will be to protect animals, not sofas.
I would much rather dewclaw a cat, then it cause problems and get dropped of at the pound or similar. There are practicalities to veterinary medicine that people pursuing/involved in MD just do not see. To me it is better to undertake some of these, if it helps animals live harmoniously with people.
01-17-2005, 09:27 PM
You can find a fairly balanced background article on tail docking and ear cropping at: http://www.animallaw.info/articles/dduscroppingdocking.htm.
Personally, I don't have a problem with tail docking or dewclaw removal. Both are relatively minor procedures when done properly and at the right time (when the dog is a few days old). In my mind, I compare these to circumcision.
I hate ear cropping, though. It's barbaric. That said, I would like to learn how to do it, because some dog owners are hellbent on having it done, and I'd rather I do it correctly than have the owner resort to a home-scissors job.
When *all* other options have been exhausted, I think debarking and declawing have their place. Better that than a trip to the animal shelter and a shot of euthanol.
01-17-2005, 09:40 PM
My cats' vet used to not declaw, but what happened was her clients were going elsewhere for the surgery. A lot of these surgeries were poorly done and needed to be fixed, so she finally gave up and started declawing if the clients were intractible and could not be talked out of the procedure. She figures that if the cat is going to be declawed anyway, she may as well at least see to it that the procedure is done well so complications are minimized.
I can respect that position, but I don't know if it's something I'd be comfortable doing. I tend to operate under the belief that ultimately, I can't control what others do but I can control what I do.
I can't possibly compare tail docking to circumcision (which I also consider to be mutilation, though I'm willing to tolerate it if religious tradition mandates it and it's done with proper anesthesia). Circumcision is the removal of skin. Tails are muscles, bones, and the spinal cord. I've had to have a few feral and formerly stray cats "tail docked" due to severe tail injuries where the spinal cord (and often the entire tail) was severed, and recovery involves a week of Cephalexin to prevent meningitis. That's not minor. Dewclaw removal is definitely less dramatic, but still not necessary.
Since my goal is to practice shelter medicine in a shelter that also offers vet care to low-income residents, none of this is likely to be a huge issue for me. It would be my job to perform medically necessary procedures on the animals. Clients who wish to elect cosmetic surgery for their animals can't expect to have it done at the low-cost shelter clinic.
When my rottweiler had puppies, I docked their tails and their dew claws. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. It has gotten worse in retrospect.
I only did it because I knew I wouldn't be able to sell them if they had long tails. I waited until they were a week old. Most of them didn't put up too much of a fuss, although a couple did squeal. The hard thing was they each have four dew claws and a tail, and there were 12 puppies, so it felt like hours of puppy torture.
After that, I had my dog spayed. I knew I couldn't go through that again. :(
01-17-2005, 09:47 PM
Docking dogs' tails (shortening them) and removing their dewclaws are done within the first few days of their lives and they are awake the whole time. There are two reasons for these procedures, aesthetics and injury prevention. Certain breeds of dogs have weaker tails that easily break merely from wagging it too hard and hitting a wall or other hard surface. Also, if they are hunting dogs that will be used in thick brush, docking a tail will prevent it from being snagged and injured in the brush. Dewclaws can get snagged in carpet or hung up on something else and be torn off. I had a dog get his dewclaw hung on a chain link fence. Luckily the injury wasn't that bad so the nail just had to be cut off into the quick and then allowed to regrow. However, many times the injury is worse and immediate surgery is needed to fix it.
Cropping ears is done at a later age under anesthetic. It has little injury prevention merit behind it unless the dog is used for hunting in thick brush. It is usually done to make the dog look tougher or for fighting dogs.
Declawing cats and debarking dogs are done for the benefit of the owner. Both are done under anesthetic. Declawing a cat can save furniture but can also save injury of the owner or other pet if the cat is more aggressive. Debarking dogs is not as common as the other procedures but may be the only way to stop a compulsive dog from barking. In my opinion, these last two procedures should be the last options and only be done when every other option has been genuinely pursued and haven't worked. As Iain said, it is often the only way that a dog or cat can be saved from being destroyed.
None of these procedures lessen the quality of life for the animal after the procedure. However, if the owner is merely doing it for cosmetic reasons, I don't think the pain of the procedure itself is worth it.
01-17-2005, 09:51 PM
I can't possibly compare tail docking to circumcision... I've had to have a few feral and formerly stray cats "tail docked" due to severe tail injuries where the spinal cord (and often the entire tail) was severed, and recovery involves a week of Cephalexin to prevent meningitis. That's not minor.
To clarify: tail-docking and dewclaw removal is only minor when the dog is 2 to 5 days old. Circumcision is the same -- on babies, no big deal; on adults.... >>>>shiver<<<<
01-17-2005, 10:09 PM
I've had to have a few feral and formerly stray cats "tail docked" due to severe tail injuries where the spinal cord (and often the entire tail) was severed, and recovery involves a week of Cephalexin to prevent meningitis. That's not minor.
That's why tail docking is done in some puppies, to prevent tail injuries later it life. A minor procedure at two days old becomes a major surgery when they are adults. Because newborn pups aren't fully developed, they don't have the same recovery time or risks that an adult faces if they have to get their tail amputated.
01-17-2005, 10:40 PM
Right - tail docking is done on some working dogs to prevent injury. It's not necessary for a pet. There is a big difference between a cosmetic procedure and one that is done to prevent injury.
01-23-2005, 04:00 PM
I've had to have a few feral and formerly stray cats "tail docked" due to severe tail injuries where the spinal cord (and often the entire tail) was severed, and recovery involves a week of Cephalexin to prevent meningitis. That's not minor. Dewclaw removal is definitely less dramatic, but still not necessary.
You'd be using a stronger antibiotic in the case of a tail being severed in a non-sterile environment. But if you're surgically docking a tail, a routine antibiotic would probably suffice. And just to clarify, the spinal cord would not be severed... it ends before the tail.
I don't agree with cosmetic surgeries, but I agree that some people are going to have it done no matter what. As a vet, you might as well do it as safely and as painlessly as possible -- what if the owner takes matters in to his own hands? The animal would be far worse off and my conscience wouldn't be any cleaner.
You can also choose what method in the case of declawing... I've heard some ways are less traumatizing than others, like removing only part of the digit instead of the entire bone.