Declawing cats used to be a common practice. In recent years, an increasing number of veterinarians have stopped performing the procedure. Research has shown that declawing your cat is like cutting off your fingers to the first knuckle, making it a painful and unnecessary procedure. However, some pet owners continue the practice because it keeps their cats from scratching people and clawing up the furniture. Dogs can scratch up the furniture just as well as cats— and their claws can be dangerous if they get aggressive. Can you declaw a dog to make it easier on everybody?
Technically, declawing a dog is possible for a veterinarian to do. Still, the procedure is painful, intrusive, and unnecessary unless your dog suffers from certain health conditions. Dewclaws are another story— although there’s a reason why dogs have dewclaws, many veterinarians will remove your dog’s dewclaws if you have a good reason. Some breeders don’t recommend dewclaw removal because it affects the quality of the breed. Ultimately, removing the dewclaws is a personal decision that could help or hinder your dog.
Declawing your dog is a controversial process, but it’s necessary for rare situations. Here’s everything you need to know about declawing your dog.
Why is it Bad to Declaw Your Dog?
There’s a reason why declawing dogs is practically unheard of. Declawing cats is harmful enough, but some veterinarians try to remove as little bone as possible. Dogs and cats have paws that might look similar, but they’re different enough that you can’t remove a “little” bone from your dog’s paws. Instead, the vet has to cut off a large part of the bone to keep your dog’s nails from growing back.
Unlike human fingernails, dog claws are attached directly to the bone. As a result, you can’t cut off their nails without cutting off the bone, which is like removing part of your fingers. Once you remove your dog’s claws, they’ll have trouble standing up straight because they lost a section of their toes. They’ll also have trouble digging, scratching, and engaging in normal activities as well as protecting themselves if another animal attacks.
For these reasons and more, it’s nearly impossible to find a vet who will remove your dog’s claws. However, there are a few rare exceptions where declawing your dog could save their life.
When Should You Declaw Your Dog?
In rare cases, your dog could develop a nail infection that doesn’t respond to regular treatment. If your vet can’t treat the infection, a nail condition could take your dog’s life. Your vet might recommend declawing your dog as a last resort. This removes your dog’s nails and a section of bone to keep their claws from growing back, eliminating the infection.
What Happens During the Declawing Process?
When you take your dog to the vet for declawing, the vet will put your dog under anesthesia. The vet will cut away at the skin to expose the bone, then cut off the nail and bone and stitch up the incision. Some vets keep your dog at their clinic for several days to make sure they don’t develop an infection. When you take your dog home, it might be in pain for several days or even weeks. Your vet can give you pain medication, but there’s not much you can do for your dog.
What About Dew Claws?
If your dog works, hunts, or plays outside often, you might want to remove its dewclaws. Dewclaws are extra claws positioned above your dog’s paw, like a thumb. Some dewclaws are attached to the bone while others are attached to the skin. These claws are less essential than your dog’s regular claws, meaning that you can remove them without ruining your dog’s quality of life.
However, that doesn’t mean you should take your dog to the vet to get their dewclaws removed. If it’s not causing an issue, there’s no reason to put your dog through unnecessary surgery. Some guardians get their dogs’ dewclaws removed because they might cause an injury when their dog runs around outside. Others get the dewclaws removed because it’s a traditional process for their breed. Make sure you talk to your vet first— in some cases, removing the dewclaw decreases the “value” of your breed.
What Are Some Declawing Alternatives?
If your dog is tearing up your furniture, you have a few options that don’t involve major surgery. Here are a few ways you could reduce the damage that your dog wreaks around your house.
Clipping Your Dog’s Nails
When your dog won’t stop clawing everything, try trimming their nails. Trimming your dog’s nails can be a challenging process— most dogs don’t like being held down and dealing with new experiences. It’s not necessarily painful if you know what you’re doing, but you might need a partner to hold your dog down while you clip their nails.
To use dog nail clippers, take the paw and look for the tissue in each nail. This is a set of nerve endings and blood vessels called the “quick.” If you cut the quick, you’ll likely have to take measures to stop your dog’s nail from bleeding. Cutting the quick is painful, which might make your dog afraid of nail trimmings.
When you trim your dog’s nails, cut in front of the quick to avoid tissue damage. Cut your dog’s nails carefully so you don’t create any sharp edges. Afterward, give your pet a dog treat and lots of affection to reward them for being good. Giving your dog positive reinforcement could make it much easier to cut their nails in the future.
If you’re not comfortable clipping your dog’s nails or your attempts at nail trimming don’t go well, most groomers offer nail clipping services. Your vet might also clip your dog’s nails when you take them in for a regular checkup.
Grinding Your Dog’s Nails
Grinding or filing your dog’s nails might be a little more comfortable for your pet. With a dog-friendly nail file or dog nail grinder, you can grind down their nails so they’re short and smooth instead of long and sharp. You could even use a rotary grinder if you keep it at the slowest speed. This process is more time-consuming, but some dogs find it less stressful. In the end, give your dog a treat and affection if they were patient during the process.
Giving Your Dogs Booties
Dog boots cover your dog’s feet, making it virtually impossible for them to claw the furniture. Dog booties also have a number of practical uses for active dogs who spend a lot of time running, hiking, and hunting with their guardians. Each brand is different, but they might offer extra traction, weather protection, ventilation, and other features. Your dog can wear booties indoors or outdoors.
In most cases, declawing a dog or cat is one of the worst things that a guardian could do to their pet (1). However, your vet might declaw your dog if they’re suffering from a severe nail infection that won’t clear up. You might get your dog’s dewclaws removed if they keep getting injured when your dog plays outside in their wireless dog fence. Ultimately, trimming or grinding your dog’s nails is the best option— it’ll reduce the amount of clawing and tearing without causing any permanent damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is declawing painful for dogs?
Dogs can experience pain for days or weeks after their declawing procedure. Your vet could prescribe pain medication to make your dog more comfortable. To manage the pain, your vet might recommend reducing your dog’s activity levels until they start to feel better.
Can you remove a dog’s dew claws?
Your veterinarian could remove your dog’s dewclaws. Dewclaw removal is more common because it usually doesn’t harm your dog and might prevent injuries.
Why do you declaw a dog?
You might get your dog declawed if they suffer from nail infections that threaten their health. Otherwise, there’s no reason to declaw a dog. Most veterinarians won’t do it unless they have a medical reason to do so.
Do vets still declaw?
Some vets still declaw cats, but it’s become increasingly rare. Most vets won’t declaw dogs unless they have a serious nail condition that provides no other option. Some vets remove dewclaws if there’s a chance that they might cause injuries.