On this blog, we try to stay away from stating our opinion on controversial topics, but when it comes to the topic of declawing, we would like to make it clear that we DO NOT support this practice unless it is required because of a medical condition (which is extremely rare and usually only for one claw).
Declawing (Onychectomy) is not only painful for the dog but will significantly reduce their quality of life.
We often get emails from well-intended readers asking if you can get a dog declawed, just like you would a cat. The technical answer to this question is yes, it is possible to get a dog declawed. But no, not just like a cat. We then try to inform the reader what declawing a dog entails and hopefully talk them out of it.
Just remember, getting a dog declawed without a medical reason is almost universally accepted animal cruelty.
Why Does Declawing Ruin Quality of Life?
If you’re considering getting your dog declawed without medical cause, please consider the following:
During the onychectomy procedure, they don’t just remove the nail. They have to remove the entire end joint. Imagine getting part of your toe chopped off. That’s essentially the same thing.
That’s where this is different than declawing a cat. Although it’s not great for cats, they don’t have to chop off the entire end joint since cats claws retract. The type of pain this leads to is greater than any pain killer can manage.
Throws Dog Off Balance
Dogs use their claws for a lot more than we assume, they even use them to walk. The claws help keep them balanced and allow them to grip the surface.
When a dog is declawed, they will have difficulty walking and running. They won’t be nearly as agile as they once were.
Increase in Arthritis at a Young Age
Most old dogs get arthritis, but dogs that have been declawed will get it much more quickly because of how much it throws off their gate when walking.
The unfortunate thing about developing arthritis at a young age is that it also decreases life span. Dogs that have arthritis aren’t nearly as active. They become lethargic because of the pain and tend to lay around all day. Just like with humans, a lack of exercise leads to a shorter lifespan.
What About Removing Dewclaws?
This is one area where we are actually ok with declawing. The dewclaw is the claw on the side of the leg, although not all breeds are born with a dewclaw.
Dogs that are taken care of in a loving home won’t have a need for dewclaws. Since active breeds may be prone to accidental dewclaw injuries while running around, you may want to consider removing them.
It won’t make any difference in the way they walk or the quality of life, and it will prevent possible injuries…a win/win. In fact, removing the dewclaw has become so common that in many breeds, they remove it a few days after the puppy is born.
This does not mean you need to remove the dewclaw. If your dog isn’t at risk of a dewclaw injury, it’s better to leave it attached.
Medical Conditions That Would Require Onychectomy
We mentioned not getting your dog declawed unless medically required, but which medical conditions require onychectomy? There is no medical condition that actually requires it. However, if your dog is suffering from one of the following AND the vet believes getting the claw removed will IMPROVE your dog’s quality of life, then you should consider following the vet’s advice.
Keep in mind that any time you talk about a serious medical procedure, it’s best to get more than one opinion. If your vet recommends removing the claw, speak to another vet or two and see what they think. If everyone is on the same page, you know you’re making the right decision.
Also, remember that with the following medical conditions, only the affected nails will be removed, not all of them.
Severe Infection in The Nail Beds
It’s common for dogs to get a nail bed infection, especially dogs that have a habit of chewing or licking their nails. A dogs mouth is full of bacteria. When they chew their nails, they’re transferring the bacteria from their mouth to their paws. If the dog has any type of open wound, it can cause a nail bed infection.
There are many natural treatments to nail bed infections, including Epsom salt and antibacterial soap. However, if the infection becomes severe, removing the infected nail(s) might be your best option.
Unlike human nails, dog claws are actually an extension of the phalanx bone at the end of a dog’s toe. Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from a bone infection. When it becomes severe, sometimes the best thing to do is remove the claw.
Although extremely rare, sometimes dogs’ nails grow in an awkward way that causes extreme discomfort and pain to the dog. Since it is not possible to change the direction a nail grows, the best option is to remove the nails altogether.
Remember, regardless of the medical condition, in most cases removing the nail WILL NOT improve the quality of life. Talk to multiple vets and only follow through with the procedure if all the vets agree that removing the nail will improve your dog’s quality of life.
What to Do Instead of Declawing
We understand that dogs claws can cause some frustrations. Maybe they’re tearing up the furniture or scratching you and your guests. However, that doesn’t mean declawing is the answer.
There are plenty of things you can do to help with these issues other than removing the claws.
Here are three simple things that you can do today.
Use Nail Covers
Nail covers are common for cats, but they make them for dogs as well. These are soft rubber covers that go over each nail. When the covers are on, it makes it impossible for the dog to ruin the furniture or scratch you with their long nails.
The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to replace them every day. A good set of quality nail covers only costs about $10 and will last up to six weeks.
This is a MUCH better alternative than getting your dog declawed.
Take Your Dog on Frequent Walks
One of the main reasons dogs claws cause an issue is because they get too sharp. If the dog gets plenty of time going on walks and playing outside, the claws should never get sharp. The cement naturally flattens the claws. Even if the claws get long, they shouldn’t become sharp.
If possible, try taking your dog on a 20-minute walk on concrete. If you don’t have the time/desire to go for 20 minutes daily, consider hiring a dog walker. Most dog walkers walk multiple dogs at the same time, so your dog might make a new friend or two!
Use a Nail Grinder
Another reason dogs claws can cause problems is when they get too long. The best way to prevent this is to take your dog in for regular grooming, but we understand that can be expensive, not to mention a hassle!
Cutting dog nails yourself can be scary. That’s why we recommend using a nail grinder. These are essentially fail-proof and will keep your dogs’ nails trimmed to a proper length. Make sure to grind your dog’s nails every 2-4 weeks.
A Quick Note On Digging
One of the main excuses people give us for wanting to declaw their dog is that their dog won’t stop digging. In some cases, they dig under the fence and escape. We understand that digging is frustrating. It causes damage to the yard, and if your dog does escape, it can put others in danger.
That’s still no excuse to declaw your dog since you have other options. First, nail covers will likely prevent your dog from being able to dig, but if your dog still manages to dig with nail covers on, that just means they need proper training.
We have written many posts on how to get dogs to stop digging. But one of the best things you can do is provide them with a designated digging area. Perhaps a sandpit. You can hide some of their toys in the sandpit to encourage them to dig. If you reward them when they dig in their designated spot and discipline them when they dig up the yard, they’ll quickly learn to only dig in their designated location.
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