When people refer to declawing a dog, they mean forcing them to undergo an operation known as onychectomy. This is not as simple as just removing the animal’s claws but actually involves removing the final joints on each of your dog’s toes.
In dogs, the nails grow directly from their bones. The joint removal is done to prevent their claws from regrowing.
It was initially intended for cats and performing the practice on either species is seen as widely inhumane and unnecessary. In many countries, declawing your dog is seen as animal cruelty and will land you in legal trouble.
It should not ever be done for aesthetic reasons. The only instance in which it is compassionate is if the procedure is carried out for medical reasons, by a licensed veterinarian.
What are the potential dangers of declawing a dog?
There is some evidence to suggest that the declawing procedure can cause health issues further down the line. These include arthritis, deformities, and even spinal injuries in the future.
The procedure is known to cause a lot of pain to animals. This can potentially even be in excess of what strong painkillers can cope with. This is deemed unnecessary suffering if there is no medical justification, hence the categorization of the procedure as animal cruelty.
What about dewclaws?
Dewclaws are the little ‘thumb’ on your dog’s paw or slightly up their arm.
These are not as commonly attached to the bone structure of your dog. In some active breeds, dewclaws can cause damage. This is common in hunting dogs, where the dewclaw can become caught and tear off.
Removal of dewclaws, if done, is often completed in the early days of your dog’s life. This is occasionally done for aesthetic purposes, but more commonly to prevent further injury.
This practice is waning in popularity too, as it is seen in most instances to cause unnecessary harm to the dog.
If the dewclaws aren’t removed just after birth, they can also be taken off at their spay or neutering appointment. This is usually only if your dog has injured or torn their dewclaws prior to this appointment.
A veterinarian may advise you to permanently remove the dewclaws to prevent further injuries from being sustained.
If you opt to keep the dewclaw attached, which we would recommend where possible, pay close attention to the nail length.
What are some good alternatives to declawing your dog?
If you are worried about your dog’s claws causing damage to your furniture or humans, there are a few steps you can take.
It is worth noting that there is no guarantee their claws will not damage anything ever. If this is not a risk you are willing to take, we would suggest not bringing a dog into your home.
You can take your dog to an obedience class or put them through some training at home. This will teach them not to jump on people or furniture, avoiding as much damage as possible.
We also suggest taking them for regular long walks to tire them out. This will make them less likely to jump onto interior furniture.
Like with human nails, you can also trim your dog’s claws every once in a while. Look for the blood supply (known as the kwik) inside the nail. This will appear as a darker portion in the center and grows as the nail extends.
Cut just below the tip of the kwik, taking great care not to cut through it. Cutting the kwik will cause your dog to bleed profusely and this may be difficult to stop.
You can use a nail file to gently grind down the end of the nail and shorten the length a little.
You can also purchase things known as nail caps. These are soft vinyl attachments that can resemble acrylic nails. These will cover the sharp ends of the claws without causing any harm to your pet.
Taking your dog on regular walks will help to naturally wear down their nails. Walking on cement and rough grounds will help to wear the nails down even more than walks across fields.
When should you consider declawing your dog?
Declawing of dogs should only ever be seen as a very last resort. It is a very serious procedure and should not be carried out without extreme medical justification.
Nail bed infections are one of the few justifiable reasons to declaw your dog. Never attempt to do this at home, and always seek the advice of at least one, if not more, qualified veterinarians.
Your dog is likely to have red and swollen paws if this is the case. They may also be struggling to walk or exhibiting classic signs of pain. These include whining and withdrawing from social interactions. They could also flop their ears and tail down or limp around due to the pain.
If your dog suddenly goes off the idea of walks or seems to spend a long time licking their paws, this is also a good indication that something is wrong. They may also go off their food.
How should you care for your dog following declawing surgery?
You should think about declawing as an amputation surgery. You should take great care of your dog and do not try to rush the recovery process.
You will need to manage their pain well and change their bandages regularly to prevent infections from developing. They are likely to need to spend a brief period in a recovery kennel under the care of professionals during the first week post-surgery.
There will be a rehabilitation period your dog must go through. This will involve going on very short excursions, to get them used to the movement and pressure again.
Take indications from your dog and don’t push them to do more than they are comfortable with. Go at a slow and steady pace and give them lots of reassurement.
If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact a veterinarian for professional advice.