The dreaded declaw, redux
Though I risk incurring your ire with this post, I submit it in protest to the claims that I am so noble a veterinarian I deserve the adulation you so often bestow upon this mere mortal. In truth, I am but a simple human, rife with failing you cannot imagine save by observing your own worst demons.
The surgical feline declaw, ladies and gentlemen, is the subject of this tedious post. It’s fair to say that few of you respect the veterinarian willing to engage in such brutality. I’ve been aware of this fact since before my first post on the subject. Recent weeks have also laid claims on my attention to your opinions.
Not only have several past posts received extra attention lately in the form of numerous written protestations against the practice, but a recent article in The Miami Herald (penned by this vet, I’ll admit) have garnered some negative fan mail on the subject, as well. (Though in my defense, I was trying to argue against the declaw and my intent was sadly misinterpreted.)
The truth is that I defend the practice, though not without deep concern and thoughtful misgivings. Though I am largely unwilling to engage in this practice and though I recommend against it and counsel breathlessly on methods necessary to avoid it, I still take the occasional declaw to heart. Sometimes, I’ve learned, it’s best to never say never.
I began my veterinary career with an oath against all forms of cosmetic or human convenience-based procedures. I refused to administer chronic low-dose antibiotics for tear-stained show dogs, I professed never to engage in ear crops or tail docks and I swore off declaws forever.
Once inculcated to the realities of raising a family, I caved to every but the first client demand. Indeed, I loathe the overuse of antibiotics and see little benefit to their cosmetic use. Worse though, I was expected, as a lowly associate, to undertake what our society considers the most brutal forms of cosmetic surgery. I did so because I was weak in refusing (and scared to have to find another job) and because, at the time, it was considered a valuable surgical skill.
Times have changed and so has my confidence level. I’ll no longer undertake cosmetics except for the occasional restoration, those very rare tail docks (addressed in another post as a mea culpa) or the innocuous wart-job.
But declaws are another matter, altogether. I have a high stress-level when it comes to this surgery in spite of my degree of proficiency. I know I perform higher-than-the-standard-of care declaws, but I hate to do them.
Still, I will, if convinced by a client’s situation, take them on. Immunodeficiencies in clients, inability to convince cats to wear SoftPaws and severely destructive felines averse to all methods of control (with no hope of finding another home) tug at my heartstrings.
You might find it odd that I refer to a declaw as an emotional situation, but I challenge you to look these people in the eye and tell them their beloved cat needs a new home, must be thrust outside or runs the risk of being euthanized. I can’t do it if I’m truly swayed by their arguments.
I think it’s far from gratuitous, my approach to this procedure. And if I must submit myself to your condemnation then so be it. At least you can be sure I’m only trying to level with you.