Ahhh, the dreaded declaw procedure. Young vets have emailed me after reading my posts on this feline claw removal surgery to ask me how I convinced my employers to go easy on me when it comes to declaws. Last weekend’s correspondent was no different—except this time I think I convinced him to keep an otherwise wonderful job by taking my advice on the subject.

So you know, more small animal veterinary graduates are refusing to participate in cat declaws than ever before. Those who outright refuse are still in the minority, but many more are likely to take a jaundiced view of lopping off the last knuckle of a cat’s “fingertips.”

We simply prefer not to do it—if at all possible. We prefer to confine our skills in this area to situations in which every other alternative has been ruled out and where the cat absolutely requires the procedure to keep her home.

Dr. B (let’s agree to call him) is a recent graduate. He works heavy hours at a relatively large, high-end hospital where all the associates are expected to produce a certain amount of income and tackle all cases, regardless of what comes their way…declaws included.

When he accepted the job he’d had declaw misgivings but didn’t voice them for fear of losing out on the only opportunity available in his girlfriend’s town—a good job by all objective measures. Once inside, however, he realized how much he couldn’t tolerate the hospital’s policy in favor of indiscriminate declaws.

Dr. B accepted the need for some declaw procedures but felt his patients deserved a more advanced pain protocol. He’d also been chided for “talking clients out of it,” with lengthy discussions on alternatives, pain control, declawing complications and the importance of aftercare. The staff called him the “declaw deal killer,” a moniker which earned him a talking-to from his boss.

Though the job was great by all other standards, Dr. B saw the declaw in this hospital as a “holdover” from the old ways of doing things. But he couldn’t get his boss to see things his way in this very dog-centric practice.

“What do I do? I don’t want to leave a great job over just one issue everyone seems to disagree with me on?”

My take:

1-Just because you disagree with the practice doesn’t mean tens of thousands of other veterinarians and technicians don’t agree with you. We’ve got your back.

2-Every practice deserves to have the input of an associate willing to push the envelope of at least one or two issues. And finally, the clincher…

3-Instead of charging $150 for a declaw like some practices do, tally up all the pain control bells and whistles every declaw deserves...to the tune of $450 (which includes 3 days of boarding so cats suffer fewer declaw complications).

Sure, it might take longer to explain and some clients will balk, but…

a)    your boss will marvel at your ability to take the initiative on growing your practice’s profits. Each and every declaw will be far more profitable, thereby making up for the volume of procedures you didn’t perform.

b)    you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing you’re practicing the best possible declaw on fewer cats with far more informed clients in tow.

Dr. B loved the idea. He thought it might even fly. He was working on a formal proposal for his practice when he emailed me for the last time.

A $450 declaw may sound steep to you but at this price it’s still a bargain when you consider how important it is to provide the best care possible for a surgical procedure with ten incisions and a high degree of pain. It’s becoming standard practice for hospitals across the country to up-charge declaws with mandatory value-added line items for pain control. All I have to say to that is…it’s about time.