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Declawing and Debarking

Kitten_KimberlycloseupAll surgeries pose risks and if not pain, some degree of discomfort. Complications can occur. Mistakes can happen. Therefore, any surgery that is unnecessary should be avoided. Among surgeries that have no medical basis, are cosmetic surgeries. Two common elective surgeries are debarking and declawing, which are firmly opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA). In recent years, some states have attempted to pass legislation limiting or banning these procedures and several cities in California have passed ordinances banning these procedures.


  • Declawing, known as onychectomy, is not the simple removal of the claw at the end of the cat’s toe. Rather, it entails amputation of the joint that hold the cat’s nail bed.
  • Medically speaking, declawing is more analogous to amputating a finger than trimming a nail.
  • Declawing is a painful procedure than can cause complications including infection.
  • Following surgery, some cats become fearful or resort to biting after they realize they have lost a primary mode of defense.
  • Because of pain in the paw, some cats may be reluctant to use a litter box.

Alternatives to Declawing

  • Ask your veterinarian to show you how to clip your cat’s claw tips.
  • Buy or make appropriate scratching posts. Many cats also enjoy corrugated cardboard.
  • Place double-sided clear sticky tape on those places where your cat is doing the most damage. Cats do not like the feel of the sticky tape so will not go near those areas to scratch. Aluminum foil and the bumpy side of carpet runners are other deterrents.
  • Learn to live with a bit of the wild inside your home. If you do not think you can live with an animal who has the innate need to scratch, do not get a cat or adopt one who has already been declawed.


  • Debarking, or, vocal cordectomy, involves removing tissue from the animal’s vocal cords to reduce the volume of the bark.
  • A debarked dog will still bark—just not as loudly.
  • The surgery is performed in one of two ways: laparoscopically or through an incision in the throat.
  • The removed tissue may grow back or scar tissue may develop blocking the throat.
  • Bleeding and infection are other complications of this surgery. Another complication of the surgery, one not often thought of, is the new bark may be just as annoying as the old bark—just not heard at as great a distance.
  • Debarking does not cure the cause of excessive barking. If there are environmental, psychological, or physical reasons why the dog barks excessively, they will not be addressed by surgery.

Alternatives to Debarking

  • A combination of training, adequate exercise, and engaging toys are often sufficient to curb excessive barking.
  • Some breeds bark more than others. Learn about these breeds before obtaining a dog.
  • If you really cannot tolerate barking, do bring a dog into your home.
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