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Debra Eldredge, DVM
Editor Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM
Onychectomy is the amputation of the bone (phalanx) and claw of the toes in cats. It is usually done at the request of the pet guardian. The procedure is best performed on kittens that are 12 to 20 weeks of age, because recovery is slower in older cats. Careful consideration needs to be made before this procedure is done. The animal's activities, environment and, especially whether it is an indoor or outdoor cat, needs to be evaluated, because declawing removes one of the cat's primary defense mechanisms. Although uncommon, complications can occur.
Removal can be performed with nail clippers, scalpel, or laser equipment. A tourniquet is placed on the leg above the elbow. The foot is cleansed with an antiseptic, and the phalanxes are removed. The wounds are closed with either sutures or adhesives, or left open. A bandage is applied. Shredded paper or newspaper pellet litter should be used in the litter box instead of kitty litter for a week. The foot must be kept clean and dry to minimize infection. Potential complications include persistent pain and reluctance to walk, scar formation, and tissue death in the foot.