Why You Shouldn't Declaw Your Dog: Risks, Alternatives, and Expert Opinions

Why You Shouldn’t Declaw Your Dog: Risks, Alternatives, and Expert Opinions

You’ve heard of declawing cats, but what about dogs? Could it be a viable option for those sharp, destructive nails? Let’s dive into this controversial topic and shed some light on the matter.

Before you make any decisions, it’s crucial to understand what declawing entails and how it affects our four-legged friends. This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview, helping you make an informed decision about your pet’s wellbeing.

Stay tuned as we explore the ins and outs of dog declawing, its potential risks, and alternatives you might want to consider. It’s time to get the facts straight and debunk the myths surrounding this contentious issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Declawing, or onychectomy, is not just the removal of a dog’s claw; it involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe, similar to removing the human fingertip.
  • Declawing dogs is rare and highly controversial in the veterinary world due to the various health and ethical issues associated with the surgery.
  • It’s crucial to understand that dogs use their claws for many activities vital to their physical and mental well-being. Robbing them of their claws can negatively impact their overall agility and well-being.
  • Dog declawing can lead to various complications including persistent pain, arthritis, and behavioral changes. Despite it being possible, dog declawing is infrequently the ethical or practical choice.
  • There exist more humane alternatives to declawing like nail trimming, providing appropriate chew toys, regular exercise, and training that address the root of undesired actions in dogs.
  • Expert opinions strongly advise against declawing dogs due to its harmful long-term effects. They suggest other alternatives for managing scratching and destructive behavior while causing minimal harm to the dog.

Declawing dogs is not a common or recommended practice, carrying significant risks and ethical concerns, as explained by experts at AVMA. Alternatives to declawing that protect both the pet and household items include regular nail trimming and the use of nail caps, techniques detailed at PetMD.

Understanding Declawing

Declawing, professionally referred to as onychectomy, is a surgical procedure you might associate mainly with cats. Contrary to its misleading name, declawing isn’t simply a nail removal. It’s crucial to realize that this operation involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. Picture it as similar to removing the distal phalanx in humans – that’s equivalent to each of your fingers losing the section up until the last knuckle.

Individuals often turn to this intense solution, mistakenly believing it’s the most effective way to combat the pet’s destructive behavior. Yet, it’s essential to understand that scratching is a natural and integral part of your dog’s inherent instincts, serving various roles such as marking territory and relieving stress or anxiety. In some severe cases, dogs may start exhibiting increased destructive behaviors due to anxiety-related conditions such as depression or ADHD, leading to decisions like declawing.

In dogs, declawing procedures are quite rare due to natural behavior differences between cats and dogs. Dogs are not as reliant on their claws as cats; therefore, they seldom cause the same level of destructive issues with scratching. Still, exceptions do exist, and there are occasions when some pet owners feel the pull toward this drastic measure. Particularly stressed dogs, who may cry out or act out by scratching excessively, or those being bullied by other pets, might be considered for declawing as a last resort, despite its severe implications.

Testing this procedure on dogs raises several health and ethical questions, with a consensus among veterinary professionals declaring it as inhumane. Apart from the immediate pain after the surgery, complications can often follow. Examples include infection, tissue death, lameness, and behavioral changes.

Informed pet owners often seek alternative methods, understanding that a dog’s welfare comes before convenience. Methods exist like maintaining regular nail trims, providing appropriate chew toys, and dedicated training to deter unwanted scratching behavior. Remember, there’s much more to declawing than meets the eye and it’s not a decision to be made lightly. Next, we’ll dive deeper into the possible repercussions, emphasizing why this practice is highly discouraged in dogs.

Can You Declaw a Dog?

Can You Declaw a Dog?

Technically, dogs can be declawed. But, major negative health and behavioral implications are associated with the process. Numerous jurisdictions, including many US states, consider it illegal due to allegations of animal cruelty. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines advise that onychectomy should only be one’s resort when all other efforts fail to manage destructive behaviors, indicating how rarely it’s condoned in the profession.

Declawing of dogs isn’t purely about removing claws but involves the removal of the bone from which the nail grows. Consequently, the paw develops an abnormal structure, potentially leading to discomfort and altered walking patterns which further induces pain.

Additionally, this invasive surgery might expose your canine friends to the risk of persistent pain, arthritis, infection, or even nerve damage. By resecting the last bone of each toe, the procedure could also lead to back pain and disturbance in the dog’s balance.

In dogs, unlike in felines, scratching isn’t typically an instinctive behavior. Dogs use their claws for various activities such as sprinting, grabbing toys, climbing hills, and more. Depriving them of their claws could negatively impact their overall agility and well-being.

While possible, declawing a dog is seldom the ethical or practical choice. Pet owners often find more humane alternatives like nail trimming, provision of appropriate chew toys, and training more effective in managing undesired actions in dogs. Remember, it’s vital to prioritize your dog’s health and behavioral needs. To get expert advice on these alternatives to declawing, it’d be wise to consult with your local veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist.

In conclusion, yes, dogs can be declawed. But I strongly advise you to consider the broader health implications and ethical concerns before making this decision. After all, your furry friend deserves the utmost care and respect. This blog aims to inform and educate pet owners regarding this contentious issue, promoting informed and safe pet-ownership practices.

The Consequences of Declawing in Dogs

The Consequences of Declawing in Dogs

Declawing dogs doesn’t only cause them physical pain, it also triggers negative behavioral changes in your pet. Here are three significant outcomes of declawing:

  1. Physical Health Impact: Understand that onychectomy directly affects your dog’s physical well-being, as it disrupts the bone structure of the paw. It leads to chronic pain, difficulty in walking, balance issues, and an increased risk of arthritis. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), declawing entails the removal of ‘the claw, the bone, the joints, and the tendons’, which causes severe implications for a dog’s health.
  2. Behavioral Changes: Behavioral issues such as anxiety, aggression, and litter box aversion often emerge after the procedure, making it challenging for both the dog and owner. The Humane Society of the United States notes that dogs may become defensive due to the loss of their primary source of defense, their claws, leading to biting as a protective mechanism.
  3. Ineffectiveness: Declawing dogs doesn’t solve the problem of unwanted scratching behavior. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers emphasizes that training, rather than invasive procedures, is the most effective approach to address behavioral issues. Exercise, chew toys, and regular nail trimming can curb destructive behavior without causing unnecessary harm.

Keep in mind these consequences if you ever consider declaring your pet. The previous emphasis on canine health and well-being over convenience remains paramount. Always consult a dog behaviorist or a vet for other alternatives to declawing. This ensures you’re making a well-informed decision that prioritizes your four-legged friend’s welfare over convenience.

Alternatives to Declawing Dogs

Navigating scratches from your furry friend presents a dilemma. In understanding the impacts of declawing, you’ll likely agree it’s not the best course of action. You’re in luck, there exist plenty of humane alternatives.

First on the list is training, a crucial element in managing your dog’s behavior. Dogs, much like humans, contain the capability to learn and change behaviors given consistent guidance. Enroll your dog in a professional training course where they learn scratch-appropriate behaviors. For example, redirect their scratching tendencies to resilient dog toys which can withstand their pressure.

Regular exercise sits on number two. It serves the dual purpose of keeping your pet fit while also curbing potential destructive behaviors. According to a study by the Journal of Small Animal Practice, dogs with sufficient daily exercise exhibit fewer behavioral issues, including unnecessary scratching. Furnish examples on these could be hikes, fetch games, or even brain-stimulating puzzle toys.

Thirdly, manicuring your pet’s nails is an effective preventive measure. Regular trimming inhibits your dog’s scratch efficiency. Procure professional grooming services or tools to maintain optimal nail length without causing your pet discomfort. A cornmill grinder can, for instance, serve this purpose as it sands the nail down instead of cutting it, reducing potential pain.

Use of deterrents could be your fourth alternative. Products often come in a spray form; when applied to the furniture, they discourage dogs from scratching. The use of deterrents, like Bitter Apple spray, can provide a temporary but safer solution.

Lastly, consider the use of dog booties or nail caps. These products serve as physical barriers between your dog’s claws and household surfaces. Doggie Digits, for example, offers nail caps that can last up to 6 weeks and come in multiple sizes.

Consult with your vet to determine the best strategy for your dog. What works for one might not work the same for another. With these human alternatives, you can protect your home without causing harm to your pet.

Expert Opinions on Declawing Dogs

Renowned specialists in the veterinary field predominantly consider declawing procedures on dogs inhumane, stressing the harmful long-term effects. Keith A. Hnilica, a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, has written extensively on canine nail disorders. Hnilica cites deformed regrowth, chronic pain, and bone spurs as potential complications following declawing.

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, founder of The Paw Project, offers another perspective. Conrad emphasizes declawing changes a dog’s gait, affecting its balance and agility, and also promotes long-lasting pain. In her work, she has successfully reversed declaw surgeries on animals, bringing awareness to alternate options.

Additionally, organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) discourage declawing. The AVMA states that declawing should remain a last resort, only after all other alternatives have failed. The RSPCA goes further, labeling declawing an unnecessary, cruel practice, with strong feelings against subjecting animals to such procedures without medical necessity.

Lastly, many trainers, like Zak George, prolific dog trainer and author, testify against declawing. They argue that it’s possible to manage scratching behavior through training and environmental changes, rather than surgical intervention. George points out that understanding and patience are key when it comes to appropriate training.

In light of these expert perspectives, consider consulting your vet before deciding on declawing. They can provide useful insights into the potential risks and suitable, more humane, alternatives. Remember that declawing has substantial drawbacks and often leads to more problems than it resolves. Responsible pet ownership includes understanding and managing your dog’s behaviours in a way that causes the least harm. It’s worth investing time and effort into the alternatives, with the ultimate goal of ensuring a high quality of life for your four-legged friend.


So, can you declaw a dog? Technically, yes. But should you? Absolutely not. It’s clear that declawing dogs can lead to serious physical and behavioral issues. It’s far from a simple solution and can actually exacerbate problems, causing pain, anxiety, and aggression. Instead, consider humane alternatives. Training, exercise, nail trimming, and deterrent sprays are all effective ways to manage your dog’s scratching behavior. And remember, always consult your vet for insights on risks and alternatives. In the end, it’s about responsible pet ownership. Your dog’s quality of life should always be your top priority. Don’t let a quick fix like declawing jeopardize that.

What are the physical effects of declawing dogs?

Declawing dogs can lead to severe physical complications including disrupted bone structure and chronic pain. Gait changes may also occur as the dogs adapt to their altered physique, leading to discomfort and potential long-term health issues.

Can declawing cause behavioral issues?

Indeed, the procedure of declawing can trigger behavioral changes in dogs such as increased anxiety and aggression. This reaction usually stems from pain or discomfort the dog might be feeling post-declawing.

What are some humane alternatives to declawing?

Humane alternatives suggested to declawing are training, regular exercise, and regular nail trimming. Other methods include deterrent sprays and tailoring the dog’s environment to reduce incidences of scratching.

What do experts like Keith A. Hnilica and Dr. Jennifer Conrad say about declawing?

Keith A. Hnilica and Dr. Jennifer Conrad, among other specialists, label declawing as inhumane. They highlight complications such as chronic pain and alterations in a dog’s gait that can arise from this procedure.

What is the standpoint of organizations like the AVMA and RSPCA on declawing?

Organizations like the AVMA and RSPCA strongly discourage declawing, labeling it as an unnecessary and cruel act. They advocate for alternatives that respect the wellbeing of the animal.

Does declawing help control scratching behavior in dogs?

While declawing may seem like a solution to scratching behavior, trainers like Zak George assert that managing such behavior can be more effectively achieved through training and making necessary environmental adjustments.

Is it advisable to consult a vet before considering declawing?

Definitely. Consulting a vet provides you with professional insights on the risks associated with declawing and advice on more humane alternatives. This can lead to more informed, responsible pet ownership.