Sissy Thornton is a sweet cat. She especially loves to lie in her owner’s arms like a baby while having her belly rubbed. Sissy, though, also enjoys scratching household items with her sharp front claws, and unfortunately sofas and drapery can take a real beating. Sissy’s bad habits made a hard decision necessary – the claws had to go or the Thorntons would have to move into an igloo.
Melissa, Sissy’s owner, brought her into the hospital on Friday morning. We ran the normal pre-operative blood screenings and placed an IV catheter to get her ready for surgery. We induced anesthesia with an injection into the catheter, and maintained her on anesthetic gas during the surgery.
The standard procedures for feline declaw surgery is to place a tourniquet very tightly on the arm to diminish blood loss, and then use either a Resco nail trimmer or a scalpel blade to remove the claws. There is always bleeding, and severing the nerve causes considerable pain during the days of healing that follow.
Heavy bandages are put onto the paws, and cats are hospitalized for three days to allow blood vessels to clot and healing to begin. Strong pain medications are necessary to control the pain. Removing the bandages after the hospitalization is often an adventure, because the paws still hurt and cutting the bandages away causes more pain.
Most cats can leave the hospital after bandages are removed, but some require continued bandaging to control bleeding around the house. Within another ten days or so, the cats can usually walk gingerly in a semi-normal fashion, though it is common for them to “guard” the paws and walk very carefully to prevent hurting the healing tissue.
We used the surgical laser to resect Sissy’s front claws. No tourniquet is necessary because the laser automatically cauterizes blood vessels to prevent any bleeding. The nerve is also severed and cauterized; no raw nerve ending translates into a virtually pain free healing period. We closed the incision with surgical adhesive instead of bulky sutures; also helping to prevent discomfort.
We place very light bandages on the paws as a precautionary measure; to be removed the next morning. Upon greeting Sissy the following day, she sat contentedly in her cage; had eaten her dinner, and walked out contentedly into my arms. We peeled the bandages off easily as she looked around the room, and then put her on the floor to do some exploring.
Sissy sits contentedly the morning after surgery. Note that there is no bandaging, no bleeding, no swelling, and no pain! Watch a video of Sissy at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-qxenNHkBk (or scroll below and click the video image below.)
You can also watch Sissy at You Tube with the Keywords “Stonebridge Animal Hospital declaw”
There was absolutely no blood in the bandages, and the paws were clean without even a hint of swelling. Mellissa picked Sissy up that morning – one day after her surgery - after watching her walk around the waiting room like nothing had ever happened – not even the hint of a limp.
The laser has revolutionized many surgical procedures, and patients are the beneficiaries. The ability to do this surgery and have the patients leave the hospital the very next morning as if they’d never had an operation is a major advancement in veterinary medicine. The laser’s benefits make all kinds of surgery better; hemorrhage is controlled, pain is diminished, swelling doesn’t happen. Far less tissue inflammation allows for much faster healing, and patients benefit so much from all that the laser can do for them.