Friday 4 July 2014

Cat Declawing Poses a Potential Threat To People!

From The Paw Project -  a cross-post. it is written by: Kirsten Doub, DVM State Director and the whole Paw Project-Utah team 

Intro: please read all of this to understand how declawing can pose a threat to us as well. It is a sobering story and highlights the damage that the declawing operation can do to cats together with the underlying health problems it can create.

Our poster child Sammy had reconstructive surgery on his back feet! He had 8 bone fragments that were removed. It was also discovered that he had significant abscesses under the skin on the top of each toe, as well as nails regrowing through the pads. During Sammy's declaw, the ungual crest was left behind; a fragment of the P3 bone where the nail grows from. Each of Sammy's fragments were greater than 5 mm. The result:  at the young age of 4, Sammy had 20-30 pieces of nail shards embedded in each toe. Each of these shards was like a tiny needle poking him every time he stepped. 

These pieces of nail arise from a piece of bone that is cut in half during the declaw with a non-sterile pair of nail trimmers, called a Rescoe .The result is bacteria entering the bone, promoting the formation of abscesses and scar tissue. Over time, the tissue itself will become infected, and it will start to die. Sammy's toes were so infected, the skin on the top of his toes was starting to die, requiring an aggressive debridement to fix. He is doing well now, recovering at home with his family. His brother Koda really missed him!

Sammy has also been struggling with an infection on his chin. After a biopsy and bacterial culture was done, it was discovered that he had MRSA  as well as pseudomonas; these are two antibiotic resistant bugs. Most chin acne cases are sterile and don't need antibiotics to treat. However, Sammy needed a very strong antibiotic to knock out this infection, which is very unusual.

Why did he get such a bad infection? His feet were very infected, which caused a systemic effect. On Sammy's initial lab work at Paw Project-Utah, he had an increase in monocytes, a type of while blood cell, circulating in his blood stream. These types of while blood cells are produced when there is a chronic infection or inflammation in the body. 

The problem is that Sammy's body was so busy pumping out these monocytes every day to fight the infection in his toes after his declaw surgery, that is immune system didn't keep producing a lot of neutrophils, the white blood cells that fight infection. When his chin hair follicles got inflamed, his body didn't respond appropriately. Without neutrophils circulating in high qualities, Sammy's body was ill prepared to deal with something as benign as chin acne. Thus, his acne turned into a deep infection.

Another thing to consider, is that Sammy is a young cat and chin acne is quite common in general. Sammy was abandoned, and it's very possible that he received antibiotics for his chin acne with a previous owner. In fact, in the initial picture the shelter took, he had a bit of hair loss on his lip consistent with acne. Unfortunately, no one knew how bad the infection was that was brewing in Sammy's toes until he came to Paw Project-Utah. 

Thus, if antibiotics were prescribed for his chin acne previously, the vet might have actually selected a kind for a more resistant set of microbes (like MRSA and Pseudomonas) that would also populate all parts of Sammy, including his toes and hair follicles. Antibiotics that are typically used to treat skin infections like acne do not tend to treat deep tissue anaerobic infections, like an infection in a bone(P3). 

So, if Sammy did receive antibiotics to treat acne without consideration for the bone infection going on in his toes, the antibiotics were actually making his acne AND his toe infection worse! This mean his acne quickly turned into a significant infection which required very strong antibiotics. In fact, based on his MIC, there was only one antibiotic available that would treat both Sammy's MRSA and Pseudomonas.   

Not only is this bad news for Sammy, but a resistant infection like this poses a public health risk; MRSA is very contagious and affects humans. MRSA is an antibiotic resistant staph infection that starts out on the skin, but can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. Sometimes the bacteria remain confined to the skin. But they can also burrow deep into the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs.

Sammy is a perfect example of how the practice of declawing not only causes pain and infection to our kitties, it also poses a potential thread to us as well! Please spread the word on our findings!


  1. Annie Bruce was saying this long ago and no one believed her, poor Sammy, his life ruined by someone who shouldn't have ever had a cat, aided by a butcher disguised as a vet!

    1. Ruth, I was shocked I have to say at this sentence:

      "Sammy had 20-30 pieces of nail shards embedded in each toe"

      I shake my head in disbelief that people can do this to a cat.


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