Prevalence of onychectomy in cats presented for veterinary care near Raleigh, NC and educational attitudes toward the procedure
The current prevalence of onychectomy (declawing) in cats is unknown, and education regarding the procedure appears to vary greatly among veterinary schools. The purpose of this project was to determine the prevalence of onychectomized cats near Raleigh, NC and to document the frequency and style (laboratory or lecture) with which the procedure is taught in USA veterinary schools.
One thousand seven hundred ninety four cats ranging in age from 8 days to 21 years, of which 938 (52.3%) were female and 1719 (95.8%) were sterilized.
Data were collected over a 10-week period regarding cats seen for appointments in five veterinary facilities (two cat-only, two general, and one tertiary). Data collection included signalment and onychectomy status. During this time, 28 veterinary schools were polled regarding education of veterinary students in onychectomy.
Three hundred and seventy four (20.8%) cats had undergone onychectomy. A significantly higher percentage of declawed cats were seen in the general practices compared with the other practice types (p < 0.030). Younger cats had a higher rate of onychectomy (p < 0.001). Twenty-six veterinary schools responded to the survey (93%). Fourteen (54%) of the responding schools did not include in their core curriculum a lecture or surgical laboratory providing instruction in the onychectomy procedure.
Conclusions and clinical relevance
Almost 21% of cats seen in veterinary hospitals near Raleigh, NC were declawed. Less than 50% of veterinary schools in the USA include a mandatory lecture or laboratory to teach the procedure. There appears to be a discrepancy between the popularity of the onychectomy procedure and the emphasis placed on relevant instruction in veterinary schools in the USA.