Evolving Medicine – by Andrea Bates, certified A.H.T., Sherwood Park Animal Hospital
Medicine, whether human or veterinary, is an ever-evolving science. We certainly know more today than we did just 50 years ago, and we’ll certainly know even more in another 50 years! Does that mean that the way medicine was practiced back then is anything to be ashamed of? Of course not – we did what we could with the information that we had at the time. Although some practices were dreadful – in human medicine people would give morphine to their teething babies and treat mood disorders with lobotomies!
An example of an outdated practice in veterinary medicine is the de-barking of dogs – a relatively commonplace practice just a few years ago. The intent of this surgery was to stop a dog from barking incessantly – something that owners were unable to tolerate. We now know that the causes that lead to excessive barking need to be determined and dealt with in a behavior modification approach, rather than attempting a quick fix – an unethical, unnecessarily painful surgical procedure which mutilates the animal. Does that make the doctors who performed this surgery years ago immoral? No, they just didn’t know any better.
The important thing is to always learn and improve, and to always embrace progress! This is what needs to happen now in regards to the de-clawing of cats. The de-claw procedure is a quick fix – an unnecessarily painful surgical procedure which mutilates the animal. Is barking normal for a dog? Of course it is. Do cats like to dig their claws into things – of course they do! Can we modify the conditions present in the cat’s environment to minimize the destruction of our personal belongings? Yes – it is absolutely achievable! But the temptation of a “quick fix” will always be attractive as long as it remains available, offered as a “normal” procedure. It’s only when the surgery is no longer available, as was in the case of the de-vocalization of dogs, that people will be required to seek out alternative, ethically acceptable solutions.
I’m proud to say that at Sherwood Park Animal Hospital, we do not declaw cats – ever. We don’t dock tails, crop ears, devocalize, or otherwise surgically intervene in an animal’s life unless there is a direct benefit to the animal’s health. We love dogs and cats exactly the way they are – from the tips of their ears to the tips of their (trimmed) claws!
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