Pros and Cons of Declawing Dogs: A Comprehensive Analysis

The topic of declawing dogs has always sparked a heated debate among pet owners, with some seeing it as a necessary procedure to protect their furniture and others considering it inhumane. With mixed opinions from both sides, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision for your furry friend.

It is important to understand that dogs rely on their claws for more than just scratching. They use them for maintaining balance, running, and gripping the ground. Removing their claws can result in long-term joint and muscle problems, and can greatly impact their overall quality of life.

In light of these factors, it’s essential to consider the well-being of your dog and other alternatives to declawing. Becoming informed about the procedure’s pros and cons will not only help you make a responsible choice but also promote a better understanding of your dog’s needs and how to address them in the most humane way possible.

Understanding Dog Claws

pros and cons of declawing dogs

Dog claws play an essential role in their daily lives, significantly contributing to their mobility and overall wellbeing. As a dog owner, it’s necessary for you to know what these claws are for and how declawing can impact your furry friend.

Firstly, dog claws help with grip, speed, and balance. They assist your dog in walking, running, and jumping, which are all vital aspects of their physical activities. Declawing your dog may not only impair their ability to perform these activities but also lead to potential joint and muscle issues later on in life .

Apart from being crucial for mobility, dog claws serve other purposes as well. They help dogs dig and perform other activities that require scratching. Moreover, they also play a defensive role in the overall protection a dog can provide to themselves and their owners.

It’s crucial to know that declawing a dog involves an onychectomy, which is considered a treatment of last resort and should be avoided whenever possible. The reason being, dogs suffer from certain nail diseases like claw fold disease, which may necessitate the removal of the nail and the distal end of the digit.

One possible pro is that it can prevent scratching damage to your furniture. However, before opting for this drastic measure, you should consider alternative solutions like training your dog or providing them with appropriate scratching tools.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the topic of declawing dogs is a controversial one—even within the medical community. Therefore, always explore alternative solutions before making any decisions about declawing your pet and consult with a professional veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog’s unique needs.

What Does Declawing A Dog Entail

pros and cons of declawing a dog

Declawing a dog entails removing the claws, along with the final phalange of each toe, which prevents the nail from growing back. It is a surgical procedure involving the amputation of the last bone in each of the dog’s toes.

This procedure is similar to what happens when a cat is declawed, and it has sparked controversy among veterinarians and pet owners.

You should be aware that:

  • Declawing a dog is not a simple trimming of the nails. Instead, it is akin to removing the tips of your fingers, as it involves the removal of bones from each toe.
  • This procedure can cause severe pain and discomfort for your pet, sometimes lasting long after the surgery.
  • Dogs rely on their claws for grip, balance, and mobility. Removing them can lead to joint and muscle problems over time, hindering their ability to walk, run, and jump properly.

There are kinder alternatives available for addressing common problems such as scratching, including regular nail trimming and using protective products for furniture.

The decision to declaw your dog is ultimately yours, but it is crucial to consider the long-term consequences for your pet’s health and well-being.

Pros of Declawing Dogs

don't declaw a dog

Prevention of Damage

Declawing dogs can help prevent damage to your furniture and belongings caused by their scratching. This can save you from costly repairs or replacements in the long run.

For example, if you have expensive hardwood flooring, declawing your dog may help preserve its appearance and longevity. Keep in mind, however, that it’s important to weigh this benefit against the potential risks and drawbacks associated with the procedure.

Reduction in Aggressive Behavior

Another potential benefit of declawing dogs is that it can lead to a reduction in aggressive behavior. By removing their claws, dogs may be less likely to scratch or injure other animals or people.

This can be especially beneficial if your dog has a history of aggressive interactions with other pets or family members. However, it’s crucial to remember that declawing is only one aspect of managing aggressive behavior, and other steps, such as training and socialization, should also be pursued to address the underlying issues.

Keep in mind that declawing dogs is a controversial topic with potential risks and ethical concerns. While the benefits listed here may be compelling, weigh them up against the drawbacks before making a decision. Consult your veterinarian to discuss alternative options and ensure the welfare of your furry friend.

Cons of Declawing Dogs

Cons of declawing a dog

Health Risks

Declawing dogs carries several health risks, as it involves amputating the entire end of their toes. This procedure can lead to infections, hemorrhaging, and even permanent damage to the paw structure. Healing from such an invasive surgery can also lead to complications and slow recovery times, sometimes causing long-term issues for your dog’s mobility and overall well-being.

Behavioral Changes

Declawing dogs might cause significant behavioral changes. A dog’s claws are integral to their non-verbal communication and defense mechanisms. Removing them can lead to a sense of vulnerability, which could result in increased aggression or fearfulness. Furthermore, declawing may affect your dog’s ability to engage in natural behaviors like digging and climbing, leading to frustration and reduced physical and mental stimulation.

Pain and Discomfort

The process of declawing a dog often causes severe pain and discomfort during and after the procedure. Pain management might be required to ensure your dog’s well-being, but it can also lead to other side effects.

Moreover, once the dog’s claws are removed, they may experience chronic pain or discomfort when walking or engaging in everyday activities, as their paw structure is altered and essential cushions for shock absorption are removed.

Alternatives to Declawing

Declawing a dog might seem like a solution to your pet’s scratching problems, but it can be an invasive and painful procedure. Instead, consider these gentler alternatives that can help manage your dog’s scratching habits without causing unnecessary harm.


One of the best alternatives to declawing is teaching your dog to scratch only on appropriate surfaces. By investing time in training, you can redirect your pet’s scratching habits towards designated toys and surfaces designed for this purpose. Some effective strategies you can use to train your dog include:

  • Positive reinforcement: When your dog scratches the designated surface or toy, reward them with a treat or praise.
  • Negative reinforcement: If your pet starts scratching on an inappropriate surface, distract them with a loud clap or other noise and lead them to the designated scratching area.
  • Consistency: Be consistent with your training efforts to help your dog understand and adopt these new habits.

Use of Nail Covers

Another alternative to declawing is using nail covers for your dog’s claws. These soft, plastic caps can be glued onto your pet’s nails, providing a barrier between their claws and the surfaces they scratch.

Nail covers can be an effective solution for protecting your furniture and reducing damage caused by your dog’s scratching habits. To make the most out of nail covers, consider the following tips:

  • Choose the correct size: Nail covers come in various sizes to fit your dog’s claws comfortably. Always measure and choose the right size for your pet.
  • Regular replacement: Nail covers may wear down or fall off over time. Be sure to replace them regularly, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Monitor for irritation: While most dogs tolerate nail covers well, some pets may experience irritation or discomfort. If you notice any signs of distress, consult your veterinarian for guidance.

By considering these alternatives to declawing, you can manage your dog’s scratching habits without resorting to a painful and invasive procedure. With patience, training, and appropriate tools, you can maintain a harmonious home environment while protecting your pet’s wellbeing.

Veterinary and Animal Advocate Opinions

When it comes to declawing dogs, many veterinary professionals and animal advocates have mixed opinions. Let’s explore some of the perspectives on this controversial practice.

Veterinary organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association consider declawing an ethically controversial procedure that should only be performed as a last resort. The AVMA prefers promoting proper training and education to address undesirable behaviors before considering declawing.

Although declawing can be performed on dogs, it’s strongly discouraged. Unlike cats, dogs have non-retractable claws that are integral to their bones, making the procedure risky and painful. Many veterinarians won’t perform declawing on dogs for these reasons.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Benefit: Declawing dogs can protect against certain diseases. Some claim that nails harbor bacteria and harmful germs that may cause infections, like ringworm and tetanus. However, proper nail care and hygiene practices can also prevent these issues.
  • Drawback: The procedure can cause pain and long-term issues for dogs. An onychectomy, or the removal of the nails, affects the dog’s bones and can lead to chronic pain, difficulty walking, and other complications.

Animal advocates argue that declawing dogs deprives them of natural behaviors and abilities. Here are some of their concerns:

  • Health: Removing a dog’s claws can affect its ability to walk correctly, leading to joint and muscle problems.
  • Behavior: Declawing may potentially change a dog’s behavior, increasing aggression or anxiety due to pain and discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cruel to declaw a dog?

Declawing a dog is considered inhumane and cruel by many people and veterinarian professionals. Unlike cats, dogs have non-retractable claws that are integral to their bones. Declawing involves amputating the last bone of each toe, which can cause severe pain, discomfort, and other health issues for your dog. It is not a procedure recommended for cosmetic or convenience reasons.

What are the benefits of declawing a dog?

There are very few benefits to declawing a dog, and it is mostly done as a treatment of last resort for certain nail diseases or severe cases of self-mutilation. There are no practical benefits of declawing for healthy dogs, and it is not recommended for the majority of dogs. It is essential to explore other alternatives, such as trimming and filing, when looking for ways to manage a dog’s nails.

What are the side effects of declawing a dog?

Declawing a dog can have multiple side effects, including:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Infection
  • Increased risk of arthritis
  • Difficulty walking and running
  • Changes in behavior, like increased aggression or fearfulness
  • Decreased ability to defend themselves

These side effects can impact your dog’s quality of life and overall well-being.

Can you declaw an older dog?

Declawing is not recommended for dogs of any age, but older dogs may be at higher risk for complications and slower recovery. Older dogs may also experience more pain and discomfort, making the procedure even less suitable for them.

Why do breeders declaw dogs?

Breeders may declaw dogs for various reasons like aesthetics or wanting to prevent property damage. However, declawing is generally not a standard practice among reputable breeders, as it is considered inhumane and unnecessary. Be cautious when approaching breeders who routinely declaw their dogs, as this may indicate a lack of concern for the animals’ welfare.

What are alternatives to declawing a dog?

There are several alternatives to declawing a dog, including:

  • Regular nail trimming and filing
  • Providing appropriate toys and surfaces for natural nail wear
  • Using nail caps or soft paws to protect your home and furniture
  • Positive reinforcement training to discourage unwanted scratching or digging behavior
  • Consulting a veterinarian or behaviorist for specific concerns related to your dog’s nails

These alternatives are more humane and better for your dog’s overall health and well-being.