A $55 Declaw In North Dakota And No Take Home Pain Meds

This review was posted in November 2018 on Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service’s facebook page and was sent to me by a supporter.

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November 2018

Comment posted by Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service in North Dakota on a post I did about this practice that does several $55 declaws a week (according to the declawing vet. )

The purpose of this story is to educate the public about how declawing is never necessary and is always harmful to the health and well-being of a cat. It’s also to get the FACTS out about this issue.

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The public needs to be educated about the fact that many declawing vets are not giving cats the proper pain management protocols after they amputate their kitties toe bones and claws. These cats are going through unimaginable pain and suffering. Examples of Cats Declawed With No Pain Meds

Please always remember to take the high road and educate!

Before I posted this review and photo about a kitty that she declawed,  I sent this vet an email and she called it an attack on her clinic.

Not once did I question all the good things that she does for animals. I simply wanted to ask questions about how she addresses declawing and why she isn’t giving cats the proper pain management protocols after she slices off their toe bones and claws with her $55 declaw.

  I had follow-up questions including some about her Meloxicam injection that she says lasts 4 days, but she deflected and said “And still you have failed to include YOUR contact information or educational degree. I think you can find another tree to bark up today.. thanks for your time, but I think we are done. KP.”

My researcher called her clinic and posed as a first time cat owner who was asking for a price of a neuter and declaw. Dr Kathy spoke to them on the phone and she NEVER said that there could be serious complications after a declaw and in fact said to them, “If they’re indoors only that’s certainly a viable option for you.”  The researcher asked if she sees any problems with cats coming back and Dr Kathy said, “Nope.

  She said that she is not a big fan of declawing cats but also said she does several of them a week. Not once did she ask about scratching issues with the cat or mention any humane options.

More about this below.

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I wanted to see how this vet practice addresses declawing to cat owners who call for a price, so one of my researchers posed as a first time cat owner and called the practice to get a price for a neuter/declaw. (This way is usually the only way to get an accurate idea of how a declawing vet practice addresses declawing.)

The vet, Dr Kathy Pfingsten, was the one who answered the phone and the conversation was as follows.

Researcher called Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service in North Dakota and asked to get a cat neutered.

Dr Kathy asked if it’s a male cat and the researcher said yes.
Dr Kathy said that they are having a special this month for $20 cat neuters.
The researcher said that they’ve never had a cat before, and is there anything else that people get done that she recommends.
Dr Kathy said that you should get vaccinations and at the minimum, rabies.

The researcher said that the cat has it’s vaccination and asked if there’s anything else that people have done when the cat’s put out like that?
Dr Kathy said, “I guess some people declaw them.”

Researcher asked if they do them there.
Dr Kathy said yes, they are a full service vet clinic.
The researcher asked how much extra is a declaw.

Dr Kathy said that it’s $55. She said that typically their neuters are $90 plus $55 for the declaw but this month they are running a special and it would be $75 total.
Researcher asked if they do the declaw with a laser.

Dr Kathy said they don’t use a laser and said, “I actually feel more comfortable not doing that because of the procedure. You are actually amputating the last digit of the finger so we feel more comfortable just using tissue glue and manual dissection of that last joint. 

She was asked how she manually dissects the last joint and she said, “With a scalpel. “
Researcher said that their husband said to not get a vet that does declaws once a year because the cat might be limping.
Dr Kathy said, “No, we do several a week.”

Researcher asked if their cat should be OK long-term after two weeks?
Dr Kathy said,  “yea we typically leave them wrapped for 24 hours after surgery and then they are pretty tender for about a week.”
Researcher asked if long-term their cat will be ok because they read some horror stories on the internet that it’s not good for the cat.
Dr Kathy said, “Yep.”
Researcher asked, “They will be alright?”
Dr Kathy said, “It is a major surgery because you are amputating part of their fingers.”
Researcher said that they thought if they perform declaws then it’s not bad for their cat long-term and asked if they have any problems?
Dr Kathy, “Well yeah a lot of people do it. Personally I’m not a big fan of declawing just because I don’t like amputating their fingers.” She said that a lot of people do declaws and have to do it for apartments and things like that.

Dr Kathy said, “If they’re indoors only that’s certainly a viable option for you.”
Researcher asked if their cat will be OK and said, “You don’t see any problems with them coming back?”
Dr Kathy said, “Nope.

Researcher made a quick second phone call to ask about the pain med protocol and Dr Kathy said that she doesn’t give take home meds for the declawed kitty, because it’s hard to pill a cat. She said that she gives the an injection called Meloxicam and said it is a 4 day injection.

(FYI, according to 3 veterinarians, there is no Meloxicam injection that lasts 4 days.)


This comment was posted by Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service after I did a post about the cat owner’s review. The public needs to be educated about the fact that their cats are having their toe bones sliced off and are NOT getting any pain meds for this very painful procedure.


I reached out to 4 veterinarians and asked them if they knew about a Meloxicam 4 day injection in cats that helps with pain.  All of them said that there is no such thing

One of them, who is an expert at pain management said this,

My statement to them, “…A declawing vet in ND just gives a MELOXICAM injection to the cats that she declaws and says it lasts for 4 days for the pain relief…”

“This statement is patently FALSE!  There is NO meloxicam that lasts more than 24 hours.

If meloxicam is to be used responsibly, it must be used with complete transparency and informed consent by the client.  That means using it at LOWER than the current label dose for injectable meloxicam, which can then be followed by several days of oral meloxicam (this is in contrast to the “black box” warning that states that oral meloxicam should not be given to cats). 

We actually have excellent data to let us know that several days of oral (liquid) meloxicam – – at lower doses than were originally discussed here in the US – – provides cats with excellent pain relief and eliminates the worry about giving tablets.

We MUST have a candid conversation with clients in order that they understand that this usage is outside the bounds of the FDA label.  But that is what a good doctor-client relationship and effective communication are all about.

In addition, it is completely unconscionable that these cats are not receiving Simbadol, the 24 hour buprenorphine that was specifically developed for use in cats and is a Zoetis product.  These cats can receive a dose the day of surgery, and then they can receive a second dose the day after – – before they go home.  In my practice, clients are happy to return so that their cats can receive the 3rd dose that is part of the FDA label for the product.  They see how well their cats feel.  There is no reason that these cats, considering the torturous pain of toe amputation, could not benefit from receiving the three day/three dose Simbadol protocol.

The buprenorphine complements the meloxicam (it works by a different pathway in the body) and provides a MUCH more effective pain relieving strategy than either drug by itself.

This veterinarian, if your details are accurate, is actually malpracticing by violating a minimal standard of pain care.  In addition, she is violating foundational bioethical principles by torturing these cats with unrelenting pain that will very likely lead to a permanent pain state for most of them.”

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Just so that there are no questions about how this conversation went with this  declawing veterinarian in North Dakota, here are the emails.

November 11, 2018

Dear Dr Kathy,

 

I’m the mom of City the Kitty.  I was a photojournalist at the Los Angeles Times for 25 years and now write stories on City’s website, citythekitty.org. City is the number one spokescat to end declawing. We get a lot of tips from supporters who are helping this cause and who care about the welfare of cats. 

 

I’m taking the time to write you because I always believe that it’s never too late and everyone can have a change of heart and do the right thing. My goal is to educate the public about declawing and about the humane options and to try to inspire declawing veterinarians to do the right thing and stop doing this inhumane procedure on cats.

 

When they know better, they are doing better. More and more studies and information is coming out that shows how harmful declawing is to the health and well-being of a cat. 

 

I received a tip about you and your practice and how you address declawing and many would agree with me when I say what I found out was appalling and quite disheartening. 

 

You declaw cats for $55. You have people coming from out of town because your declaws are so cheap. Cats that have had their toe bones sliced off need lots and lots of pain meds yet you don’t give them any. This is both shocking and frightening to think about the suffering those poor kitties are going through after they leave your practice. You do several declaws a week when you could be educating these clients about how horrible a declaw is for a cat’s well-being and you could be counseling them about the humane options like scratching posts, nail trims, deterrents, Soft Paws, etc.  Cats are sent home with those tight bandages on, when so many times it could cause the cat’s tissue to lose the blood supply and cause serious problems if left on too long. Here’s one example of that happening – http://citythekitty.org/3-kitties-declaw-story/

 

Do you know that 42 countries around the world ban declawing because they know it is inhumane. I’m not sure if you are aware but thankfully Canadian veterinarians are voting to ban declawing. More and more veterinarians in America have stopped performing this inhumane and mutilating procedure. They are actually getting more clients who want to take their pets to an ethical, no-declaw practice. Some of them are even joining the accomplished pawproject.org team of humane veterinarians who are on the right side of history and want to help end this barbaric procedure. They are repairing the paws of declawed cats in need. 

 

Humane veterinarians choose to educate their clients about why they should never declaw their cats and about the easy, humane options. They are honoring their oath to ease the suffering in animals and are not causing it by declawing them.  Good veterinary clinics that practice quality medicine would be never treat cats the way you have chosen to.

 

Your declaw price is the lowest I’ve ever heard of in the entire time I have been working on this cause. How can you say you don’t like doing them, when you encourage clients to drive from miles away by offering to chop their cat’s toes off for practically free? No veterinarian can properly perform multiple amputations with appropriate pain modulation for the price of $55. I can only assume that you are cutting costs everywhere, especially when addressing an animal’s need for pain control following the removal of their toe bones. 

 

When they know better, they do better. You aren’t that old and it’s not too late for you to make a difference and help the welfare of cats. I’m happy to offer you any resources or advice about this. I have many friends who are no-declaw vets and they thank me for inspiring them to stop. They said it made such a huge difference in their life and they regret ever doing declaws. But they are now doing so much to help the cause and save other cats from this barbaric and mutilating procedure. Some of the most accomplished veterinarians in the world help me with advise and information for my stories and posts. Just think how it could change your life for the better too. 

 

 

I sure hope you think about why you joined this noble and honorable profession and how you wanted to help ease the suffering in animals and heal and help them. 

 

Perspective is everything Kathy. I hope you take this note to heart

 

Sincerely,

 

Lori Shepler and City the Kitty

www.citythekitty.org


November 11, 2018

Dear Ms. Shepler,
 
I am wring in response to your letter, and applaud you for your commitment to humane treatment of animals. I do feel it is necessary to clarify some of the inaccuracies of your letter, including your attack on our clinic and my personal message in regards to declawing. First, I am aware of your “informant,” and the fishing calls that she made to my office, not once, but three times on Saturday, November 10, 2018 (9:23am,10:20am, and 10:32am as cited by my phone records.) I did speak with her and she tried to tell me that she was from Milnor, despite her accent, and non-local telephone number. I did, in fact, tell her that I am not in favor of the procedure, nor have I performed it on ANY of my own cats, many of which I have rescued over the years.
 
I openly disclose to anyone who makes an appointment that I do not like the procedure as it is an amputation of the last digit of the  “finger” and there can be severe complications…including local block reactions, surgical infections due to the unclean nature of the foot, all of which can lead to severe lifelong impairments, the worst being amputation of a leg.
 
All of these points, I agree with you on whole-heartedly, which is why I reserve the right to deny services to any patient or client requesting the procedure (which I have) and I openly refuse declaw of the back feet. I routinely recommend Soft Paws, and have actually applied them at NO COST if a client changes their mind about declawing. That said, the AVMA, and the NDVMA  both still recognize the surgery as an acceptable procedure with proper anesthesia, local anesthetics, and pain control. I refute your allegations that I cannot possibly perform this procedure for the price that I do. It is quite obvious to me that you have probably never been to rural North Dakota where a family can still buy a home for $60,000, and seniors have a monthly budget of $1000 or less for their means of survival. If you had actually looked into our clinic, you would see that we routinely offer specials to help people care for their animals so they can afford a companion.
 
This month for instance, we are offering $20 neuters for cats, and that includes anesthesia and pain meds. Twice a year we have a “Spay one at regular price,  neuter one for $10” for cats to help control the pet population. And yes, I have children, and a family, (I’m not “too old” as you say), and make enough to survive. It is painfully clear to me that prices are artificially inflated in metro areas  (like Los Angeles or Fargo) making it impossible for many to afford normal care for their pets.
 
As for declaws, we do use full anesthesia, a long-acting local block, and a 4-day pain control protocol, INCLUDED in our price. I can charge ONLY $20 for anesthesia, whether I use isofluorane or injectable ketamine, because that is what it costs…fair, simple. 
For us, “practically nothing” is enough to survive.  I am a trained Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, graduated from the University of Minnesota who have one of the largest small animal caseloads of the U.S. veterinary programs.  At SVVS, we are honored to work with local rescue organizations including our biggest non-profits, Crazy Cat Ladies of Fargo, ND and Jazzy and Mambo’s of Dilworth, MN to provide discounted services to lower income clients or to rescue pets being fostered. I have volunteered my services to the Humane Society of Douglas County, Abuse Resource Network of Ransom County, Sheyenne Valley Friends of Animals in Valley City, and Diamond in the Ruff of Fargo-Moorhead.
 
I would be happy to supply references. I am currently a foster-dog mom, and have several feral-turned-pet cats in addition to our entire farm of chickens, ducks, horses, cows, and any random critter that needs extra care. I am actively involved in protecting United States food safety/supply as both a cattle producer and a licensed USDA accredited large animal  veterinarian.  To say that I am not committed to the welfare of animals would be a tremendous inaccuracy, so it is my hope that that was not the intention of your letter.
 
Again, I want to thank you for your concern about animal welfare, and let you know that I did check out your website. I didn’t however find you name listed on that page, which may be an oversight. I hope that if you have questions about our clinic, our procedures, or me for that matter, you will contact me DIRECTLY, instead of through your informants, so you will not be confused about the facts or my stance on any surgery.
 
Feel free to check Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service out on Facebook…we don’t have a big budget here, so we don’t have a website, but we do still take phone calls from our clients on a regular basis when we are not busy treating critters.
 
Thanks for your time,
Kathy Jo Pfingsten, DVM
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November 12, 2018
Hi Kathy,
First of all, since when did reaching out to a person in a private email become an “attack on a clinic?”
 You definitely do a lot of great things to help animals and that’s very admirable. I never once questioned that. You are deflecting from the reason that I privately reached out to you.
 You have missed the mark on your declawing stance. The AVMA says it should be done as a last resort and with proper pain management.
Your pain management is below the standard for declaws and you are intentionally harming a hurting cats by amputating their toes and not giving them better and longer pain meds instead of just meloxicam which is an anti-inflammatory.  And by the way. What’s the name of the Meloxicam injection that last for 4 days? None of my veterinary advisors have heard of this injection.
 If you have empathy for cats then you wouldn’t do this inhumane and mutilating procedure on them.
Were the last three cats that you declawed with the spay or neuter procedure necessary and a last resort? Why don’t you counsel the owners about the easy, humane options instead of acquiescing and performing this very mutilating procedure that you don’t like to do?
 You are doing it at a price that is so low, people are driving for miles to get your declaw.
You say that you that you tell clients, ” there can be severe complications…including local block reactions, surgical infections due to the unclean nature of the foot, all of which can lead to severe lifelong impairments, the worst being amputation of a leg.”
You didn’t tell this to the first time cat owner who called and asked for a declaw with the neuter. You actually said “some people declaw them” when they asked you if there’s anything else people do along with that procedure. When they asked you if there are any problems with doing a declaw to a cat you said that its a major surgery because they are amputating part of the finger and you went on to say that you aren’t a big fan of it but some people have to do it for apartments and stuff. When the cat owner asked you if you see any problems with your declaws you said “NO.” 
When they asked you if a vet does declaws then it must not be bad for the cat, you said that a lot of people doi but personally you’re not a big fan of it yet you say you do several a week.  You said, “If they are indoors only, that is a  a viable option for you” to a first time cat owner.
I don’t need to see all of the good things that you do for animals. I believe you.
But it is a fact that you don’t care about the welfare of a cat when you declaw them and it’s a fact that you are mutilating their paws and harming their health and well-being especially without giving them any pain meds after you’ve sliced off their toe bones.
As far as calling you directly to ask you questions about how you address declawing, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that declawing vets almost always lie about how they go about declawing. There is nothing inaccurate with anything in my email.
That should concern you but I’m sad to hear from your email that it doesn’t.
As far as calling you directly to ask you questions about how you address declawing, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that declawing vets almost always lie about how they go about declawing. There is nothing inaccurate with anything in my email.
Lori
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November 13, 2018
Lori,
And still you have failed to include YOUR contact information or educational degree. I think you can find another tree to bark up today.. thanks for your time, but I think we are done. KP
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November 13, 2018
I told you who I am in my first email and you have my email contact. I have a BA in Communications/photojournalism from CSUF and was an award winning photojournalist at the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. I also won 3 team Pulitzers for my work with my colleagues while I was there.  I also wrote some stories while I worked at the Los Angeles Times.
Also if you would have looked in the About section of my website you would see the “Press” section and that has stories about us in there. You can also google my name and find a lot about me.
You are clearly deflecting from my questions and the serious issue at hand though which is a common thing that declawing vets do.
 You are mutilating cats for $55 and making them amputees, not counseling owners about the easy, humane options, and causing cats to suffer with great pain because you aren’t giving them pain meds. If you say you have a Meloxicam injection that last for 4 days and that’s the pain protocol you use for the cats. So please tell me the name of brand name of this injection. 
Also have you seen the latest studies about declawing because it doesn’t sound like you have. Here are a couple things that you might want to read.
 
Ok, I’m done barking up this tree. It’s obvious that I wasted my valuable time trying to inspire you in any way to wake up to the fact that you are harming and mutilating many cats and just making excuses as to why it’s ok. Remember Kathy, there are ALWAYS humane options to barbarically amputating the toe bones off cats.
Lori
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November 19, 2018 to Dr Kathy Pfingsten
 
Just fyi, here’s something you might want to read from a veterinarian who is an expert in pain management.
I told them that you said that you use Meloxicam and you said it is a 4 day injection in cats. Here’s what the veterinary specialist said. (I also asked a few other veterinarians and they said that they didn’t know of a 4 day injection of meloxicam either.)
 

“This statement is patently FALSE!  There is NO meloxicam that lasts more than 24 hours.

If meloxicam is to be used responsibly, it must be used with complete transparency and informed consent by the client.  That means using it at LOWER than the current label dose for injectable meloxicam, which can then be followed by several days of oral meloxicam (this is in contrast to the “black box” warning that states that oral meloxicam should not be given to cats). 

We actually have excellent data to let us know that several days of oral (liquid) meloxicam – – at lower doses than were originally discussed here in the US – – provides cats with excellent pain relief and eliminates the worry about giving tablets.

We MUST have a candid conversation with clients in order that they understand that this usage is outside the bounds of the FDA label.  But that is what a good doctor-client relationship and effective communication are all about.

In addition, it is completely unconscionable that these cats are not receiving Simbadol, the 24 hour buprenorphine that was specifically developed for use in cats and is a Zoetis product.  These cats can receive a dose the day of surgery, and then they can receive a second dose the day after – – before they go home.  In my practice, clients are happy to return so that their cats can receive the 3rd dose that is part of the FDA label for the product.  They see how well their cats feel.  There is no reason that these cats, considering the torturous pain of toe amputation, could not benefit from receiving the three day/three dose Simbadol protocol.

The buprenorphine complements the meloxicam (it works by a different pathway in the body) and provides a MUCH more effective pain relieving strategy than either drug by itself.

This veterinarian, if your details are accurate, is actually malpracticing by violating a minimal standard of pain care.  In addition, she is violating foundational bioethical principles by torturing these cats with unrelenting pain that will very likely lead to a permanent pain state for most of them.”


I received no response from Dr Kathy to those two important emails.

Here’s a comment on a review on Sheyenne Valley Veterinary Service’s facebook page about why this cat owner had her cat declawed.