Some uninformed and unethical pro-declaw veterinarians promote declawing to stop cat scratch fever or to prevent the risk of injury to immune compromised cat owners.
The AVMA is the only big organization that condones declawing for this reason even though the facts show why declawing should NOT be performed for these “immune compromised” reasons.
(The ASPCA recently removed the immune compromised excuse from their declawing position statement.)
Here are the facts and according to all the modern thinking, educated, and humane veterinarians and human health experts, declawing should NEVER be done for any reason, including cat scratch fever disease risks or for immune compromised people.
Cat scratch disease (CSD), also known as cat scratch fever or human bartonellosis, is a disease of humans, not of cats. Although a cat scratch is often associated with the disease, this is not believed to be the means by which infection occurs. A microorganism called Bartonella henselae is the most common cause of this disease.
There is currently no scientific consensus on the role of declawing and CSD prevention. Because B. henselae is transmitted by fleas and other biting insects, flea prevention is important in reducing the risk of CSD transmission. It is not the cat’s claws that cause the disease. It is infected flea dirt under the claws that is transmitted into the human body when scratched. The disease can also be transmitted by getting infected flea feces on our hands and transferring it into an eye or open wound. Transmission of CSD has also been reported from bite wounds. This is thought to occur because a cat licked infected flea feces from its skin and the organism was present in the saliva when it bit a human.
- Keep your cat’s nails trimmed short.
- Keep all your pets on year-round flea control.
- Keep your cat indoors.
- Avoid rough play with your cat.
- Wash any bites or scratches immediately with soap or disinfectant. Ernest Ward, DVM
From the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Declawing Position Statement (Revised in Sept 2015 with this info)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals.
From the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Declawing Position (Revised with this info in Sept 2015)
Onychectomy is acceptable to prevent spread of zoonotic disease(s) to immunecompromised people,10 current research demonstrates the greater value of proper hygiene and parasite control in the prevention of most common zoonoses. In households where cats come into contact with immune-compromised individuals, extensive education about zoonoticdisease potential should be discussed and documented in the medical record. Of note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not advise declawing cats owned by HIV-infected persons; rather, these individuals ‘should avoid rough play with cats and situations in which scratches are likely.
The facts are is that declawing cats to prevent human illness is not recommended by the Center for Disease Control, the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, or infectious diseases experts.
FROM THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES
People who are worried about being scratched, especially those with immuno-deficiencies or bleeding disorders, may be told incorrectly that their health will be protected by declawing their cats. However, infectious disease specialists don’t recommend declawing. The risk from scratches for these people is less than those from bites, cat litter, or fleas carried by their cats.
From the PawProject.org FAQ section. http://www.pawproject.org/faqs/
Do people with compromised immune systems need to declaw their cats?
No, people with compromised immune systems do NOT need to declaw their cats. In fact, declawing cats to prevent human illness is not recommended by the Center for Disease Control, the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, or infectious diseases experts.
Robert Goldman, DVM, says, “The only people who seem to recommend declawing cats for protection of immune-compromised people are the veterinarians who make money declawing cats. I’d listen to the CDC, US PHS and NIH before I’d listen to a veterinarian when it comes to issues of human health. Veterinarians who recommend declawing for people living with HIV/ AIDS are really doing these people a huge disservice. In fact, because declawed cats are known to bite people more, and bite wounds are worse than scratches, these veterinarians are actually putting immune-compromised people more at risk!”
In his book, The Guide to Living with HIV Infection, John G. Bartlett, MD, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, writes that common sense practices to avoid bites or scratches are sufficient and specifically states, “You need not declaw the cat.” Dr. Bartlett was the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in 1999 and has served as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health and as an editor for the New England Journal of Medicine.
In a Winn Feline Foundation article, Susan Little, DVM, says, “It is likely that CSD (Cat Scratch Disease) can also be contracted from environmental sources of the bacteria or from other animals. (CSD is widely known to come from flea bites). She continues to say, “Onychectomy (declawing) is also not recommended, since infection can occur without a cat scratch…. A common sense approach is the best way to safeguard against CSD.”
“Pet owners are far more likely to contract most zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted to humans from vertebrate animals) from contaminated food or drinking water than they are from their healthy companion animals,” says Suzanne Jenkins, VMD, MPH.
C.M.G. Buttery, MD, MPH of the Office of Epidemiology, Virginia Department of Health. “Keep your cats’ nails trimmed, but do not subject them to declaw surgery.”
Michael G. Groves, DVM, MPH, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology at LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, answered the following when asked if declawing is an effective means of preventing human infection: “No, a significant number (of illnesses) are associated with bites, with wounds not inflicted by cats, or with no known site of inoculation. HIV-positive individuals and AIDS patients should be able to have cats, if they follow the prevention guidelines…. The benefits of a companion animal for some people may outweigh any risks of pet ownership, provided steps are taken to keep the risk at a minimum.”
Dr. Groves writes, “Veterinarians often are consulted by the public, and occasionally by physicians and other veterinarians, for information regarding zoonoses, diseases that are transmitted to humans from animals.” Veterinarians and physicians, “perhaps seeking ‘zero risk,’ advise patients to dispose of pets to prevent or alleviate a zoonotic illness. HIV-positive people may be told they that should not have animals at all. Although this advice may be well intended, it is often ill informed. Too often what is missing is some reasonable approximation of the true risk of disease transmission balanced against the benefits of pet ownership.”
The human diseases most associated with cats are Toxoplasmosis and Bartonellosis. The risk of developing these or other opportunistic diseases from cat scratches is exceedingly low. Infectious diseases specialist, Ralph Hansen, MD, of Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Beverly Hills, says, “The risk of diseases being transmitted from cats comes primarily from the litter box and teeth, with claws far down the list. There is no rational medical reason for a physician to recommend declawing a cat.”
Dr. Hansen’s clinic treats over 2500 HIV-positive individuals. Dr. Hansen said that he has seen only one or two cases of full-blown Bartonellosis in the 30 + years since HIV was first recognized. Bartonellosis is also known as Cat Scratch Disease (CSD); although, Dr. Hansen notes, current thinking is that Bartonella is not from scratches in most cases and more likely to be transmitted by fleas.
To avoid the risk of toxoplasmosis, J. P. Dubey, MVSc, PhD, a microbiologist at the USDA Zoonotic Diseases Laboratory, recommends avoiding cat waste and notes that “the possibility of (disease microorganisms) sticking to cat fur is minimal, as is the possibility of transmission to humans via touching or handling a cat.”
AVMA declawing position- Declawing is a major surgery involving amputation and is not medically necessary for the cat in most cases. There are, however, some situations in which declawing may be considered, such as when a cat’s excessive or inappropriate scratching behavior causes risk of injury to immunocompromised people or remains destructive despite conscientious attention to behavioral modification and alternatives.