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Laser Surgery in Cats


Lasers are now being utilized by general practitioners to perform many elective procedures in cats, such as removal of skin masses, entropion surgery, superficial ear polyps, neutering, spaying, and declawing.

What are the advantages of laser surgery over traditional surgery? Laser surgery causes less post-operative pain, less bleeding, less swelling and a faster recovery. The main disadvantage is cost. Laser surgical units are expensive to purchase and maintain and they require specialized training and equipment.

Most lasers used in small animal surgery utilize carbon dioxide. Electrical energy stimulates carbon dioxide causing it to emit a beam of energy. The energy is rapidly converted into heat and when it comes in contact with tissue, it evaporates the water in the cells and breaks them apart. Laser surgery allows for faster surgery with less tissue trauma, swelling and post-operative pain.

Feline onychectomy (declawing) is a procedure that is still viewed with controversy by cat owners, breeders and veterinarians. The carbon dioxide laser, when used in declawing, reduces post-operative pain, bleeding and swelling. Cats, as a result, return to their normal activity more rapidly. Unlike conventional declawing, a tourniquet is not needed, reducing the risk of radial nerve damage. A report in the September 1st, 2002 issue of the Journal of the AVMA entitled “Use of Carbon Dioxide Laser for Onychectomy in Cats” compared postoperative signs of discomfort and complications in cats declawed with the laser to those declawed conventionally (with a scalpel). The study concluded that neither technique resulted in high discomfort or complications, although the laser treated group had lower scores for signs of discomfort and complication on the day after surgery. We at The Cat Doctor believe that using the laser results in less pain than conventional declaw. Our doctors will only perform the surgery with a Carbon Dioxide Laser. The Cat Doctor feels very strongly about exhausting all behavioral training methods such as scratching posts, distraction toys, feline facial pheromone (Feliway), nail trimming, behavioral consultation and the use of soft paws or soft claws before making the decision to declaw your cat. A client can elect to have a declaw performed only after consultation with a veterinarian. If you elect this procedure, a treatment plan will be provided which includes an extensive pain management protocol using local anesthetic (ie. nerve block), two different analgesic medications for immediate pain control, general anesthetic and a Fentanyl patch that controls discomfort for up to 5 days post application. Cats will be required to stay a minimum of two days in the hospital for daily examination of the surgical site. If it is necessary for this procedure to be performed, we believe that it should be performed at The Cat Doctor with our extensive pain management protocol and our Expert, Loving Care…Just for Cats.

Most procedures other than declawing are routinely performed with a scalpel at The Cat Doctor. If you want the carbon dioxide laser used during your cat’s procedure to reduce peri-operative pain and swelling, please notify the staff at the time the treatment plan is presented prior to surgery. Any additional questions will be answered at that time.

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