Can You Declaw a Rabbit?

Your veterinarian can declaw your rabbit.

But your veterinarian probably won’t declaw your rabbit, and in some places, it is even illegal for a veterinarian to declaw a rabbit because it is a terrible idea.

Let’s take a closer look at the problems that go along with declawing rabbits and what you can do instead.

Should You Declaw Your Rabbit?

Contrary to popular belief, declawing your rabbit is not a simple or harmless procedure.

In fact, it involves the removal of the last bone in each toe, from which the claw grows.

This invasive surgery can cause your rabbit intense pain, difficulty walking, and even lead to behavioral issues.

Declawing is considered inhumane and is banned in many states due to its negative impact on the animal’s well-being.

Before deciding to declaw, it’s essential to understand the natural role of their claws in a rabbit’s life.

They rely on them for balance, defense, and grooming.

Additionally, there are alternative methods to manage your rabbit’s claws without resorting to invasive procedures. In the next sections, we will explore these alternatives and help you make an informed decision regarding your rabbit’s care.

Pros and Cons of Declawing Your Rabbit

There is one basic reason rabbit owners seek to have their pets declawed.

They don’t like the sensation of their rabbit sinking their claws into them or their clothes when they pick them up.

This isn’t a good reason for declawing your rabbit.

Rabbits aren’t climbing animals! You never see a rabbit in a tree, do you?

Rabbits like to keep at least their hind feet on the ground. You can teach your rabbit to perch on your hands, dance on its hind legs, or even give you a high-five, but rabbits do not like being suspended in the air.

Instead, get down on the floor, and let your rabbit hop into your lap.

You will enjoy this kind of contact more, and so will your rabbit.

There are also reasons related to rabbit health not to have your rabbit declawed.

Rabbits use their claws all the time

Your cat has retractable claws. Cats extend their claws when they need to grasp something or they are in a fight.

Your rabbit’s claws are not retractable.

Rabbits use their claws constantly. The claws give them traction on smooth surfaces like linoleum, tile, or wooden floors.

If a rabbit does not have claws, it will have trouble standing or hopping on smooth surfaces. Its legs will splay outward to both sides and fall out from under it.

This problem is worse if your rabbit is not able to get a lot of exercise to keep its leg muscles strong and its reflexes active or if it is overweight.

Another critical aspect of rabbit behavior is grooming. Rabbits groom themselves and each other to keep clean and stay healthy. Their claws play a crucial role in this process, so declawing can hinder their basic hygiene routine, which may lead to health issues.

Rabbits are prey animals, so they naturally have a natural instinct to hide or retreat when they feel threatened.

Their claws are part of their defense mechanism against predators. If you remove their claws, you’re taking away a source of protection that makes them feel secure. As a result, a declawed rabbit may become more anxious and exhibit behavioral changes.

Declawing is a painful operation

Rabbits have to walk on the sites where declawing surgery is done.

This keeps the surgical incisions from healing and is very painful for the rabbit.

Declawing cats does not involve a part of the foot where the cat must put its weight (although we do not advocate declawing cats, either).

Declawing rabbits requires removing the bone to which the claw is attached. That leaves a large hole in the rabbit’s foot that has to be sewed shut.

Any time a surgical incision has to be stitched shut, there is a possibility of infection. The sutures can break.

Stitches usually have to be removed. This involves a second or sometimes third trip to the vet.

Trips to the vet are also traumatic for your rabbit.

Declawed rabbits can’t scratch an itch (literally)

Rabbits that don’t have claws can’t scratch where their skin itches.

They will try rubbing against rough surfaces, doing damage to larger areas of skin.

Also read: What Causes Rabbits To Lose Their Fur?

Health Risks Associated with Declawing Your Rabbit

Declawing your rabbit is not recommended due to the numerous health risks associated with the procedure.

When a rabbit is declawed, it involves the removal of the last bone of each toe, which is essentially an amputation.

This major surgery can cause severe pain and complications for your furry friend.

Firstly, there are anesthesia-related risks involved with the surgery. Rabbits are highly sensitive to anesthesia, and any complications can be life-threatening for your pet.

Another major health risk is the risk of infection. Removing the rabbit’s claws can lead to extreme health problems, such as infections and permanent nerve damage. Studies suggest that up to 50% of rabbits experience some level of pain after the procedure.

Declawing can also result in impaired mobility for your rabbit. When their claws are removed, rabbits can have difficulty gaining traction on smooth surfaces, which could lead to a condition called splay limb syndrome.

Furthermore, declawed rabbits can lose their defensive abilities, making it harder for them to protect themselves from potential threats.

Additionally, declawing can cause mental and psychological issues in rabbits. The suppression of their natural instincts to scratch and dig can lead to stress, anxiety, and behavioral problems.

But My Rabbit Likes to Dig and Scratch at Things!

For some rabbit owners, the reason for getting their pet rabbit declawed isn’t that it scratches them.

The problem can be that the rabbit scratches at the baseboards or the carpet, or tries to dig its way out of its rabbit run to escape the backyard.

These rabbits need extra attention.

Here are some ways to reduce scratching and clawing rabbits, starting with the easiest first.

Soft Paws (Nail Caps)

Soft Paws are soft plastic caps that you stick over your rabbit’s claws. You use surgical glue to hold them in place.

The first few times you use Soft Paws, you may want a friend or a family member to hold your rabbit while you glue the caps into place. You do not need to take your rabbit to the vet for Soft Paws.

The plastic caps give your rabbit traction on smooth surfaces and allow your rabbit to scratch an itch, but they keep your rabbit from scratching you. They fall off in a month or two, when you can reapply them.

Soft Paws also makes claw protectors for cats.

Rub Covers

You are probably familiar with the clear plastic rub and wear protectors some offices place under office chairs on wheels.

You can also place them in the corners of your rabbit run to keep from digging into the carpet or at the bottom of a baseboard.

You can use inexpensive tile to protect the corners of your rabbit’s outdoor play pen.

Metal Play Pens

Metal siding that locks together works as a play pen for rabbits as well as for small dogs (not that we are suggesting you place your rabbit and your dog in the play pen together).

Your rabbit may still try to dig under the walls of its play pen, but it will not be able to scratch through them.

Behavioral Modification

Rabbit experts advise “calming down” a rabbit that likes to dig to escape its pen or rabbit run.

We have found that some rabbits never calm down, but all rabbits love to chew.

Give your rabbit chew sticks, an edible hay hiding house, or straw chew toys. Give your rabbit so many things to chew that it does have time to dig.

Also read: Why do Rabbits Dig at Your Clothes?

Trimming Your Rabbit’s Nails

Another way to deal with rabbits that claw too much is to trim their nails.

The secret of success in trimming your rabbit’s nails is keeping your rabbit calm throughout the whole process.

Here is how you trim rabbit nails in eight easy steps.

Recruit a Friend to Help You

It is a lot easier for two people to trim a rabbit’s nails than one. Find a friend who is willing to hold your rabbit gently while you trim its nails.

Gather the Supplies You Will Need to Trim Your Rabbit’s Nails

Get everything you will need to trim your rabbit’s nails in one place.

Start with a nail trimmer. If you do not have a nail trimmer designed for rabbits, a Kaytee Pro Nail Trimmer is a good choice.

You will need a clean bathroom towel for holding your rabbit.

You will need a container of styptic powder on hand, just in case you cut off too much of the nail.

And don’t forget treats to reward your rabbit for good behavior every time it allows you to trim a nail.

Also read: How to Keep Rabbits Nails Short Without Cutting?

Have Your Helper Wrap Your Rabbit in a Towel

Your helper’s job is to hold your rabbit.

Gently wrapping the towel around your rabbit keeps it from wiggling too much while you are trimming its nails. Your helper needs to support your rabbit’s hindquarters, so it cannot kick and twist, possibly fracturing its spine.

Your helper needs to understand that if your rabbit becomes agitated and starts kicking, it is best just to let it go. ‘

You can always trim your rabbit’s nails another time. It is better to put off the trim that for your rabbit to injure itself.

Trim the Tips of the Nails

Once your rabbit has calmed down while your helper is still holding it, use the trimmers to remove just the tips of its nails.

It’s better to trim too little than to trim too much.

If your rabbit has white nails, you will notice part of the nail has a pinkish color.

This part of the nail is known as the quick. The quick has blood vessels and nerves. You do not want to cut into the quick of the nail.

If your rabbit has dark nails, you will have to be very careful to trim only the tips of each nail.

Don’t get in a hurry while you are trimming your rabbit’s nails.

Place the edges of the trimmer on the spot you want to cut. If your rabbit flinches as you gently apply pressure, stop and move the trimmer close to the tip of the nail.

Then clip the nail with a firm, fast motion so you do not crush the nail.

Don’t Panic If You Cut Too Much of the Nail

Cutting too much of the nail will cause your rabbit pain. But styptic powder includes a numbing agent as well as a compound to stop bleeding.

Pack the end of a nail you have cut too short with styptic powder. This is usually a good time to stop trimming and save other nails for later.

It is rare for this kind of injury to cause serious harm to your rabbit, but it may need about a week to feel normal again.

Repeat This Procedure for All of Your Rabbit’s Nails

Trim all the nails on all of your rabbit’s toes. Take a break if your rabbit is struggling or trying to get away.

Remember, rabbits are most likely to injure themselves when they twist their hindquarters to get out of being held too tight.

Recheck Your Rabbit’s Toes

When you have finished trimming your rabbit’s nails, recheck each toe to make sure there is no bleeding.

If there is, apply styptic powder.

Give Your Rabbit a Treat!

Reward your rabbit for good behavior with a treat.

It is OK to give your rabbit several treats while you are in the process of cutting its nails and a final treat for good measure.

Also read: What If A Rabbit Scratches You?

Frequently Asked Questions About Declawing Rabbits

Q. What kind of anesthetic do veterinarians use when they declaw rabbits?

A. Declawing rabbits requires general anesthesia. A shot of lidocaine is not enough.

Your veterinarian will have to use an operating room, and a nurse will have to monitor the awareness level of the rabbit and look for any signs of respiratory distress.

Then, your rabbit will have to stay at least overnight in the animal hospital.

Q. Does pet health insurance cover declawing?

A. Pet health insurance does not cover declawing unless there is cancer or some injury or infection that makes removing the claw medically necessary.

Most veterinarians in the United States, Canada, the UK, the rest of the British Commonwealth, and Europe will not declaw a rabbit for the convenience of the owner.

Q. Does declawing harm an indoor rabbit?

A. Indoor rabbits need their claws for stability on slick surfaces. Even an indoor rabbit needs its claws to avoid injury and stay healthy.

Q. Can I provide scratching surfaces for my rabbit?

Certainly! Providing scratching surfaces for your rabbit can be an excellent way to help them maintain their nails naturally. Offer various materials like cardboard or wood-based toys designed for rabbits. Remember to monitor the condition of these surfaces and replace them when necessary.

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