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Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 08/22/2016Updated: 10/15/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats - Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Claw and Nail Disorders?

Of the different types of nail disorders, two are the most common. Paronychia is an infection of the nail bed that inflames that tissue around the nail and onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nail. Each of these issues can have serious and painful effects on the cat.

Nail disorders in cats come in a variety of forms and from several different causes. These disorders are typically caused by some form of infection in or around the nail bed. Many cats will take notice of their nail disorder and begin fussing with their claws incessantly. 

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Average Cost

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Symptoms of Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

Nail disorders are often uncomfortable for cats, which leads them to fuss with their paws compulsively. If a cat displays any of the following symptoms, they may be suffering from a nail disorder:

  • Compulsive licking and biting at the claws
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain in the paws
  • Swelling and inflammation of skin around the nails
  • Nail plate deformities
  • Abnormal nail color

Causes of Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

Most claw disorders in cats are caused by some sort of infection, but that is not the case for all cats. Nail disorders can be caused by any of the following:

  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Cancerous tumors
  • Trauma to the nail
  • Immune system illnesses
  • Brittle nails
  • High levels of growth hormone
  • Birth disorders
  • Cutting the nails too close to the nail bed and thus leaving them open to infection
  • Neoplasia

Diagnosis of Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

While claw disorders may seem relatively minor, they can be caused by serious infections or even major diseases like cancer. For this reason, it is vital that a cat be taken into a trusted veterinarian who can diagnose the underlying cause of the nail disorder.

The veterinarian will ask for a medical history of the cat to determine if the issue is congenital, or caused at birth. It is also important to tell the veterinarian if the cat's nails have recently been trimmed, as this is a common cause of infection when not done properly.

After the veterinarian has a complete medical history, they will begin a physical examination. They will examine the individual nails to determine how many nails have been affected. If more than one nail is causing trouble, it could mean that the cat has a serious medical condition.

If further tests are needed, a veterinarian may take a skin scraping from the skin near the cat's nail and send the sample to be analyzed at the lab. This will determine what is causing the nail disorder and, depending upon the results, a further bacterial or fungal culture may need to be taken to know exactly what the issue is.

Treatment of Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

Treatment of the nail disorder will vary largely based upon the cause of the disorder. While most solutions are easy and non-invasive, more serious treatments may be required in special cases.

Bacterial or Fungal Infections

Infections can be treated with either oral medications, or topical ointments that are applied directly to the nail. These treatments often last for a period of 2-4 weeks, after which time the cat should return to normal.

Skin Inflammation

If the skin under or around the nail has become inflamed, the cat might require surgical intervention. This will allow the tissue to drain and return to normal. The surgery is relatively minor with little to no risk, and the cat should be back to normal within 2 weeks after surgery, depending on how quickly their nail regrows.

 

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Recovery of Claw and Nail Disorders in Cats

In most cases, oral or topical treatments and/or minor surgery will be enough to clear up any issues that the cat is facing. It is important to monitor the nail health of the cat, however, as recurring issues may be indicative of a more serious problem.

If the nail disorder returns in any form, it is vital that the cat sees a veterinarian as soon as possible. Another round of treatment may be called for, or the issue could be a symptom of cancer. Either way, these are not things that a pet owner is prepared to treat alone.

It is also important that the owner carefully examine how they cut the cat's nails. By cutting too close, they can nick the skin and leave small cuts. This makes it easy for a cat to become infected when doing everyday tasks like exploring and using the litter box.

Claw and nail disorders in cats can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your cat is at risk of developing claw and nail disorders, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

From 375 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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Claw and Nail Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Rescue

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Four Years

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6 found this helpful

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6 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Noisy Breathing
May hous are from the same litter of feral rescues. Momma cat left them below a tree when they were three weeks. I've had them ever since, five years in August. They both snore and sigh. Both will huff every now and then. One breathes with his mouth open occasionally, and sometimes wheezes. This has been persistent their whole lives but they won't cooperate with vets to be heard. Should I be worried? One is 25lbs and we are working at reducing his weight.

Feb. 7, 2021

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

6 Recommendations

Wheezing and open mouth breathing are both a concern and could indicate underlying disease such as heart disease. We should ensure their gums are pink and when we press them they return from white to pink in less than 2 seconds the cats should also have a breathing rate of 30 or less when resting or sleeping. Ideally, a vet would listen to their heart and lungs and we may consider a chest xray or heart scan.

Feb. 7, 2021

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tabby

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7 months

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21 found this helpful

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21 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
My 7 month cat has some flesh color "crusting" around nail beds. I only noticed after cutting his nails. its easily removable. He's not in pain, isn't overly licking or cleaning them. Is this a cause of concern? What could it be?

Dec. 15, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

21 Recommendations

This can simply be dirt or keratin. I wouldn't be concerned unless there were additional signs such as swelling, redness or irritation.

Dec. 15, 2020

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Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

From 375 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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