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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. 

Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$400

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
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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
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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.

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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 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 will require surgical removal of the nail plate. 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, 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.

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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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Claw and Nail Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic Shorthair Cat

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Eighteen Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Red Claw- Cause For Concern?

I have an 18 month old kitten named Rudy, who I noticed an hour or so ago has one red claw on his front right paw. I was able to check his other paws for any redness, but I didn’t notice any. He’s very affectionate and active so I was not able to get a picture, but his claw seems to be blood stained, with a few small strands of fur stuck to it. It’s very strange because the nail bed itself and the paw pad underneath don’t seem irritated and he doesn’t look to be in any pain when walking, kneading or when I handle the paw and push his claw out. I didn’t notice him licking at it at all either.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry for the delay in answering, this platform is not set up for urgent responses. It is difficult to say what might be going on without seeing him, but it is possible that Rudy did injure that claw. If he seems comfortable and is not licking at it or limping, you may be fine to monitor the nail. If it was injured, it should grow out slowly over the next few weeks and should become normal again. If it does not, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian who can look at the nail.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Cat

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Scab On Front Paw Claw

My cat seems to have a scab on his front paw claws, crusting over and some pink since yesterday. Can I apply any neosporin or hydrogen peroxide or should I take him to the vet?

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello It sounds like your cat has a wound that is healing. It is recommended that you take him to the vet to be evaluated. Do not apply any topical medication without consulting your veterinarian. Good luck.

July 13, 2020

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Izzy

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Torti

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Black Nail, Crusty Nail Bed

Hello, My Kitty is an indoor/outdoor cat. Several weeks ago I noticed the paw bed on one of her back paws was dry, cracked/scaley, and appeared to be bothersome for her when I tried to examine it. I kept an eye on her for a week or so to see if it would clear up, and it (seemingly) has. However, I just noticed one of her nails in her front right paw, is much darker than the rest. Black pretty much. It's a little crusty around the bed but the entire nail itself is black from the inside. That doesn't seem like something to clear up on its own.... it doesn't seem to hurt her any. She doesn't walk with a limp, doesn't lick her paws or nails excessively, but I'm a paranoid mama and want to have her looked at anyways....my question is how quickly should I be scheduling a vet visit. Obviously the sooner the better, but does this sound like something that could quickly turn ugly for her if not addressed immediately?

Sept. 1, 2018

Izzy's Owner

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Zelda

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Tuxedo

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

My cats nails on one of her back paws look as if they have dried blood near the inside of the foot on the nail around the cuticle area, only on one paw. Looks like it hurts and I really want to help her.

Aug. 10, 2018

Zelda's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Zelda may have had a trauma or injury to that nail, or she might have a problem with the actual nail that is causing that. Since I can't see her, and it seems to be hurting her, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and see what might be going on, and how to help her.

Aug. 10, 2018

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Fergus

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domestic short hair

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Brittle Nails
Bleeding Nails

My 3 year old cat went to the groomers today. While he was there they gave him a nail trim, which we almost never do since it is very stressful for him. When they trimmed his claws, all of the claws on his front paws bled. I examined them and the groomer did not cut the quick on any of them. They all appear very brittle, like they did not cut cleanly when trimmed. My cat has not been excessively licking his paws or having trouble walking recently, which I know can be a sign of infection. He is FIV+ and I’m worried this could be a symptom of that. Do you know what could cause this?

Aug. 4, 2018

Fergus' Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what the specific cause may be, bacterial onyxis may occur in immunosuppressed cats where the claw becomes brittle due to an infection; however you should visit your Veterinarian to examine Fergus and the claws to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 4, 2018

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Kirby

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tabby

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Brittle

I noticed that my cat was limping and kind of walking on his (what we would call) forearm of his back paws. I just looked at his nails and two appear to be very brittle and have yellow stuff between the skin and nail, he also had some yellow stuff underneath his nail

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Ozzy

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Egyptian Mau

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Licking And Biting -

My cat, just over one ear old, has dry pads and he has been biting and licking his back paws, especially the left one, and i have seen that his nails in that foot are clipped from all the biting. Also, it seems that his nails still have residue from the last time they were peeling.

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Ethel

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tabby

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Chalky
Grey Chalky

I don't know it is something wrong with her claw or if it simply something getting stuck in her claws but I trimmed my cat's nails for the first time (she was recently adopted) and noticed that some nails had a grey chalky substance built up under them. 2 days later I went back and noticed one nail (but a different one) had this grey chalky substance again. She doesn't have any signs of anything bothering her, and since I don't have a cat I'm unsure it's likely for litter to get stuck.

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qui gon gin

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domestic long

dog-age-icon

7 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Growth
Grouth

He grows something like a blunt black claw up from his pad to his claw he either chews it off or it falls off then grows back. It's all his toes and don't hurt

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Bat

dog-breed-icon

American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Scale Crust
Scabs
Discoloration

My cats hair around his paws are turning yellow they’re covered in brown flakes and he started licking them constantly. We just had to treat for a flea infestation and I thought that was part of the case but now this has gotten worse and he won’t stop licking. He also has lots of scabs on his ears and nose. I thought they were just flea bites but they’re not going away.

Claw and Nail Disorders Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$400

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