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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.