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What is Foot or Toe Cancer?

When a cat presents with unexplained lumps or lesions, a veterinary examination is recommended. If the symptoms are linked to the presence of cancer, early diagnosis and proper treatment are critical to the likelihood of survival.

The presence a tumor on the nail bed is a rare condition in cats. More commonly, tumors appear on the feet after having metastasized from other areas of the body. The two most common types of tumors found on the foot are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanocytic tumors.

Squamous cell carcinoma affects the cells that create the lining of the inner cavities of the body and outermost layer of the skin, known as the epithelium. SCC is often malignant and invasive. There is a high chance that it will return after removal and is likely to metastasize to other parts of the body. The cancer progresses slowly, increasing the chance of a positive outcome if found early. Unfortunately, by the time tumors appear on the feet they have often already spread from other areas of the body.

Melanocytic tumors develop from the cells responsible for producing pigment (melanocytes) and melanin (melanoblasts). The tumors may present as spots, patches, masses that are either flat or raised. The tumors may be either benign or cancerous.

Foot or Toe Cancer Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Foot or Toe Cancer in Cats

When tumors are present in the nail bed, it is likely that the affected nail will be broken or missing. The nail bed is often infected and the bone may have deteriorated. Nail bed tumors are often misdiagnosed as osteomyelitis (bone inflammation) or a simple nail infection. Severe weight loss is also common due to both a lack of appetite and changes to the metabolism related to the presence of cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma often starts off as a small lump (nodule) or a blister-like lesion (papule). As it progresses, it grows and loses its mass-like shape. Eventually, the tissue begins to die (necrotize) and tumor ulcerates. Additional symptoms of SCC include:

  • Swelling of feet or toes
  • Limping
  • Bleeding sores on toes 
  • Sores or tumors on other body parts

Melanocytic tumors are most commonly found on the head, ears, nose and toes. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Lesions (with or without pigment)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lung cancer 
  • Limping (if spread to limbs)
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Causes of Foot or Toe Cancer in Cats

Squamous cell carcinoma is rarely found on the feet of cats unless it has metastasized from other body parts. It can affect cats of any breed or age. 

Melanocytic tumors are most common in cats between eight and 14 years of age. No known cause has been identified.

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Diagnosis of Foot or Toe Cancer in Cats

Prior to completing a physical exam, the treating veterinarian will review the cat’s medical history. Owners should discuss with the vet any sores or lumps that have been noticed previously, even if they are thought to have been caused by other circumstances. 

The vet will examine the cat’s entire body to look for additional sores and tumors, and will check lymph nodes for swelling. The lymph fluid may be tested for the presence of cancerous cells, and a standard set of lab tests will likely be ordered. A biochemistry profile may be used to check the levels of white blood cells and confirm whether bodily organs are functioning correctly. Chest x-rays will identify any lung abnormalities, and x-rays of the affected foot will help to determine the depth of the tumor and the extent of bone damage. Each ulcer or mass on the body should be tested using either a fine-needle aspiration or a tissue biopsy to determine whether cancerous cells are present.

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Treatment of Foot or Toe Cancer in Cats

Treatment recommendations will vary depending on the number and severity of the tumors and whether they have metastasized. 

Single Tumor

When a tumor is present on only one toe, surgery is recommended. A full amputation of the toe will provide the best prognosis for a full recovery without recurrence. Cats quickly adapt to the loss of a toe and are usually able to walk normally once they have recovered.

Multiple Tumors

When multiple tumors are present, surgery may not be a viable option. The veterinarian will likely prescribe pain medications to keep the cat comfortable and may recommend a consultation with a veterinary oncologist to discuss further options.

Melanocytic Tumors

For melanocytic tumors, surgery is the primary treatment recommendation. If the tumors are benign, the outlook for affected cats is very positive. If surgery is not an option or the tumor has spread to other areas of the body, radiation or chemotherapy may be recommended.

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Recovery of Foot or Toe Cancer in Cats

When a toe has been removed, cats will usually experience limping and mild pain immediately following surgery. This can be controlled with medication and will subside as the foot heals. The cat should be kept indoors and activity should be limited until it has fully recovered. If the tumor has not metastasized, the prognosis for recovery is very positive.

It’s common for cats with cancer to experience ongoing pain. Owners should carefully observe the animal for signs of distress and proactively manage pain whenever possible. Proper nutrition is also critical for the cat to maintain the strength it needs to recover. It should be fed a high-quality, balanced diet. If the cat refuses to eat or displays other symptoms that may indicate that the cancer has returned, an immediate trip to the vet is recommended. 

As is the case with most tumors, the chance of recurrence is high. Depending on the veterinarian’s recommendation, the pet may need to be re-examined every three to 24 months.

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Foot or Toe Cancer Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Foot or Toe Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair cat

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Large mass on top of his back paw that has grown over the last year. I am able to see blood vessels in it. However it does not seem to bother my cat or cause him pain. He still walks, runs, jumps, plays, and eats normally.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without seeing your cat, unfortunately, it is hard to say what that mass might be, whether it is benign or whether it is cancerous. If it is growing, it would probably be best to have your veteranarian take a look at it sooner rather than later, as lumps tend to be easier to remove when they are smaller. Your veterinarian may be able to tell you what kind of math it is, and if you need to worry or if it is okay just to monitor it. I hope that all goes well for your cat!

July 26, 2020

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dog-breed-icon

Long hair cat

dog-age-icon

Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Huge Bony Growths

I noticed some huge bony growths between my cats toes they look almost like untrimmed dog toenails

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, The second picture is of his toenail. Some cats do not sharpen their claws as they should and they will look like this. Sometimes these claws can grow back into your cat's paws. I would recommend that you trim these nails or have your vet trim them. If the nail has grown into your cat's footpad, your cat may need antibiotics to help clear the infection.

July 24, 2020

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Frisky

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dsh

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Inappetance, Lethar
Inappetance, Lethargic
Inappetance, Lethargic, Hiding
Inappetance, Lethargic, Vomiting

My Mom's cat, a 10-year-old DSH, had a toe amputated about 3 weeks ago because of a tumor near the nail bed. She did not get a biopsy. Frisky went home & seemed normal for a couple of days. Then she became more reluctant to eat, moving her head from side to side as if painful. When the doctor examined her she didn't find any problems in her mouth but said the tonsils looked inflamed. She also noticed another mass on the adjacent toe. She gave her an injection of dexamethasone, DepoMedrol and Onsior, and sent home Buprenex. My Mom's other cat was just euthanized about a month ago, so she's having a difficult time with this. I was thinking it could be mct, possibly the visceral form since she's not eating or squamous cell? Her appetite was normal before the surgery. Blood work and chest rads were normal.

Aug. 8, 2018

Frisky's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It is always best to have histopathology done on any mass removed to identify the specific type of mass so that additional care and follow up can be more effective; I cannot diagnose what the mass was but regular check ups should be done to be on the safe side. If there is another mass forming, this should be taken for histopathology to confirm a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

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Misty

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Maine Coon

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Was Limping. Large Lump On Back Leg

My cat was diagnosed with bone cancer in her back foot after I noticed she was limping badly and they found a lump on her foot which I thought came from hitting it on something after jumping off the bed. (They did an xray and a biopsy)They want to amputate her leg. She is no longer limping and seems to be fine now. How do I know that the diagnosis was correct? Could she still be having pain even though she is not limping?

May 25, 2018

Misty's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Whether or not Misty is feeling pain, it doesn’t change that fact that cancer was found with the biopsy (rarely wrong if checked by a board certified Oncologist or Pathologist). Amputation would be the best course of action regardless in this case. Cats are stoic animals and may not always show their pain so it can be difficult to make the statement ‘she isn’t in pain’. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 26, 2018

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Noodles

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I don't know

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Limping
Decreased Appetite
Tumor

My cat has a tumor in her lung, and has spread to her toes in one paw. My vet says that at this stage, there isn't much that can be done because the cancer has spread throughout her body and bloodstream. She says even with a surgery with a specialist, results will most likely not be positive. One of her recommendations is to consider having my cat put down, but I am searching for a second opinion. Thank you.

May 11, 2018

Noodles' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without being able to examine Noodles, I can't give you a valid opinion, unfortunately. If you are not sure of the diagnosis and are looking for other treatment options, it is never a bad idea to seek a second opinion from another veterinarian, and you can take any x-rays and lab work with you so that they have more information. I'm sorry that that is happening to her, and hope that you are able to find options.

May 11, 2018

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Chubbie

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Persian

dog-age-icon

19 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain, Limping And Open Wound

My poor cat, Chubbie, has basal cell carcinoma on her back left foot pad. She is 19 and limps from arthritis so I didn't realize she had a painful foot and have no idea she had this issue. A few weeks ago I was petting her had my hand touched her left back foot (she usually hid that from me and laid on it). It was stiff and crusty and I assumed there was kitty litter caked on it. She is a long hair that we keep shaved, but they leave her feet pretty furry, so I just thought the litter stuck to it. I soaked her foot in the sink to loosen the litter and pulled it off as best I could but when drying it I saw that it was hugely swollen and raw. I still thought it was just damage from litter being impacted in her toes and thought when I pulled on it to get it out that the skin had been pulled off too or something, but it looked so nasty I took her right to the vet. It was a vet I don't particularly trust and he said it might be a mass and I thought that was goofy so we mutually agreed to give her antibiotics and some pain meds and check her again in a week. The next week it was the same thing and her foot hadn't changed much and she was leaving bloody footprints. I asked about dressing the paw and he ignored me. So the next week I went to a different vet and felt more comfortable with her. She also suggested doing an aspiration to see if it was just infection or cancer. Unfortunately it came back basal cell and since she's 19 we both agreed surgery isn't an option. She also didn't dress my poor baby's paw but gave me better pain meds. Except for limping and bleeding my cat seems relatively ok at this point. However, I am concerned if the wound stays open she will be more susceptible to a bad infection, so I think I need to do something about that. Otherwise, she is still eating and likes to engage with us...although, as a 19 yr old she sleeps a lot. My question is, what do I do now? How do I get her foot clean enough to dress it? And what do I expect from here on? I can't find anything online about basal cell cancer on cat paws so I don't know what to expect.

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Murphy

dog-breed-icon

Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Limping
Discharge
Tenderness

Bear with me, we have done a lot with this cat already. Patient is under care of a veterinarian. I am a vet tech and I've been bringing him to my clinic for treatment. We've done a lot of tests and treatments and I'm wondering what everyone thinks. Species: Feline Age:~2yrs Sex: M/C Breed: Domestic Medium Hair Weight: 11.5# History: limited medical history before I had him. He was an outdoor stray. Got some vaccines when he was neutered, none since. Inherited from previous owner. SNAP positive for FIV. Clinical signs: limping, swelling of the RF limb scabbing and crusting between paw pads. Duration: 1 month Your general location: Texas http://imgur.com/gallery/cRAbuJv Paw from 4/5 http://imgur.com/gallery/MQuxIkm Bloodwork, radiographs, photos of paw progress First visit 4/2 started with convenia injection, flush wound, buprenorphine SR injection, impression smear. Impression smear showed cocci. Next visit 4/5 we did radiographs and bloodwork. Discovered patient FIV+ , rx zeniquin 25mg SID. Got a better e-collar patient now wearing 24/7. Second buprenorphine SR injection. Using dust-free litter. Next visit 4/7 suspected fungal infection due to a possible ringworm lesion on owner. Took fungal culture for DTM and started itrafungol (itraconazole). DTM ended up showing white growth but not ringworm. 4/15 Patient had severe diarrhea, was rxed fortiflora and fecal test done. No parasites seen in fecal direct smear and float. Treated with revolution anyway. Diarrhea resolved. It is now almost a month later. We have done 1 soak in saline for the paw. Paw still tender and swollen. Patient on 100mg gabapentin PRN for pain. What more can I possibly do? This cat's leg is still swollen and tender, and now the swelling is moving up into.his carpus. Cat is more energetic and using the limb, but I was hoping for more progress by now. Patient still taking zeniquin 25mg this is his 3rd week. What do the vets of r/askvet think it could be? Note I am not asking for diagnosis, just looking for maybe some comments on next steps and spitballing ideas. Cat will be going in for a recheck next week with his Primary care dvm.

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Jinx

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Tumor
Vomit
Does Not Eat
Lack Of Appitite

This is very hard for me but thought I let others know how quickly it this has happened. March 1 we took our 16 y old cat in what we thought was an infected toe, there was swelling and limping. the Vet thought that as well and so she had her 2 nails removed and casted and put on antibiotics. then on monday we took her in to have it checked. The vet was more concerned as it seemed to be worse not better and sent us into the city for us to see a specialist. He warned us that amputation would probably have to happen and we were ok with that. The specialist agreed and we were to go back in on the 11th for surgery , he wanted a week of antibiotics in her first. when we got there they first did an xray and that's when our world crashed. It was a rare form of cancer and we were told we had about 4 weeks left. today is the 18th and in this short week she gone from one visible tumor on her toe to 15 visible tumors. on the weekend she quit eating and last night she was vomiting blood. sadly our vet is away and living in rural 200 miles from a city we called and she prescribed strong sedatives till tomorrow at 2pm when we will say our goodbye. The pic looks like her paw without the blood that day we got home. Please all if you see something anything get them checked. our fur baby showed ZERO signs before we left. We are not negligent pet owners we just put down 8 weeks ago our 18 year old male cat and have a 19 year old male dog. the vet said it shows how well we look after our FAMILY aka fur babies. Heartbroken:(

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Oden

dog-breed-icon

DOMESTIC

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My cat is 14 has a solid mass on his right paw. No limping no pain acting normal - should I put him through anesthesia and have it biopsied? How likely is it that it’s cancer vs just a cyst?

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tom tom

dog-breed-icon

hybird shirazi

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Blood With White Substance
Swell Feet And Toe
Lots Of Bleeding And Random Cuts

iam not sure what is happening with my cat one day he just came home and his foot was swell a little bit . not long after it started getting worse and worse . 3 days ago his foot randomly started bleeding it wasnt just blood there was some white substance mixed with the blood , we help him and cleaned the wound and it look as if was better but the next day his toes were swell and there was another wound on the lower part of his feet and now there is yet another cut between his fingers ,only one feet is injured, iam so worried i cant take him to a vet since there is non where i live . iam looking everywhere for help please if someone can help . iam really worried about him

Foot or Toe Cancer Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000