What is Torn Toenail?
Tearing a toenail is extremely painful for a cat. Your cat may cry after suffering from this injury. There is a high supply of blood to the base of the nail, so often the affected toenail will bleed for some time. The bleeding may stop for a period of time and then start again. If left as an open wound, the tear can lead to infection, which can develop into more serious health issues. Kittens are prone to tearing their toenails, as they have very high energy and extremely delicate claws. A similar response may happen if a cat's claws are trimmed too short during grooming. Veterinary attention is needed to ensure the wound heals correctly.
Without regular grooming, a cat's claws will grow long and sharp. Once a toenail is overgrown, it can easily get caught or snagged on carpet, furniture, or even tree bark. Generally, when this happens the cat will panic and jerk its paw towards its body. This reaction can cause the nail to tear, either remaining partially connected to the paw or being torn completely off. This is a common occurrence in cats and is generally not life-threatening.
Symptoms of Torn Toenail in Cats
Often, the only way that you will know something is wrong with the cat is by the presence of blood drops around the home. A torn toenail may bleed sporadically for hours. Other signs to watch for include:
- Licking paw excessively
- Jagged appearance of claw
- Bloody paw
- Pain when affected paw is touched
- Swollen paw
Causes of Torn Toenail in Cats
Generally, this issue exists due to poor grooming of the cat. Toenails that are not regularly trimmed will grow long and catch on various materials. Outdoor cats may be exposed to more potentially injury-causing scenarios. Possible causes are listed below.
- Vigorous play indoors on carpets or furniture
- Tree climbing
- Traumatic injury (such as a car accident)
Diagnosis of Torn Toenail in Cats
Take action to stop the cat from bleeding before you arrive to the veterinary clinic or animal hospital. Direct pressure should be applied to the wound for five minutes straight. Your vet may have additional recommendations to aid in clotting. Bandage the paw and bring the cat to a veterinarian.
Once at the clinic or hospital, the veterinarian will complete a physical examination of your cat. If the cat has sustained serious injuries from extreme trauma, all life-threatening injuries will be identified and treated first. The vet will determine whether the torn toenail is showing any signs of infection or inflammation. Swelling, pus, or seeping blood are all signs that a bacterial infection is present. If this is the case, any exudate will be collected and sent to a lab for bacteria identification.
Treatment of Torn Toenail in Cats
While some veterinarians may advise you to treat and monitor the injury at home, this may not be advisable due to the difficulty of properly removing the affected toenail. A cat experiencing pain will likely bite if it’s injured paw is handled.
A proper removal of the affected toenail will significantly lessen the chance of infection. Generally, the toenail only needs to be removed from where the tear occurred. The cat may need mild sedation for the veterinarian to properly perform the procedure. Professional nail trimmers work the best for toenail removal, and the wound must be washed afterwards.
The paw may need to be bandaged until the bleeding stops and the wound starts to heal. The compression can aid the clotting process.
If a bacterial infection has been identified, or often for the prevention of such an infection, an antibiotic prescription will be given. This prescription may be from one to four weeks in length.
Recovery of Torn Toenail in Cats
The best way to promote healing is by keeping the wound clean. This may involve changing bandages daily and monitoring the injury for signs of infection, such as swelling or redness. After the bandage is removed, the paw should be regularly washed until healing is complete. Administer all antibiotics as prescribed. Prevent your cat from licking or biting at its paw during this time. An Elizabethan collar may be needed to ensure the cat leaves the wound alone.
The prognosis for recovery is excellent, especially of no infection develops. A new toenail will grow back within several months. It is best to watch the regrowth to verify that the claw is not ingrown or coming in sideways. This can lead to more pain and the development of a bacterial infection. Trim your cat's nails approximately once a month to prevent a torn toenail from happening. Clip only the tips of the nails to prevent hurting the cat. Providing a scratching post to your cat can also greatly help to keep its nails from overgrowing.