Your cat's nails serve multiple purposes -- they act as weapons, climbing assistance and itch relievers all rolled into one. They are also susceptible to various medical issues that can cause your cat discomfort if not treated. Watch for signs of problems and see your vet for help.
Inflammation, Infection And Deformities, Oh My!
Various nail and nail bed conditions can afflict your cat, most with long names that start with “onych,” which specifically refers to that pointy body part. Anything out of the ordinary about the appearance or growth of your cat's nails usually points to a medical issue, which requires attention from your vet to clear up. Your cat's nails may be brittle or soft, suffer from swelling around the nail bed or grow abnormally. Depending on the specific issue, nail problems may cause further health issues for your kitty, as he walks or behaves differently to deal with the pain associated with his claws.
Considering the fact that your cat regularly walks through his own toilet, it's no surprise his claws can suffer from various medical issues. Some nail problems occur from external factors, such as the aforementioned litter box stroll, while others are due to genetic or health issues the cat is born with. Bacteria and fungi cause infections, and poorly healed injuries are ripe for secondary problems. Health conditions such as tumors, cancer or immune system diseases can compromise the health and well-being of your cat's nails, causing a change in their health and appearance.
What To Watch For
Unless you give your cat regular pedicures, you may not notice any difference in the health or condition of his nails until the condition worsens. Your cat may not tell you when his feet hurt, but you'll notice certain changes in his behavior to indicate something amiss. He may spend an unusual amount of time licking his paws or favor the affected foot by limping. The nail itself may appear an odd color or seem swollen around the nail bed. The nail or toe may actually twist and look odd and malformed, causing your cat pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Before rushing your cat to the vet for what could simply be a stubbed toe, take a moment to check all the nails on each foot. Numerous affected nails could indicate an underlying medical condition, while a single boo-boo may only point to a minor injury. Your vet can perform a thorough exam and take skin scrapings to determine if your cat is suffering from an infection or more serious medical condition. Most infections clear up with little trouble using topical medications. If your cat's nail problems are caused by an underlying medical condition, the original issue must be treated before his nails will heal properly.
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