Nail and Nailbed Disorders in Cats
Nail and nail bed disorders may refer to any abnormality or disease that affects the claws or the surrounding area. The disorders are generally known as dystrophies. One type of nail disorder, paronychia, is an infection that causes inflammation of the tissue around the nail or claw. Onychomycosis, or fungal infection, can also occur in and around the nail bed.
Cats may exhibit extremely brittle nails (onychorrhexis), or have nails that separate, peel, and slough excessively (onychomadesis). Most nail or nail bed disorders have an excellent treatment prognosis and can be remedied in a relatively short amount of time.
Symptoms and Types
Common signs of nail or nail bed disorders can include:
- Licking at the paws
- Lameness, difficulty walking
- Pain in the feet
- Swelling or redness of the tissues surrounding the nails
- Nail plate deformity (the part of the nail that overlays the nail bed)
- Abnormal nail color
Some of the most common causes for nail or nail bed disorders can include:
- Bacteria or fungus
- Tumor or cancer
- Immune system (immune-mediated) diseases
- Excessive levels of growth hormone
- Disorders present at birth (congenital)
- Cutting the nails too close to the nail bed (making them susceptible to infection)
In the event that your cat is suffering from a trauma to the nail bed, you will want to check to see if it has affected only a single nail. If multiple nails are being affected, a serious underlying medical condition is the more likely cause for the disorder. A skin scraping may be taken to determine what type of a skin condition your cat is experiencing, and a bacterial or fungal culture may also be taken for further analysis.
Treatment will be dependent upon the particular underlying medical condition that is causing the nail or nail bed condition. If the nail area is inflamed, surgical removal of the nail plate (the hard portion) may be necessary to encourage drainage of the underlying tissue. Antimicrobial soaks can also be effective for reducing inflammation and encouraging the healing process. If the condition is related to a bacteria or a fungus, topical treatments and/or ointments are often administered to the affected area.
Living and Management
In most cases, application of the topical treatment or ointment will clear up any nail issues. While there are typically not many serious complications that can arise from these disorders, it is important to observe your cat's recovery and to act promptly if healing does not progress in a positive direction.
One way to protect your vat from suffering a nail injury or disorder is to avoid cutting too close to the nail bed (the quick) when trimming the nails. Nicks to the skin can occur, opening your cat to infection as it goes about its normal routine (i.e., using the litter box, exploring). It is essential to look closely at your cat's nails before cutting them, so that you can determine exactly where the quick of the nail is – that is, the part of the nail bed that overlays the tissue and blood vessels. You do not want cut into that part of the nail; only the free edge that extends past the nail bed should be trimmed. Researching the proper way to cut your cat's nails, paying close attention, and promptly cleansing the area when an inadvertent injury does occur will go a long way toward protecting your cat from a painful nail disorder or trauma.