Cat Ingrown Nail – Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Cat Ingrown Nail

It is not only humans that suffer ingrown nails from time to time and yes, cats do, too.  While it can be a painful condition, your cat will rarely complain about it and is even good at hiding the pain and discomfort. However,  a cat ingrown nail shouldn’t be dismissed as it could pose risks to your cat as she may develop an infection, sores, and other severe complications if it’s left untreated. 

Why do cats develop ingrown nails?

Cats have retractable claws and they have round and compact paws. The structure of a cat’s paw allows cats to easily grab, swat, and pin their prey as well as for self-defense and climbing trees and high areas in your home. The claws are attached to the tips of the phalanges, the bones that make up a cat’s toes. When a cat is at rest the claws contract to the skin pouches in a relaxed fashion or your pet cat may extend them if she wants to.

A cat’s nail grows continuously just like in humans but unlike our square or oval-shaped nails, for cats, the nails are sickle-shaped and with a sharp tip. They can to grow too long and this tends to damage the skin and becomes “ingrown”. Cats with long fur and coat are more prone to this as it is not easily noticed until the nails are trimmed. Sometimes, the ingrown nails are only discovered when a long-haired cat is brought to the groomer. 

Also, it’s the dewclaws that tend to develop an ingrown nail. The dewclaw is the high nail on the leg’s inside and doesn’t make contact with the ground and thus there is no normal wear compared to the rest of the claws which cats often use for scratching at things. 

During the early stages of becoming ingrown, a cat’s nail pushes back against the skin often resulting in inflammation. If the nail is not trimmed at this stage, it will eventually break through the skin and grow inside the paw’s flesh. This can give discomfort to your cat although cats will rarely show it. Senior cats are more vulnerable to ingrown nails because as cats age the nails become thicker and its layers fail to shed anymore. 

Symptoms of ingrown nail in cats 

You’ll immediately know that a nail has become ingrown when it becomes excessively curved and there’s a sore in the cat’s paw. Your cat may also experience some swelling of the pad, toe, and foot.  You’ll also notice that your cat is excessively chewing, biting, or licking at her toe and she’s extremely sensitive when the affected foot is touched. Moreover,  your cat may also be limping and there may be bleeding from the foot’s pad. 

What could happen if a cat has an ingrown nail?

If your cat has an ingrown nail it could lead to infection, sores, and even lameness and other severe complications if it’s not treated promptly. 

Treatment for cat ingrown nail

Your vet will clip the hair around the affected nail and trim all the other nails. The affected nail shouldn’t be touched as it will be uncomfortable and even painful for your cat if it’s clipped and removed from the flesh. Next, the vet will flush and clean the wound to remove any foreign materials. Some cats may need to have their foot bandaged but this will depend on how severe the ingrown nail’s growth is. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent further infection but this will depend on the ingrown nail’s depth and age.

To speed up the healing process, your vet may recommend Epsom salt soaks at least 2 times a day once the ingrown nail has been removed. Vets also recommend that treated cats should use large pellet-type litter for their litter box temporarily until the wound is completely healed. NHV First Aid Spray may be used to reduce the inflammation and speed up the healing process while Omega 3 is a good supplement to maintain healthy nails.  

Prevention for cat ingrown nail

To avoid your cat developing ingrown nails and ensure the well being of your cat, make sure that you give her adequate exercise. She should be able to scratch her nails on concrete, gravel, asphalt, and other abrasive surfaces to keep nails properly filed. Most importantly, your pet cat’s nails should be regularly trimmed at least every 4 to 6 weeks as recommended by groomers. In case you are having trouble with your cat not co-operating read our tips on how to trim the nails of an aggressive cat.

Final thoughts 

If your pet cat suffers from an ingrown nail, you should take her to the vet so it can be treated immediately. Make sure that it won’t happen again by regularly trimming your cat’s nails at least every 4 to 6 weeks and take special notice of the dewclaws because it’s the area more prone to developing ingrown nails. 

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