Dr. K's Case of the Month: Overgrown

By Dr. Heather Kovac

The Patient 

Wendy is an 8 year old female domestic shorthair cat who presented for her annual check-up with me and the owner said she did not have any concerns about her health.

The Case

On examination, I found that she had a few nails on her front feet that were severely overgrown and had become so long that they had started to penetrate the foot pads. As cat's nails grow, they curve around in a circular shape and then continue to push into the pads of the feet. Wendy had multiple toes affected and one of the pads was infected and bleeding. Surprisingly, she was not limping and the owner said she had not seen her licking at the affected foot. The cat also had a few "extra toes" which is a condition called polydactylism where cats are born with more than 5 digits on their front feet and/or more than 4 digits on their back feet. When cats are polydactyl, the inside 1 or 2 digits (thumbs) do not touch the ground and they often have trouble keeping their nails short using a scratching post.

The Treatment Plan

I trimmed the cat's nails and cleaned the wounds with an antiseptic solution. I also administered a long acting antibiotic injection to treat the infection. The pads should heal up quickly but the owner was instructed to monitor the feet daily and ensure that the cat litter was not getting stuck in the wounds. I recommended that this cat come in for nail trims every 6-8 weeks moving forward to help prevent this from happening again. I often see this problem in geriatric cats (ages 17+) who no longer want to use the scratching post. Most young, healthy cats do not need routine nail trims unless they do not use a scratching post regularly.

The Takeaway

It is important to check the nails at home from time to time to make sure they are not getting too long. Monitoring the length of your cat's nails can help avoid their nails growing to an uncomfortable length and reduce the risk of injury to your cat's paw pads. If you are not comfortable trimming your pet's nails at home, The Drake Center offers routine nail trim services for both cats and dogs. If you need to schedule your pet's next appointment or have any questions, please contact us today.

The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is an AAHA-accredited animal hospital located in Encinitas, CA. The Drake Center loves being a source of information for all pet owners across the country however if you have any questions regarding pet care and do not live in Encinitas, CA or surrounding cities, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian.

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