You Make The Diagnosis: Cat Paw Problem

Pictured below is a closeup of a cat’s front paw.  When I first saw this cat, both of his front feet were covered in blood and dirt.  After a thorough cleaning, this is what the left paw looked like.  Examine the photo closely and then answer the following questions:  What is wrong with this cat’s paw?  Is the condition permanent? 


Diagnosis:  Torn Claws

Dogs chased this cat into a tree.  As the cat climbed the tree, one of the dogs grabbed him by the back and pulled him down.  His middle two nails were ripped out as he tried to cling to the tree.  Find the two middle toe pads in the center of the photo and then move up to the red areas below the cotton swab.  That is the bone, called the distal phalangeal or third phalangeal, from which the claw or nail grows.  The nails are still present on the outer toes.  

I placed this cat on medication to control his pain, antibiotics to treat infection and bandaged the paw.  Although he limped for awhile, he eventually made a full recovery.  His nails even grew back.  His owners promised me they would never let him go outside alone again.   

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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