Cat Paw Injuries
From Pet Health Learning Center
Cat Paw Injury (Feline Paw Injuries)
Signs and Symptoms
A cat paw injury can occur relatively easily and as a result of a variety of different factors and activities. Cats that spend time outdoors are particularly susceptible to developing paw injuries, as they are exposed to rough and uneven ground surfaces, insects and other animals, and many other potentially hazardous situations and elements. However, while indoor cats may be somewhat less prone to becoming injured, they can still experience paw injuries. The types of warning signs and symptoms that a cat will exhibit when suffering from a paw injury will depend upon the specific nature of the injury. That said, most paw injuries will cause a cat to limp or favour the affected paw. As a result, this is the main symptom of a feline paw injury.
Since an injury to a cat's paw can be caused by many different factors and can manifest itself in many different forms, additional symptoms will depend upon the type of injury present. For example, if your cat has experienced a hairline fracture, bruise, or muscle strain, limping and other indications of some discomfort may be the only warning signs. In other cases, decreased activity and an unwillingness to go about daily activities may also occur. Where a cut or other laceration is causing your cat's problem, the wound may be visible. If a laceration becomes infected, the paw may become tender, swollen, warm, and possibly have a bad odor. Cuts and lacerations can occur on the skin of a cat's leg, or on the pads of its feet. An object lodged between a cat's toes can also cause discomfort. When this is the problem, the animal will likely lick or bite at its paw, trying to remove the object. If not removed, the object could potentially give rise to an infection, which would cause further discomfort and symptoms.
Other injuries that can affect cat paws include insect stings, such as bee stings. Since cats often try to inspect, catch, and play with bees, they tend to get stung either on their face or paws. Signs of a bee sting generally began to appear quite quickly. In mild cases, swelling, discomfort, and restlessness are common. The cat may also chew or lick at its affected paw. In addition, the insect's stinger may be visible at the sting site. In more severe cases, significant swelling and respiratory distress may arise, requiring prompt medical attention. However, such extreme reactions are rare in cats. While a cat may display a variety of warning signs when suffering from a paw injury, the most typical symptoms are limping and favoring the injured paw. Although many cat paw problems heal themselves in a short period of time, others require veterinary treatment. If your cat seems to be in particular distress, or if the injury persists for more than a couple of days, be sure to contact your veterinarian.
Generally, it will not be difficult for a veterinarian to diagnose a cat's paw injury and identify the specific type of injury present. The practitioner will conduct a physical exam, looking for clinical signs, and also go over the feline patient's medical history. At this point, you as the pet owner can provide valuable information regarding your cat's recent behaviors, symptoms, and activities. In many cases, a physical exam will be all that is required in order to reach a diagnosis of a certain paw injury. However, in some circumstances further tests and diagnostic tools may be necessary.
For example, if a fracture is suspected to be the feline's problem, an x-ray may be required in order to confirm this suspicion. On occasion, blood tests may be performed in order to check for the presence of an infection or to evaluate the severity of an infection. In most cases, however, a veterinarian will be able to diagnose a cat's paw injury simply based upon clinical signs and a physical examination.
While in some cases cat paws may appear short relative to the length of the animal's body, they are powerful. This power partly comes from the sharp angle formed by the knee and heel of the hind legs. This structure and power gives cats their great ability for sprinting, climbing, and jumping.
Cat paws typically have four or five toes, generally with five in each forepaw and four in each hind paw. Cat paws also have footpads, which provide protection and allow the animal to move quickly and easily. However, sharp or harmful objects can damage or injure these footpads relatively easily, causing discomfort and difficulty with walking, jumping, and climbing. Furthermore, cats can also sustain injuries to the regular skin of their paws, the muscles, tendons, and bones.
As mentioned previously, cat paw injuries can be caused by numerous different factors, incidents, and activities. Many cats are very active and like to run, jump, and climb, either indoors or outdoors. The tendency for cats to engage in such activities increases their chances of sustaining a paw injury. Injuries are particularly likely to occur if cats jump from high heights or land on hard surfaces. Injuries that occur as a result of such activities can include broken bones, strained or torn muscles, or injured tendons.
Climbing or running over sharp objects and rough surfaces can also cause a cat to experience a paw injury. For example, walking over broken glass, thorns, or other sharp objects can cause a laceration of a cat's footpads. Bee stings and catching a paw on an object can also cause injury to a cat. Another common way that cats sustain paw injuries is by fighting with other cats. Typically, this results in lacerations which can potentially become infected. Even something as simple and accidental as a pet owner stepping on their cat's paw can result in a tender bruise or perhaps even a fracture.
While several potential causes of cat paw injuries have been listed above, they represent only a few examples of the many possible occurrences that can give rise to such injuries. Cuts, bruises, infections, muscle strains, and bone breaks can all occur as a result of a myriad of different incidents, causing varying degrees of discomfort and distress for your pet.
The treatment required by your pet will depend upon the type of injury it has sustained. Typically, a small cut will require cleansing and the application of an antiseptic ointment or antibiotic cream. Occasionally, a gauze bandage may be necessary. For any injury that requires a bandage, it's usually best to have a veterinarian apply it, as a bandage can cause discomfort and further damage when too tight. Furthermore, it can be difficult to get a bandage to stay on a cat's paw. If your cat has already developed an infection, antibiotics may be required. When a laceration is large or particularly deep, the feline patient may need to receive stitches in order for the wound to heal properly.
In circumstances where a foreign object is lodged between a cat's toes, causing pain and discomfort, the object should be carefully removed with tweezers. In the case of a broken toenail, the affected paw may be extremely tender. The broken nail may need to be removed completely, in which case anesthesia might necessary. Most paw injuries will heal well without much treatment, as long as the affected paw is not re-traumatized. This is even true for some hairline fractures and soft tissue injuries. Keeping your cat on soft surfaces such as carpet and making sure that its food and water are easily accessible can help your pet through the healing process. In rare circumstances, a splint will be necessary for a short period of time in order to allow for the fracture or other injury to undergo proper healing.
When a cut, irritant, or infection has caused your pet's paw injury, herbal ointments can often help to soothe pain, reduce symptoms, and promote healing. Such ointments are made from natural ingredients with an array of beneficial properties. For example, ingredients such as Arnica and St. John's wort help to clear up bacterial and fungal infections while reducing inflammation, soothing pain, stimulating the immune system, and promoting healing. Therefore, ointments made from natural, herbal ingredients can be very helpful with respect to healing several different types of cat paw injuries.