Cat Toe Infection Treatment

Cat toe infections can be very painful. Toenail problems such as torn or broken nails in cats are relatively common and can be easily handled in the first instance, by pet owners. Torn toenails are the primary cause of toenail infections. This is a painful condition but it's almost never life threatening. The primary signs of a torn toenail are the cat limping and crying, accompanied by the presence of blood. If the bleeding doesn't stop in time, the toenail becomes infected and leads to further complications that can adversely and severely affect the cat's health. Nail beds are also prone to trauma, neoplasia, immune disorders and congenital abnormalities. Trauma or neoplasia usually affects a single nail, while systemic disorders and immune-related disorders affect multiple nails.

Nail Damage

Nails can get torn in fights, or more commonly, when the nail gets snagged in a carpet or anything hard. The cat tries to dislodge the nail, and in the process tears it. Specks of blood may be visible on the paw. To prevent infection, use silver nitrate or styptic pencils. If these aren't available, corn starch and flour can be used. These substances, when placed on the bleeding nail, ebb the flow of blood. A broken nail does not go away with time. It's not recommended to let it grow out, as it might grow inwards and leave the cat in great pain. This in turn increases the likelihood of infection. Hence, it's necessary to remove the broken nail immediately.

Removal of Broken Nails

This procedure can be done at home, using nail trimmers. However, since this can be quite painful for the cat it's best to have the vet remove it. Also, if the tear is near the base of the nail, it's important to avoid further discomfort and seek medical care. After removing the nail, the paw should be washed in warm water to remove any lodged debris. The paw should be subsequently bandaged, to stem the bleeding. The vet may also prescribe a mild antibiotic to prevent infection. It's best not to self medicate your pet, as cats are highly sensitive to medication and certain painkillers, such as aspirin, can be fatal if administered inappropriately.

Other Causes of Infection

Microorganisms such as bacteria can cause paronychia, an inflammation of the soft tissue around the nail, while fungi and neoplasia cause infection of the cat toe. The primary symptoms in these cases are the presence of pus, a black or greenish exudate and the presence of a crust accompanied with lameness. It's necessary to get your pet checked by a vet immediately, and isolate the cat from other pets in the household. The vet will carry out the relevant tests such as the FeLV, T4 and antinuclear antibody test, in addition to bacterial and fungal culture tests to diagnose the cause of the infection.


  • Antibiotics are prescribed to control and fight bacterial infections.
  • Antifungal soaks (captan, chlorhexidine, povidone iodine) are used to fight fungal infections.
  • In certain cases of neoplasia, amputation of the digit or the limb may be necessary.
  • Pets suffering from immune related disorders are prescribed immunosuppressive drugs.

Regular grooming of the cat, trimming his nails regularly, and keeping a lookout for symptoms of infection, can go a long way to ensure optimal pet health.