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Vet Tech Rounds: Ingrown Toenails

Vet Talks 3 min read
Vet Tech Rounds: Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenails

A common but relatively simple condition I’ve seen in my clinical experience is ingrown toenails. Just like our own finger and toenails, pets’ nails or ‘claws’ are constantly growing. Due to the generally curved shape of dog or cat nails, when they grow too long the nails tend to damage the skin and become “ingrown”. This is especially common in pets with longer fur because it can be difficult to see their nails under their long coat and the ingrown nails can easily go unnoticed. Though this is an uncomfortable condition, pets often won’t complain much about it. The discomfort increase very slowly as the nail grows and pets are very good at adapting to those changes. Most owners of pets who have ingrown nails are surprised when they are found during a routine trip to the clinic.

If not caught at this stage the nail will eventually break through the skin and begin to grow inside the flesh of the paw.

At the beginning stages of ingrown toenails, the nail simply pushes against the skin and causes inflammation. If not caught at this stage the nail will eventually break through the skin and begin to grow inside the flesh of the paw. This is obviously quite uncomfortable, but again, pets rarely show their discomfort with this problem. In dogs, nails take longer to grow into the flesh, as their nails are generally blunter than in cats. Dog nails may also curl outwards rather than into the paw pad if allowed to grow too long. Cat’s nails tend to become thickened as they age. The layers of the nail which often shed as the nail grows to fail to do so in many older cats. This can increase the likelihood of ingrown nails in senior cats.

Examples of Ingrown and Overgrown Nails

cat nails

dog nails

If your pet is found to have an ingrown nail, your veterinarian will likely clip the hair around the nail and trim all of your pet’s other nails. The affected nail is left to last, as it can be quite uncomfortable to clip and remove the nail from the flesh. The wound is then flushed and cleaned to remove any foreign material. Some pets will require a bandage on their foot, depending on the severity of the growth. If the risk of infection is high, your vet may also prescribe antibiotics. This also depends on the depth and age of the ingrown nail.
Epsom salts soak 1 to 2 times daily can be helpful to aid healing once the nail is removed. For cats, it is recommended that any clay or fine particle kitty litter be replaced with the large pellet-type litter until the wounds have the chance to heal.

NHV First Aid Spray can reduce discomfort and inflammation and help to speed healing of the wounds caused by ingrown nails. Pet Omega 3 is an omega 3 fatty acid that can help to maintain not only healthy skin and coat but also healthy nails. This can especially help with cats, as their nails fail to shed their sheath and become quite thick, making them more likely to become ingrown.

To avoid ingrown nails, it is important to trim your pets’ nails regularly. Each pet is different, and their nails grow at different rates depending on their lifestyle. In general, I recommend a dog’s nails be trimmed once you can hear “clicking” on hard surface flooring, and a cat’s nails are trimmed when you notice they are getting caught on soft items like sweaters and blankets.

If you are uncomfortable with or unable to trim your dog or cat’s nails, your vet’s office or local groomer is available to trim them for you. See the video below to see how to trim your cats’ nails with clippers you likely already have at home.

How to Trim Your Cat's Nails with NHV's Vet Tech Johanna

Johanna RVT

Johanna RVT

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

Published: June 22, 2018

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