Swollen Paw in Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Swollen paw in cats

The paw takes a lot of beating and is vulnerable to injury. There are a number of causes of swelling in paws, including foreign object lodged in the paw, declawing complications, ingrown claw, abscess, plasma cell pododermatitis, burns, cuts and abrasions, insect bite or sting, allergies (causing edema, which is a build-up of fluid.

Causes: 

There are a number of causes of swollen paws in cats. The type of swelling, along with other symptoms (such as bleeding, injury or discharge) can give a clue as to the possible cause.

Foreign object

Broken glass, splinters, and thorns can become lodge anywhere in the foot, particularly the paw pad which comes into contact with the ground. This is more common in outdoor cats.

Treatment:

Remove the object and apply antiseptic. Keep a close eye on signs of inflammation and infection.

Declawing complications

Some cats may have swelling after being declawed, if it persists and/or you notice any discharge, see your veterinarian immediately.

Swelling can happen in all surgeries, but if it persists or if you notice signs of infection such as inflamed areas, loss of appetite, fever, see your veterinarian.

Treatment: 

Your veterinarian can clean the area and administer antibiotics if an infection is present.

Ingrown claw

The claw grows so long it curls into the paw pad, causing pain, swelling, and possible infection. Senior cats are more prone to ingrown claws.

Treatment:

The veterinarian will trim the claw and apply antiseptic to the paw pad. Painkillers and antibiotics to relieve discomfort and treat or prevent infection.

This problem will come back if claws aren’t regularly trimmed.

Abscess

A walled off collection of pus which usually occurs due to a penetrating bite wound which injects bacteria under the skin. The paws are less likely to be affected by abscesses than other areas of the body, but they can affect the feet. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, fever, loss of appetite. If the abscess hasn’t burst, it will be a firm, round lump which feels warm to the touch. If it has burst, you will notice a foul-smelling discharge coming from the wound.

Treatment:

The veterinarian will lance the wound (if necessary), flush with saline, remove dead tissue and administer antibiotics.

Plasma cell pododermatitis:

This is a rare autoimmune disease in cats characterised by swollen and painful footpads which feel spongy to the touch.

Treatment:

Antibiotics, steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs. In some cases, the condition spontaneously resolves.

Burns

Burns can occur when cats jump onto a hot stove or heater, as well as walking on hot roads.

  • First degree burns – The footpad is red.
  • Second-degree burns – Blisters have formed.
  • Third-degree burns – Full thickness of the skin.

Treatment:

Rinse first and second-degree burn with cold water for 20 minutes. Cover third degree burns with a wet face cloth.

Second and third-degree burns are particularly dangerous need urgent veterinary attention who will clean and treat with antiseptic, bandage and administer antibiotics and antibiotics.

Cuts and abrasions

Cuts occur from walking on sharp objects such as broken glass. Cats who have been hit by a car will have extensive abrasions on the paw pads, along with other injuries.

Treatment:

Flush and treat minor cuts with antiseptic. Cuts longer than 1 inch will need treatment by a veterinarian.

Insect bite or sting

Cats are more likely to be bitten or stung on the feet whereas dogs are more likely to receive bites and stings to the face. Bee stings, in particular, can cause swelling of the feet.

Treatment:

Bites and stings are usually self-limiting and may require antiseptic and Benadryl to reduce swelling. Seek medical treatment if the cat displays signs of allergy and/or has difficulty breathing due to swollen airways.

Paracetamol poisoning

A common side effect of paracetamol (Tylenol/Panadol) is swelling of the feet due to edema, or fluid buildup.

Treatment:

Induce vomiting or pump the stomach if ingestion has been less than two hours. Activated charcoal to bind to the toxin in the system.  N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine which assists in the detoxification and elimination of paracetamol which protects further damage to the liver. Supportive care such as oxygen therapy and fluids.

What other symptoms may be present:

Symptoms may vary on the cause but may include:

  • Reluctance to bear weight on the affected foot.
  • Fever.
  • Discharge from the affected area.
  • Loss of appetite.