Claw injuries in cats are a relatively common occurrence. While painful, most are not life-threatening, serious claw injuries do however require veterinary attention.
The most common type of claw injury is a torn claw. It may be partially or completely torn off, causing a great deal of pain. Torn claws may occur when the claw becomes snagged on something (carpet, material etc), or when quickly scrambling up a tree, fence or more seriously, as the result of a motor vehicle accident. In the latter, there are likely to be more serious injuries than just a torn claw.
Even if the claw is completely torn off, it will grow back, however, this will take several months.
Aside from the obviously torn claw, which will look jagged, loose or completely gone. Other symptoms may include:
If the claw isn’t too badly damaged, you can treat it at home.
Stop the bleeding: Apply styptic pencil silver nitrate sticks, potassium of permanganate or cornstarch. or cornstarch to the claw. If none of these are available, ice the area to constrict the blood vessels and slow down bleeding.
Gently trim the claw: if the tear is minor to remove shredded edges will help prevent further damage occurring. Be very careful to avoid cutting too far or you will cut into the rich supply of blood vessels and nerves.
Clean the area: A weak solution of Iodine (Betadine) should be applied to the area once bleeding has stopped. Dilute to the colour of weak tea.
Bandage the paw: This helps to prevent further damage, this should be changed daily and antiseptic reapplied.
Watch for signs of infection: Such as swelling, redness, and pus.
A seriously torn claw should be seen to by a veterinarian as it may require removal or treatment to prevent an infection taking hold.
When to see a veterinarian:
If the claw is extremely loose, bleeding heavily or completely gone, your cat will need to see a veterinarian. In the case of a badly damaged claw, he may choose to completely remove the claw and bandage the foot.
Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics if an infection is present.
Several torn claws suggest the cat has been hit by a vehicle. Even though the may appear well (aside from the torn claws), there could be internal injuries. It is important to have your cat checked over by a vet.
Regularly trim the claws to make sure they are not overgrown will help reduce the chances of the claws becoming damaged and torn.
Provide your cat with a scratching post, this will encourage the cat to scratch, which helps remove old/loose parts of the claw.
Never give human painkillers to cats, this can be fatal. If your cat is in extreme pain from a torn claw, seek veterinary advice. They may choose to prescribe suitable painkillers.