Swollen Toes (Paw Pads) in Cats

Key takeaways

Swollen toes (paw pads) is rare in cats, and can range from barely noticeable to severe swelling that can impact mobility.

  • Swollen toes may be a symptom of significant underlying disease, including immune dysfunction, allergies, tumors, traumatic injury, or infection
  • Cats with swollen toes may excessively lick their paws, develop open sores that bleed or ooze fluid, have difficulty walking, or vocalize when the paws are touched or handled
  • Some of the conditions that cause swollen toes may also cause other symptoms like fever, appetite loss, and lethargy
  • A thorough examination by a veterinarian is required to identify the underlying issue in cats with swollen toes
  • In addition to physical examination, diagnosis of the underlying condition may require biopsy, blood work, and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the swelling, but may include anti-inflammatories and analgesics (painkillers)
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A closer look: Swollen Toes (Paw Pads) in Cats

Swelling of the toes is an uncommon finding in cats. If swelling of the toes is noticed with no other symptoms, non-urgent veterinary care is recommended.

Insect bites or stings can cause swelling, including in the toe pads, as well as serious allergic reactions. **Cats that are lethargic, having difficulty breathing, salivating excessively, vomiting, or have a blue tinge to the gums or tongue may be suffering from anaphylaxis and require emergency veterinary care. **

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Possible causes

Swollen toes can be indicators of several different conditions.

Risk factors

Toe swelling can range from mild and barely noticeable to severe swelling that can impact mobility. One or more limbs may be affected. The severity of swelling and number of limbs affected do not necessarily indicate the severity of the underlying condition, so a thorough examination by a veterinarian is required.

Testing and diagnosis

A cat presenting with swollen paw pads usually requires some or all of the following diagnostics to determine the best course of action:

  • Physical examination: The veterinarian will focus on the feet and limbs, assessing pain and discomfort.
  • Blood work: The blood work may indicate whether the swelling is non-infectious or infectious and cal also be useful for identifying systemic underlying problems
  • Cytology: A needle is used to sample small numbers of cells from the paw pad for microscopic analysis
  • Biopsy: A tissue section from the paw pad is taken and submitted for evaluation
  • Allergy testing: May include intradermal testing, food trials or environmental management
  • Endocrine testing: To rule out endocrine disease which may cause swelling
  • Diagnostic imaging: X-rays or ultrasound may be used to examine the feet for abnormalities, such as tumors or abscesses

Treatment is dependent on the diagnosis. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend analgesics and/or anti-inflammatories to make the cat more comfortable while diagnosis or treatment is in process.

Similar symptoms

Toe swelling may be confused for enlargement of the feet, as seen in acromegaly.

Associated symptoms

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