Things You Probably Don't Know About Dog and Cat Claws

Cat's paw on human hand
Handling your pets' claws is one of the most useful things you can do to improve claw care.

Consider this is a friendly infomercial on the subject of claw health—because even the most pedestrian claw is a crucial body part. I'm offering you this collection of things you may not know about claws.

1. Unlike fingernails, claws contain nerves and blood vessels. Hence, the heightened sensitivity surrounding their manipulation and the reluctance most pets display when their paws are touched, irrespective of whether they've had a bad experience with toenail trims.

2. Claws are integrally attached to bone. The body works hard to ensure that the connection between claw and bone is as seamless as possible. That means that damage to the claw can impact the adjacent bony structures. Ouch!

3. Tumors like toes. For some reason, the rapidly dividing cells of a nail bed are a magnet for cancer — aggressive cancers, in particular. Malignant melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma are two examples of cancers that have a predilection for this site. And limping, loss of a claw or swollen toes are often the first signs that something is amiss. Smart owners would do well to know that keeping tabs on toenails is more than just about length.

4. Plenty of paw problems are age related. Younger pets are more likely to suffer trauma to their claws and paws, such as rips and fractures, during rambunctious activity. Meanwhile, older pets are more likely to experience the claw-specific effects of inactivity, hormonal changes, orthopedic problems and immune-mediated disorders.

5. Treating toenail issues isn’t always easy. As if it weren't enough that paws are super sensitive under normal circumstances, treating painful claw conditions can be nearly impossible for some pets. That explains why veterinarians often resort to anesthetizing pets for what may seem like even the simplest of claw problems.


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