If you’ve ever shared a home with a pet, tuned into Animal Planet, or even taken a stroll through the dog park, you know that animals and humans have a lot in common. Our cuddly friends also enjoy spending time outdoors, eating cookies, and taking cozy afternoon naps, but do they suffer from the same podiatric struggles? Anyone who’s ever suffered from an ingrown toenail knows that it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. This condition can make daily activities difficult. Fortunately, the more you know about your podiatric health, the better you can care for your feet. In the following blog, Austin podiatrist, Dr. Jeffery LaMour, goes over ingrown toenail basics, explains which animals get them, and how we assist you.
What is an Ingrown Toenail?
When you imagine an ingrown toenail, you may think of bent or mangled toe. In fact, the condition is much subtler, but no less serious. Mayo Clinic explains: “Ingrown toenails are a common condition in which the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh. The result is pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. Ingrown toenails usually affect your big toe.” This condition can be unsightly, uncomfortable, and unhealthy, putting the toe at risk for other conditions, such as infection. According to WebMD, “people with curved or thick nails are most susceptible,” as well as those with “an injury, poorly fitting shoes, or improper grooming of the feet.” It’s easy to see how animals might be vulnerable to these conditions, since they often have thicker, curvier nails, their play may lead to injuries, and it’s not always easy to keep their feet perfectly groomed.
In addition, it’s worth noting that while ingrown toenails may be annoying and certainly merit treatment for most, patients with “diabetes, vascular problems, or numbness in the toes need to be aggressive in treating and preventing ingrown toenails because they can lead to serious complications, including the risk of losing a limb.” Similarly, animals who are already dealing with health issues may be more at risk for complications if they suffer from ingrown toenails.
Which Creatures Get Them?
The most basic answer to “Do animals get ingrown toenails, too?” is a resounding “yes!” Of course, the next question we know you’ll have is: “which ones?” Generally, any animals with feet similar to ours could get ingrown toenails.
For example, both cats and dogs are susceptible to this condition. Petful explains that ingrown toenails do occur occasionally with these furry friends, particularly with cats. Felines’ claws can begin to grow into their pads. Petful points out that “pesky dewclaws” are often to blame. “Even if you aren’t diligent about nail trims, most pets will wear their nails down from normal walking so as to avoid an ingrown nail. But the dewclaws (nails comparable to our thumbs) don’t hit the pavement—and they especially need trimming.” To add to the risk of the dewclaws, Petful notes: “cats in particular can be born with common congenital toe anomalies, which can cause problems.” These abnormalities may increase the chances of an ingrown claw.
Ingrown toenails don’t just affect domesticated cats and dogs. Cheetahs and foxes, wolves and leopards alike can also be affected by this condition. The similarities between humans and primates suggest that animals such as monkeys might also be prone to ingrown toenails, although this is less documented.
Treating an Ingrown Toenail
Although widespread, an ingrown toenail can cause significant discomfort. If you’re suffering from this condition, Dr. LaMour and our team can perform a basic, outpatient procedure to remove part of the nail, then bandage your toe so it can heal and grow back properly. At our Austin podiatry practice, we only work with human patients, but Petful similarly recommends seeking professional veterinary assistance for any animal with symptoms of an ingrown toenail: “the vet may have to remove a nail, treat a deeply infected wound, or take a biopsy.”