Pillow Foot in Cats: Cats can suffer from a skin condition called feline plasma cell pododermatitis (PCP), which is often referred to as cat pillow foot. This condition affects the pads of the foot. The paw pads become swollen and resemble pillows as a result of plasma cells invading the flesh that makes up the pads.
Causes and Risk Factors for Pillow Foot
Pillow foot in cats can develop for several reasons. Some of the common causes and risk factors for this condition include:
1. Injury or Trauma
An injury to a cat’s paw, such as a puncture wound or laceration, can lead to swelling that causes the characteristic puffy appearance. Ligament or tendon damage may also contribute to pillow foot. Cats that go outside are more prone to injuries that could precipitate this condition.
Bacterial infections, in particular, can lead to fluid buildup in the paws that results in pillow foot. Abscesses, infected wounds, and cellulitis are possible infections that may be to blame. Fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite often accompany an infection, so monitor your cat for these symptoms if pillow foot comes on suddenly.
3. Allergic Reaction
An allergic reaction to something a cat inhaled, ingested or came into contact with can manifest as pillow foot. The puffiness is due to inflammation in the paws caused by the allergic reaction. Possible allergens include new food, medication, plants, or other environmental substances. Antihistamines or steroids may provide relief once the allergen has been identified and removed.
4. Heart or Kidney Disease
Underlying health issues like heart or kidney disease can contribute to fluid retention and swelling in the paws. In these cases, pillow foot may be accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing, decreased urination, or lethargy. Diagnosing and properly managing the disease is important to reducing swelling and discomfort.
Excess weight puts more stress on a cat’s joints and paws, which can lead to swelling over time. Losing weight will take pressure off the paws and may help resolve pillow foot caused by obesity. A balanced, calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise are keys to successful weight loss in cats.
By understanding the potential causes of pillow foot in cats, you’ll be better equipped to determine the underlying reason in your own cat and get the necessary treatment. In many cases, pillow foot can be managed well once the cause has been addressed. But if swelling is severe or does not start to go down within a couple of days, it’s best to have your vet examine your cat.
Recognizing Symptoms of Pillow Foot
If you suspect your cat may have pillow foot, watch for these common symptoms:
1. Swelling of the Foot Pads
The foot pads, also known as digital pads, are the fleshy parts of a cat’s paws. With pillow foot, you may notice these pads appear pink, puffy, and swollen. The swelling can range from mild to severe, even causing the foot to appear misshapen. If caught early, the swelling may be subtle at first. Gently squeeze each toe and pad to check for any abnormal swelling or tenderness.
2. Reluctance to Walk
Cats with pillow foot will often limp or avoid walking altogether due to pain in their paws. Your cat may cry out when walking or refuse to stand. In severe cases, they may not leave their bed at all. Lack of exercise can lead to other issues, so proper treatment is important.
3. Irritation and Discomfort
In addition to swelling and limping, pillow foot causes irritation and discomfort. Your cat may lick, chew or excessively groom their paws. The swelling and inflammation leads to itching and pain. You may see raw, irritated areas from over-grooming. Provide relief by gently massaging petroleum jelly, coconut oil or CBD balm onto the paws and pads.
- Difficulty retracting claws: The swelling can make it painful and difficult for your cat to sheathe and unsheathe their claws. Their claws may stay extended or partly extended.
- Lameness: If the swelling and discomfort become severe, your cat may avoid bearing weight on the affected paw altogether. This signals advanced pillow foot and requires veterinary care.
- Bacterial infection: Without treatment, pillow foot can lead to a secondary infection. Watch for pus, foul odor, and skin lesions in addition to the other symptoms. See your vet right away for oral antibiotics.
Early diagnosis and treatment of pillow foot is key to your cat’s comfort and mobility. If you notice any symptoms of pillow foot in your feline friend, schedule an exam with your veterinarian. They can determine the underlying cause, recommend treatment, and help get your cat back on their feet again.
Treating and Managing Pillow Foot
Once pillow foot has been diagnosed in your cat, the vet will determine the underlying cause and recommend a treatment plan. The good news is, most cases of pillow foot can be managed well and secondary infections prevented with proper care and medication at home.
If there is a bacterial infection present, the vet will prescribe oral antibiotics to clear it up. Be sure to give the medication as directed for the full course to properly eliminate the infection. Antibacterial ointments or creams may also be used on the swollen paws to help fight infection topically. Keeping the paws clean and bandaged can aid the healing process.
2. Anti-inflammatory medication
To reduce swelling and ease discomfort, the vet may prescribe corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications will help bring the inflammation under control so your cat’s paws can start to heal. Follow-up vet checks during treatment may be needed to monitor how the inflammation is responding.
3. Rest and bandaging
Giving your cat’s paws time to heal is critical. Restrict activity as much as possible by confining your cat to a small room with everything it needs, like food, water, litter box, bed, and toys. Soft padded booties or bandages can protect the paws and also provide cushioning. Change and clean bandages daily to prevent irritation.
4. Dietary supplements
Certain supplements may aid the healing process and support tissue repair. Ask your vet about giving your cat glucosamine, fish oil, or vitamin E. Make sure any supplements are specifically for felines and only give the recommended dosage for your cat’s weight.
With treatment, most pillow foot cases in cats will clear up within a week or two. Be patient through the recovery process and continue to monitor your cat’s paws even after the initial swelling has gone down. Preventative measures like keeping litter boxes very clean and protecting paws from extreme heat or cold can help avoid pillow foot in the future. If symptoms do not start to improve within a few days or get worse at any time, contact your vet right away.