Cat & Dog Ingrown Nail Removal and Treatment

In humans, an ingrown nail occurs when the edge of a nail curves and grows into the surrounding skin. This causes swelling, pain and tenderness. Sometimes, the affected nail can become infected.

A much similar phenomenon can occur in dogs and cats. Since pain will also be present, treating ingrown nails in pets can be particularly difficult. You may have to involve your veterinarian.

In this article, we look at the causes, symptoms and available solutions to ingrown nails in dogs and cats. The information provided here is not meant to replace any instructions provided by a veterinarian.

What causes cat and dog ingrown nail?

The main cause of cat and dog ingrown nail is the curling back of untrimmed nails. Outdoor dogs and cats constantly have their nails trimmed by Mother Nature. As for indoor pets, the same may not happen. Your dog or cat can suffer a broken or split nail. If the nail is not trimmed, it may curl back and pierce the flesh, causing an ingrown nail.

Old age can also result in ingrown nails. Again, this is more likely to happen if trimming is not done. Older pets have longer nails which can easily grow long enough to pierce the flesh.


Pain and discomfort are the main symptoms of dog and cat ingrown nail. There will also be swelling and tenderness. On close inspection, you will notice an unusually long or abnormally growing nail. The ingrown portion may be hidden by flesh. If the ingrown nail is infected, pus may be present.

Dog and cat ingrown nail removal

If your pet is used to trimming, you may succeed in removing an ingrown nail on your own. If not, you may want to involve your vet. Ingrown nails are fairly painful and sometimes require sedation. Below are basic dog and cat ingrown nail removal steps.


You will most probably need some help with restraining your pet before the operation. You can try restraining the pet on a table and stand on the opposite side to the foot you are about to operate on. Place one of your hands on the pet’s neck to keep the head resting on the table. Another option is to have the pet lay on his/her side or kneel on the floor next to the pet and act like you are hugging him/her to your chest.

As you can see, it is easier to have someone helping you. Otherwise, you may be forced to muzzle your pet.


There are various types of nail clippers you can use. For a large dog ingrown nail, use a guillotine type of scissors. Ordinary nail clippers or even a pair of blunt scissors can still get the job done unless your pet is quite large. The trimming process is straightforward. Once the pet is restrained and ingrown nail identified, hold the nail clippers with your most active hand and cut the claw where it has penetrated flesh. Remember that your pet will still need his/her claws, so leave him enough of it. There may be a bit of pain when the claw is cut and there may be some bleeding. Your pet is likely to flinch, so be prepared for that. Consider watching a video illustration on how to take out an ingrown nail in dogs or cats.


A piece of your pet’s claw will be stuck in his/her pad. Use your fingers or tweezers to get it out. Ensure that the tweezers are blunt tipped to avoid piercing your pet’s pad. Once done, use an antiseptic to clean affected paw. This will help avoid infection. There may be a bit of bleeding, but that should not make you alarmed.

Dog and cat ingrown nail removal cost

What is the average dog or cat ingrown nail removal cost if you decide to have it done by a professional?

It is hard to put an actual figure to the cost of having a professional get rid of an ingrown nail from your pet. The best thing is to call and ask them.

Your vet will likely perform a full vet examination and clip the ingrown nail as part of the examination. In this case, the total cost will include that of clipping the nail. Average cost can be anywhere from $30 – $200.

A personal vet may include the cost in an annual checkup price. If you are only interested in getting the ingrown nail clipped, the cost may be about $10 or even less.

Average cost will be affected by factors such as need for antibiotics, sedation and aftercare services. Vet services are particularly important if your pet is not used to trimming.

How to prevent ingrown nails in dogs and cats

Ingrown nails can cause your pet a lot of pain and discomfort. Luckily, there are ways to prevent them.

The most important prevention measure is regular trimming. For indoor pets, it is recommended that routine trimming be done after every 28-40 days. Make sure to just trim the tip. If you go too deep, you will end up with an irritated pet with a bleeding foot pad.

If your pet’s nails are allowed to grow too long, they can easily crack or split. This may be extremely painful for him/her. It is always advisable to have a professional do the trimming. But if you’ve got the experience, the process can be done at home.

To avoid infection and relieve symptoms of ingrown nails such as swelling, try soaking your pet’s paw in water into which Epsom salts have been added. Apple cider vinegar can be used in place of Epsom salts. They help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Epsom salts and apple cider vinegar are more popular in ingrown toe nail treatment. But since the process by which ingrown nails occur is not very different in humans and animals, these home remedies may be of some help. For Epsom salt ingrown nail treatment, add ¾ cup of the salts into a bowl of water. Let your pet’s pad remain in the water for 15-20 minutes. Apple cider vinegar can be applied directly with a cotton ball or be added into water to soak in, much like Epsom salts.

If you notice widespread swelling, unceasing discomfort or pus discharge, you might want to see your vet as soon as possible. Such are signs of infection. If not treated, the infection can quickly become serious and potentially dangerous.

It is common for pets to keep licking the affected pad throughout the recovery process. A collar can help in that case. This is again why it is important to have a vet be in charge of the treatment process.

Ingrown nail treatment after surgery doesn’t require much. You only need to keep an eye on the healing process. This is to ensure that the affected pad doesn’t contract bacterial infection. If it does, call your vet. They will prescribe oral antibiotics. In humans, ingrown thumbnail treatment for example, topical antibiotic ointment is recommended even before infection occurs. This option may not be very practical for pets since it is recommended that a bandage be applied after application. We all know what will happen if you place a bandage on your pet’s pad: it’ll be gone before you know it.