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Home > Cats > How to Treat a Burned Cat Paw Pad: 7 Expert Tips (Vet Answer)

How to Treat a Burned Cat Paw Pad: 7 Expert Tips (Vet Answer)

poor wounds on the cat's paws

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Written by

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats are curious and fearless animals that often get into dangerous situations. There are multiple reasons that your cat may get burns on their paw pads. A burn is a type of skin injury that can be classified into four types, depending on the cause: thermal, chemical, electrical, or mechanical. It could be that a pot of boiling water or a pan with hot oil on the stove has spilled on them, or they put their paws on a radiator or another hot surface. Open fire, corrosive substances, or chewing on wires are other sources that could cause problems for your cat.

As with humans, burns in cats have multiple degrees depending on the layers of skin affected. Second- and third-degree burns are the most severe because healing takes time and they are prone to infection, and they can even lead to shock. These types of burns always require veterinary intervention.

As much as we would like to prevent these accidents, it is not always possible. But knowing how to treat your cat’s burned paw pads can help prevent complications, ease pain, and speed up healing.

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The 7 Tips to Treat a Burned Cat Paw Pad

When our pets get hurt, we may panic and not know what to do. It’s vital to remain calm in order to think clearly and determine how to help your cat in the situation. If your cat has burned one of their paw pads, here’s what you can do to help them.

1. Recognize the Clinical Signs of a Burned Paw Pad

A cat hiding under a couch
Image By: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

Cats can hide their pain and anything else that bothers them quite well. If your cat has burned their paw pad, here are the clinical signs that they will present:

  • Exhibiting lameness
  • Holding up the affected paw
  • Meowing in pain
  • Excessive licking of the affected area
  • Dry skin
  • Having a swollen, red, and/or hairless paw
  • Yellow discharge
  • Being agitated or hiding under the furniture
  • Having blisters and open wounds

2. Identify Your Cat’s Type of Burn

If you know the type of burn that your cat has, you or your vet will know what to do next regarding the proper treatment. Regardless of the type, all burns need immediate medical attention.

The types of burns that a cat can suffer are:
  • Thermal burns — These occur when cats come into contact with a hot object, boiling water, hot oil, radiators, steam, flames, or hot pavement1.
  • Electrical burns — These are most often produced when cats chew electrical wires, but they can also occur if they step with wet paws on an uninsulated cable.
  • Chemical burns — Substances such as bleach, drain cleaners, paint thinner, or battery acid can be corrosive and cause burns.
  • Mechanical burns — These are caused by friction; for example, when a rope or carpet rubs against their skin.

3. Assess the Degree of Your Cat’s Burn

Burns in cats have three degrees of severity:

  • First-degree burns — These are the mildest in terms of severity, affecting the superficial layer of the skin (epidermis). They may produce redness, pain, dryness, desquamation, or slight swelling but no blisters. They heal quickly, usually within a few days.
  • Second-degree burns — These are of increased severity, also affecting the deeper layers of the skin. These are painful and cause blisters. Second-degree burns can take several weeks to heal.
  • Third-degree burns — These are full-thickness burns, also affecting the subcutaneous layer. They result in tissue necrosis and the formation of black spots, crusts, and bloodless lesions. These burns usually leave visible scars. The severity also depends on how extensive the area is They usually require surgical treatment, like skin grafts4.
cat paw
Image By: Nile, Pixabay

4. Apply First Aid

As long as the burn on your cat’s paw pad is very superficial, you can apply first aid at home and monitor their progress for the next couple of hours. If the burn has resulted in blisters, that means your cat has suffered from second-degree or partial thickness burn, and you need to take them to the vet immediately. Remember not to burst the blisters, as it can lead to infection.

Here’s what you can do:
  • Take your pet away from whatever has burned them.
  • Take into consideration that your pet might be in severe pain, so handle them gently and protect yourself from possible scratches.
  • Contact your vet immediately, regardless of the size or severity of the burn.
  • If the burn is thermal, cool the area down by running cold water over it for at least 20 minutes.
  • If the burn is chemical, let a large amount of lukewarm water flow over the area.
  • Check for any other injuries or clinical signs, such as difficulty breathing.
  • Do not apply ointments or creams to your cat’s burnt area, as these can do more harm than good.
  • Do not use ice or ice water.
  • Dry off the burned area.
  • Don’t let your cat touch the wound.
  • If available, carefully place a sterile, non-adhesive dressing over your cat’s burned paw pad to keep it protected until you get to the vet.

The biggest problem related to burns is that they destroy the protective layer of the skin and favor the development of bacteria. In some cases, the infection can be fatal.


5. Go to the Vet

The treatment of your cat’s burn will be instituted by the vet, depending on the severity of the wound. Most first-degree burns can be treated in one visit, with the rest of the treatment and care being done at home. They usually heal in 3–5 days. In the case of second-degree burns, hospitalization, wound care, painkillers, and antibiotics will be needed to prevent infection.

In the case of third-degree burns, shock may occur because the injuries are deep. Hospitalization can last several weeks. In addition to antibiotics and pain medication, the vet may recommend surgical treatment, such as skin grafts or amputation in severe cases.

Fluffy persian cat sitting at the examined by vet
Image By: Beach Creatives, Shutterstock

6. Watch Out for Complications

The most common complications are:

Any changes that you notice in your cat after a burn should be discussed with the veterinarian.


7. Prevent Future Accidents

Most burns are accidents in the true sense of the word and cannot be prevented. However, there are some measures you can take to protect your cat from certain dangers.

Here is what you can do to help reduce the risk:

  • Do not allow your cat to climb on the kitchen counter or stove.
  • Supervise your cat when you’re using electric heaters and other hot items or are in potential situations that could cause burns.
  • Keep corrosive substances away from your cat.
  • Do not allow your cat to chew electrical wires or play with uninsulated cables.
tabby shorthair cat reaching for buttons on the oven in the kitchen
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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Summary

Unfortunately, not all accidents can be prevented. Cats can burn their paw pads on hot surfaces, get splashed with boiling water or hot oil, touch corrosive substances, or suffer electrical burns. Regardless of the type of burn, contact the veterinarian immediately. Cool the burned area with water. Do not use ice or ice water. Tap dry the area well and cover it with a sterile, non-adhesive dressing. The veterinarian will assess the severity of the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment.


Featured Image Credit: Phatara, Shutterstock

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