Q: My sweet cat, Meeka, has been limping off and off for a few weeks. Yesterday, I noticed some bloody footprints in the house, so I took her to my vet. The vet said her footpads are abnormal and needs a biopsy because she thinks Meeka has a plasma cell disease. Her feet do seem like they hurt more than they did a few weeks ago. Can you tell me the biopsy is looking for? L.P, Farragut
A: If Meeka has abnormal, painful, and bleeding feet for several weeks, a biopsy seems reasonable. Although disease of the footpads in cats is uncommon, it certainly is painful when it does happen. Biopsies of the footpads will be been done under sedation and will be sent to a laboratory for analysis called histopathology. The pathologist will be looking for evidence of bacterial or fungal disease, cancer, severe hypersensitivity reactions, inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, or a disease called plasma cell pododermatitis.
Although uncommon, I also would be concerned about a condition called plasma cell pododermatitis. The biopsy can detect this. The condition is an inflammatory disease that typically affects more than one footpad. The pads can appear swollen, bruised, and even ulcerate and bleed. Affected pads also feel different; they often feel soft and doughy, hence the nickname ‘pillow foot’.
All the causes of plasma cell pododermatitis are not fully understood, but researchers believe severe allergies could be a factor. Autoimmune disease could also play a role is this condition; this is when the cat’s own immune overreacts to itself and against itself.
Most cats with this disease require lifelong treatment. Your veterinarian will likely speak to you regarding medications for allergies, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and drugs to suppress the immune system.
Since Meeka is painful, the biopsy will get you an answer so that the right treatment(s) can be started quickly. Best of luck to you both – I hope she feels better soon.
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