A‌ ‌Case‌ ‌of‌ ‌Plasma‌ ‌Cell‌ ‌Pododermatitis‌

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Toe beans. Is there anything cuter than your cat’s little feet? Didn’t think so. So when conditions that affect them arise, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. In this article, we will discuss a rare condition called Plasma Cell Pododermatitis. Read below to find out more!

What is Feline Plasmacytic Pododermatitis?

First, let’s discuss plasma cells. Plasma cells are a part of the body’s natural immune system and response. They are a type of white blood cell that secrete antibodies in response to an invasion or infection. Because this condition involves immune defense, it is considered immune-mediated. With this condition, plasma cells rush to the paw pads in response to inflammation or infection. 

Plasma cells, Plasma‌ ‌Cell‌ ‌Pododermatitis Case - I Love Veterinary

Transmission and Causes of the Disease

Plasma Cell pododermatitis can affect any cat (it is rare in dogs) of any breed, age, or gender. The exact cause is unknown; however, many veterinarians think it is related to the immune system or an allergic reaction. 

It is also thought to be correlated to cats diagnosed with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). The fact that the treatment mainly targets the immune system leads to an inclination that it is mostly related to a flaw in the immune system or an overreaction to it. The nature of this disease does not make it contagious. However, if the underlying issue is from FIV, then it’s highly contagious. Vaccinations given by your veterinarian will help decrease the risk of FIV. Keeping your cats indoors only will also heavily decrease the chance of them contracting FIV. 

Cat in living room, Plasma Cell Pododermatitis - I Love Veterinary

What are the Clinical Features of this Ailment?

The paw pads are the target of this condition. It is also known as “pillow foot” because of the swelling it instills in the paw pads. Some other clinical signs include:

  • Misshapen paw pad
  • Scaly paw surface
  • Ulcerated paw pads
  • Most commonly, the large metatarsal and metacarpal paw pads are affected; however, it can affect the smaller ones too 
  • Lameness when ulcerations are present
  • Spongey, dough-like texture
  • Violet colored paw pads
  • Licking/chewing feet

More rare clinical signs are:

Cat with Stomatitis, Plasma Cell Pododermatitis Case - I Love Veterinary

How is the Diagnosis Confirmed?

The diagnosis is pretty straight forward. Your veterinarian is going to take a history and perform a physical examination. Complete blood cell counts can be performed and will usually show elevated lymphocytes and sometimes Hypergammaglobulinaemia (elevated amount of immunoglobulins in your cat’s blood resulting from infection, an autoimmune disorder, or malignancy.) 

Just by looking at the paw pads, your veterinarian will be able to make a list of rule outs. They will want to take FineNneedle Aspirate (FNA) or biopsy in extreme cases. The FNA will show plasma cells confirming the diagnosis. A biopsy of the affected paw pad is the only way to truly establish the diagnosis, but it is rarely necessary. Your cat should also be screened for FIV and checked for other concurrent diseases. Other differentials include fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, and neoplasia (cancer). 

Which Treatment Options are Available?

The primary course of treatment with Plasma Cell Pododermatitis is to try and suppress the immune system, so it stops infiltrating the paw pads. The more severe the paw pads are, the more treatment is needed. 

Some paw pad swelling will decrease on its own, and some need steroids because they are so severely irritated. For severely ulcerated paw pads where the underlying paw pad is damaged, surgery may be required. If your cat is severely lame due to ulcerations, then local antibiotic and bandaging may be necessary. 

Oral Doxycycline has also been used to treat any secondary infection and its immunomodulating properties. Injectable or liquid medications can be given to replace oral medications if your cat is having trouble taking the pill. It’s important to note that Doxycycline is chased with water or given hidden in food to avoid an esophageal ulcer. 

Doxycycline capsules, Plasma Cell Pododermatitis - I Love Veterinary

If your cat is suffering from Plasma Cell Pododermatitis due to an allergic reaction, there are a few treatments your vet can offer while treating the paw pads. Allergies mainly come from the environment or food. Therefore, you can run an allergy panel on your cat to pinpoint what is causing the reaction. 

You can also do a food trial to rule out ingredients that are causing a reaction. Your veterinarian may also recommend using parasite control year-round to eliminate any allergic dermatitis affecting your cat’s skin and paw pads. 

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian

It is always wise to run any concerns and ask questions to your veterinarian. Some common questions are listed below:

  • Is my cat in pain? 
  • Does he/she need pain medication?
  • Do I need to treat the paws with anything?
  • Should I use special litter?
  • How often should my cat get bloodwork and have their feet checked?
  • If going on medication, how long is it for? 
  • Do we have to rule out other diseases and causes?


The prognosis for Plasma Cell Pododermatitis is usually good. Of course, that all depends on the severity of the disease. If renal disease is present, then the prognosis can be guarded. Cat’s paws that respond to treatment usually regain normal shape and return to their proper texture. 

Cat paws, Plasma Cell Pododermatitis - I Love Veterinary

Medication can be safely given over long periods of time, and there are options to taper off other ones. The medication given is generally safe and can be restarted if your cat has a regression. Surgical procedures do complicate the prognosis, but even then, with proper post-operational treatment and care, your cat should do just fine. Make sure to always consult with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you may have along the way. 


Keeping your cat safely indoors and vaccinated can help eliminate the chance of them coming down with this disease. However, because it is mainly thought to be an immune response, there is no real prevention method. 

Yearly visits and blood work can help keep you out of the dark about your cat’s health status. Should any problem arise, you will be more aware of it if you are on top of your cat’s health.

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Jaclyn is a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) who has a bachelors degree in journalism. Combining her two interests of writing, and veterinary medicine is a true passion. Jaclyn has already created her own blog called The Four Legged Nurse. She is blessed with two children, a wonderful husband, and four devoted fur babies. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, reading, and riding horses.