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Why Are My Cat's Nails Splitting?

Cats shed the outer layers of their nails regularly. They typically remove the outer layer by scratching something, leaving behind a small claw-shaped nail. This also reveals a shiny, sharp new claw. However, this is sometimes not the case, and your cat's nails might splinter. Here, our Perry vets explain other reasons your cat's nails may split.

Why a Cat's Nails May Be Splitting

You may be concerned to notice your cat's nails becoming brittle, thin, or oddly shaped. While there are harmless enough reasons that this may occur, other potential causes might require your vet's attention, such as the ones listed below. 

1. Shedding the Old Nail 

When your cat's nail grows past the point that it will be supplied with enough blood, the surrounding layer starts to crack to allow room for the new nail to grow. Each claw's nail splits and falls every two to three months, on average. the old layer either falls off on its own or is most likely removed when your cat scratches an object. 

2. Bad Nail Clippers 

When trimming a cat's nails, we need to take a different approach than we do when trimming our own. However, just like we can easily injure ourselves if we use blunt tools, the pressure from the clippers' blades can break and split a cat's nails, causing it to bleed. Left untreated, such tears can lead to infection. So, keep your clippers clean at all times and replace them when they grow dull. 

3. Old Age 

You may notice several changes in your cat as they age. For example, they may forget to groom themselves or have trouble using the litter box. Scratching posts may also become less important to them, causing them to neglect their nails. This can lead to split ends, overgrown nails, discomfort, and increased avoidance of their scratching post. 

Feline osteoarthritis is a joint degenerative condition in which the normal cushion provided by the joint's cartilage degrades. The bones in the joint eventually rub together, causing reduced ability to move the joint, formation of bone spurs, pain, or other changes in and around the joint. This discomfort can make it challenging for cats to trim their nails. 

That's why it's important to start introducing your cat to nail clippers as soon as possible. As they grow older, they'll have no issues trusting you with their paws, and you won't have to worry about consequences for their nails if they stop the scratching process entirely. 

4. Nail Biting

Cats clean their paws and nails when they groom on a daily basis. If they find a split nail, they'll chew an dbite it to allow the new nail to grow. However, if you notice your cat chronically biting their nails, this can be due to a potential issue, the most common of which is ringworm. This fungal infection can cause dandruff and irritation. Excessive grooming is also a common symptom of anxiety in cats, as is intense chewing on their nails. 

5. Poor Health

Finding a split nail isn't always bad unless it happens frequently. The condition of your cat's nails can also indicate its overall health. A broken or injured limb can make it difficult for your cat to scratch his nails on a cat tree. A medical condition that kept them sedentary for an extended period could leave their nails untrimmed and full.

The condition of your cat's nails, coat, and skin may also reflect its nutritional status. Dietary protein is used to develop and maintain muscle, skin, fur, nails, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and more. Making sure your kitty gets enough and healthy food will benefit them in all aspects of their life.

6. Nailbed Disorders

If your cat's nails are splitting or do not appear healthy, it is critical to examine every inch of the claws and the paw itself. A traumatic injury can cause nail disease; for example, they may have broken the nail because they were stuck to a surface they were scratching or they had a bad landing. It's also possible that a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection caused the nail splitting.

Several nail diseases can cause splitting, including Onycholysis, which causes the nail to separate from the underlying structures. While nail bed tumors are uncommon in cats, other types of cancer may spread to the nail bed. This is why we must monitor our cat's overall health, from the tips of their ears to the sharp tips of their nails, and schedule annual exams to have a vet check on their physical health.

When should I be worried about my cat's nails splitting?

If you're worried about your cat's claws, watch for behavioral changes, which usually occur when a cat is in pain. Physical discomfort can cause different reactions in different cats; some may become quiet and avoid contact, while others may begin mewing more than usual. There are obvious physical signs, such as limping, licking their paws, or keeping them tucked in at all times.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are your cat's nails splitting or splintering? Contact our Perry vets today to book an exam.

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Looking for quality veterinary care in a warm and friendly atmosphere? Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital in Perry, GA is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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