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Why are my cat's nails splitting?

Cats regularly shed the outer layers of their nails. They typically remove the outer layer by scratching something and leaving a small claw-shaped nail behind, revealing the shiny and sharp new claw beneath. However, this is sometimes not the case, and your cat's nails could be splintering for other reasons. Today, our Los Angeles vets will go over other reasons your cat's nails might split.

Causes of Nail Splits in Cats

It can be concerning to notice your cat's nails becoming thin or misshapen. While there are reasons that are harmless enough, there are other possible causes that require our attention. Here are some reasons why your cat's nails might be splitting.

1. Shedding The Old Nail

When your cat's nail grows past the blood supply, the surrounding layer begins to crack to make room for the new nail. 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 by your cat's scratching.

2. Bad Nail Clippers

Cutting a cat's nail is not the same as cutting our own, and we can also injure ourselves if we use blunt tools. The pressure from the blade can split, break, and bleed the nail, and if left untreated, such tears can lead to infection. So, keep the clippers clean at all times and replace them when they lose their sharpness.

3. Old Age

As your cat ages, you may notice that they have difficulty using the litterbox, forget to groom themselves, and scratching posts become less important to them. This neglect of the nails can result in split ends, overgrown nails, discomfort, and increased scratching post avoidance.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in which the joint's normal cartilage cushion degrades. The bones of the joint eventually rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint movement, and the formation of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint. Cats may struggle to trim their nails due to the discomfort.

That's why it's critical to start introducing nail clippers to your cat as soon as possible. As they get older, they'll have no problem trusting you with their paws, and they won't have to worry about nail consequences if they stop scratching their nails entirely!

4. Nail-Biting

Cats clean their paws and nails on a daily basis, and if they discover a split nail, they will chew and bite it to allow the new nail to grow in. Chronic nail biting in cats can be caused by a number of medical conditions, the most common of which is ringworm, a fungal infection that causes skin irritation and dandruff. Excessive grooming, as well as intense nail chewing, are both common signs of anxiety in cats.

5. Poor Health

Finding a split nail isn't always a bad thing, unless it occurs frequently. The state of your cat's nails can also be a sign of its overall health. A broken or injured limb can make it difficult for your cat to scratch its nails on the cat tree. A medical condition that causes them to be sedentary for an extended period of time may result in untrimmed and full nails.

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 to be in good health, you should inspect every inch of its claws, as well as the paw itself. Nail disease can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as breaking the nail while scratching or landing poorly. A fungal, bacterial, or viral infection may also have 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.

How to Treat Split Nails in Cats

Treatment for split nails in cats involves trimming the affected nail to prevent further splitting and infection. If the split is severe or causing pain, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for proper care and potential medication.

Preventing Split Nails in Cats

To prevent split nails in cats, it is important to regularly trim their nails to keep them at a healthy length. Additionally, providing scratching posts and other appropriate surfaces for your cat to scratch on can help prevent their nails from splitting. 

When to Visit a Vet For Your Cat's Split Nails

It is important to visit a vet for a cat's split nails if the nail is bleeding, causing the cat pain, or if there are signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge. Additionally, if the split nail is not healing on its own within a few days, it is best to seek veterinary care to prevent further complications.

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 you concerned about your cat's nails and paws? Contact our Los Angeles vet today for a consultation.

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