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Why are my cat's nails splitting?

Cats' nails grow continuously. As they do, the old layer peels away which is why we find them always scratching at everything. But what causes split nails? Today, our Grass Valley vets share the reasons behind your cat's nails splitting and when you should bring them to the vet to have their paws examined.

What causes cats' nails to begin splintering?

If you are looking at your cat's paws and begin to notice that their nails have been splitting you may wonder what the cause is and if it is serious. 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. The Old Nail is Shedding

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. Your Cat's Nail Clippers Aren't Sharp

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 is Setting In

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 joint degenerative condition in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joints degrades. The bones in the joint eventually rub against each other, causing pain, reduced joint movement, and the formation of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint. This discomfort can make it difficult for cats to trim their nails.

By introducing nail clippers to your cat when they are still young, you can help to instill vital hygiene from the beginning. 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. Your Cat is Biting Their Nails

Cats clean their paws and nails during their daily grooming sessions, and if they find a split nail, they will chew and bite it to allow the new nail to grow through. Chronic nail biting in cats can be caused by a variety of health issues, the most common of which is ringworm, a fungal infection that causes skin irritation and dandruff. If your cat is chewing on their nails or excessively grooming they may be experiencing anxiety. 

5. There Are Underlying Health Concerns

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

Your cat's nutritional health can also be reflected in their fur, skin, and claws. 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 healthy food will benefit them in all aspects of their life.

6. Your Cat Has a Nailbed Disorder

If you notice a split cat nail, you should spend some time thoroughly looking over their paws and nails. 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 the nail splitting was caused by a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection.

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 regular physical examinations that look at the entire body are very important.

When to Visit the Vet if Your Cat's Nails Are Splitting

If you see signs of damage to your kitty's paws or claws, you should also monitor them for any behavioral changes. Physical discomfort can cause different reactions in different cats; some may become quiet and avoid contact, while others may begin mewing more than usual.

If your cat is showing physical signs, such as limping, licking their paws, or keeping them tucked in at all times, you should contact your vet to schedule an examination.

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.

Is your cat showing signs of damage to their nails or paws? Contact our Grass Valley vet today to schedule an examination.

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Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for pets in the Grass Valley area. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment. 

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