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Why are my cat's nails splitting?

Cats regularly shed the outer layers of their nails by scratching something and leaving a small claw-shaped nail behind, revealing the shiny and sharp new claw beneath. However, your cat's nails might split for reasons other than shedding. Today, our Orlando vets will discuss other potential causes of nail splitting in your cat.

Noticing thin or misshapen nails on your cat can be concerning. Some reasons for this issue are harmless, but others demand our attention. Let's explore 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 on average every two to three months. The old layer either falls off on its own or is most likely removed by your cat's scratching.

2. Bad Nail Clippers

Trimming a cat's nails differs from trimming our own; using dull tools can cause injury. Blunt blades may split, break, or bleed the nail, potentially leading to infection if left unattended. To prevent this, always maintain clean clippers and replace them when they become dull.

3. Old Age

As your cat ages, you may observe them struggling to use the litterbox, forgetting to groom themselves, and showing less interest in scratching posts. Neglecting their nails can lead to split ends, excessively long nails, discomfort, and an increased tendency to avoid scratching posts.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that causes the gradual deterioration of the cartilage cushion in the joints. Eventually, the joint bones start to rub against each other, resulting in pain, restricted joint mobility, and the development of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint. This discomfort can hinder cats from effectively maintaining their nail length.

This underscores the importance of introducing nail clippers to your cat as early as possible. As they age, they will readily trust you with their paws and won't need to worry about the repercussions of neglecting their nails and abandoning scratching altogether!

4. Nail-Biting

Cats actively maintain their paw and nail hygiene through daily grooming sessions. If they encounter a split nail, they promptly chew and bite it to facilitate the growth of a new one. Various underlying health issues can lead to chronic nail biting in cats, with the most prevalent being ringworm—a fungal infection known for causing skin irritation and dandruff. Another telltale sign of anxiety in cats is excessive grooming, often accompanied by intense nail chewing.

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 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.

Furthermore, your cat's nails, coat, and skin condition can provide insights into its nutritional state. Dietary protein plays a crucial role in building and maintaining muscle, skin, fur, nails, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and more. Ensuring that your kitty receives a sufficient and nutritious diet will positively impact every aspect of their life.

6. Nailbed Disorders

If your cat has split nails or seems unhealthy, inspecting both the claws and the paw thoroughly is crucial. A traumatic injury can lead to nail disease; for instance, your cat might have broken the nail while getting stuck to a surface they were scratching or experiencing a rough landing. Additionally, nail splitting could result from 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 we must monitor our cat's overall health, from the tips of their ears to the sharp tips of their nails.

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

If you're worried about your cat's claws, watch for any 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 you concerned about your cat's nails and paws? Contact our Orlando vet today for a consultation.

Caring for Pets in Orlando

Caring for Pets in Orlando

East Orlando Animal Hospital is always happy to welcome new clients to our full-service animal hospital. We look forward to meeting you and your pet!

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