Cat’s are known for their self-grooming habits; they’re practically low-maintenance pets when it comes to keeping their coat and skin clean. Some domesticated felines, however, still suffer from cat dandruff - dry, flaky skin that can become more than an aesthetic nuisance if left untreated. In order to find a remedy that works best for cat dandruff, you must first figure out what causes it. Read on to learn more.
How can you tell if your cat has dandruff?
Just like humans, cats also have sebaceous glands that produce oil to keep their skin and hair nourished and healthy. When these glands produce too much oil, the skin becomes irritated and sheds more than the normal amount of dead skin cells which causes the flakiness, or cat dandruff.
Cat dandruff are white flakes or specks that fall off their skin in excessive amounts. You will also notice that their skin is dry, scaly, and even inflamed, and that they become more obsessive with self-grooming and they lick and scratch themselves vigorously. There may also be some hair loss and bald spots.
Do not confuse cat dandruff with dander; dandruff are bigger and easily visible to the naked eye, while dander is smaller and part of healthy, normal shedding.
You might not be able to immediately spot cat dandruff if your cat has a light-colored coat; if she has a thick fur and unless she has already developed some bald spots, you may also not notice right away that her skin has become dry and scaly. If you regularly comb your cat’s hair, you should also make it a habit to check her skin for any signs of irritation, especially if you see flakes on the comb when you’re grooming her.
What causes cat dandruff?
Cats need adequate amounts of certain nutrients, particularly omega-3 oils, to maintain their healthy skin and coat. A diet that is deficient in these healthy oils and other nutrients can cause dry and flaky skin.
Excessive skin dryness that results in dandruff can also be caused by lack of proper hydration, dry weather, or too much sun exposure.
Bites from skin parasites, such as fleas, mites, or worms, often lead to itchy skin. The infestation can get bad enough if it is left untreated and can lead to severe itching, excessive scratching, dry and inflamed skin, and dandruff.
Allergic or Stress Reaction
Dandruff can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction to food or environmental allergens. A stressful situation, such as a change in her environment, can upset her immune system which can affect skin health.
Excessive or Improper Grooming
Obsessive self-grooming in cats can cause skin irritation and dryness. Too much washing or using the wrong kind of shampoo is also bad for their skin health and can cause dandruff.
Certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, have dandruff as a symptom. If you notice other worrisome symptoms in addition to your cat’s dry and scaly skin, have her checked by a vet as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis.
How can you treat cat dandruff?
If your cat has dandruff, your first step should be to have her checked by a vet so that the underlying cause can be correctly identified and more serious conditions can be ruled out. Treatment for cat dandruff will depend on the cause of the dandruff.
If the cause is poor nutrition, change your cat’s diet to a better quality brand; if possible, choose a formula that is specially designed to promote healthy skin and coat and treat skin problems. A diet that is well-balanced and rich in omega-3 fatty acids is ideal for cats; you should also consider giving her fish oil supplements.
If the weather is too dry/warm/hot, make sure that your cat has access to clean and fresh water. You can also increase her fluid intake by giving her wet food. Use a humidifier indoors if the air is too dry. If your feline has a short and/or thin coat, minimize her sun exposure.
If the cause of kitty’s skin dryness and flakiness are parasites, your vet will recommend the proper treatment. If your cat has parasitic worms, the course of treatment typically involves more than medication.
If your cat has a food allergy, you will first have to identify what ingredient she’s allergic to so you can switch her to the correct formula. Treatment for allergic reactions to environmental allergens often involve antihistamines. Cats that do not respond well to sudden changes in their environment can be kept calm with a variety of calming treatments, such as treats, toys, or medications. You should also avoid changing their routines or their surroundings, but if you must, do so gradually.
Make sure you use good quality grooming products for kitty. Give her a regular and gentle brushing, and avoid using harsh products on her coat and skin.
Cat Dandruff - Final Thoughts
Cat dandruff is usually an easy problem to prevent and solve. Make sure your feline has a nutritionally-balanced diet, is adequately hydrated, and is sufficiently protected from parasites, allergens, and stressors.
Talk to your vet about giving your pet supplements to support healthy skin and hair. With the right kind of environment and with proper care, you can effectively remedy kitty’s dry and flaky skin and prevent the condition from recurring.