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Cat Dandruff: What You Need to Know About Causes and Treatments

Cat Dandruff: What You Need to Know About Causes and Treatments

5 min read

Our felines are normally expert groomers, so you might be surprised to see dandruff on your cat’s coat and bedding. Skin cells are constantly being replaced as old ones die, so it’s perfectly normal for small amounts of cat dandruff to be present.

However, if you notice more white flakes than usual, or dandruff accompanied by hair loss and/or red skin, it’s best to contact your vet who will be able to advise you on whether your pet needs a thorough examination.

But at what point should you get in touch with your vet? And can dandruff be normal in cats? Here is what you need to know about dandruff in cats as well as some possible treatments your vet might recommend.

Which symptoms to look out for in cats with dandruff?

Dandruff can be easily recognised as the white flakes that appear on cat fur as a result of dead skin cells shedding. A small amount of dandruff on your cat can be normal, especially in black cats where skin flakes in the fur are easier to visualise; however, if you are noticing a lot of dandruff on your feline, it may indicate that something else is going on.

If you notice your cat is producing large amounts of dandruff, or more dandruff than usual, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of other skin issues as well, by checking the skin and fur all over your cat’s body, especially around the areas where dandruff has accumulated. Ask yourself: have you noticed your cat losing more hair lately? Can you see bald patches of skin or areas where the fur appears to have thinned? Is your cat’s skin pinkish, red, scaly or thickened? Is your cat scratching their skin more than usual? And are they managing to keep up with their normal grooming routine?

As an owner, you will already know roughly what amount of dandruff your furry friend usually produces. This knowledge will help you notice changes in the health of your cat’s skin – though it’s important to note that if you see your cat every day, it can sometimes be difficult to identify gradual changes. So, if you think something doesn’t look right, it’s best to get in touch with your vet. As lthough cat dandruff doesn’t always point to a medical condition, it’s important that your vet is able to rule out health issues early on.

What causes cat dandruff?

Cat Dandruff: What You Need to Know About Causes and Treatments

Dandruff can appear for many different reasons, and it’s not just furry friends with dry skin that are affected. Cats with oily skin can also shed dead skin cells in large quantities, and some cats are more prone to flaky skin than others due to various different factors. These include:

  • Skin infections
  • Skin allergies
  • Parasites such as fleas and mites
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Behavioural problems such as anxiety
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of essential fatty acids
  • Arthritis, as this condition can make it difficult for cats to self-groom
  • Obesity as, again, this can impair a cat’s ability to groom themselves properly
  • Other illnesses preventing a cat from being able to groom themselves

Cat dandruff treatment options

Medical treatments prescribed by your vet

Your vet will often be able to identify the underlying cause of your cat’s bout of flaky skin and suggest an appropriate course of action. If your cat’s skin problems are related to fleas or other parasites, there are many different treatments available, including powders, sprays, spot-on treatments and cat flea medication – but it's best to speak to your vet about which options are best for you and your cat. Discover all the ways in which cat fleas, and other parasites that can affect a cat’s skin, can be kept at bay with our easy guide.

Infections, allergies, hormonal imbalances and other illnesses such as arthritis can also cause cat skin problems, which can lead to an accumulation of dead skin cells. If you notice your cat has a skin problem, it’s best to speak to your vet, as they will be able to recommend the most effective treatment for your cat’s condition – for example antibiotics for infections, anti-inflammatories for allergies, pain relief and/or supplements for arthritis and medications for specific hormonal conditions. However, it’s important to note that there are often several different ways to treat a particular health condition, and your vet will be able to advise you on appropriate diagnostic and treatment options. The treatments your vet recommends could be a topical, oral or injectable medication.

Changes in your cat’s diet

Black cat laying down

Food might not seem an obvious cat dandruff treatment, but our felines depend on a good intake of nutrients to keep their coats healthy and shiny. Proteins and essential fatty acids such as Omega 6 are the key ingredients to look out for.

Check out our Purina ONE Coat and Hairball cat food created to maintain healthy skin and don’t forget to discuss your pet’s diet with your vet as well. It’s amazing how much of a difference the right nutrition can make when it comes to dry skin and cat dandruff.

It’s also important to note that food itself can sometimes be the cause of a skin allergy, so if you are finding your cat’s skin is flaring up when you change their diet, or if you can’t work out why your cat has a skin problem, it’s best to speak to your vet who will be able to determine an appropriate course of action.

Tackling obesity

As mentioned previously, cats may struggle to groom themselves due to obesity. If you think your cat may be overweight, it’s best to speak to your vet, who will be able to advise on whether your cat needs to lose weight and how much they need to lose. They will also be able to suggest a suitable weight loss plan and appropriate treatment options for any weight-related health conditions, such as pain relief for arthritis.

Professional cat grooming

If your cat goes to a professional groomer, and has developed skin problems, make sure to mention this to the groomer as sometimes shampoos and lotions can cause irritation in particular individuals, so your feline may be better off with sensitive products only. There are also shampoos or lotions made specifically to help dry, flaky skin.

Worried that your cat may have an allergy? We are busting commonly-held misconceptions about cat allergens and what triggers them in our article, next.

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