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Wellness

Cat Dandruff: Why Your Cat Has It & How To Get Rid Of It

While your feline friend might seem unfazed a majority of the time, the reality is that they are still susceptible to ailments that humans have to deal with, too. One of those things is dandruff — the visible white flakes that come off your cat’s skin, usually when their fur is matted or otherwise unhealthy. If left untreated, feline dandruff is not just unsightly; it can also irritate your cat’s skin, causing irritation and discomfort.

Luckily, if your cat is facing dandruff, there are several things that you can do to significantly help them. Figuring out why your cat has developed this skin condition in the first place is usually helpful when attempting to decipher why it occurs.

There are several reasons why your cat may develop this condition, and there are several options for treating it as well. Of course, it’s best to get a vet’s professional opinion regarding your cat’s dandruff situation before you try anything on your own. 

Read on to learn more about what causes cat dandruff and how you can potentially treat it.

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What does my cat have dandruff?

If your cat is experiencing dandruff, there are a variety of reasons why this skin problem might have developed. Figuring out what causes dandruff can be essential to fixing the ailment.

“Cats sometimes will develop what’s called an unthrifty coat,” Dr. Deirdre Frey, founder of the house veterinary practice Vet At Your Door, explains. “The coat may look unkempt and have some dandruff.” 

There are several reasons why your cat might have an unkempt coat that results in dandruff. These reasons range, so it’s critical that you have a vet check your pet out to ensure that the cause of dandruff isn’t severe or hazardous to your pet’s health. 

Dandruff can sometimes be attributed to something relatively simple, such as feline obesity that leads to difficulties grooming away dead skin cells and excess hair. Allergies can also be responsible for causing your pet to experience dandruff. In addition, a build-up of the undercoat can be to blame. Your pet might also simply be experiencing a case of dry skin,  which Dr. Frey says is common in the drier winter months.

One of the reasons why it is so vital to see a vet in the case that your cat has dry skin is because sometimes, there is a more severe reason why the dandruff has come about. As mentioned prior, another potential cause is an allergic reaction, which can be quite serious. These reactions are usually connected to a food that your cat consumed. Malnutrition is another potential catalyst for dandruff.

More serious dry skin solutions

Those are not the only causes of feline dandruff, however. Sometimes the culprit is something even more severe, which is why getting a vet’s expert opinion is necessary. An attack from parasites, such as ringworm, lice, or ticks, can lead a cat to suffer from dandruff. A bacterial or fungal infection can also be to blame. A yeast infection might also be the cause.

Unfortunately, there is also the potential that your cat is experiencing dandruff because they have a serious, larger condition such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or certain types of feline cancers. 

There is also a condition referred to as “walking dandruff” that your cat might experience due to the presence of the Cheyletiella mite. If you use flea control products, this mite is typically not a problem.

How can I treat my cat's dandruff?

If your cat has an unkempt coat (and consequently dandruff as well), it’s important to determine whether there are any underlying causes — have their grooming habits declined because they’re not feeling well? Or are there other outside factors that may be giving your cat the shedding of flaky skin associated with dandruff?

The best way to achieve this is by seeing a vet. They will be able to help you deduct what the culprit causing the feline dandruff is. You should also take note if your cat’s behavior has altered in any way aside from the presence of dandruff or if they seem to be acting like themselves. 

Of course, just because your cat has dandruff does not necessarily mean your pet is having some serious or life-threatening problem. Still, it’s better — both for your peace of mind and your feline — to be sure. 

If your cat’s behavior hasn’t changed or they seem otherwise normal, the first step may be to try some simple fixes to see if that relieves their dandruff problem.

Here are some of the steps that you can take to help solve your cat’s dandruff situation:

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Brush and bathe your cat

One of the simplest ways that you can potentially improve your feline’s dandruff situation is by brushing them. Not only does this improve the health of your cat’s fur because it spreads oils around evenly, it consequently can help prevent dandruff. 

In addition, brushing your pet’s coat regularly helps your cat feel good and keeps their coat shiny. Think of brushing your cat’s coat like a massage. Another way that you can potentially help your cat’s dandruff situation is by bathing them.

Of course, this might not be possible depending on your pet’s temperament. But if your cat is on the easygoing side, try giving your beloved feline a bath with some hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner. If your vet recommends it, try a specialty cat dandruff shampoo, but be wary of overuse.

Invest in a humidifier for your home

If the air in your home is dry, you could also try getting a humidifier for your cat. If your cat is experiencing dandruff as a result of dry skin, this can effectively help solve the moisture problem. 

 Your cat’s skin will thank you if you make sure their living space has a humidity level of around 50%. You can also combine this tactic with some of the others mentioned to ensure that you took a thorough approach to solving the problem.

Change your cat's diets or add supplements

One of the reasons that cats experience dandruff is if they also have allergies. “Cats manifest allergies through their skin, not their upper respiratory system like us,” Dr. Frey explains.

“Most allergies are food-related, primarily to the protein in the food, such as chicken or beef. If you're suspicious of a food allergy, you could try finding a limited ingredient food with a single, different protein than the one that he is on currently.”

Your vet can help you figure out which products your cat might be having an allergic reaction to and, more importantly, help provide your pet with some much-needed relief. If allergies are not to blame for your cat’s coat, you might consider providing your cat with supplements that can help them maintain shiny, sleek fur.

Dr. Frey suggests giving your cat some Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with your cat’s coat health by giving them more of the essential oils they need to keep their fur in good shape. If your cat is experiencing nutritional deficiencies, ask your vet about other vitamins or food products your cat would benefit from.

There is a chance that the dandruff symptoms are caused by your cat not having enough water. Hydration is a critical part of a healthy coat. Perhaps your cat would benefit from a drinking fountain or even wet food.

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Talk to a vet about your cat's dry skin

The most important thing to keep in mind is that if your cat is experiencing an unkempt coat or your cat has signs of dandruff, you should speak to a vet first. This is because there are some more severe reasons why cats can develop this condition. In the unfortunate instance that your cat is suffering from one of these, it’s better to catch the condition sooner than later. 

“To figure out if there is an underlying reason for the unkempt coat, have your cat seen by a veterinarian,” Dr. Frey recommends. “Your vet will do a good physical exam and may recommend doing lab work to look for underlying causes.” 

It’s a good idea to see a veterinarian regardless if your pet seems to be acting normally otherwise. Of course, if your cat is acting sickly overall, the appointment should be even more urgent. This is also the case if your cat also has curious symptoms in addition to dandruff.

You always want to make sure something else like ringworm or diabetes isn’t affecting your cat’s health. And if an outside cause is, getting to the bottom of what is causing the dandruff sooner is always better. 

Regardless of the cause of your cat’s dandruff, your cat will appreciate that you took the time to care for them and their coat. A healthy cat is a happier cat, and a happier cat usually makes for a happier human, which is good for everyone.

CAT DANDRUFF SOURCES: 

Don't Brush Off Feline Dandruff | Texas A & M University 

5 Tips for How to Get Rid of Cat Dandruff and Dog Dandruff | Pet MD

What to Do About Your Cat's Dandruff | Cat Dandruff | Veterinarian Germantown, MD  

Flaky Feline: How to Treat Cat Dandruff | Union Lake Pet Services 

Acute Starvation and Subsequent Refeeding Affect Lymphocyte Subsets and Proliferation in Cats | Oxford Academic

Understanding cat dandruff | ROYAL CANIN ®

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