Dandruff is a condition where flaky skin is shed leaving white flakes and it affects cats just as much as it does humans. It is not just an aesthetic issue with cats and can in fact be symptomatic of a bigger health problem, with your cat's itching potentially leading to skin damage.
What causes cat dandruff?
Cat dandruff is usually caused by one of five things:
Diet: A lack of Omega-3 oils in your cat's diet can lead to skin problems such as dry, flaky skin and a dull coat so be sure to carefully select your cat's food.
Parasites: Common causes of dandruff or dermatologic reactions in cats are parasites like fleas, worms, or mites. Bites from fleas and mites can trigger allergic reactions on your cat’s skin, which can lead to dandruff and excessive itching. These kinds of external parasites can also cause other serious health problems if left untreated.
Hydration: Dehydration in cats can cause dandruff. f your cat isn’t getting enough water, their skin can reflect that dryness. The dehydration could also be environmental – dry air and weather can affect a cat’s skin and coat. Sunburn can also affect outdoor cats, particularly if they have a lighter-colored, thinner coat.
Allergies: Dandruff can also be the result of an allergic reaction. Food and environmental allergies and stressors can affect a cat’s skin and coat. It could be something as simple as a new routine or change in your home that’s upset your cat’s immune system. It could also be the introduction of a new food. Your veterinarian will be able to help you narrow down possible allergens if you’ve ruled out other factors.
Health: In some cases, dandruff can be one of the symptoms of feline diabetes. You should contact your veterinarian if you’re seeing flaky skin in conjunction with other diabetes symptoms.
What are the symptoms of cat dandruff?
The most common signs of dandruff are the following:
Itchy, dry, flaky skin often at the base of the tail, as well as on their face and back.
Redness or inflammation or even thickened, scaly patches.
Dull coat – The coat may lack the shine it usually has.
Distinct odor - A cat with dandruff has a distinct odor that you will notice right away. If your cat also has a yeast or bacterial infection, this odor will be even stronger.
How can I treat my cat's dandruff?
Like with dogs, it’s important to make sure you treat any underlying health concerns that may be contributing to your cat’s dandruff.
This means that if your cat suffers from allergies, whether food or environmental related, your vet may recommend changing your cat’s diet, and administering medications such as antihistamines and steroids.
Medicated shampoos can be administered and topical and/or oral steroids can be given to your cat in the case of sunburn.
A cat with diabetes may need to change his diet as well, plus receive insulin injections. Meanwhile, cats that suffer from hyperthyroidism may need treatments like radioactive iodine or a special prescription diet with specific iodine levels.
Don’t forget that with parasites such as mites, all bedding will need to be washed with hot water, and any other pets in the home will need to be treated as well to prevent a reinfestation.
If you suspect your cat might be dehydrated, consider using a pet fountain which aerates the water and makes drinking more appealing. Switching to wet food is another way to up your cat’s water intake. If the air is dry, using a humidifier in your home can help add moisture your cat’s skin and fur.
How can I prevent my cat from getting dandruff?
As with most health problems, there are ways of preventing dandruff:
Avoid obesity by watching their diet
Avoid sudden changes - Cats can get stressed and anxious if something in their home changes suddenly. When cats are stressed and anxious they can have physical reactions to that stress, including itchiness and flakiness.