How Do You Get Rid of Cat Dandruff? What Causes Dandruff in Cats?

Getting rid of cat dandruff.

If you notice your cat has flaky skin, you may suspect dandruff.

Don’t assume a bath will do the trick, though. In many cases, an underlying disease causes flaky skin. So, what is cat dandruff (and what is it not)? Purina’s experts are here to explain.

What is Cat Dandruff?

According to Dr. Emily Cross, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline), cat dandruff is a bit of a misnomer. “Dandruff” is just a common term referring to flakes on the skin but it has different causes.

What is the Difference Between Cat Dander & Dandruff?

Although they sound similar, it’s important to note that cat dandruff is different from dander. Cat dander is a normal—and healthy—shedding of skin cells.

Dander is often blamed for causing allergic reactions in humans, but that’s another misconception. The primary allergen is found in cats’ saliva, which is then transferred to the fur and skin during grooming.

What Causes Cat Dandruff or Dry, Flaky Skin?

Dry skin is a common cause of flakes, Dr. Cross says. Environmental factors, such as low humidity, and diet (particularly low-fat diets) can cause a cat’s flaky skin. 

Dry, flaky skin is more common in cats, but there is a greasy form as well. Too much oil in the skin can cause a buildup of skin cells, which then flake off.

“Besides a dry or oily coat, there are other reasons for cats to have flaky skin, such as obesity or arthritis. These conditions can limit a cat’s ability to groom herself and remove dead skin cells.”

Since there are many other reasons for a flaky coat, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical causes and find the right treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Cat Dandruff?

Symptoms of cat dandruff include white flakes on skin, fur or bedding.

If your cat’s flaky skin is accompanied by any of the following, call your veterinarian right away. These symptoms can indicate an infection or other health condition requiring medical attention.

  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • More frequent grooming
  • Redness of the skin
  • Feeling unwell

How Do You Get Rid of Cat Dandruff?

Reducing flaky skin could be as simple as brushing your cat regularly or using a humidifier to add moisture into the air.

Topical treatments can also be helpful, if your cat will allow them, according to Dr. Cross

What is the Best Cat Food for Dandruff?

“Nutrition may play a key role in managing your cat’s flaky skin,” says Dr. Cross. Putting overweight cats on a weight management program for safe, effective weight loss can help restore normal grooming activities.

This may involve eating fewer calories, switching to a healthy weight cat food and/or implementing exercise into her daily routine.

Cat food enriched in essential fats may also be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and Omega-6 fatty acids help restore a healthy skin barrier.

You may also want to consider incorporating wet cat food into your cat’s diet. Since many cats don’t drink enough water throughout the day, wet food is a good way to supplement her hydration. Proper hydration can help address the dry, itchy skin that often leads to flakes.

Cat dandruff can seem like a minor issue, but it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out more serious causes. For more expert tips on cat grooming, nutrition and more, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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