Dandruff in cats

photo of cat on white background

Overview

Cats spend a lot of time grooming to keep themselves clean. If you notice your cat has dandruff (dry, flaky skin) it could be a sign of a problem.

There are many possible causes of dry skin, fortunately, most improve with the right treatment. Contact your vet for an appointment if you notice your cat has dandruff.

Dandruff explained

Skin cells are always dying, shedding off and being replaced by new healthy cells. Your cat will make sure their coat stays clean and ‘dandruff-free’ by grooming the old cells away.

Dry, flaky skin tends to be a sign of a problem, either a skin problem, an illness or a lack of grooming. As well as indicating a problem, dandruff is likely to make your cat itchy and uncomfortable.

Keep an eye out for other skin issues such as hair loss, red skin or a greasy or smelly coat. Other symptoms like these may help your vet find the cause.

Causes

Dry, flaky skin can be caused by many different problems, including:

Illness

Cats often develop a greasy coat and dandruff if they are feeling poorly.

Arthritis

Cats tend to groom a little less once they get older, often due to arthritis and stiffness.

Pain

If you cat is in pain they will probably spend less time grooming.

Skin infections

Skin infections due to bacteria, yeasts or fungus (such as ringworm) can cause flaky skin.

Mites and lice

Parasites such as mites and lice usually cause very itchy, flaky skin.

Fleas

Fleas cause itchy skin, scratching can lead to dandruff.

Allergic skin disease

Atopic dermatitis, food allergies and flea allergies can all cause itchy, dry, flaky skin.

Other

Other diseases such as diabetes, Cushings disease or liver disease.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet if you notice your cat developing dry skin especially if they are losing fur or seem itchy. Left untreated the problem will probably get worse.

You know your cat best. If they don’t have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned it’s always best to contact your vet.

Published: January 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst