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Cat Dandruff ~ Your Cat Is Not Concerned About It But Most Owners Are

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A Mild Case Of Cat Dandruff

Dixie's cat dandruff. This doesn't look too bad, just a few flakes, some days it is worse. This was after brushing.

Dixie's cat dandruff. This doesn't look too bad, just a few flakes, some days it is worse. This was after brushing.

I always thought she was a li'l flaky... sorry Dix!

I always thought she was a li'l flaky... sorry Dix!

Dixie Doesn't Spend Hours Looking In The Mirror Worrying About First Impressions....

I usually brush our cats hair pretty regularly. At least the hair of the one cat that will tolerate me brushing her hair. Our other cat... not so much.

Our longer haired cat, Dixie, is the one who loves to either be combed or brushed. She seems to think that a good brushing is like an absolutely heavenly kitty backscratch. She starts to purr and lays down to let me thoroughly brush her. Misty won't let me. A couple of strokes with the brush is the best I can hope for with Misty and then **poof** she's off and running! The good thing is that her hair is a lot shorter, so she doesn't seem to need the extra brushing or combing.

When I was brushing Dixie recently, I noticed little white flakes on her back, down near where her tail begins. My husband even said "this cat has DANDRUFF!" Sherlock, I think you may be onto something! She does seem to be a bit flaky (her fur I mean)... so, Mom had to look it up on the Internet to try to figure out what causes cat dandruff. I also wanted to know if there is anything you can do about it. Maybe a better question is, do you even need to do something about it?

What I've learned along the way has been interesting. I learned that once you take your cat to the veterinarian and they determine that nothing is physiologically wrong, as in an illness, that the cat most likely simply has dandruff. It's a skin condition that sometimes is accompanied by itching and some fur loss. She doesn't seem to be bothered by it at all, and isn't losing any hair or itching, so we chalked it up to a case of cat dandruff.

Cats, in case you didn't notice, are not like people. They won't look in the mirror for hours and stare at the dandruff and feel embarrassed about it or anything. They won't fret over the possibility of a cat of the opposite sex not being attracted to them because they have dandruff. These things are human foibles and even though you might think the dandruff looks "nasty," on a cat, it is usually harmless, as long as any other potential health issues have been ruled out.

Health Issues That Can Accompany Cat Dandruff

There are some health issues that can go along with the appearance of dandruff on a cat. They include hyperthyroidism, allergies, parasites, ringworm or feline diabetes. Dandruff can also be from a bacterial infection. So it's good to have the vet take a look. Then, if he or she feels it's necessary, they can do tests to rule out these other possible medical conditions before you decide that it is just simply a case of "garden variety" cat dandruff.

One thing I've learned that can also be a cause of cat dandruff is dry skin. In our case, living in Las Vegas in the Mojave desert where the humidity stays around 15 percent pretty much year-round, dry skin can definitely be an issue. I would think that if humans have dry skin issues when the air is dry, the same thing could potentially happen to pets. One thing to try for cat dandruff if you think dryness is the cause is a home humidifier to add some moisture to the air. That might be one thing we'll try. I figure it's probably best to try the easiest thing first.

Other suggestions were things like adding just 1/2 teaspoon of sunflower oil to the cat's dry food every few days or adding a tiny bit of fish oil. Omega 3 fatty acids are recommended, especially if the cats diet is partially a wet food diet. In our case, our cats eat dry food. We have them eating Science Diet dry food which they've eaten since they were young (or in Misty's case, since we first got her at about a year old). These oils, added in tiny amounts to dry food, may help to keep their skin and coat healthier and possibly reduce the amount of cat dandruff you see.

Another very good suggestion is to make sure your cat or cats always have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available. We keep two bowls of water out for them, and I regularly (at least three times a week) wash out their water bowls. You might not realize it, but from having their tongues in the water, the water after a couple of days can begin to have a "slimy" feel on the sides of their bowl. I always use a "free and clear" type of dish soap to clean their water dish, and use only a very, very small amount of it. Then I rinse the dish very thoroughly.

I have noticed that Dixie does drink water at least a couple of times a day, so that's a good thing. Living in the desert like this, I like to be sure they stay as hydrated as they need to be. I have heard that cats don't usually drink that much water. These two seem to drink some though, which I think is really good for them.

Regular grooming is also good for cats to help keep their skin and coat healthy. I've been using a slicker type of brush. There are wiry prongs on one side and very soft bristles on the other. Once in a while I will use a Furminator, too, just because Dixie is a hairy beast who really sheds if you don't keep her fur brushed. And it's really a great thing that she loves to be brushed like she does! It would be difficult if a cat were to fight you every time you needed to brush her, especially if she is a long haired or even medium length haired cat.


If Fluffy Is Not Worried About Cat Dandruff, You Probably Don't Need To Be Worried Either...

One thing I did find out in my research of cat dandruff is that first of all, it will probably be kind of hard to find a really effective treatment. Secondly, it may not even be a problem in an otherwise very healthy, active cat. If your cat is not exhibiting other symptoms of illness, like hyperthyroidism or feline diabetes, then some simple treatments can potentially help the dandruff condition.

Once health problems are ruled out, it may simply be the dryness of the air or some essential fatty acids or oils missing from your cats diet. Sometimes a vet might recommend trying a treatment that you apply topically to the cats skin. They could recommend a spot on therapy treatment such as a topical treatment or shampoo. Many cats are difficult to bathe if they are not used to being bathed, and bathing could have the unintended side effect of drying out the skin even more, so in some cases using a shampoo may be out of the question.

More specifically, there are a couple of topically applied products that might be helpful, and it may not hurt to ask you vet if they are worth a try if the dandruff is bothering you. These products are called Douxo Spot On or Allerderm Spot On skin treatment. If the vet thinks they are a good idea, he or she will tell you specifically how much to use and how often.

These medications are found on pet medication websites and might be found in some pet stores or through your veterinarian. As with any medications, be very careful to follow the directions exactly. Douxo Spot On is usually recommended to be applied topically, (just a small amount), once a week for three to four weeks. Your vet offers a wealth of information and it is always best to ask first before using something on your pet.

If you prefer not to go the medication route, simply adding a humidifier to the home can be helpful to put some more moisture in the air, or a very small amount of sunflower or fish oil added to the cats food every few days may potentially be helpful. The amount I found that was recommended is very small, only about 1/2 teaspoon every few days.

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NEVER, EVER Use Shampoos Or Dandruff Medications Meant For Humans On A Pet!

The idea in treating mild to moderate dandruff is to never use anything that could harm your pet. And DEFINITELY DO NOT use any kind of shampoo or treatment meant for HUMAN use on a pet. DON'T do it! You can make your pet (cat or dog) very, very ill. Do NOT try any kind of human shampoo, they can be toxic to animals.

Just like when you are caring for an infant or a young child, your beloved pet looks up to you with those big green or gold eyes to care for them in a safe way. And just like you would with a young child, always be sure to ask before using any type of medication or changing the animals diet.

That freezing cold nose going up your arm or that kiss with a scratchy tongue lets you know that your cat loves and trusts you to do what is best for him or her. The best thing you can do is to use common sense and ask questions of your vet when it comes to caring for that precious and much loved furrball. They will return that love to you ten-fold.


KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 22, 2012:

Thanks, Bob, I will look at their treat packages too since they eat those as well as the other food. Thanks for your help, I'll let you know if her dandruff improves! :)

Shelley Watson on October 22, 2012:

I have two siamese cats and thank goodness, neither of them have this problem! They do love fish, so perhaps the oil in that prevents the dandruff. Up, interesting and useful

Bob Bamberg on October 22, 2012:

You're welcome, Kathy. I forgot to mention treats as well. Stay away from the grain-based treats and look for wheat-free or better yet, grain free.

I've been giving that advice for a couple of decades and, more often than not, it helps dry skin noticeably. I'm the first to admit that my data are anecdotal, but also undeniable.

KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 21, 2012:

Thanks so much for that advice, Bob, I am going to look at those other brands, they might help her dry skin! I appreciate that! :) I know from reading your hubs that you give great advice! Thank you! :)

Bob Bamberg on October 21, 2012:

Hi Kathy, you might try feeding a better quality food, too. Science diet has too much grain. Being obligate carnivores, there's not a heck of a lot that cats can do with grains, and they often contribute to dry skin.

A better quality food (Earthborn, Wellness, Merrick, Nature's Variety, or one of any number of grain-free foods would be a much better choice. You'd find higher levels of better quality essential fatty acids, which would support the skin better than corn, soy, wheat and by-products.

KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 20, 2012:

Thanks, Dianna! You must have had one beautiful cat, because I chose this picture because he IS so beautiful! :) Thanks so much for the great votes, too! :)

Dianna Mendez on October 20, 2012:

Kathy, your banner was such a nice add and it is the exact picture of my last cat. I love it. He did have dandruff problems due to the food we fed him and the vet recommended a change in diet which ended that problem. As you suggested, adding oil to the meat was a great idea. Votd way up!

KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 20, 2012:

Thanks, Eddy! :) I appreciate that! :)

Eiddwen from Wales on October 20, 2012:

Interesting and useful.


KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 19, 2012:

Thanks Pamela! So glad your cats dandruff is getting better! Regular cat dandruff without any other health issues just looks bad, so glad you found something helpful! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it! :)

KathyH (author) from Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 19, 2012:

I'm so glad your cats dandruff went away, Beckie! I think Dixie's will too over time. This winter we'll try the humidifier first and see if it helps. It certainly can't hurt!

I had a feeling that the first thing some people might think of is to use human dandruff shampoo on pets, but that is NOT the right thing to do!

Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment! :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2012:

I appreciate your hub as my cat has dandruff. I started adding some oil specifically for cats to his food and it seems to be helping. I brush him almost every day and that also helps. I appreciate all your information.

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on October 19, 2012:

My long haired cat had a case of this and as your article states, the vet stated it was dry skin. It cleared up over time and she never had a reoccurring bout.

I am glad you included the importance of refraining from using dandruff shampoo on animals. It is a little known point many people are not aware off.

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