Dandruff in cats: causes and treatment


 Contrary to the popular belief, seborrhea or dandruff in cats is a pretty serious problem. Imagine that a person with dandruff is bathed every three months (and many cats aren’t bathed even 4 times a year). Imagine that dandruff covers not only scalp but the body. Unpleasant? Yes, but also it is very dangerous. Dandruff on the back and behind the ears often leads to the formation of pus pimples making it an ideal environment for bacteria, fungi and smallest parasites.



 Causes of dandruff

 To understand can dandruff appear with no reason and consequences, one should learn more about this illness. In the deep layers there are sebaceous glands. They secrete sebum that has a protective function – a thin layer of sebum covers every hair and skin, forming a thin protective film. When we notice dandruff in the cat’s coat, we usually see exfoliated flakes of the old, “dead” skin cells mixed with sebum. Normally such flakes are very small, and they are peeled off gradually and should be unnoticed. Dandruff is a signal of changes in the organism that are always negative. Therefore, dandruff can’t be considered the norm, even if it seems that it doesn’t bring any inconvenience to the pet.
 So why cats have dandruff? Probably something affected the work of sebaceous glands.
It can be external factors, such as:


  • dry air;
  • lack of care;
  • wrong or excessive care;
  • unsanitary conditions;
  • parasites, fungi.

It may also happen because of internal factors, such as:

  • gastrointestinal or genitourinary system disease;
  • hormonal disorders;
  • allergic reactions;
  • tiredness, stress;
  • lack/surplus of vitamins or minerals;
  • reaction to medications (including those against parasites);
  • wrong feeding.

 As you can see it’s not that easy to find the causes of dandruff in cats. It would be luck, if the problem is a new shampoo or central heating making the coat dry. And what if the cat suffers from sexual dysfunction or thyroid disease? It is wiser to visit a veterinarian dermatologist, without wasting time on guessing.

Types of dandruff

 Depending on individual features and seborrhea causes, dandruff can be dry or oily.
 Dry dandruff in cats is scattered across the coat like white “flour”, these smallest scales are easily separated from the skin and coat. This dandruff is “snowing” when you stroke the cat against the hair.


 Oily dandruff can be thick or liquid. If the cat has dandruff on the back, behind the ears and at the base of the tail, and the hairs there stick together – we’re talking about “liquid” seborrhea. In this case, the coat looks oily, heavy and wet. After stroking the cat your palm becomes oily too and shines. The coat looks dirty in two or three days after bathing. When the cat suffers from “thick” seborrhea – the dandruff is hardly visible on the oily coat, but if you scratch your pet behind the ears, you may find oily skin flakes under the nails. If you blow on the cat’s coat you can see small pieces of skin that stick together. Sebum and dead skin form a large and thick layer resembling flakes.
 Some owners think that it’s okay for black cats to have dandruff of black color. In fact, dandruff in cats of any color should be yellowish, white or grayish. Typically, black dandruff in cats indicates the presence of fungi, parasites or acne. Flakes of the peeling skin are almost transparent (regardless of coat color and skin pigmentation), and sebum – varies from white to yellowish or grayish color, so ordinary dandruff can’t be black.

How to get rid of dandruff in cats?

 To understand why dandruff appeared on your cat’s coat, the vet will ask you about the details of the cat’s diet and lifestyle. It is important to tell every detail about cat’s degree of activity, previous diseases, medications against parasites, shampoo brand etc. It may be necessary to get some laboratory tests (like blood or urine) or scrapings from the skin done (for detection of latent ailments, microsporia and other diseases).


 If it’s not about chronic diseases, the treatment of dandruff in cats is to change the diet (less fatty foods, no sweets) and hygiene. There are many effective anti-dandruff shampoos, but you should choose a particular one together with the vet, after having the pet examined and determining the type of seborrhea.


 A good anti-dandruff shampoo is a complex of active substances: antifungal and antibacterial agents, deep cleansing components, anti-inflammatory agents, and exfoliating ingredients. In addition, the shampoo should include medications that normalize the work of sebaceous glands – otherwise all efforts will be in vain.

 In addition to shampoo, you can use homeopathic remedies – rinse hair and skin with the decoction of burdock root or calendula flowers, nettle, sea buckthorn berries, coltsfoot and flagroot.


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