What is dandruff in cats?
Dandruff is caused when the glands in your cat's skin, which are responsible for producing oil—the sebaceous glands—begin to overproduce. These oils nourish and protect the skin; however, in too great a quantity they can start to irritate your cat's skin, causing flakiness and more shedding than normal.
Your cat has dandruff if you can see white specks in their fur, which may shed onto your clothes or their bedding. Their skin will look dry and may be inflamed. You'll also notice them grooming or scratching more frequently than normal, and you may see some irregular bald patches or general hair loss.
What causes dandruff in cats?
If your cat has dandruff, it can be caused by different things. Dandruff is one of the signs of ringworm, a fungal infection where spores enter your cat's skin and attack the outermost layer. Alongside dandruff, you may notice irregular or circular patches of hair loss, weak or brittle hair, and reddish patches of skin. This highly infectious disease can be treated, but it's essential to visit your vet as soon as you spot any signs.
Your cat's diet can also cause dandruff if what they're eating is lacking essential to the healthy functioning of their skin. The process of renewing their skin cells uses up to 30%1 of your cat's daily protein intake, so any food they eat should include high quality, highly digestible proteins that are easily absorbed into their system. Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids contribute to the overall health of the skin, and as they can't be synthesized by your cat's body, they should be a regular part of their diet. Certain vitamins, such as vitamin A, also contribute to skin health, regulating cell growth and the production of oils.
Lifestyle is another factor that can affect the development of dandruff in your cat. If their environment is too warm, it can dry out their skin and trigger an over-production of oils, leading to dandruff. This, along with excessive grooming, which can cause skin problems, is a common problem for indoor cats. If you regularly wash your cat, using products other than cat shampoo can irritate their skin.
How can I treat dandruff in my cat?
If you have identified dandruff symptoms in your cat, it's important to take them to the vet in case they're suffering with ringworm or another infection. If your cat does have , your vet will treat this in three stages: treating the infected hair, removing any remaining spores, and disinfecting your cat's environment. If the dandruff is being caused by another sort of infection, your vet will advise you on the best treatment.
Feeding your a nutritionally balanced, complete food is one of the best ways you can optimize their skin health and prevent dandruff from occurring. If your cat is particularly prone to skin sensitivities, you could also choose a food which is specifically designed to support and maintain good skin health. You should also pay close attention to your cat's environment and lifestyle to make sure you're doing all you can to support their well-being.
Usually, dandruff in cats can be solved; visit your vet for advice, and they will be more than happy to give ideas on how to keep your cat's skin and hair healthy.
1 Pibot et al, eds. Encyclopedia of Feline Nutrition, 2010