What to do about cat dandruff?

cnvhApril 26, 2006

We have a short-haired black cat; her fur is extremely dense, however, and as she is a bit on the overweight side, she cannot (or will not) groom herself effectively all over. Hence, even though she is short-haired, she tends to get small matts in hard-to-reach places (like on the top of her back). Also, her skin/coat are somewhat oily, so she always looks a bit on the grungy side. Hubby and I go over her with a grooming brush occasionally, but generally not for lengthy periods-- usually until she gets bored with it and no longer stands still.

Anyway, before her annual vet checkup last month, I really went at her with a a grooming vengeance-- I gave her a bath (with cat shampoo), and after she was good and dry, I gave her a brushing the likes of which she never had before. I probably got a basketball-sized wad of hair off of her, by the time all was said and done-- like I said, she has a REALLY dense undercoat, which I thinned out pretty thoroughly.

The vet was pleased; he said I did a great job grooming her. She passed her checkup with flying colors, no problems found.

She's not a cat who enjoys excessive petting, so hubby and I usually just give her a stroke every now and then when she comes within reach, but yesterday, I was able to get in a good petting... and when I ran my fingers backward through her coat (I wanted to see how much of the undercoat had come back), I notised she has a SERIOUS dandruff problem-- I have never seen an animal so flaky, and quite frankly, it's pretty disgusting!

It doesn't seem to bother her; I never see her itching, and her behavior is the same that it's always been. But this dandruff is freaking me out!

What, if anything, can be done? Is there a shampoo I could use? Would grooming her more often HELP the problem, or make it worse? (I suspect the groom-a-thon I did prior to the vet visit triggered it, because I've had her for 6 years and NEVER saw it this bad before-- but I've never groomed her that intensely before, either.)

I've never seen anything like this... if it appeared to bother her, I'd have her to the vet in a heartbeat, but she isn't acting even a tiny bit unusual.

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Not grooming herself, overweight, oily hair, dandruff - don't care what the vet said - these are all signs of many internal problems in cats. I would have blood work done and then decide if everything still looks ok.

If the lab work looks ok, maybe it is time to switch foods.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 6:52AM
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She does groom herself, there are just spots she can't reach very well. And she goes to the vet annually, has been seen by three different vets since I've had her-- aside from the new onslaught of dandruff, her oiliness has always been an issue, and none of the vets has commented that it might be indicative of a problem. I'm suspecting that I overgroomed her, but I don't know if this is even possible.

She's obviously not in any pain or discomfort, as there are ZERO behavior changes other than this eruption of dandruff, so I'm not inclined to spend a fortune in lab work at this point, if there are other options.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 4:05PM
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It could be that her skin got a bit dry after the bath, after being used to being so oily then having those oils stripped away. Or it could be that the shampoo didn't rinse all the way out of the undercoat. Sometimes that happens with cats and dogs that have a real fine downy layer underneath.

How you can tell if it is unrinsed shampoo, is...well...brace yourself....give the areas a good sniff LOL. You might want to get the area a bit wet first too and see if it lathers. Your cat will not like this one bit LOLOLOL.

Other than giving your cat another good rinsing, you can comb the flakes out with a fine toothed comb (they are called flea combs here and they are plastic), which will also take out a lot of that undercoat as well.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 4:24PM
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Haha... well the good thing about bathing her is, she's so rotund that she can't struggle as well as our other cat. I was able to hold her down on the floor of the tub with one hand and scrub away with the other. I hate to have to put her through that again, but if it has to be done, it has to be done.

I will try brushing her again and give it a few days (after the dreaded sniff test, of course)...

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 7:34PM
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sunflower oil. It has linoic acid which is something that's good for cats. I've been using Natural Choice indoor for a couple of months now on my formerly flakey calico and this is the best she has looked and felt in her whole five years. Sometimes I put a bit of sunflower oil on her wet food. The sales rep said it would take about six months to see an improvement but I see it already. Let us know.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2006 at 1:52AM
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Victoria, that is very interesting about the sunflower oil. Where would one get some? And is it meant mainly to go directly on the coat, or always in the food?

I gave her a brushing last night, and it seemed to help with the big flakes, but there's still a lot of small stuff-- I probably just broke up what was already there, haha...

Thanks everyone for your advice!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2006 at 9:59PM
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You can get sunflower seed oil in health food stores and even at some grocery stores. Here is a link that explains why it helps.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 12:05AM
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I just recently gave my cat a fierce brushing and literally got rid of a cat's worth of undercoat that was previously littering my house, but now he can a bad case of flakey skin, which he has never had before. Reading this post, I am thinking that it is from the intense brushing. I am wondering if your cat went back to normal a couple of days later. The cat doesn't seem bothered at all - he is his normal happy fatty self.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 11:35PM
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Our Max had dandruff, it just showed more after brushing, that's all. Sunflower oil worked for him. Simba wasn't drinking enough water and had dry stools; sunflower oil worked for him too.

We add half a teaspoon of the oil to their food every other day, and Max's dandruff hasn't reappeared, even after brushing.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 1:37PM
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Cat dandruff is a headache to me. I used many ways to cure it, and finally I got here and other web sites. Thanks for answers and the users. I am happy now I get cat dandruff fixed.

This site is really helpful. User shared their valuable info. BTW, another web site I read helped me a lot too, so today I'll share here with you guys just like you did for me: http://catdandruff.blogspot.com

What worked for me is to groom my cat regularly and add fish oil to her food, as suggested in the web site (a cat dandruff blog) above.

Here is a link that might be useful: An Informative Cat Dandruff Web Site

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 2:19PM
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You can use people dandruff shampoo, per a vet I took my cat to years ago.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 4:14PM
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Ask your vet about a product called DermCaps.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 7:19PM
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severe dandruff on any critter usually means fur mites. Ivomec is in order imho.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 3:00AM
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I think the advice on the immediate issue is good, but it sounds like the cat should be put on a diet? That would help the problem long term. I have two big cats (big boned) that were both put on diets this year. One lost 1.5 lbs and looks great - he is now at his ideal weight just under 16 lbs (he is a Maine Coon). The other lost about 2 lbs and also looks so much better (he started at 18.5 lbs). I took them off the prescription dry low calorie junk they were eating, and put them on high protein can food (Wellness in their case). They lost weight eating 6 oz of canned food a day - I verified calories with the vet before doing the diet. The smaller cat is now eating a little more than that as he continued to loose weight after hitting his desired weight. But they are so much healthier now.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 3:19PM
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To go along with my above post, I'm including this link. Please scroll down to read about Molly's story. My cats were not as bad as Molly, and I'm not saying yours is either, but not being able to clean themselves properly is one of the signs of an overweight cat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Molly's store

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 3:28PM
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Reading this (although it's several years old) is really interesting because I have a 6 year old cat who reads for all the world like the one in this original post! She's rotund and has difficulty cleaning herself on her back and rear end due to her short, tubby stature. She has a very fine, thick undercoat and a long top coat (almost like wool) She also looks a little deshevilled and the fur across the top of her back is usually oily... and she has dandruff! Although only in that spot on her lower back. The rest of her fur is immaculately groomed and maintained, although thick and woolly.

Missy however, fortunately LOVES to be brushed and we also shave her rear end on a fairly regular basis to prevent a build up of nasties as tends to happen with her as she has difficulty cleaning that area.

I suppose my biggest concerns for our baby girl are that she is itchy where the dandruff affects her and she also has the tendency to emit a rather pungeant odour as a result of her inability to maintain her nether regions and her naturally oily/flakey skin.

She's due for her annual vaccinations so I intend to raise this issue with the vet when we take her along but wondered if anyone else had experienced these problems and what they've found (if anything) works.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 9:35PM
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My cat is a male; 16 years old this Spring. He has just now developed dandruff. I had to have him shaved last summer as his coat was so thick and matted. He is not fat as we discovered after his fur was gone. I'm wondering if it was the shaving that did it but I am going to try the flax seed oil in his food. He donesn't like to be petted and won't let me brush him; he has always been that way. He has only recently let me touch him. He has always been a big water drinker and he doesn't scratch himself.

My other cat is a 3 year old female with very shiney fur and no dandruff. Age probably has a lot to do with it as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Well, I don't know about mites but I do know that our cats seem to have dandruff (very minor) every winter and then it just goes away in the spring. I think it is simply dry air and I have other things to worry about. It sure doesn't seem to bother them any.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:16PM
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On a dry food diet? Change to a good quality, grain-free canned food (raw? if you can go for that), and you'll see huge improvements. Dandruff is a sign that the body can't eliminate any more the extra carbs (among other things) from the dry food, and it tries to eliminate through the pores of the skin, hence dandruff. Kidneys, pancreas are working overtime resulting in health problems.
Omega 3 (fish oil) will help as long as your cat goes for it! Your vet is wrong in telling you there is nothing to worry about. Dandruff is a sign of health issues. A shampoo is not going to take care of it if you don't get to the source of the problem.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Dandruff in humans and animals may be due to seborrhic dermatitis. It is caused by a fungus, and leads to greasy fur and flakes.

I've found that Relief shampoo from DVM works well. It is gentle and can be used weekly until the condition is gone. And yes, you need to groom your kitty at least once a week.

Don't use any sort of human shampoo - some ingredients - selenium sulfide and coal tars- can be quite toxic.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:03AM
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Hmmmm... Ariel, are you a member? Don't see any "member page"..
Anyway, I looked up your product, and could NOT find the ingredients listed (and I don't mean the major ones). I always mistrust any product that can't post clearly ALL the ingredients. Plus it is mostly geared to dogs. Keep in mind that cats absorb a lot through their skin..

That shampoo MAY relieve itching (that's what it is advertised for), but most cats with dandruff do NOT itch. My opinion is that unless you address the cause of the dandruff (i.e.: diet, health issue), you are not solving anything. It's like cortisone. Just a temporary fix.
And yes, dandruff due to inappropriate diet will show up in mature/older
cats once their kidney/pancreas can't handle anymore the surplus of waste (mostly from dry food).

It looks to me like you are advertising for this shampoo.
I do apologize if I am wrong and if you were just trying to offer a solution.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 8:50AM
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I think the percentage of cats that have dry skin from a fungal infection is infintessimal. That would be an extremely rare cause of dry skin in a cat. Cat's can get dermatophytes (skin funguses) but those almost always cause focal hair loss and crusting/sores, not whole body dry skin. Bathing cats with anything is not too likely to solve their dry coat issues, and can often do the opposite- aggravatet them. Problem is usually a dietary one, or health issue, or lack of omega fatty acids. But thinking it's due to a fungus will usually lead one the wrong conclusions.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:36AM
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