Poor Sparrow. As if the little bastard didn’t have enough problems already – you guessed it – now he has dandruff.
First, let me clear something up. Where I come from, calling someone a ‘little bastard’ is a term of endearment. I love this feline to pieces, but please. How faulty can one cat be?
Obviously, being dandruffy is not a normal state of affairs for a cat, and just in case you’ve not been paying attention, Sparrow is black and white. This shit is seriously ruining his outfit and I need to get to the bottom of it. So here’s what I’ve found about curing cat dandruff.
What Exactly is Dandruff?
Just like in humans, cat dandruff is ugly – no surprise there. In fine, good skin conditions,humans and cats alike are constantly growing a new layer of skin, and the top layer is shedding – when it’s all going as planned, we don’t even notice this. Chances are,your cat is doing its OCD grooming thing and this light shedding of skin is taken care of.
When this shedding of the skin becomes excessive and noticeable, we have a problem that we call dandruff. Dandruff is not so much a disease in itself, it’s a symptom of an underlying problem either internally or externally.
Dandruff itself is harmless in most cases, but we do need to look for what may be causing it. There are a number of serious-ish internal disorders that can cause dandruff, so it’s a good idea to get to the vet and have your flaky cat checked out, just to make sure.
Dandruff or Dander?
You’ve probably heard of ‘pet dander’ as a major allergen for us people, but this is not the same as dandruff. As we’ve just learned, dandruff is an excess of shedding skin and usually has a medical cause.
Dander, on the other hand, is a mixture of minute skin particles mixed with saliva (the cat’s, not yours) and sebum and is completely normal. That’s the real reason people may be allergic to cats – it’s more to do with the mixture of proteins and less to do with the shedding skin itself, combined with the fact that these particles are a fraction of the size of normal household dust.
But I digress…check out PetMD’s great article on cat dander if you want more details.
What Makes a Feline Snowglobe?
There are a number of things that can cause dandruff in cats and most of them are internal, so you’ll need to get it checked out by a vet to help figure out what’s going on. Here’s a lovely veterinarian dermatologist with a quick rundown on the flaky cat:
- Poor diet – no surprise here. A low-quality diet can cause all kinds of problems for your cat, including dry, flaky skin.
- Dehydration – generally also caused by poor diet. Cats are not very good at drinking water, so a dry-food only diet could be the culprit here.
- Allergies – food allergies tend to manifest as skin problems in cats, can often lead to open sores and infection if left untreated. Allergies to stuff around the house such as cleaning products, plants, scented things and even cat shampoo can cause dandruff.
- Parasites – as mentioned by the good doctor in the video above, walking dandruff (technically called cheyletiellosis) is a mite that looks like dandruff flakes. Other parasitic causes of dandruff are common fleas and less commonly, demodicosis, a mite that favours immunocompromised or malnourished cats.
- Fungal infections – such as ringworm and Malassezia, which often results in flaky patches of skin
- Big bad diseases – diabetes and hyperthyroidism are the main offenders.
- Poor grooming – this is usually seen in elderly or overweight cats who can’t groom effectively.
- Low humidity – usually during the winter months when the air is drier.
- Sunburn – damages the skin and causes it to peel.
When to See The Vet
It’s a good idea to get to the vet as soon as you can if your cat turns into a snow-globe. Sure, most of the causes of dandruff are not life-threatening, but you can bet they’re uncomfortable and unpleasant for your cat. Your cat’s dandruff is likely caused by something internal, so getting that corrected quickly is pretty important.
Your vet will want to know how long the dandruff has been around, if there are any other symptoms and probably some information about your kitty’s diet. Some tests may need to be performed to get to the bottom of what’s causing your cat to fall apart, such as blood tests, tape tests for parasites, thyroid tests and skin scrapings.
If a food allergy is suspected, your vet may advise a food trial, which involves switching your cat to a completely different type of food for a few weeks and making sure he eats only that. If the symptoms improve, you can switch back to the old food to see if the symptoms return.
How to Fix The Flaky Cat
Obviously, the cure for cat dandruff will depend on the cause, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, get to the vet and get it checked out first. Medications may be needed to treat things like diabetes, ringworm and hyperthyroidism.
Bathing your cat with a medicated shampoo will help to kill some skin or fungal infections, but this should only be done in consultation with your vet. Please don’t assume you can just wash away the dandruff if you don’t know what’s causing it!
Often, simple changes in little things can make all the difference. If you haven’t already, switch your cat to a high-quality, moisture-rich diet. Poor diet is the cause of so many kitty ailments and it’s the easiest to fix. Getting the diet right will prevent more problems than I can even think of.
Give your kitty a hand with grooming, even if he’s fit and healthy and good at taking care of his own personal appearance. It’s the best way to bond with your cat and gives you a chance to inspect him from head to tail at the same time. Plus, you might end up with less cat hair on your clothes. Bonus. Adding a humidifier to your home in the winter months will help keep the kitty flake-free.
Besides being unattractive, dandruff in cats is usually a sign of something bigger going on, so please make an appointment with your vet and get it checked out. Once you’ve figured out the cause, the cure is usually pretty straightforward. It might take a while, but your cat will thank you for playing detective and putting an end to the flake.
Has your cat turned into a snow-globe? What was it, how did you fix it? Head to the box below and share your comments or questions…