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Ask a Vet: Rule out medical causes of cat’s dandruff

-My 21/2-year-old short-haired cat has dandruff. She does not appear to be itchy, and I never see her scratching herself. I wonder if there is anything I can use on her coat or add to her diet to help improve the dry skin?

I am assuming she is able to groom herself and you are brushing or combing her regularly. While there are products on the market to help moisturize dry, flaky skin in cats, the goal should be to try to determine the cause.

Dandruff is generally seen more often in winter in our colder climates where indoor cats are subjected to the dry heat of the home. If her problem is year-round, you should have any medical causes ruled out. Flaking can be due to parasitic mites of the skin, such as Demodectic mange, Cheyletiella (which has the attractive name of walking dandruff) or lice. Other infections due to bacteria, fungus (ringworm) and yeast can cause dandruff.

Some of these problems are contagious to other pets and people, so it is a good idea to have the simple tests done to look for them. In rare cases, internal organ diseases and cancer could be the underlying cause.

As a last resort, if nothing else improves the problem, a skin biopsy can be performed to look for microscopic evidence of some other skin condition that results in excessive dandruff.