Help for Cats with Dry Skin

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, recommends a supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids to treat dandruff or a keratolytic shampoo for flaky skin.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: September 26, 2008

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Q: I have a black and white female cat, approximately 8 years old, and she has developed very dry skin, and noticeable dandruff. I only feed her Iams dry cat food, usually a mixture of several flavors. Is she missing something in her diet? She also is pulling out some of her fur. Otherwise she is a pretty healthy cat.

A: There are a number of factors that contribute to dry skin and dandruff in cats. Cats fed a poor diet, such as a generic store brand, can sometimes have dry skin and a dull coat, although this clearly is not the case with your cat, as Iams is an excellent, premium diet.

Some cats develop dandruff, especially down the center of their back and around the base of the tail, simply because they are overweight and are unable to groom themselves properly. I see an increase in the number of cats with dandruff in my practice when the fall season arrives; the air becomes dryer, and some cats experience dry skin, in the same way that many people do. Seborrhea is another potential cause of dry flaky skin in cats, although this is much less common in cats than dogs.

Many cases of dandruff resolve when a fatty acid supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids is given to cats on a daily basis. It may take four to six weeks to see results, however. Cats with very flaky skin might need to be bathed with a keratolytic shampoo — one that dissolves flakes. I’m sure your veterinarian can recommend a good one.

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Reader Comments

Sherry    Aberdeen, WA

1/19/2010 8:42:47 PM

I agree with vet, DVM Arnold Plotnick. Store brand pet foods are not a good diet. In fact, in my opinion, they are the worse cat & dog foods you can give your pets. Remember the Wheat scare a couple of years ago? Well, those cheaper brands, including Science Diet, use wheat, corn, chicken by-products & a lot of junk that is not necessary. I am fully aware that the better brands are more money than the store bought brands, but in the long run, they are much more worth while in saving vet bills & from pets losing hair! Dr. Plotnick doesn't say where to get Omega-3 supplement, but I think you can find it in the vitamin aisle of any store; I would buy it in the capsule form so you can put a very small hole in the capsule & squeeze it onto their dry food. P.S. I have been a pet food product specialist & learned a lot about pet foods!

Kristina    Rochester, MN

9/30/2008 6:48:10 AM

Good to know, my cats sometimes have dry skin.

Linda    Mandeville, LA

9/29/2008 6:34:24 PM

Interesting article.

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

9/29/2008 4:48:39 AM

I feed a holistic food that is suppose to be the same as a raw food diet. It seems to keep everyone
s coat in good condition.

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