How Do I Cure My Cat's Dry Skin?

Find out different causes and solutions for dry skin in cats.

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Q: My cat has really dry skin and sometimes he pulls his hair out. Is there anything I can do to help his dry skin?  I already give him food that is specially formulated for sensitive skin and use a humidifier but neither seem to help much.

A: Good nutrition is important for cats to maintain a healthy, shiny coat. I would feed only a high-quality, name brand food and not a store brand or generic food.
Cats with dry skin might respond to an omega-3 fatty acid supplement added to their diet. Talk to your veterinarian about this. I’ve had excellent success in many cases using these supplements.
Bathing your cat too frequently can be a cause of dry skin, so only bathe your cat when it’s truly necessary (i.e. if the hair coat is soiled with grease or dirt, etc.). If you do bathe your cat, use a conditioning rinse. The conditioner should be one specifically designed for cats and not for people. In addition, comb your cat often to remove loose hair and dandruff flakes. 

While it is likely that what you describe is just dry skin, if your cat is itchy as well, (you didn’t indicate in your letter whether he is) the dry skin might be a manifestation of an itchy skin disorder, such as allergies, parasites or a skin infection. Have your veterinarian examine your cat and make sure that it is just a case of dry skin. 

Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Reader Comments

Mark    Des Moines, IA

11/18/2015 11:34:33 AM

I finally found a cheap simple homemade answer to our two cats dry skin and terrible itching. I now add just 2 or 3 drops of fish oil to about 1 cup of their dry food, then mix it in. They had a noticeable improvement in about 4 weeks, and are almost completely cured at about 4 months. You need to first take your cat to the vet and confirm they do not have fleas or other skin conditions, which will cause the same problem, and see if it is OK for your cat. I don't think the type of fish oil will matter. Also too much fish oil will make them throw up, so I started with just 1 or 2 drops per cup! After confirming they tolerated it after a week, then I increased to 2-3 drops per cup of dry food. Cats are notorious for not being able to tolerate food changes, so do not give them too much and see your vet first. I would NOT give it to kittens and cats under 1-2 years old or for very old cats. I would NOT give it for ANY unhealthy or medicated cat either. My cats are about 4 and 7 years old and in good normal health. My cats are now much more pleasant and enjoy being petted again. Plus their fur coat is noticeably softer. This ended up being an extremely inexpensive and simple home-made remedy that
worked for my cats. Use common sense in trying any change, discontinue if you suspect problems, and keep your vet informed.

heidi    International

4/5/2015 12:59:57 PM

hi i have bin the vet thay gave her injecton but it did not work for my cat she has dry flakey skin what can i put on it united kingdom pleas help gowing to vet did not help

michelle    Fayetteville, TN

8/3/2014 10:44:23 AM cat also was pulling her hair out and I used to get her a steroid shot as well..then my vet doc told me to give her food that isn't red cause the red in it irritates her so I started her on Purina One chicken and rice and she stopped pulling her hair out and has been furry n happy lol. :)

Ellen    Wood River, IL

12/17/2013 12:11:01 PM

I have a cat that also bites her hair out. She has been to the vet and he gave her a steroid shot. I worked for maybe 2 months and she started doing it again. You can see the flakes in her hair. I do brush her, but even after I do that she still tries to bite her hair out. I put a soft cone around her head to prevent the biting but her front paws on the end she can still get to. I wake up in the morning and find hair on the carpet where she scratched some out. I have had her on the best expensive food an that does not help either. Any ideas what to do?

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