Why Does My Cat Have Dandruff and How Can I Get Rid of It?

Have you noticed a recent change to your cat’s fur? Are you seeing something that looks like dandruff? Any mammalian animal can produce dandruff. As you read our Columbus, OH, animal hospital‘s article, you will learn what dandruff is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

What is Dandruff?

cat dandruff columbus, oh

Dandruff is the tiny particles of skin that flake off the top layer. Occasional dandruff is completely normal in most cats, but excessive, prolonged dandruff  combined with other symptoms can be a sign there’s more going on underneath the surface

Causes of Dandruff in Cats

Most causes for dandruff are minor and can easily be treated. There are, however, some serious health problems that can be the cause of dandruff in cats and require medical intervention.


Environmental causes of dandruff include heat, bugs, and allergies.

Heat is an environmental factor that can cause dehydration, which can result in dry skin. Excessively dry skin is more likely to flake off as dandruff. It is important to keep your cat hydrated and cool.

Environmental skin allergies can lead to itchy and dry skin which will flake off, causing dandruff.

Bugs, such as fleas, can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and infections.


Diet can also affect dandruff. Cats who are overweight may find it difficult to groom themselves. Inability or difficulties in grooming can lead to dandruff.

Food allergies may also affect a cat’s skin and cause dandruff, as well as malnutrition, or a lack of good nutrition.

Health Problems

Health problems are a big category that affects cats’ skin and causes dandruff. This category includes everything from skin infections, malnutrition, and obesity to heart disease, cancer, and hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of Cat Dandruff

Sometimes dandruff can be a symptom of underlying health problems. In these cases, rather than treating the symptom- dandruff, the illness needs to be addressed. Health problems which can result in dandruff: skin infections, malnutrition, obesity, heart disease, hyperthyroidism and cancer.


  • Dry skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Dandruff
  • Thirst
  • Excessive panting
  • Sweaty feet
  • Lack of energy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting


  • Dandruff
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Inflamed skin
  • Infected skin
  • Lesions
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Fur loss/overgrooming

Environmental Allergens

  • Itchiness
  • Dandruff
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash
  • Hives

Food Allergies

  • Itchiness
  • Dandruff
  • Skin irritation
  • Skin inflammation
  • Rashes
  • Sores
  • Scratching or biting skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fur loss/overgrooming
  • Dull or brittle fur
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Discharge from nose
  • Recurring ear infections


  • Obvious extra weight
  • Dull fur
  • Cat has trouble grooming certain areas
  • Dandruff


  • Cat may be significantly underweight
  • Dull fur
  • Patchy skin
  • Dandruff
  • Bones such as ribs, spine, and hips are easy to see and feel
  • Skin looks sunken and tight
  • Vomiting

Skin Infections

  • Dandruff
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive chewing
  • Excessive scratching
  • Skin discoloration (usually red) & irritation
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Scabby, scaly, or flaky skin
  • Fur loss
  • Bumps on the skin

Trouble Grooming

  • Dandruff
  • Dull fur
  • Matted fur
  • Dirty fur
  • Lots of shedding

Heart Disease

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of energy
  • Sudden collapse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat

Kidney Disease

  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Bad breath
  • Incontinence
  • Dandruff
  • Dry skin

Arthritis/Old Age

  • Difficulty getting up or down
  • Difficulty climbing
  • Walking or moving stiffly
  • Trouble grooming
  • Dandruff
  • Limping


  • Dandruff
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite


  • Dandruff
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Good appetite


  • Dandruff
  • Weight loss
  • Good appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Unkempt fur

Autoimmune Skin Conditions

  • Dandruff
  • Scaly skin
  • Crusty skin
  • Skin ulcers
  • Redness of skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry footpads and cracking
  • Cysts
  • Dryness of skin


  • Dandruff
  • Enlarged or changing lumps
  • Sores
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Chronic weight gain
  • Change in appetite
  • Persistent cough
  • Lameness or stiffness that persists
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty swallowing

Solutions for Cat Dandruff

Treating dandruff falls into a few main categories.

If the cause is environmental, focus on treating environmental allergies, bug bites and reactions, and heat stroke. If the case is dietary, focus on treating diet issues and allergies. And in the case of health problems, treat the illness or disease. Your vet can assist you in determining the cause, how to proceed, and if medical intervention is necessary

Proper Diet

A proper diet can help with dandruff. If a cat is eating too much, their weight will make grooming harder. If they are eating too little, they are not getting the nutrients they need for their skin.

Diet is also key to helping with many illnesses and allergies. Treating conditions that cause dandruff with diet is one of the basic steps to healing.


If your cat is struggling to groom themselves, whether due to weight, age, or lack of energy, helping your cat groom can help with dandruff.

Special Shampoo

Just like with humans, there is dandruff shampoo for cats. This is the best option to treat normal and natural dandruff. It can also be used to treat the symptom dandruff. However, it is important to keep an eye on their skin. A cat may end up being allergic to the ingredients, which will only make it worse.

Healthy Weight

Ensuring your cat maintains a healthy weight can help prevent dandruff. A healthy weight helps make grooming easier, which in turn helps prevent dandruff.


Hydration is key to helping limit and prevent dandruff. Hydration counteracts the drying effects of heat and dandruff caused by illness.


A humidifier can help keep a cat’s skin from drying out. This will help prevent dandruff.

Health Problems

For dandruff caused by underlying health problems, such as cancer or liver disease, treating the illness will help more than treating the dandruff, since the dandruff is just a symptom of more going on Talk to your vet about options for treating illnesses and dandruff.

Reach Out to Our Columbus, OH, Veterinarians if Your Cat Needs Help with their Dandruff

The first step to dealing with dandruff is to determine the cause. Once you know the cause, you can treat your cat’s dandruff.

Never forget that dandruff is natural and your cat doesn’t have to be sick to produce dandruff. If your cat is showing no other symptoms or causes for concern, it is safe to assume that your cat is not sick.

If you are still worried, please give our Columbus, OH, animal hospital a call at (614) 451-1204, so we can schedule an exam with your cat.

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About North Kenny Veterinary Hospital

North Kenny Veterinary Hospital has been serving Columbus, OH pet families with exceptional veterinary medicine since the 1950s. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine as well as low-stress handling to help pets have a more pleasant veterinary experience. We use Fear Free techniques for every cat and dog to help reduce their anxiety and calm their nerves.

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