The Best Way to Treat Dry Skin on Cats, According to Veterinarians. Everything you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Just like humans, dry skin on cats is a common condition — especially when the weather turns cooler in the winter and we crank up the indoor heat. Not only can dry skin on cats be uncomfortable for our pets, causing itching and even possibly leading to skin infections when they scratch, but it can be problematic for humans, too — given that it can lead to excess dander and shedding, which can worsen human allergies to cats. So how do you know if your cat has dry skin, and what can you do about it? Consider these veterinarians’ tips for identifying and treating dry skin on cats.
What causes dry skin on cats?
A common cause of dry skin could be related to the food your cat eats. In order to maintain a healthy skin and coat, cats need to eat a diet of balanced nutrition, including omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center — so dry skin could indicate a diet deficiency.
Dry skin can also be a symptom of an overweight cat, or one otherwise challenged by mobility problems. “An additional cause for flaking in cats is decreased grooming, which can occur in overweight cats or cats with arthritis,” notes Dr. Juliette Bouillon, assistant professor at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. “Due to their shape or pain, they are unable to reach their back for appropriate grooming. This can result in hair matting, skin inflammation and flaking.”
Other causes can include the rituals you may have for bathing your cat. Using the wrong shampoo or using water that is too hot can cause dry skin, says integrative veterinarian Carol Osborne. So can allergies, parasitic skin problems, including fleas, mites, and lice, and certain hormonal disorders like thyroid disease.
What are the symptoms of dry skin on cats?
The symptoms of dry skin on cats include white dandruff-like flakes appearing in their fur, and noticing your pet scratching at itchy areas. Dry skin can also result in a diminished shine to your cat’s fur.
“They will have what looks like dandruff in their fur,” notes Dr. Osborne. “Your dog or cat may also be scratching themselves or have a dull-looking coat.”
How can you treat dry skin on cats?
Start by working to increase humidity in the air during the winter; you can do this simply by introducing a humidifier, or even by placing a pan of water by the radiator to increase moisture in the cat’s indoor environment.
Then, address any possible omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in your cat’s food. Dr. Osborne suggests adding an eighth teaspoon of fish oil, flaxseed oil, or salmon oil mixed into meals once daily.
Beyond that, focus on your cat’s bathing and grooming. Grooming helps prevent mats and tangles, and removes loose hair. “Grooming on a regular basis is the single best way to maintain the overall health of the skin and hair coat,” Dr. Osborne says.
She suggests regular bathing using hypoallergenic shampoos that contain oatmeal or benzoyl peroxide to provide relief. You might also try a vinegar and water rinse, she says. To prepare it, add four tablespoons of white vinegar to one gallon of water. Massage this through the fur, then rinse again with plain water and air dry.
If you still notice dry skin on your cat, try a leave-on moisturizer with aloe vera and alpha keri, Dr. Osborne suggests. And of course, if the problem persists, bring your cat to the vet so she can get examined in person