What foods can contribute to dandruff in cats’ coats?

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First, make sure you don’t confuse dandruff with dander. Dandruff is dried out skin, caused by allergic dermatitis. It can be caused by a restricted diet, parasites, obesity, dry air and even some diseases like skin cancer, thyroid or diabetes. Dandruff is often seen on the cat’s lower back or base of the tail.

Dander is the normal shedding of dead skin cells. It’s combined with protein in the cat’s saliva when she grooms herself. Dander, by the way, is what causes a lot of those allergic reactions people have to cats.

While a trip to the veterinarian is necessary to rule out many problems, one of the most common causes of feline dandruff is diet, and you may need to consider a change, especially if you feed yours dried kibble. In fact, many consider dried food to be the number one cause of food-related feline dandruff. Cats who live in the wild get necessary moisture from their prey, but domestic ones just don’t get that. Moreover, it’s just not in their nature to drink water so they don’t make up for it.

If your cat is eating dried kibble, consider switching her to canned; if she’s already on canned, you may want to consider switching to one with a higher protein count and few carbohydrates.

If she still has dandruff, you may need to add an essential fatty acid, like fish oil, to her food.

Don’t ignore other treatments, including:

• Grooming products developed for feline dry skin. If your cat won’t let you bathe her, rub some lotion on her. Don’t try to use products developed for humans, because these can be harmful to your cat!
• Brush frequently to distribute oils.
• If she’s overweight, discuss possible plans with your veterinarian. Obesity is a common cause of feline dandruff and, in this case, appears as greasy flakes.
• Sunburn is also a cause of dandruff so keep her out of the sun during hot, sunny days.
• Use a humidifier to keep the room air moist.
• Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or antihistamines if needed.

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