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Dry Skin in Cats

Discussion in 'Cat Health and Nutrition' started by FEWill, May 29, 2010.

  1. FEWill

    FEWill PetForums Senior

    Sep 2, 2009
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    Dry skin in cats can result in your pets skin becoming scaly and resembling dandruff, and there is not one single condition that may be the cause. Instead, there can be several causes that can range from mild to something much more sinister that may threaten your cat health. Most owners make the mistake of placing the blame on dry skin in your cat as the result of the lack of omega-3 fatty acids or frequent bathing.

    However, the drying of your cats skin can be the first sign you see of something much more serious that is happening to your cat.

    Omega-3 fatty acids:

    The lack of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the more common causes of dry skin in cats and is almost always the result of a poor diet that you are feeding your pet. One of Omega-3 fatty acids major roles in your cat is in its function of producing skin cells. Low quality cat foods that do not supply enough omega-3 fatty acids can easy result in dry skin in you are not also supplementing these critical nutrients.

    There is also another dietary problem that can cause dry skin; too much tuna. Too much tuna in your cats diet will deplete the levels of Vitamin E in your cats system, which also results in dry and flaky skin.

    Frequent Bathing:

    Another common cause of dry skin in cats is bathing your cat too often. Cats by nature are perhaps the most tedious animals alive and they are extremely proficient at cleaning themselves. Bathing your cat is essential in removing grease, dirt, and oil form their coat periodically; however, there are several shampoos that can actually harm your cat. Shampoos that contain any type of soap will strip the essential oils from your their hair coat, especially if you do not use moisturizers or natural treatments.

    Although these are the most common causes, there are several other potential causes, and some of them can be very serious for your cats overall health. If your cat does develop dry skin, it should be taken very seriously as it can be something much more sinister.


    Dry skin in cats may be the result of a condition known as Seborrhea. It can very easily result in scales developing form the dryness, depending on the type. This skin condition can cause extremely dry skin or completely the opposite; very oily skin that has an extremely foul odor. It can be the result of two conditions: inherited or secondary. If it is inherited, you will see it develop usually after the first year of your cats life. If it is secondary, it can occur at anytime and is usually the result of another disease your cat has or is developing.

    FeLV or Feline leukemia virus, FIP, which is Feline infectious peritonitis, or FIV, Feline immunodeficiency virus, may be the actual underlying cause of your cats dry skin. It may also be the result of ringworms that have infected your cat. The most effective treatment for Seborrhea is with fatty acids as well as medicated shampoos that do not contain soap.

    Ring worms:

    The next potential underlying cause of dry skin in cats is from ring worms as the result of one of several fungal infections. This form of dry skin will produce severe scaling, hair loss, as well as intermediate crusting areas of their skin. Treatment for this form of dry skin can be quite an ordeal and will involve lime sulfur dips as well as antifungal treatments. If your cat does develop this disease, they may also have to be given a ringworm vaccine to prevent further developments as it is a very nasty infection.


    Cheyletiella may also be the underlying cause of the dry skin in your cat and is also known as rabbit fur mange. It is caused by an infection of the Cheyletiella mite and is very common in wild animals, but it can also infect your cat, especially if the roam at all. It causes itching, scaling skin, as well as hair loss if it is severe enough. The most effective treatment with this disease is with Pyrethrin, which is a common ingredient in flea and tick products. However, before this is given to your cat, request that they be tested, as it can be toxic to some cats.

    Flea Allergy Dermatitis:

    The next potential cause of dry skin in cats is also one of the most common, and is known as flea allergy dermatitis, or flea bite hypersensitivity. It is the result of a reaction in your cat to the saliva of the flea itself, and is extremely dangerous. It can and does do a lot more than just cause dry skin as it can cause intense itching, redness, and hair loss. However, it can also cause papules, crusting, as well as scaling, which can very easy lead to hot spots. Treatment for this condition will include flea control in your cat, as well as steroids and antihistamines.


    This potential cause of dry skin in cats usually causes itching, redness as well as hair loss, and even though your cats skin is extremely dry, greasy scalps in their skin will develop as well. If it is not treated and reoccurs in your cat, it can also result in hyper-pigmentation in your pets skin. It is almost always the result of another underlying disease, and it can be treated with medicated shampoos but the underlying disease must also be identified and treated.

    Cushings Disease:

    The next underlying cause of dry skin in cats is from Cushings disease, which is caused by an increase in corticosteroids in your cats body as they are overproducing it, or the result of high dosages given by your veterinarian. Corticosteroids should always be discussed in detail with your veterinarian as they can have several side effects, and this is one of them. Be very, very careful with this treatment and get a second opinion if your veterinarian does recommend them.

    This is a very wicked disease and does a lot more damage than just causing dry skin. It can also cause massive hair loss, thinning of your cats skin, and as a result, they will begin to bruise very easily. It also causes hyper-pigmentation, black heads, and the most telling of all of its symptoms; a pot bellied appearance. It is in most cases the result of glandular tumors that can be treated in some situations, but in most cases they will have to be surgically removed.

    However, the list does not end here. The cause of the dry skin in your cat may also be the result of Demodectic mange, Hypothyroidism, Lupus, or Mosquito bite sensitivity.


    Dry skin in cats is commonly something simple such as the lack of omega-3 fatty acids or the wrong shampoo, but it can just as commonly be the result of an underlying disease your cat is developing. In several cases, it is the first sign that you have that something is terribly wrong with your cat. Because of this, it should be treated very seriously and checked quickly by a professional.

    Liquid Vitamins for Humans Cats and Dogs
  2. hobbs2004

    hobbs2004 PetForums VIP

    Mar 12, 2010
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    Hello Frank - another very interesting post. However, I do believe that two things have been mixed up in this post.

    One is the common dandruff problem that can affect cats not only as a result of poor diet, wrong shampoo (though I don't know that many people who bathe their cat frequently unless they have a death wish or are equipped with a particular body armour :D) but also as a result of moulting. As you rightly point out, these are very easily treated with fatty acids (Evening primrose oil), omega 3 fatty acids (salmon oil) or B vitamins (brewer's yeast).

    I personally think that most of the skin problems we see here on the pf are the result of either of the three above.

    And yes, you are right to say that dry skin is sometimes the first sign of something less innocuous but the dry skin associated with allergic reactions and Malassezia look very different from dandruff. As you said, red patches or hives. But these problems are certainly less common.

    In any case, as you say, a vet visit is in order when it doesn't look like normal dandruff and/or the skin deteriorates.
    #2 hobbs2004, May 29, 2010
    Last edited: May 29, 2010
  3. Tje

    Tje Banned

    Jan 16, 2010
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    FEWill, can I point out one thing about ringworm?

    With ringworm you won’t necessarily have any visible patches on your cat, let alone severe scaling or hair loss and crusting. It can be anything from a tiny little patch of bare skin, no bigger than a few millimeters in diameter (hardly noticeable unless you look really well), to absolutely nothing what so ever visible to the naked eye. I had 4 very neglected foster cats and my neighbour helped me bathe and trim and shave them. When I noticed a familiar tell-tale spot on my neighbour’s leg, I thought immediately on ringworm, but when I checked the cats (with a very fine tooth comb) they had no patches at all. It was only a couple of days later when I got ringworm myself that I was convinced they had it. Still nothing visible for me or the vet. But they had it, and they had it bad.

    Also with cats, ringworm doesn't alwasy have the tell tale red outline that we see in ourselves or our horses. I find it very tough to spot on cats (much harder than on humans or horses). Always err or the side of caution and get the vet to do a culture.
  4. FEWill

    FEWill PetForums Senior

    Sep 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Hi TJ and Hobbs,

    Great feedback. When I write an article I do alot of research on each topic, but there is nothing that substitues for experience and actually going through an ordeal with your cat. Each case can be as different as salt and pepper and all feedback is wonderful!!

    However, this is kind of sad. I go to 2 shelters every Saturday morning early for business reasons and there was a cat in there that the owner gave up on. She was using Lava soap --an American brand and the worst kind of soap--to bath her cat. Can you believe that!! When she became very ill she turned it in to the shelter.

    But the good news is that this was identifed very quickly and this cat is now much better--you are correct--this was a death wish but the sad fact is the owner--if you want to call her that--did not know and than did not care. As soon as she got sick the owner disgarded her. I would give you my true feelings but than I would be banned for profanity.

    Thanks again for the feedback
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