Dry skin is a common concern for cats, often bringing cats and their pet parents to the veterinarian. Here we’ll discuss the possible reasons for cat dry skin, and how to handle a serious issue or tell if it is just regular old wintertime chapping.
INDICATIONS OF DRY CAT SKIN
Dandruff and flakiness are the primary indications that your cat has dry skin. The skin itself may appear dull when you part the fur to have a look. Also, your cat may be itching, scratching, or licking more than usual.
CAUSES OF DRY CAT SKIN
More often than not, dry skin is a red flag alerting you to some other condition. By addressing the real issue, dry skin should go back to normal. The most common causes of dry cat skin are:
- Allergies: Your cat may be allergic to anything from an ingredient in their food to the pollen in the air. They could also be reacting to something in their environment, like a new bed or grooming product.
- Poor Diet: Your cat’s food may be short on vitamins and minerals. Their dry skin could be an indication of a deficiency.
- Changes in the Weather: When the weather gets colder and heaters come on, everyone’s skin gets dry. Luckily, this type of dry skin is easy to treat.
Other, less common causes of dry cat skin can include:
- Fleas: Sometimes a flea infestation can cause dry skin. Getting rid of the fleas should resolve the skin problem, unless an infection has also developed. In this case, antibiotics, or a special ointment, may be necessary.
- Lice and Other Parasites: Eliminating the parasite should resolve the skin issues.
- Overgrooming: Sometimes cats get carried away with their self grooming. Over grooming can indicate a serious medical problem or a behavioral issue like OCD. Both the medical problem, and the excessive licking, can lead to dry skin.
- Fungal Infections: Fungal infections like yeast infections, ringworm, and sporotrichosis, for example, can lead to dry skin. Sporotrichosis can spread to humans, and should be managed right away.
- Serious Health Conditions: Older cats are especially susceptible to diseases like hyperthyroidism, heart conditions, and diabetes. Dry skin can be early indications of one of these issues.
5 TREATMENTS for Cat Dry Skin
1. A Better Diet
- More Protein: Most commercial dry cat foods are low on protein and high on carbs, which is the opposite of what nature requires for a cat’s health. The solution? More protein. Consider buying a higher protein food and/or mixing some wet food into your cat’s diet, and see how their skin fares.
- Eliminating Allergens: If you think your cat has an allergy, ask your vet to help you plan an elimination diet to identify the source of the allergy.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids & Other Supplements
If your cat already has a well balanced diet, consider an Omega 3 supplement. The benefits of fish oil for pets even go beyond skin moisture -- some tests indicate it may help prevent cancer. You may also consider a more general supplement, like Dermatrix, that includes keratin for skin health.
3. Topical Treatments, Shampoos, and Grooming
- Shampoos: These should only be used if your cat has gotten very dirty, greasy, or sticky. Otherwise there’s almost no reason to bathe a cat.
- Flea and tick Topical treatments will rid your cat of existing lice or flea infestations, which may resolve their related skin issues.
- Brushing your cat regularly will help spread their own natural skin oils.
4. Antibiotics & Antifungals
Prescription medication will be necessary for just about any infection-related skin condition. Your vet will know which medication is needed.
5. Household Changes
- Dry Heat: If the air is dry in your home because the heat is on, bring a humidifier into the room your cat spends the most time in.
- Allergies: Have you changed laundry detergents? Brought in a new scratching post? Started using a new household cleaner? Your cat’s dry skin could be a reaction or an allergy to one of these substances.
More on Skin Health
Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets
Cat Dandruff Remedies and Solutions
Skin and Coat Care: A Pet Parent's Guide
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.