Cat with dandruff – What causes it and how do you treat it?

Scabs or dandruff on your cat's back?

There is a difference between scabs and dandruff. The cause of the two is also completely different. In the case of dandruff on your cat’s back, you will see small white flakes in the fur. There is a lot of dandruff near the skin, and the further you look at the hair ends, the fewer dandruff there is. Do you have a cat with a lot of white flakes on his back? Then this is in fact dandruff in your cat.

However, scabs on your cat’s back are caused by small wounds in the skin and wound fluid oozing out. This dries in the form of crusts. At first the scabs are stuck to the skin, but as soon as the skin has healed the scabs come off. Scabs feel like small hard grains. It leans a bit towards the feeling of sand. While you hardly feel the dandruff.

Why does my cat have dandruff on his back?

When the upper layers of the skin are not completely healthy, the skin can flake off abnormally. In normal healthy skin, flaking occurs cell by cell, but in a cat with dandruff in its coat, the cells stick together and come off many cells at the same time in a clump of cells. This is dandruff. If your cat has dandruff in his coat, there is a problem in his top layer of skin.

 This could be, for example, that your cat has a deficiency of essential fatty acids in its skin. Or your skin has become too dry. But it could also be because there is a superficially living mite on your cat’s skin. In this case it is the Cheyletiella mite, also known as the “walking dandruff mite”. That is the only mite that lives superficially and causes little complaints for your cat. Except that your cat has dandruff on his back.

A cat with severe dandruff in his coat due to the walking dandruff mite Cheyletiella
A cat with severe dandruff in his coat due to the walking dandruff mite Cheyletiella

What causes scabs on your cat's back?

If multiple scabs can be seen and felt in your cat’s fur and skin, the problem is deeper in the skin than when you only see dandruff on your cat’s back. After all, moisture comes from the skin that forms the scabs and that only occurs if the skin problem extends deeper into the skin.

In this case, there may be parasites such as fleas or mites that damage the skin and cause itching, causing your cat to scratch itself. In fact, there is always some form of itching on your cat’s back if there are scabs on its back. But there may also be itching on your cat’s back due to, for example, an allergy. There is a separate page about itching on your cat’s back that you can read to find a solution if your cat has scabs on his back and is also itching at the same time.

Does my cat have fur mites?

Unfortunately, you cannot determine this yourself with the naked eye. Although if you look very closely you can see the dandruff moving. This is because the mite sometimes moves the dandruff. That’s why they call it “walking dandruff” in English. However, this mite is killed quite easily by parasitic agents. So dit you not recently deworm your cat with a product containing Milbemycin oxime or given a flea product that contains Fipronil? Then there is a good chance that your cat carries this mite. Have you given those agents in the past month? Then it is unlikely that the dandruff in your cat’s coat are caused by the walking dandruff mite Cheyletiella.

Remove dandruff from your cat

What can you do about dandruff in your cat’s coat? First of all, it is necessary to prevent the production of dandruff. Later you will read how to remove as much dandruff as possible from your cat’s coat.

What can you do to prevent dandruff from forming?

Essential fatty acids

First of all, it is necessary to get your cat’s skin in top condition. The skin’s resistance to all kinds of daily problems must be optimal. You can achieve this by giving your cat extra essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are used as building blocks in the skin and ensure that the skin cells, hair and sebum become healthier and stronger. You can use Allerderm Omegaderm for this. But it is quite expensive and not everyone will be able or willing to pay for it. In that case you can also use salmon oil. This also contains most of the essential fatty acids that are needed to achieve optimal skin condition. And most cats like it too. But Allerderm Omegaderm is slightly better at dissolving the dandruff on your cat’s back.

Pretty soon you will see that your cat’s coat will become more shiny. But it takes about two to three weeks before the skin has recovered and you will start to see less dandruff. And it takes even longer for the old dandruff completely leave your cat’s coat. Only then will you no longer have a cat with dandruff on its back. If your cat mainly has scabs on its back, you can also use these remedies to combat this. But of course you also have to address any cause for the itching.

Remove the Cheyletiella mite

This mite is quite sensitive to all kinds of anti-parasitic agents. This is in contrast to most mites that can be very persistent and require more powerful remedies. The Cheyletiella mite will therefore die from the drug Milbemycin oxime, which is a deworming agent. This mite also dies from the flea treatment Fipronil. So does your cat have dandruff and has he not received any deworming or flea treatment from you in the past month? Then it is wise to treat your cat with a flea product that contains Fipronil. In this case we choose Fipronil and not Milbemycin oxime, because Fipronil has a longer after-effect and therefore reduces the risk of reinfection.

It is wise to give your cat a pipette in its neck every month for the time being so that the mites do not have a chance to return. In this case, your cat will get rid of the flakes on his back if it is caused by the Cheyletiella mite. And at the same time he received a treatment against fleas.

You should also treat other dogs and cats in your family with Fipronil and you should wash his blanket or bed as hot as it possible and thoroughly vacuum the place where he sleeps. This way, the chance of re-infection is little. 

How does my cat get fur mites?

Does your cat probably have fur mites and therefore dandruff on his back? Then he could have gotten the fur mites from anywhere. Fur mites are mites that live on all kinds of mammals with fur, so they can quickly take over as soon as your cat comes into contact with them. Humans can get them too, but the mites can’t reproduce in humans so treatment of the animals is enough to get rid of the mites yourself. 

What can you do to remove the dandruff from the fur on your cat's back?

Many people brush the coat a lot to remove the dandruff from your cat’s coat. But in doing so they irritate their cat’s already weakened skin even more. So try not to brush your cat’s coat too much. The dandruff doesn’t look nice, but they can’t do any harm either. It is not wise to brush your cat more than once or twice a week. It is best to do this with a flea comb in which the dandruff get stuck. And then touch the skin as little as possible. But again, brush your cat as little as possible!

You can also use a damp cloth and “pet” your cat with this cloth every day. The dandruff on your cat’s back will then stick to the cloth. But unfortunately not all of it. Here too, you should not do it so rough so you will not irritate the skin too much. Otherwise, more dandruff will form in your cat’s coat. Remember, the dandruff doesn’t look nice, but it can’t hurt either! It will disappear automatically once you have tackled the production of dandruff.

Cat has dandruff after combing

If only flakes in the fur on your cat’s back are visible after you have combed it, then your cat’s skin is being touched too much during combing. In that case, it is better to use a comb or brush that damages the skin less. Unfortunately, this depends a bit on your cat’s coat and it is best to ask a groomer in your area for advice. But with the brush below you can also see for yourself which brush has the best effect on your cat.

Cat has dandruff due to stress

Many people also think that cats develop dandruff in the fur on their backs as a result of stress. And that is certainly true. As a result of chronic stress, the Cortisol (= stress hormone) level in your cat’s blood increases. And this Cortisol ensures that other body systems are given priority in their maintenance because they are more important for the “survival” of your cat. It sounds a bit dramatic, but that is the origin of Cortisol’s function. The skin quality is less important at that time.

If you feel that your cat is suffering from stress, you can treat your cat with Zylkène. This will make him feel more confident and relaxed and, if all goes well, his cortisol levels in the blood will decrease. The skin can then start to recover again. In the meantime, it also does not hurt to give the essential fatty acids and the Frontline in addition to the Zylkène

Good luck!

Hopefully your cat soon will no longer have any dandruff and will shine as bright as a diamant again. Good luck for the both of you!