Ask the pet expert: dandruff

November 19, 2012

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My cat has dandruff. Is there a safe, organic way to treat that?

Dandruff or dry scaly coat is a condition that we see in cats and dogs, especially during cold weather. However it is important to find out the primary cause of this condition before attempting to treat it. So let's discuss some of the potential reasons that cats can develop dry skin or dandruff.

•Forced dry heat or low humidity can certainly cause dry skin that flakes easily, so winter is the time we notice this pattern a lot.

• Certain mites or fungi can cause dry scaling of the skin. This condition would also cause your cat to itch. Your veterinarian can help in identifying this mite and treating the problem.

•Certain immune-mediated conditions can also cause excessive scaling and flaking of the skin. Again this is something that can be identified or treated by your veterinarian.

•Some cats with food allergies or those that are not on a good-quality food can also have skin that is very scaly or flaky.

Once we rule out any environmental, infectious and immune-mediated conditions, there are some agents that can help with skin conditioning.

•A good-quality food or even a food trial with a skin support diet or a novel protein diet might be indicated based on the initial assessment.

•Skin supplements that have omega 3 fatty acids can prove beneficial in keeping the skin healthy.

•Shampoos or topical sprays that have natural agents to moisturize and condition the skin might be useful as well. Some of these are medicated shampoos that can be obtained from your veterinarian. Shampoos and topical sprays with a natural chemical phytosphingosine has been found to be very useful in managing conditions with dry scaly skin in our experience.

This week's expert is Dr. Padma Yadlapalli, Freetown Animal Hospital in Columbia. To submit a question for a local animal expert, email

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