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Dry Skin in Cats

by Lauren Samet

Dry skin in cats can impact the condition of their coat, which gives tell-tale signs. Symptoms can include a coat that is dull or lacklustre, contains dandruff-like flakes, or is excessively greasy. But what are the causes, and what can be done about the problem? 

Dry Skin in Cats – What Is It?

The skin is the largest organ in the body and (as is often the case with humans) is a reflection of internal health. The skin is made up of several layers and each has a separate function. The outer layer, known as the epidermis, is the area that can become dry over time either due to extrinsic or intrinsic factors. This interlocking cell layer which creates the skin begins to break down, releasing old dead cells which are seen as dry skin or dander.

Causes of Dry Skin

Some of the causes for dry skin in cats include:

Symptoms of Dry Skin

Common symptoms of dry skin in cats:

Diagnoses of Dry Skin

To find out the cause of your cat’s dry skin, even if the condition in itself doesn’t appear very serious, it's best to speak to your vet and get your cat checked over. Your vet may suggest a skin scraping, biopsy or allergy test to find a cause. They may also wish to know details of your pet’s diet and husbandry routines. A dietary analysis or elimination diet may be necessary if your vet thinks nutrition is the cause. If all these options do not indicate a reason then it may be that the veterinarian wishes to take a blood sample or perform a urinary analysis. 

Treatment & Management of Dietary Related Dry Skin

Keep a Record

Keeping a note of what your cat eats throughout the day can help you trace back to any weak spots in their diet. For example, if your cat regularly fills up on treats and then doesn’t want to eat its dinner, this could lead to a dietary imbalance. Knowing what’s “normal” for your cat, its coat/skin and behaviour will help you identify any changes that may indicate a problem.

Diet & Supplementation

If your vet thinks a nutritional imbalance is to blame for your cat’s dry skin then it may time to consider a different diet. 

Legally, complete cat foods (whether kitten, adult or senior) should provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your pet needs for a balanced diet. This should include essential amino acids such as taurine and arginine, and essential fatty acids such as omega 3s and 6s. These essential fatty acids, in particular, have been noted to reduce inflammation in the skin and promote skin health.

Omega 3 fatty acids include:

Omega 6 fatty acids include:

A cat’s carnivorous diet will often provide it with a source of Omega 6. Beneficial levels of Omega 3s, however, can be harder to obtain from a general complete diet alone.

The ratio of fatty acids provided in the diet is equally important. Historic recommendations have suggested ratios of 15:1 omega 6s to omega 3s, however, there is now some research to suggest that ratios of 10:1 or 5:1 are more beneficial for health (the lower being the better). Once again this can be harder to obtain from some general complete diets.

Although we are all mammals, cats are not humans or dogs and therefore have different nutritional requirements. For example, the recent human dietary trend for coconut oil and its rich fatty acid content has produced some online support for this being suitable for cats with dry skin too. However, although cats require fatty acids they are also obligatory carnivores and are unlikely to ever eat a coconut in the “wild”. 

If you read something and are unsure about it, it’s always best doing some extra research on it. I did this myself with the coconut trend and came across some papers that suggested coconut oil could give cats diarrhoea (definitely not supportive of gut health) and lead to a fatty liver. The feline body and organs have their own specialised metabolism and functions so make sure you do your reading on what you provide your cats with and always seek advice from a vet if you’re not sure.

Reassuringly all Vitapaws supplements are tested regularly to ensure they meet the nutritional guidelines stated on the pack and do not exceed nutritional tolerances where present for cats. 

If you have any further questions about the range or your cats’ dry skin then feel free to contact their customer care line on 0845 8630 622 or visit their website for more details: www.simplysupplements.co.uk/contact-us 

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