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What is Scaly Skin?

Treating scaly skin is not just about finding out the underlying cause, but also alleviating itchiness associated with the condition to help make your cat comfortable.

Cats may have scaly skin for a number of reasons, some of which are minor, such as naturally dry skin. Scaly skin often looks like dandruff, but can also consist of larger flakes that can be seen through your cat’s fur. If you notice your cat excessively licking or scratching certain areas of his body, check to see if you spot any signs of scaly skin.

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Scaly Skin Average Cost

From 558 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Scaly Skin in Cats

Cat owners are often unaware of their cat’s skin problems because cats tend to groom themselves on a regular basis, so excessive licking may not seem unusual. But, it’s important for cat owners to make an effort to look for scaly skin symptoms, including:

  • Small or large flakes of skin
  • Itchiness
  • Hair loss 
  • Thinning fur
  • Red, irritated skin
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Causes of Scaly Skin in Cats

Scaly skin is a sign of an underlying health condition. Although it can be caused by something as minor as dry skin in the winter, there are other more serious health conditions that could be affecting your cat. Some of these causes include:

  • Cheyletiella mange, caused by mites
  • Demodectic mange
  • Allergies, especially flea allergies
  • Ringworm
  • Seborrhea, or an excessive production of sebum
  • Sunburn
  • Yeast infections on the skin
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Inadequate grooming due to e.g. joint pain or dental disease
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Diagnosis of Scaly Skin in Cats

A vet will be able to spot scaly skin through a simple physical examination of the cat’s fur and skin, however in order to treat it, the underlying cause must be diagnosed. Be sure to give your vet detailed information on when the symptoms began, and what behaviors your cat has exhibited. If your cat has been diagnosed with any other health conditions in the past, be sure to bring this to your vet’s attention as well. Because scaly skin can be caused by allergies, tell your vet if you have recently changed your cat’s diet or something in their environment such as their bedding.

First, a vet may perform a complete blood count test and urinalysis to get a better picture of the cat’s overall health. Blood tests can also show if there is a serious cause of the scaly skin, such as an autoimmune disorder.

Skin scrapings, which test for mites under the skin, are usually done.  A small sample of hair may also be taken and examined under a microscope to determine if there are excessive amounts of sebum on the hair follicle. A culture may be taken to check for fungal and bacterial infections.

A vet may also do a thorough physical examination to check you cat for fleas. Scaly skin can often be a sign of an allergic reaction to fleas, so if any are found, this could be the cause.

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Treatment of Scaly Skin in Cats

Once a diagnosis has been made, the vet will discuss treatment options with you. If the cause is related to fleas, ringworm or mites, medication will be prescribed to combat the pests. The vet may also prescribe steroids or antihistamines to help alleviate the cat’s itchiness and skin inflammation. 

Cats will be prescribed antifungals or antibiotics if the cause is a yeast or bacterial infection. These are usually given orally, however some topical treatments may be required, depending on the condition of your cat’s skin.

Seborrhea is treated with special shampoos designed to control the production of sebum. Your vet may wash your cat in the office for you, and then ask you to continue using the shampoo at home. 

If the vet believes your cat has scaly skin because of an allergy, he may suggest allergy testing to determine what your cat is allergic to. Once you find out, you will need to reduce or eliminate your cat’s exposure to the allergen to help your cat heal and prevent further issues.

To treat autoimmune disorders, your vet will prescribe medication that suppresses the immune system and allows your cat’s body to recover. If the cause of the scaly skin is cancer, which is rare, your cat may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment.


Ensure your cat is grooming adequately and brush their coat through every day. Consider starting skin supplements and a skin supportive diet containing omega 3 fatty acids and biotin.

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Recovery of Scaly Skin in Cats

Recovery will depend on the cause of the scaly skin. If the scaly skin was caused by fleas or mites, you will need to administer medication to your cat on a monthly basis to prevent the issue from recurring. 

Bacterial and fungal infections will usually clear up after you have given your cat the full course of medication. To prevent these infections from coming back, your vet may recommend you use special shampoos to keep your cat’s skin clear and healthy. Not every cat will tolerate being shampooed.

Scaly skin caused by allergies will usually clear up once the cat is no longer exposed to the allergen. However, if it’s impossible to completely eliminate the allergen from your home, talk to your vet about whether you can use medication to alleviate symptoms. Immunotherapy may be an option for some though can be expensive.

Regardless of the cause, be sure to speak with your vet about an grooming routine. Most cats needs to be brushed regularly. In general, bathing is not advised but may be needed to treat certain medical conditions.

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Scaly Skin Average Cost

From 558 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Scaly Skin Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Finn

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domestic medium hair

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Three Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Scabs
Bald Spots
Over Grooming
Scratching
Hair Balls

My three year old Finn has been having an ongoing battle with over grooming himself to the point of giving himself bald spots. Particularly on his front legs, left side near his rib cage, and some small spots on his back knees. He had a flea infestation nearly a year ago that was thoroughly taken care of, and I brush him at least 3 times a day; there are no fleas in sight. He does have feline herpes/allergies, to which I've seen the vet many times about. They've given him the steroid shot twice now, it works for a bit; however, within a few days Finn goes back to scratching, and over grooming himself. I've found some scabby marks around the front area of his body, but it does not look like flea bites. Instead it's connected to his hair when I brush it off. The vet suggested to change his food, in which I did to what the vet recommended, but still no luck. I've already sprayed dust mite spray, given him extra supplements such as Omega fatty acids, and organic topical medicine. However, no luck. I'm totally at a loss, and I can tell my baby is uncomfortable. Please any suggestions? I've been to the vet 4 times the past year about it.

July 31, 2018

Finn's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Conditions like this rarely have a simple solution; allergies, irritants, infections, parasites among a range of various different dermatological conditions. Food allergies are a common issue, however environmental sources may also cause excessive irritation and over grooming; sometimes narrowing down on a cause can be like trial and error, allergy testing may help narrow in on an allergen or rule them out but this may be a long process. There are no shortcuts I’m afraid. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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dog-name-icon

Rirbow

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Asian domestic

dog-age-icon

2 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Flaking Skin. Looks Like Dandruff

How do I treat my cat's skin as his feet's skin are flaking off. This resulted to hair loss. I do not have money to send my cat to the vet. How can I treat it using only things I can easily buy or already at home?

July 24, 2018

Rirbow's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Without knowing the cause of Rirbow's hair loss, I am afraid that I can't give you any suggestions to treat it. It may be related to parasites, bacteria, fungus, poor nutrition, or a hereditary problem. Without seeing him, I'm not sure which direction you might need to go. Many clinics do offer free or discounted first office visits, and that may allow you to have him seen and get a better idea as to the cause.

July 24, 2018

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Scaly Skin Average Cost

From 558 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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