Ask A Vet: Helping Your Cat Get Rid of Severe Dander


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: I have a mature cat (around 12 years old)...he's been experiencing severe cat dander (the worst I have ever seen...lots and lots of flakes all over his coat). At first I thought perhaps he was just getting old because he has up-to-date shots and his flea/tick medicine is current. He is also severely over-weight. We've tried everything to get him to lose weight, but to no avail. Other than his weight his last couple of vet visits have said he's perfectly healthy. Any ideas?
A: Being overweight and old is a double-whammy.  Have you ever watched a young, slim cat groom?  It requires a lot of flexibility and effort.  Just like in humans, being chronically overweight predisposes cats to developing arthritis. Arthritis has been largely overlooked in cats, but it can manifest in their decreased grooming ability. It’s hard to flex and on top of it, obese cats have to bend around their big bellies.  At 12 years, your cat is equivalent to a 70-year-old person and at this age, anything goes, medically speaking.  Early kidney disease, a change in your cat’s digestive system or any other changes in his metabolism—whether due to age or disease can cause dander. 

I recommend you have a skin work up to rule out ectoparasites or fungus.  Also ask for basic geriatric blood and urine panels to eliminate the possibility of underlying issues. If all is well with those tests, talk with your vet for recommendations on quality, highly digestible, geriatric wet food to help increase the moisture in your boy’s diet and help him lose a little weight.

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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