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October 2, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Best Supplements for Feline Skin And Fur

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Feline 101 Blog Series

Kitty looking scruffy?

Itching or biting at their fur?

Have you noticed skin problems - dryness, or dandruff?

A cat’s skin and fur are both their first line of defense and the first place health issues tend to surface. Luckily, they have you. While these problems should be taken seriously, too often people see the condition of their kitty’s fur and skin as a more frivolous or cosmetic health issue and put off corrective action. As a result, the underlying issues only worsen.  Don’t make this mistake! Your cat’s body is asking for help. The sooner you deliver it, the better off they’ll be.

Common Causes of Feline Skin and Fur Problems

Identifying the cause of the problem is the first step toward solving it. What’s going on with your kitty? Here are some of them most common feline fur and skin issues:

Allergies:  Just like people, some cats are born with allergies. Seasonal allergies due to pollen or mold and food allergies due to corn (which is unfortunately one of the chief ingredients in many commercial cat foods), dairy, and artificial colors are all common in the feline world.  If your cat is suffering with itchy rough skin, hives, and irritation, it’s worth looking at an improved corn-free diet. Seasonal allergies can be addressed by reducing exposure. The severe allergic skin reaction, sores, hives, and hot spots seen with feline allergic dermatitis can be caused by fleas, mosquitoes, mites, bacterial and fungal infection, hormonal issues, drug reactions, and autoimmune disease. Cats with this condition need to see a vet.

Environmental Issues: When the weather cools and thermostats are turned up, we aren’t the only ones prone to dry skin and hair! Protect your cats and yourself by reducing the heat and moisturizing inside and out.  Other potential environmental causes of skin and fur are the grooming products, cleaning products, and fabrics in your home. If the appearance of skin and fur issues coincides with the purchase of a new product, that product may be a trigger to avoid. Best bet? Stick to natural, hypoallergenic products as much as possible!

Pests: If your cat goes outside, or is around a cat or dog that does, pests are nearly unavoidable without prescription medications. Meds may be a bit pricey, but they’re well worth it! Without them, outdoor cats are prone to:

  • Fleas: Check for fleas around the neck and any lighter colored areas of fur (their favorite locations). They’re about the size of small ants, and they move quickly. Fleas on your cats can be killed with shampoo or sprays, but you’ll need to cleanse your home as well to prevent their return. Any fabrics your cat has come in contact with should be washed. Any furniture or carpeting should be thoroughly and frequently vacuumed and you may want to use a specially designed flea pesticide on them for good measure.
  • Ticks: Ticks – which, due to climate changes, are becoming more and more prolific - appear as lumps on the skin and don’t move around. If you see one, use tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as closely as possible to the skin and pull it straight out. Don’t twist or you’ll risk the head breaking off while still lodged in the skin. Don’t squish the body prior to removal or bacteria will be released by the head into your cat’s blood stream. Once removed, place the tick in a jar with rubbing alcohol, wash your hands, disinfect the bite area, and sterilize the tweezers.
  • Ear Mites: Unlike fleas and ticks, ear mites do not look like tiny insects. Instead, they look like black/brown ear wax in the ears. If your cat has been scratching there and you see the black gunk, ear mites are the likely culprit. To treat them, loosen debris by rubbing your cat’s ears with a little vegetable oil on a cotton ball. Taking care not to push mites back further, remove the debris with clean cotton balls. Once clean, you’ll want to treat the inside of your cat’s ears with medicated ear mite drops and apply triple anti-biotic ointment if there are sores behind them. Mites tend to reoccur, so keep check on them, and follow the instructions on their medication.
  • Mange: Though far more common in dogs, cats are also prone to mange (known as scabies in humans) caused by demodex mites. As with ear mites, the mites that cause mangy dry patches and hair loss are not actually visible to our eyes. Though mange may resolve itself and can be treated with over the counter meds, because it most often occurs in cats with diabetes or with lowered immunity (whether simply from stress or an actual immune disease) it’s still critical to see you vet so these can be ruled out or treated.

NOTE: If one animal in your home has these issues, all else should be suspected and treated!

Stress: When cats are stressed out by changes in their environment or routine, their immunity is lowered and they may take to over-grooming in an attempt to self-sooth. Try to minimize the effects of stress by sticking to a routine and introducing change slowly. Additionally, or when that’s not an option, you can try natural anxiety medications, supplements, or feline pheromones to promote relaxation.

Nutrient Deficiencies: While poor diet is an obvious cause of nutritional deficiencies, it’s not the only one! Certain health conditions (including stress) can cause the body to eat through more of a certain nutrient than it normally would. As a result, your cat’s overall health, including their skin and fur, tends to decline.

Feline Fur and Skin Supplements

Though these supplements are safe and beneficial for all cats, they are especially helpful for kitties with skin or fur issues! Grind them up and mix them in with a little wet food to make dosing simple and stress-free for both kitty and you.

Biotin: Though true biotin deficiencies are rare, the first sign your cat has one will be in their fur and skin. Biotin is commonly recommended for itchiness and feline allergies. Though, according to the FDA biotin supplementation is not necessary, biotin is water soluble - meaning any excess will be excreted and is impossible to overdose on. Your cat can’t get too much.

Taurine: Because dietary taurine is required for circulatory health and digestion, it affects the absorption of all other nutrients as well. If your cat seems more sluggish than usual, their fur is rougher, or they have dental issues, you might consider a taurine supplement. Though commercial cat foods should provide the necessary amount of taurine, it’s water soluble and extra can only help! Like biotin, taurine can’t be overdosed.

Egg Yolk Lecithin: Lecithin supplements are used by people for improved acne and liver function, but are most often given to cats as a remedy for hairballs. Lecithin is a healthy fat compound derived from either plant or animal sources. Egg yolk lecithin is the best type for cats. Though some veterinarians will still recommend soy lecithin, others advise against it as there is some risk of thyroid issues in cats that take it regularly. Lecithin works as lubricant/laxative in the body so too much can result in diarrhea and digestive discomfort. ½ capsule, twice weekly is the dosage experts recommend for cats.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid:Though cats on a commercial food diet are unlikely to develop a true deficiency, without enough omega fatty acids, your cat’s skin and coat will suffer. Dryness, dandruff, and roughness in the coat are all signs. Though there are many sources of omega 3, experts advise against plant based sources (like flaxseed) which are harder to absorb and fish liver supplements which carry a risk of vitamin A overdose. The best source of omega 3 is a fish oil supplement (more on these here) . As a fat, too much fish oil can result in diarrhea and digestive issues, and as a blood thinning nutrient, it’s not appropriate for cats already taking blood thinners. However, at the safe recommended dose of 71 mg for kittens and 143 mg for cats, fish oil provides cats with extra skin and fur protection with moisture from the inside out.

For Your Pinning Pleasure:

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Does your cat enjoy brushing?

Are they currently taking any supplements?

Have any feline fur and skin tips of your own to share?

Weigh in!

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Sources:

ASPCA: Cat Care: Skin Problems

WebMD: Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Animal Planet: How to Remove Ticks from Pets

wikiHow: How to Get Rid of Ear Mites in a Cat

Pet MD: Mange in Cats

The Nest: Cats & Biotin

Wikipedia: Biotin

Pet MD: Taurine Deficiency in Cats

VetInfo: Taurine for Cats

The Nest: How Much Taurine for a Cat Per Day?

Kitty Cat Groomer: Hairball Remedies

WebMD: Lecithin

Parenting Fur Kids: Egg Yolk Lecithin

The Nest: Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids Essential for Cats?

The Nest: The Best Source of Omega 3 for Cats

PetCareRX:  Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats: How Fish Oil Supplements Can Improve Your Pet’s Health and Comfort

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