All about cats

What causes cat dandruff

Until recently, the primary cause of cat dandruff was thought to be related to the skin of the cat, which is composed of a relatively thin layer of stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of skin cells.

In short, it's the layer of dead skin cells that cause dandruff.

But it's not the dead skin cells themselves that cause dandruff - it's the bacterial community of bacteria living on those dead skin cells.

The bacteria that cause cat dandruff are different than the bacterial community of the human skin. And the bacteria that cause human dandruff are different than the bacteria that cause cat dandruff.

"Many of these species have been isolated from the human skin and have been studied extensively, and it was thought that they were the same species. But they are actually different species. These are skin-associated bacteria. So they're not the same bacteria that cause human dandruff," Dr. Pomeranz said.

"In cats, it's a different story. The species that cause cat dandruff are different. There are many cat-dandruff-causing species, and they're not the same species that cause human dandruff. They're more closely related to the fungal skin infections that cause human ringworm."

So, according to Dr. Pomeranz, what's happening is that the bacteria that cause cat dandruff is colonizing the skin of the cat and creating a fungal infection. The fungus that's created by the bacteria causes the hair to fall out.

This fungus is similar to the fungus that causes ringworm in humans, Dr. Pomeranz said.

How to treat cat dandruff

"So, the treatment of choice for human ringworm is to use a topical antifungal drug called ketoconazole. And it's very effective," Dr. Pomeranz said. "Studies have shown it to be about 80 to 90 percent effective.

"We've had success with the topical application of the antifungal drugs in cats. But the dosage has to be very high. The dose has to be high enough to kill the bacteria that cause the dandruff.

"And in cats it's still not 100 percent effective. It's only about 80 to 90 percent effective. So we're looking for ways to increase that efficacy. And a number of people are interested in doing that right now.

"There are a number of different groups working on different formulations of the antifungal drug that would be targeted to the bacteria that cause the dandruff in cats. It's not easy though. It's a very complicated system. It's hard to work with. It's hard to study.

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