You notice the unsightly white flakes first, when your normally meticulous kitty develops a bad case of dandruff. Then you notice digestion issues and wonder if they're related. If dandruff and weight loss accompany unmistakable bowel problems, your cat likely has diabetes. Otherwise, the root cause could be something else.
Diabetes is pretty much the ultimate digestive disorder: The body becomes unable to use its fuel, usually due to issues with the pancreas, the organ that makes insulin. The disease progresses gradually. Your diabetic kitty is likely to have started off a bit porky but suddenly dropped a ton of weight despite eating as much as or more than she used to. She's drinking a lot of water, too, while wasting away, and her poops have become quite ... formidable. Meanwhile, on top of seeming generally ill, she develops flaky skin. She may quit grooming herself. Dandruff may come about because the cat's not feeling well enough to groom, but also because of an inability to process fats and produce adequate coat oil. Flaky skin is a symptom of starvation, as well, which is essentially the outcome of untreated diabetes. Take your kitty to the vet for diabetes testing. This condition is extremely treatable; insulin-dependent cats do not lose out on a high quality of life.
Obesity is an early warning sign that your kitty's at risk for developing diabetes. It can also contribute directly to coat dandruff by making your love muffin literally unable to reach troublesome areas for daily grooming. While not technically a digestive disorder in itself, obesity is a sign of poor nutrition -- whether through inappropriate food, inadequate control of portions or nutritional and hormonal disorders -- and contributes to a host of health problems, digestive, skin-related and otherwise.
Oh, those omega-3s. Data are contradictory when it comes to human consumptio, but very straightforward regarding your feline friend. Cats are obligate carnivores -- they need to eat meat in order to live. Your kitty requires a range of animal fats in her diet to have healthy skin and organs. Lack of omega 3 fatty acids leads to dandruff flakes and overall ill health. If your flaky kitty is cleared of diabetes, discuss omega-3 supplementation with her veterinarian.
Usually when we're talking cat dandruff and parasites, we're talking about external crawlies causing the flakes directly. However, if your speckle-ridden pet is also suffering from digestive issues, she has, in veterinary parlance, a significant internal parasite load. In ordinary terminology this is known as a lot of worms. If diabetes has been ruled out, have your vet check for internal parasites while you discuss those fatty acids.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.