The forecast calls for flurries. Not of snow -- of fur. Shedding season is just around the corner
The No. 1 complaint of pet owners is shedding, sometimes aptly referred to as "blowing coat." And while you can reduce the risk of a "fur-nado" with regular brushing and some other basic strategies, there's no magic solution to put an end to the hair flying around your home as dogs start to shed their winter coats and new hair comes in.
The dirty little secret about dogs is that they all shed, but some share more falling fur than others. Double-coated dogs -- such as Alaskan malamutes, chow chows, Shetland sheepdogs and Siberian huskies -- are the most obvious shedders. Other breeds that can leave your furniture and clothing coated with hair include German shepherds (commonly nicknamed "German shedders"), Labrador retrievers, beagles and pugs.
One of the interesting facts about canine hair loss is that shedding is affected by the type, intensity and duration of light exposure. As the days grow warmer and longer, dogs doff their heavy winter coats and replace them with a lightweight summer version. Depending on the individual dog, shedding season can last for up to two months.
Dogs who spend most of their time indoors are still influenced by the natural light that comes in through windows, but they typically shed small amounts year-round rather than having a seasonal heavy shed. Since these are usually small breeds, they normally wouldn't shed as much fur as a larger dog anyway.
Hormones also affect the amount of hair dogs shed. Females who aren't spayed usually shed twice a year, at the same time they're in heat. Spayed females don't have that periodic surge of hormones, so they develop a full coat that sheds year-round.
First-time owners of thick-coated dogs may think their pet has a skin condition when his fur starts coming out in big clumps. Unless he has actual bald spots, though, this is normal.
The shedding process is a healthy, natural cycle, but we know that sometimes it can have you pulling out your own hair. We've gathered some tips to help you keep shedding under control, or at least manageable, until Mother Nature delivers your dog's new coat.
-- Brush your dog every day with a rubber curry brush or nubby shedding glove. That allows you to get loose hair out at the time and place of your choosing, preferably outside or in your garage.
-- For a dog with a double coat, purchase an effective undercoat rake and use it regularly to thin the winter coat.
"This allows air to circulate and helps to prevent skin issues and mats," says groomer Barbara Cole Miller of San Juan Capistrano, California.
-- Using a slicker brush, start with the hind feet and work your way up to the front of the dog, recommends groomer Julie Ellingson of Sacramento, California. Be sure you go all the way through the fur, but be careful not to dig into the skin. Use a metal comb to check for tangles as you go.
-- A warm bath followed by a thorough blow dry can help to loosen outgoing fur. Brush out as much hair as possible while the wet coat still has shampoo in it. Fur will come out more easily when it's lubricated with shampoo, Ellingson says.
-- Outsource defuzzing to a professional groomer. He or she has the skill and tools to accelerate removal of the winter accumulation of undercoat. A high-powered professional dryer wielded by an experienced groomer will loosen and release undercoat more easily and quickly than you can at home.
-- If all else fails, put a bodysuit or T-shirt on your dog to help contain the hair, stock up on sticky tape rollers and remember that it probably won't last more than a few weeks.
How to help the
medicine go down
Q: My cat needs daily medication for a heart condition, but she hates taking pills! She's really good at pretending to swallow them and then spitting them out later. Hiding it in food doesn't work, either. She just eats around it. Help! -- via email
A: I hear you! Cats can be the very dickens when it comes to medicating them. I have some suggestions that I hope will help.
First, check your technique. The best way to give your cat a pill is to open her mouth, place the pill as far back on her tongue as possible, then hold her mouth closed for a few seconds. While the mouth is closed, gently blow into her face to trigger the swallowing reflex. Stroking the throat can help as well.
A pill gun is another option. The method is much the same as the above, but it allows you to be quicker on the trigger, so to speak. It may take a little practice, but you may soon find that both you and your cat prefer this method. Whether you give a pill with your finger or with a pill gun, squirt a little water into your cat's mouth afterward with an eyedropper to help wash the pill all the way down the esophagus.
Another possibility is to have your cat's medication compounded into a tasty liquid, chewable pill or other form that's easier to give. A compounded drug is one that has been reformulated to be more palatable or easier to give to a pet. Your cat might be intrigued by a chicken- or tuna-flavored liquid or chewable pill. And if she is taking two different medications, compounding can combine them into one product.
Finally, remember to harness the power of rewards. Your cat may be more amenable to taking her medication if it's followed by a favorite treat. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Dieting cats become
-- Worried that your cat will hate you if you cut back on his food to help him lose weight? Researchers at Cornell University recently found that dieting felines did indeed have a change in attitude -- for the better. After an eight-week diet, the majority of cats seemed to be more affectionate, owners reported. The study, published in November in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, found that the cats responded to feeding restrictions by increasing "appetitive" behaviors -- begging, following, meowing and pacing before meals -- and were more likely to show affection to their people by purring or sitting in the owner's lap after eating.
-- The Bengal is the latest breed admitted to the Cat Fanciers Association's Miscellaneous Class, for breeds just beginning the CFA recognition process. The cats can be registered and exhibited at shows, but are not yet eligible for awards. The breed's new status is effective April 30. The Bengal has a spotted coat and stands out for his resemblance to a wild cat -- not surprising, since his forebears include the small, wild Asian leopard cat crossed with domestic cats. Today's Bengals no longer carry any wild blood. They enjoy playing in water, can jump to great heights, may learn to walk on a leash and are demanding of human attention.
-- A German shorthaired pointer -- GCH Vjk-Myst Garbonita's California Journey -- took Best in Show at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Known as CJ for short, he is the third of his breed to take home the top award and follows in the pawprints of his grandmother, Carlee (Ch. Kan-Point's VJK Autumn Roses), who won in 2005. The first GSP to win the title was Ch. Gretchenhof Columbia River, in 1974. German shorthairs are highly active and intelligent and are good companions for marathon runners and other energetic humans. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.