Editor's Note: Karen Ryan is the owner of Midtown Groom & Board, an activity-based kennel, doggie daycare and creative grooming salon. Working professionally with animals on a day-to-day basis for over 12 years has informed her about the profound wisdom within their innate natures. It has also made for many laughs. She combines practicality and humor when writing about the four- legged kind. This is the second installement of her doggy-advice column, "Dishing on Dogs."
Q: My dog sheds like crazy! Help!
A: Imagine a scene with tumbleweeds of fur gently bouncing across the living room floor. Cue Spaghetti Western music. There is a stand-off between your sanity and the lint roller.
While there is no “cure” for shedding, there are numerous ways to tackle this common dilemma. One must look at the causes and level of shedding to determine the appropriate treatment. Is there a little fur on the couch or are you sweeping up an extra animal every two days? Is this is a small nuisance that just comes along with pet ownership or is your particular creature setting off a magnitude seven on the Richter scale of furry disasters?
Dogs shed as the dead undercoat falls and new fur is generated. This is a natural process that is usually tied to seasonal changes. All dogs shed. Be wary the breeder, friend, or associate who says that a breed does not shed. Unless you have just adopted a hairless dog, you will have been duped, my friend. That said, some breeds shed less fur and at a very slow rate. Those breeds require regular grooming otherwise they may suffer severe matting as a result of lightly shedding, but un-brushed, fur; a whole other problem in itself. Most breeds shed an average amount. Then there are the doozies like German Shepherds, Huskies, and Retrievers. These “double coated” breeds are the Olympians-of-Shed. The trail they leave behind can seem like a mean prank.
Healthy shedding or heavy shedding?
Excessive shedding is no joke. It is important to monitor and maintain an awareness of what is normal. Is it seasonally appropriate? Does your pet shed a sweater when your run your hand down their back? While most shedding can be tackled with regular grooming and a few other tricks, heavy shedding can point toward health concerns that require Veterinary treatment. Conditions such as hormone imbalance, tumors, parasites, allergies and autoimmune diseases can all increase what would otherwise be normal shedding. If lately your pet is dropping more coat than usual, shedding heavily year round, or showing any other symptoms I recommend a trip to the Vet to rule out health issues.
If your beloved critter is just a fur factory, plain and simple, it is wise to investigate diet. Poor nutrition can contribute to shedding and skin problems. Look for a pet food with a high quality protein that is enriched with balanced Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Supplements with fish oil can also drastically improve the skin and coat, reducing shedding. Austin has some great, local pet food stores which are staffed with knowledgeable folks qualified to guide you in your quest. The extra dollars you spend on food will save you money in the long run on Vet bills and grooming tabs, not to mention vacuum filters.
Groom for sanity
Having ruled out any health problems and tackled your pet’s diet, I cannot put enough emphasis on grooming. Whether you are a do-it-yourself-er or someone who out-sources the wrestling match that is required to get your dog into a bathtub, grooming is the key to your success and the return of your sanity.
Many people do not realize how much fur comes out during a bath. For that reason alone, bathe more regularly! Use a mild, moisturizing shampoo for regular bathing to prevent dry skin. More importantly, start brushing your pet every day. Okay, every other day. Take the same amount of time you usually spend sweeping your floor and brush your pet instead. This proactively removes fur from the coat before it even hits the ground. What’s even better? Brushing is positive attention paid to your pet and can become a great way to bond with her.
If you have a long-haired pet go talk to a professional groomer. Ask to be shown the appropriate brush for your breed and how to use it. Many well meaning pet parents brush lightly at the surface of their animals’ fur, whistling while they work. Meanwhile, the stubborn undercoat below, which has eluded the brush once again, flips them the bird as it plots an aerial assault on the freshly vacuumed floor.
Choose the right beauty tools
There is a correct way to brush animals based on their coats and a variety of tools to use. One needs to be conscientious of brush-burn with short haired dogs such as Pitbulls and Miniature Pinschers. On the other hand, owners need to learn to work with more gusto and elbow grease when it comes to Labradoodles, Huskies and Shepherds. Be particularly careful with de-shedding tools such as the heavily marketed “Furminator”. It is a bladed instrument and should be used accordingly. I, for one, believe that bladed brushes should be left to the professionals.
Speaking of pros, for those folks who would rather spend time imbibing Margaritas at Polvo’s while their animal gets gussied up, I would recommend finding a reputable grooming salon. Talk to a stylist about your pet’s shedding issues. They will likely suggest a regular regimen as well as an appropriate shampoo or de-shedding treatment. A good groomer will gladly assist you in figuring out the frequency with which your unique little beast needs to be groomed. If you find someone you click with, request them! They will get to know Fido and he will benefit from the consistency. Pay a pro to get your shedding conundrum under control and don’t be surprised if you receive a thank you card from your vacuum in the mailbox within a matter of months.
Now, put the lint roller down and back away slowly. Shedding is perfectly natural and can be tackled with proper nutrition and regular grooming. If it seems excessive, talk to your Vet about potential health problems.