Dishing on Dogs
Editor's Note: Karen Ryan is the owner of Midtown Groom & Board in Austin, an activity-based kennel, doggie daycare and creative grooming salon. She combines practicality and humor when writing about the four- legged kind. Dishing on Dogs is her doggy-advice column for CultureMap.
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.
Most shedding can be tackled with regular grooming, but heavy shedding can point to health concerns that require veterinary treatment.
There is no “cure” for shedding, but there are plenty of ways to tackle this common problem. First, assess the severity. Is there a little fur on the couch, or are you sweeping up an extra animal every two days?
Dogs shed as the dead undercoat falls and new fur is generated. This is a natural process usually tied to seasonal changes.
And all dogs shed. Be wary the breeder, friend or associate who says that a breed does not. Unless you have just adopted a hairless dog, you have been duped, my friend.
Some breeds shed less fur at a slower rate. These breeds require regular grooming; otherwise they may suffer severe matting, which is a problem unto itself.
Most breeds shed an average amount. But then there are the doozies like German shepherds, huskies and retrievers. These “double coated” breeds leave behind one heck of a furry trail.
Healthy shedding or heavy shedding?
Most shedding can be tackled with regular grooming and a few other tricks, but heavy shedding can point to 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 other symptoms, a trip to the vet may be required to rule out health issues.
Look for a pet food with high-quality protein enriched with balanced omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Poor nutrition is another culprit that can contribute to shedding and skin problems. Look for a pet food with high-quality protein enriched with balanced omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Supplements with fish oil can also drastically improve the skin and coat, reducing shedding. 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
After ruling out health problems and tackling your pet’s diet, grooming your dog can put you back on the road to sanity, whether you are a do-it-yourself-er or someone who outsources the wrestling match required to get your dog into a bathtub.
Most people don’t 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 important, start brushing your pet every day. Okay, every other day. Take the same amount of time you usually spend sweeping the floor and brush your pet instead.
This proactively removes fur from the coat before it even hits the ground. Plus, brushing is positive attention and can become a great way to bond with your pet.
If you have a long-haired dog, talk to a professional groomer. Ask about an 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.
Start brushing your pet every day. Okay, every other day. Take the same amount of time you usually spend sweeping the floor and brush your pet instead.
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 — and a correct tool — to brush animals, based on their coats. Watch out for brush burn with short-haired dogs such as pit bulls and miniature pinschers. Conversely, brush with gusto on Labradoodles, huskies and shepherds.
Be careful with de-shedding tools such as the heavily marketed Furminator. It is a bladed instrument and should be used accordingly. Personally I think bladed brushes should be left to the professionals.
Speaking of pros, there is no shame in outsourcing to a reputable grooming salon. Talk to a stylist about your pet’s shedding issues. He or she 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. 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 cleaner in the mailbox within a matter of months.