Shedding In Dogs and Cats
If you own a cat or a dog, things probably get a little bit hairy around your house as summer fades into fall. Everywhere you look...on the furniture, on your clothes, the rugs...hair. Especially if you have a dog. It's shedding time.
Not that dogs shed more than cats. It's just that, well, let me put this as delicately as I can: cats tend to swallow much of their loose hair and it eventually ends up either as a harmless deposit in the litter box, or looking like a wad of wet felt sitting on your carpet; a hairball, or trichobezoar (pronounced try-koe'-be-zor), as we called ‘em back on the block.
Shedding is largely a function of variations in the photoperiod and fluctuations in temperature. But there are other factors that come into play as well, such as skin condition, diet, lifestyle and general health.
Wild animals shed more in the spring and fall because that's when you have the greatest variations in temperature and the amount of daylight. Relatively speaking, temperatures and the number of hours of daylight are somewhat stable in winter and summer.
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In southern New England, late September will see daytime highs in the 60s and 70s and overnight lows in the low 40s.
And you probably notice that the days get noticeably shorter. We lose about a minute of daylight in the morning and two minutes in the evening. These are things that trigger natural shedding.
Domestic dogs and cats also are affected by these conditions, but we don't notice it as much.
All year long the animals are passing from dark or dimly lit areas to well lit areas, and from warm areas to cool or even cold areas.
As a result, domestic animals tend to shed more than their wild counterparts do throughout the entire year.
And since domestic animals are indoors most of the winter, where the air is pretty dry, their skin becomes drier, too. And dry skin won't hold a coat as well as supple skin.
There are some things you can do to help minimize shedding. One is to put your pet on a premium diet. If the food's first ingredient is corn and you see wheat, wheat gluten, wheat middlings, or soy in the mix, it's almost certainly a food with lower levels of fatty acids, and the fatty acids used are often of low quality.
Switch to a super premium food that lists a named-source meat meal (or a named-source meat followed immediately by a named-source meat meal) as the first ingredient or, better still, choose a grain-free formulation. The meal is better than the meat. For example chicken is about 70 per cent water where chicken meal has the moisture extracted, down to about 8 per cent.
If the food contains flaxseed, that's even better since flaxseed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acid. The better foods have it. You can also switch to grain-free biscuits and other crunchy treats.
A proper diet is essential to maintaining good skin and coat condition, but there are fatty acid supplements available at your vet's office or where you buy pet supplies, and those can help, too.
Just don't make the mistake of assuming that a healthy dose of pan-drippings, or fat trimmings from choice steak, is the same as a fatty acid supplement. The drippings and trimmings can bring on an attack of acute pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
An investment in quality grooming tools is a good idea, and it's also helpful to brush your pet more frequently when they're in a shedding mode. Every hair you capture in a brush, comb or shedding blade is one less they can ingest or leave deposited on your furniture and clothes. It also helps distribute their natural oils throughout their coat.
While frequent bathing is not always a good idea since it can exacerbate a dry skin condition, a trip to the groomer is a good idea. Your groomer uses professional products, tools and techniques that not only help maintain a healthy skin condition, but that enhance the comfort and appearance of your pet. Plus, you can leave the mess to them.
And, is it hair or fur? Depends upon which source you agree with. Some credible sources say the terms are interchangeable, others say there's a difference. Hair sheds, fur doesn't; hair has follicles, fur doesn't. No matter what you call it, it's everywhere these days!