If there’s one question I get asked more than any other, it has got to be “Doc, what can I do about Fluffy’s shedding? There is hair everywhere!!”

Why do pets shed?

Yes, shedding, it seems, is the bane of every pet owner in the country. Of course, shedding is completely natural—it’s the body’s way of getting rid of dead hair. We do it, too, though it’s a little less obvious because we have less hair to lose.

Some breeds shed more than others. Typically, it is the short-haired breeds like Labradors that have their owners knee-deep in fur tumbleweeds. Long hair breeds, like Poodles and Shih Tzus hang onto their hair longer, so it can be groomed into a beautiful coif rather than collect in the corner of the living room.

When does shedding become a problem?

Excessive shedding can be a sign of trouble, though. Hormonal imbalances, such as hyperthyroidism in cats and hypothyroidism in dogs, can cause hair loss that leads to baldness, as can other endocrine diseases. External parasites, like fleas, and skin infections like ringworm also cause excessive hair loss. If you think your pet is shedding excessively, have the vet check her out to make sure there is no underlying cause.

How to stop shedding

There is nothing you can do to stop your pet from shedding, but there are some things you can do to make the amount of time you spend sweeping your floors shorter. First, feed a good, healthy, balanced diet. If you can sneak some omega 3 fatty acids in the diet, all the better. Good nutrition makes for a healthy coat.

Second, make sure your pet is groomed regularly, either by you or a professional groomer. Brushing your pet’s hair keeps it healthy by distributing natural oils, but it also removes the dead hair before it ends up on your floor (or couch, or clothes). Some brushes are better than others—my personal favorite is called the FURminator, but to each their own!

Brushing dead hair from your pet serves another benefit, too. Cats who have to groom all of their shedding hair themselves can end up with hairballs. I, for one, would rather brush my cat OR sweep up her hair than listen to the cacophony of sounds that emanates from her while bringing up a hairball. Not to mention I have to clean up the hairball, too!

In addition, cats and dogs (especially those with long hair) can end up with matted fur. Not only are mats unsightly, but they can also pull on the skin, causing pain. They can also lead to skin disease under the mat. If a mat has formed on your pet, do not attempt to cut it off. Too many times I have seen pets whose owners have mistakenly cut their skin in the attempt to cut off a mat. Leave mats to a professional.

I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on shedding. While there is no magic bullet for shedding, it helps to know that you’re not the only poor soul endlessly cleaning up piles of discarded hair!

Sep 9, 2014
Pet Care

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