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Fur, Fur, Dog Fur Everywhere!

Shedding -- Is this a problem that you have; dog fur on the furniture, on the floors, coating your clothes? Trust me, this is something I know all about and if you're a dog owner you probably know more about it than you want to as well. Most of the time, shedding is a normal part of life, but there are other times when it can be a symptom of other underlying problems. So, for your dog's sake, let's take a look at shedding.

The bottom line is that all dogs shed, some more, some less but all dogs shed. It's just a normal, healthy part of life. Dogs do not grow hair continuously, but rather in cycles. Each cycle has a growing phase, a transitional phase and a resting phase. These cycles are controlled by such factors as nutrition, hormones, health and the amount of light (called photoperiod) and changes in the surrounding temperature. Old hair falls out, new hair grows in. It's an unending cycle. The amount of a dog's shedding is also tied to breed genetics.

Outdoor dogs usually shed their thick undercoat in the spring to prepare for warmer weather. Indoor dogs shed all year long but in smaller amounts, since they are exposed to a more constant temperature and consistent light source.

Longer haired dogs will seem to shed more because of the length of the fur when shorter haired dogs and clipped dogs will appear to shed less. Breeds like poodle and poodle mixes fall in the 'low shed' category along with many others.

Then you have dogs that have double coats; a soft undercoat and denser topcoat, like the Great Pyrenees, Huskies, Malamute or Newfoundland which seem to leave furry replicas of themselves around several times a year, usually spring and fall as they 'blow' their coats. This 'blowing coat' may also be seen on puppies as they lose their 'puppy coat' and on pregnant and nursing females and females during or after their 'heat cycle' may shed more than normal.

Being the proud pet parent to two beautiful English Springer Spaniels, there is no shortage of fur in my home. They seem to be constant shedders, all year around and I love when the weather starts to warm so that I can start clipping and ease the burden on my vacuum.

Conquering the Fur
Most of the time shedding is normal and with good nutrition and exercise, proper grooming can help to eliminate much of the shedding. Not only will brushing remove old hair, brushing is also good for your dog. It not only decreases the amount of hair on your clothes and furniture; it also stimulates the blood supply to the skin. And brushing your dog's hair helps to prevent skin parasites, such as mites, fleas and ticks, from infesting your pet and your home and keeps unsightly and sometimes painful mats from forming. And as an added bonus, it also helps to strengthen your bond with your canine companion.

There is a plethora of grooming products available on the market from standard brushes and combs to many specialized products. Most of them come with recommendations for the type of dog and coat. A little bit of research and experimentation will be able to match your pooch with the right grooming tools.

A healthy diet is essential to the well being of any living creature and dogs are certainly no different. Deficits in diets often show themselves in a dog's coat; thin, brittle fur, dry, lackluster and dull. As well as a healthy diet, the addition of omega-3 fatty acids; flaxseed oil, cold water salmon oil, cod liver oil, will all do wonders for a dog's coat and can often help to minimize shedding, aside from other substantial benefits they offer to their general health.

A good bath on occasion, monthly is usually about right unless there are reasons for bathing more or less often, is also essential to remove dirt, debris and oil build up on your pet's skin and in their fur. This will help to facilitate easier removal of loose fur so that new fur can grow in as well as unblock follicles which can lead to skin problems. A good, high quality shampoo that is formatted for dogs should be used. Shampoos formulated for people tend to be too harsh for a pet's skin and can actually cause more, rather than less shedding.

As I said, most of the time shedding is just a normal part of life but there are times when hair loss or other behaviors can be indicative of problems.

Believe it or not, pets react to stress and one of the reactions can often be excessive shedding so if your pet is shedding more than normal and there are no other 'problem signs,' they are on a good diet, get exercise but there have been perhaps some changes in their life, it may be stress.

Often hair loss combined with excessive scratching can be symptoms of several different things; allergies, parasites, skin disorders or disease.

Taking the time to properly groom your dog can be your first line of defense in finding problems before they get too far along. It's pretty easy to notice fleas and ticks as well as see skin problems which may show up as flaking, irritated areas and bald spots.

If your dogs is showing excessive shedding as well as persistent or unknown skin problems; flaking, irritations, sores or bald spots just to name a few, especially if combined with other symptoms such as lethargy or loss of appetite, it's probably time to see a professional. There are many things only a trained veterinarian can diagnose including many skin diseases, hormone related diseases, immune and autoimmune problems that often first evidence themselves in the skin and coat.

So, while shedding is a normal, healthy function and with some time and care you can help to keep shedding to a minimum, excessive shedding can be a indicator of more serious problems. Take the time to be a best friend to your 'man's best friend' and always give him or her the best care possible.

by Deanna Raeke

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