No matter how much you love your pet, chances are, you hate shedding. Unless you own a non-shedding breed like a Standard Poodle, there’s also a good chance shedding is a fact of life. However, sometimes a pet develops a shedding problem that defies logic and the vacuum cleaner. If your pet is dropping hair like it’s going out of style, you may need to take some extra steps to keep a little more hair on the dog or the groomer’s floor, rather than on your dry-clean only pants.
1. Rule out a Health Problem
There are several veterinary problems that can cause excessive shedding or other coat abnormalities. For this and many other reasons, it’s a great idea to have the vet take a blood sample from your dog every year and run a blood panel to establish baseline values. Then you’ll be able to catch any small changes if a problem does occur. Even if you don’t have a baseline to work from, if your pet suddenly begins to shed excessively, a vet visit is in order.
If the veterinarian examines the pet thoroughly and rules out a health issue, move on to the following suggestions.
2. Check the Diet
Diet plays a huge role in coat condition and shedding, second only to genetics. If your pet is currently eating a diet that is too high in carbohydrate or too low in protein and fat, you may need to change the base diet. Dry kibbles high in grain content are notorious for causing heavy shedding. If you’ve been considering a raw diet, reduced shedding could be the benefit that tips you over the edge. If you’re not already leaning toward raw feeding, however, don’t switch to raw just for the great coat: Raw’s a big lifestyle change for both pet and owner. It takes time to learn to do raw right.
Another good diet option to decrease shedding is a grain-free kibble like Innova Evo, Taste of the Wild, or Wellness Core. There are other brands of grain-free dry food available as well. The three mentioned happen to be brands I tried and liked before going raw. Look for a formula that includes a natural source of Vitamin E and of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Salmon is the best for this. Other fish are also a good choice, but make sure to contact the supplier and ensure the fish are domestically harvested. Fish imported from overseas are preserved with ethoxyquin, which can be hazardous to a pet’s health over time.
For cats, a high-quality canned food is a better option than dry food. Cats are healthier and their coats stay in better condition when their diet contains at least 60-70% moisture, just like their natural diet of birds and small rodents! If your cat eats canned food, you’ll need to be proactive about maintaining dental health by brushing his or her teeth and having the teeth cleaned by a veterinarian when plaque accumulates.
3. Blow Shedding Away
If you brush and brush and brush and never seem to make a dent in your dog’s shedding, it might be time for a trip to a professional groomer for a bath and blowout. Brushing removes dead and loose hairs, but brushing too hard or too often can damage hairs that started out health, and in the long run increase shedding. Don’t stop brushing your dog regularly, but try replacing marathon deshedding sessions at home with a quick trip to the groomer. Have them use a no-heat or very low-heat blowdryer to send the dead hair flying out of your dog’s coat.
An experienced groomer can do the work of days of brushing in a couple of hours with some good shampoo and a dryer. If you’re satisfied with the results and find yourself with less hair on the furniture, give the groomer two nice tips: A few bucks for the good work, and a word of mouth referral to the next friend you hear complaining about dog hair on his or her clothes.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t blowdry a cat!
4. Oil Change
If you’re feeding a supplement designed to combat shedding but have never read the ingredient label, do so now. Many popular coat supplements are actually full of vegetable-based oils like soybean oil and corn oil. These may produce a shiny coat and quick results in the short term, but in the long term these oils can lead to itchy, flaky skin and allergies, as well as increased shedding. It’s never a good idea to pump a carnivore full of grain. That goes double for concentrated products like oils and gluten meals.
If you’re currently using a supplement based on a vegetable oil, switch to wild Alaskan salmon oil. You can get it in a bottle at the pet store, or just calculate the dosage for your pet by reading the packaging of a salmon oil product designed for pets, then dose the pet with that amount of salmon oil from a human supplement bottle. The same fish oil capsules sold to improve human health are fine for pets, as long as you give the correct amount.
5. Let It Be, Let It Be…
If you’ve been brushing daily, bathing weekly, and slathering your dog with every anti-shedding shampoo on the market, stop! Too much washing dries the coat and increases shedding, especially if you’re using shampoos heavy on artificial additives. Bathe no more than once a month for a while to allow natural oils to build back up on the coat. Use an all-natural shampoo (we’ll be profiling a couple on Petlvr soon).
Keep brushing your pet every day, but limit the brushing sessions to keeping the coat tangle-free and looking good. If there is simply too much shedding to reduce the time you spend brushing, refer to Tip #3 and take the dog for a bath and blowdry. Lay off any conditioners, deodorizing sprays, cleaning wipes, or other products besides a gentle, natural shampoo. Give it a couple of months, and you may well find that less is more when it comes to routine coat maintenance.