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Dealing with Shedding Fur

Do you love your pet but not their shedding?  Their fur is so comforting to touch except when it is all over your clothes, on your lounge suit or covering your carpet.  Dealing with pet fur is not difficult but it does need to be undertaken as part of a regular routine.

Shedding hair is natural for cats and dogs and occurs throughout the year depending on the season and the length of the day.  In late spring, pets shed their winter layer to prepare for warmer weather with a shorter, lighter coat. Surprisingly, many pets also go through a shedding process in autumn to get ready for their heavier winter coat. Shedding also increases during periods of illness or stress, pregnancy or nursing.

Double-coated dogs generally lose their undercoats twice a year and their topcoat once a year where as others might shed continuously throughout the year or just once every twelve months.  Dogs that live outside usually shed heavily in spring but indoor dogs often shed a little bit all the time.  Cats tend to shed continuously throughout the year but more heavily in spring and autumn.

Although some breeds such as poodles are described as non-shedding, this is not strictly true.  They do lose fur but in such a small amount that we tend not to notice.  Even ‘hairless’ cats such as the Cornish Rex shed but this is in fact their skin.

If you choose not to remove the loose fur from the pet, it will still release on its own but can result in hairballs, knots and matting.  Grooming prevents this but also cleans the skin of dandruff, eliminates dry skin flakes and improves the fur’s insulation properties.  Plus it is often enjoyable for the pet and a great time of bonding for you both.

Also, and very importantly, loose fur around the home is not only unsightly and annoying, but can cause irritations and allergies in other family members.

Whilst short haired pets may only need one session with a slicker or bristle brush per week, dogs and cats with medium to long hair will need to be brushed daily to stop their fur from matting and forming knots. Preventing knots through regular grooming is much easier and less painful than removing them once formed.

There are a variety of brushes and combs available and these should be chosen to suit the type of fur on the cat or dog.  Most pets have fur of varied length with longer hair underneath and around the legs and shorter hair over the head and body so several tools are required for each pet.

Combs are designed for untangling and for “feathers” on legs and tails. Choose combs with round tips or those with rotating pins which are gentler on the skin. Flea combs should only be used after the coat has already been thoroughly groomed.

Pin brushes are available with and without rubber-tipped pins.  These are the brush of choice for pets with medium length, wavy or wire coats but not for short, sleek coats. They remove small tangles and the rubber-tipped varieties are great for pets with sensitive skin.

Slicker brushes remove fur mats and tangles from all coat types. They are used after a pin brush to remove dead hair from both the undercoat and the coarser hair on the top coat. They are also useful as a finishing brush to distribute the natural oils through the coat for a shiny finish.

Bristle brushes look similar to a human hair brush.  Those with natural bristles are gentler than the synthetic versions and smaller, softer versions are available for cats also.  These can be used on all coat types and are very effective finishing brushes. They stimulate the skin, improve circulation and add shine to the coat and should be used once all dead undercoat and tangles are removed.

For those with shorthaired breeds, grooming mitts are perfect.  These add polish and shine to the fur once the loose hair is removed. They are also useful after bathing to separate the hair without breaking it and to remove excess water from the skin.

Deshedding tools are a must-have for dogs and cats that shed.  There are a number on the market and the Furminator is one that Better Pets and Gardens is happy to recommend.

A quality deshedding tool can help reduce excess fur around the home by up to 90% and with regular use will solve the problem of knotting and matting as well.

When buying a Furminator, it is important to choose the correct one to suit the fur length of the cat or dog so that the position of the edge is able to reach the undercoat without damaging the outer guard hairs.  This is what will get the best result in the shortest period of time.

Carry out the grooming outside as a significant amount of fur will be removed and when brushing, use short, gentle strokes.  Pressing the button on the tool will push the fur out of the blade so that it keeps working effectively.

Fur on short hair pets can be effectively maintained every week but those with medium to long hair will benefit from a few minutes of the deshedding tool each day.  If the pet has mats or tangles, brush these out first before using the Furminator as these may damage the teeth and always work on completely dry fur.

Prevention is always better than cure because dealing with knots and matting can be quite painful for a cat or dog and certainly not an easy job for you.  But, if these have occurred, they need to be dealt with immediately.

In the case of just a few knots, these can be gently brushed out or cut out with round-tipped scissors but where they have developed into matting, the problem becomes a little more complex.

Start by pouring some corn flour onto the matted fur and using your fingers, work it in while trying to separate the clumped hair.  Once it has been worked in well and the hair loosened, use a wide toothed comb to untangle the rest.

For large matted areas that are impossible to untangle, it may be necessary to shave the mat out using electric clippers.  Often the matted fur is very tight against the skin so using scissors can be dangerous.  Work on small sections at a time giving the pet some breaks in between but if the matting is quite bad or the pet difficult to manage, take it to a professional groomer or even the vet who will sedate it so that the fur can be shaved safely.

Once removed, the skin under the mat may be inflamed or irritated but cooling this with some ice wrapped in cloth will help.  Fortunately, the fur will always grow back.

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