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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006

Help your pet as fur falls off

By Dr. Marty Becker
McClatchy News Service

As the days grow shorter, four-legged fur coats grow thicker and we know the fall shedding season has officially arrived. This isn't news to dog and cat lovers who already have tumbleweeds of pet hair drifting through their homes.

Shedding at this time of year is completely natural and functional as pets get ready for colder weather by adding a closely woven undercoat of finer hair, which is more efficient at trapping air to retain heat.

Although fall shedding is a natural process, your pet will appreciate and benefit from a little grooming assistance. Take heed of these simple coat care tips to make your pet more comfortable and reduce unwanted hair in the home.

First, make brushing your pet part of your daily routine. Brushing removes loose hair and keeps it from clumping into dense mats that reduce air circulation to the skin.

Second, select the correct tool for the job. "We're always surprised by the number of people who take a one-size-fits-all view of brushes," said Joe Fucini, a spokesperson for the Pet Supplies "Plus" chain. "They're ready to buy just any brush for their pets. We try to tell them different kinds of coats require different tools."

Slicker brushes, those flat rectangular gizmos with the bent bristles, are the quintessential pet grooming tool. That's probably because they can work with just about any dog or cat coat, provided you choose the size and type wisely.

Slickers with smaller bristles are best for pets with shorter coats. For pets with sensitive skin or fine silky coats, use softer or tipped bristles, as opposed to wire. Breeds with long silky coats if no mats are present can be groomed with a pin brush. For dogs like boxers and beagles with short smooth coats, a comb works fine. For dogs with short dense double coats, such as Labrador Retrievers, use a plastic toothed brush or a bristle brush. On double-coated breeds like shelties and sheepdogs wire slickers pull out the loose hair and a rake or a mat comb helps thin the undercoat.

You can also add a healthy shine to short coats by finishing with a grooming glove, or a rubber brush like the Kong Zoom Groom or the Le Salon Rubber Brush from Rolf C. Hagen which offer all dogs a massage-like experience.

Third, before brushing, comb your dog to check for mats, advises Barbara Denzer of Cardinal Laboratories, a leading maker of pet shampoos. Remove all mats first as gently as possible since catching a mat in brush will hurt your pet. Exercise caution when brushing or combing your pet around the eyes or other sensitive areas.

Fourth, protect your pet from the discomfort of mats. Be aware that mats feel to your pet like someone pulling your hair continually! Mats are best prevented to save your pet from this discomfort not to mention the mat removal process.

Water and shampoo can get trapped in mats, making them tighter, so they should be removed ahead of time. Although bathing will help remove dead hair, double-coated long-haired breeds like collies and Samoyeds should not be bathed unless necessary during the shedding season as this can make matting more likely in the thick undercoats.

For cats, Hartz Infusions shampoos have anti-hairball beads that helps to prevent hairballs from forming. Hartz Infusions line for dogs feature three different products each designed to help maintain rich and healthy hair coats.

Fifth, if your dog isn't thrilled about being bathed, re-introduce the process with lots of treats and praise, and use a shampoo that's specially formulated to rinse away quickly and dry faster, such as Gold Medal Pets shampoos from Cardinal.

Also, said Denzer, some dogs are happier if you shampoo one area of the body at a time, then rinse before moving on to the next area. Use a washcloth around the face and prevent water from dripping in the eyes and ears by lifting the head up.