It is time for some winter grooming. Our dogs and cats are looking a little shabby right now. Depending on the breed and type of coat, they could be doing a lot of shedding. It seems a strange time for shedding since it is still cold, but it happens. The more we brush our pets, the less shedding in the house and the better condition of the coat come spring.
For simplicity, I will only mention dogs, but all of this applies to cats as well, particularly long-coated cats that are so prone to matting.
Some dogs shed all year round. Some shed very little. Breed is one determining factor but there are others. Excessive shedding is often a warning sign that something is wrong.
A poor-quality dog food can cause excessive shedding. Dogs need a certain quality and quantity of nutrients to have sound bones, joints, teeth and muscles -- good general health.
The last part of the body to benefit from the nutrition is generally the skin and coat and therefore it can be the first thing you notice.
You should not see flaking and dandruff. These are signs of dry, unhealthy skin and coat and poor overall health. A healthy skin is supple and smooth and the coat should be shiny. A good diet and regular brushing, as well as regular exercise, keeps skin and coat looking good and the dog feeling great.
Shedding is a major reason why people will not let their dogs in the house. That is too bad since half an hour a week could almost eliminate the problem for our pets who want nothing more than to be a part of our family.
Mats can be a real problem with long-coated dogs and cats. Regular brushing all year will keep these coats looking good and our pets will feel much better.
But most of us are not very disciplined about regular grooming and therefore the coat gets tangled and dull and the toenails get way too long.
It is best to get into a schedule. Once a week, pick a day and time, spend half an hour on your pet's grooming. They will love the attention and you will notice a difference in their appearance.
Dogs that are groomed feel better. Remember how a dog acts after he has had a bath? Usually they run and carry on like they are full of jumping beans. They feel good all over.
And then imagine how it would feel if you never brushed or combed your hair. Week after week it just got more messed and matted. Wouldn't you feel awful? (And you just might notice that people are keeping their distance.)
Dogs do not need their coats washed as often as we do. In fact it is not good to bathe them too often. But they do benefit from a good thorough brushing regularly. And the more they are brushed, the less they need bathing.
You may say that your pet hates to be brushed. He runs when he sees the equipment being brought out. Capture him, put him on a table if possible, picnic tables work great, and begin slowly. He thinks it is going to hurt and if he never gets brushed, it might hurt. But when the job is done, he will have that happy feeling.
If your pet is badly matted, attack the mats slowly. Work the mats apart with your fingers as much as possible before using the brush. It hurts when you pull on those mats. Remember that it hurts him just as much as it hurts you when your hair is pulled. And if this dog is not brushed regularly, his skin will be extra sensitive, especially if he is greatly matted.
The most painful mats are those that form right close to the skin and that includes most of them. The hair in that mat is pulling on the skin all the time. Imagine. It hurts. So when we give the dog a good pat, it might be very painful. And it could be the reason the dog runs when he sees you getting out the brushes.
There are solutions available to help break up mats before using the brush. Check at the pet or feed store. If the mats are so bad that they need to be cut out, be very careful you do not cut the skin.
The best brush for most coats is a slicker brush. They come in all sizes for cats and dogs and have different lengths of wire bristles very close together. A regular soft bristle brush does very little to get down to the skin.
Spring is right around the corner. Groomers are preparing for the deluge of dogs that come in for their once-a-year grooming, which often means clipping down to the skin because of mats and grime.
A good brushing now will greatly reduce the discomfort for the dog now and the work of the groomer in the spring.