I know that pets supposedly shed more in the spring and summer, but honestly, I always found that fall shedding to be a furry doozy–giant tangles of dog fur drifting around the house like tumbleweeds, the red sofa now some type of velvet/tabby Appaloosa. Dogs and cats need to shed, it just a fact of pet life, but there are some things you can do to help the situation, according to New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats (Rodale, 1999) by Amy D. Shojai. Here’s her advice:
All cats and dogs shed, even the nearly hairless breeds like Mexican hairless dogs and Sphynx cats. They shed most during spring and summer when longer daylight hours (the temperature doesn’t matter) stimulate the body to let go of old hairs as new ones push their way through. There is an emotional component to shedding as well. Cats that are frightened will sometimes shed handfuls of fur as their skin tightens and pulls out loose hairs.
Shedding is more of a housecleaning problem than a health problem, although large amounts of dead fur next to the skin can cause hot spots or skin infections. Cats tend to get most of their hair balls during shedding season because they will swallow more loose hair during grooming.
Nothing can beat a thorough brushing for keeping stray hair to a minimum. There are also many natural treatments that promote healthy skin and fur. Here is what to do when the fur is flying.
Shine the coat with fatty acids
Holistic veterinarians have found that the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in some fish and plant oils are very helpful for keeping fur and skin in top condition. It is fine to give your pets cooked boneless fish, but they really need supplements to get the full benefits of fatty acids. Some vets prefer Eskimo Oil (an all natural fish oil) because pets like the flavor, it doesn’t need refrigeration, and it is easy to give. Available from veterinarians, Eskimo Oil can be squirted in your pet’s mouth with a needle-less syringe. Since dogs and cats like the taste, however, it makes more sense to add the oil to their food. Cats can take one-eighth teaspoon of Eskimo Oil once a day. Dogs under 50 pounds can take one-quarter teaspoon twice a day, and larger dogs can have one-half teaspoon twice a day.
Feed the fur naturally
Hair is made of protein, and the quality of the protein in your pet’s diet will affect how her hair looks. Unfortunately, some commercial foods use poor-quality protein as well as artificial additives and preservatives. This can cause an increase in loose, brittle fur.
One of the easiest ways to make hair healthier is to give pets an all natural food–one that contains no artificial ingredients. You can buy all-natural foods in some pet supply stores and through mail order, or cook your own.
Balance the skin with herbs
Shedding usually increases when the skin isn’t as healthy as it should be. An excellent way to improve skin health is to give dogs and cats a Chinese herbal combination called Skin Balance, available from veterinarians. Give pets weighing under 15 pounds one-half tablet three times a day. Pets 15 to 50 pounds can take one to two tablets three times a day, and dogs over 50 pounds can have two tablets three times a day.
Brush away the hair
Regular brushing is the easiest way to rid your pet-and your sofa of excess hair. Brush your pet once a day, using a brush that’s right for her coat. Move the brush in the same direction as the hair grows.