Coping with the spring shed!
Spring is when many dog owners start to notice a great deal of shedding. It is a natural occurrence as the dog’s body is getting ready to enjoy the warmer days. Many dogs put on a thick winter coat to help insulate them during the cold of winter. In the spring, their body starts shedding to make way for a cooler summer.
I have a Bernese Mountain Dog. A breed that has a thick double coat. I have heard the Bernese does not shed on February 29, thus one day every four years! But spring is definitely when it is the worse. It seems that long haired dogs shed more, but this is really just an illusion because their long hair strands are easier to notice. The color of a dog’s hair also influences how noticeable it is around the house.
Frequent brushing helps with mats and tangles in the coat. They are often the cause of bacterial infections, hair loss and even hot spots. When a mat forms in the dense inner coat, it forms a hard ball or lump. This ball of hair then rubs against the skin, especially if it is in an area around the legs, body, base of the tail or the neck. This constant rubbing causes abrasions to the skin, leading to bacterial infections. With repeated bacterial infections hot spots can form, as can patches of complete hair loss. How often is frequent brushing? That depends on your dog’s coat. For me it is twice a week.
One easy grooming method for short haired dogs is to use a stiff bristle brush, followed by a slicker brush. The bristle brush will dislodge the loose hair and the slicker brush will pull it out of the coat. There are several sizes of slicker brushes, some with a button on the handle that pushes the hair out of the bristles for easy cleaning.
A shedding rake or comb is ideal for longer haired dogs. This tool is sometimes called an undercoat rake as it removes only the dense inner coat without changing the appearance of the outer coat. The teeth on these rakes or combs are stiff and fairly long, allowing even a very thick coat to be groomed to the skin’s surface.
I have also seen different spray on formulas that can be used to help your dog’s coat release the dead hairs. As I understand it, these products act like human hair detangler or conditioner and serve to help the loose hairs slide out from the rest of the coat.
Pet supply catalogs also advertise supplements with extra Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. From my research, I found these may keep the coat looking healthy and promote a faster shed, but they do not lessen the shedding. (And why would you want that – shedding is necessary.)
If you are bathing to help with shedding, groom first to remove all the current dead hair, and then bath in warm water, using an appropriate shampoo. Always completely dry the ears and check the eyes for any signs of irritation or stray hairs that may have become lodged in the eyes or ears. Be sure to brush the hair dry. My dog might get 4 baths a year as it takes four hours from the time I put him in the tub until I declare him dry.
Saturday is bath day! Much earlier than the April spring bath he received last year.
Share your stories about your dog shedding, and especially about how you help 4-H members prepare for dog exams in Showmanship and You and Your Dog.
Until the next post remember:
Those who teach the most about humanity aren’t always human.