A hairy matter

You’re really lucky to be human: you get to choose what you wear. Longer days and warmer weather make us want to change our wardrobe and get the lighter, brighter attire ready to wear. Pets? They each get one coat, with underwear that sheds in bits and pieces, all over the place. And no fur-bearing species seems exempt – even hamsters and guinea pigs may shed their fur!

Animals who self-groom are apt to suffer from the buildup of fur in their gut which can’t be digested. The resulting mat of fur is often referred to as a hairball – though people have been known to announce the arrival of a hairball with a string of four-letter words I won’t repeat here.

Grooming your pet is an important aspect of keeping it healthy. To avoid the mess of hairballs being vomited all around your neat home, brushing and combing your pet will often reduce the occurrence of them. It might even reduce the need to vacuum so much if you groom your pet daily. You may wonder if the fur you remove is good for anything. Probably not; it’s just better in your hand than inside your pet.

There are some really unique coats in the pet world: silky and soft, wiry and dense, short or long, or mohair, and even no-hair. When choosing a pet, give consideration to the type of fur – and the maintenance needed to keep it in good shape. If you’ve got a busy schedule already, will a pet that requires professional grooming several times a season be suitable for you?

Just as in humans, animal hair grows in cycles, with some hair follicles resting while others are growing. Hair growth may depend on seasonal changes, such as variable weather conditions and exposure to sunlight. Hair growth and shedding may also be influenced by stressful events or disease, so it is important to look for any changes in your pet’s hair loss – say, if it comes out in big clumps with no resistance. Shedding fur can be a symptom of skin diseases such as ringworm (which is a fungal infection) or external parasites, like mites or chewing lice. Even a hormonal imbalance can effect your pet’s coat. Symptoms such as hair loss, dandruff, or skin lesions may signal a serious health condition. Poor nutrition may also affect your pet’s coat. So it’s a good idea to keep track of shedding, and if it continues to concern you, schedule a visit to the veterinarian.

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