Posted in cats, dogs, pet health, rabbits

Shedding the blues

It’s official, you can start peeling back the layers of clothing you’ve been cocooned in since last fall. Spring has arrived, and we aren’t the only creatures on this spinning sphere eager to shed some insulation.

Fur-covered mammals can’t just unbutton or unzip their outer layer and walk out into the sunshine in their birthday suits. This would be great for housekeeping because it would minimize the weekly, nay, almost daily chore of sweeping up discarded mats of excess fur from the floors of our homes.

Shedding is a gradual loss of fur that occurs more frequently now that the day’s amount of sunlight is increasing. Pets have built up a layer of insulating hairs to keep them warm in the winter, and this is the fine hair you’re likely to find clogging your vacuum attachment as you do your spring cleaning.

Your pet will try to groom itself regularly. It may begin scratching here and there as it sheds its underfur, and you’re bound to find clumps of fur on furniture and clothing. Dogs, cats, bunnies and ferrets may seem especially fond of sunlit areas of the home where they can keep warm while grooming. Placing your pet’s bed somewhere near a south facing window may encourage shedding onto furniture you approve of (and which may be easier to clean).

Even in short-haired pets, self-grooming can lead to stomach complaints brought on by swallowing fur, which is indigestible. Hairball treatments are formulated to help your pet expel this fur from its digestive system. They either add fiber to your pet’s diet, which will add bulk to the stool to speed up its transit time through your pet’s digestive system, or they provide laxative properties like olive oil, which accomplishes the same thing. Look for products labeled for use for your pet’s species, or ask your veterinarian to recommend a product.

Without a digestive aid, your pet will likely vomit the fur it has swallowed once it has built up enough to be really irritating to its tummy. Hair that doesn’t move through the digestive tract may build up enough to cause an obstruction. If you notice a change in your pet’s appetite and it has been grooming itself frequently of late, talk to your vet about it if a lack of appetite lasts more than a day.

If you can’t get a hairball supplement into your pet, resign yourself to cleaning up a monthly splotch of fur somewhere in the house, and hope that you find it before it has blended in with the décor.

Pets which are kept indoors year-round are less likely to shed as much as their pals who go from the warmth of indoors to resisting the elements outside on a regular basis. Maybe it’s because pets let outdoors regularly also require a bath now and then – a good way to loosen up the underfur and rinse it out before your pet has a chance to consume it.

Brushing your pet regularly will help as well, because loose fur ends up in the brush and not in your pet’s tummy. It’s a good time to look for parasites in your pet’s fur, and to check for any lump under the skin that may be a cyst or tumor requiring a vet’s expertise. Plus quality time with you helps shake off the winter blahs and welcomes Spring!

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Owned by three cats over age 13