Q: Our Labrador mix sheds way more than we think she should. There are times of the year when our white tile floor is absolutely covered with black fur! In the summer our pool filters are full of her fur. Is this a medical condition? Is there any way to fix this with her diet or vitamins?
A: The loss of copious amounts of hair –– even what you may consider excessive shedding –– is perfectly normal for dogs and cats. As long as bald spots, visible sparseness or patches of uneven fur aren’t in evidence, shedding is not typically considered a medical problem.
Sure, some dogs may get super-itchy and lose extra fur, while others may seem to groom themselves incessantly, leaving your floors strewn with serious dust bunnies. In the absence of these and the above-mentioned problems, your Lab mix is just being a dog that conforms perfectly to her breed type. In other words, this breed sheds –– a lot!
As you probably know, some breeds shed more than others. For example, the First Dog of the U.S., Bo, hails from a notoriously low-shedding breed, the Portuguese water dog (though all haired mammals will shed, albeit to varying degrees).
Short of committing to a breed of dog (or cat) that sheds less (or a color of tile that matches your pet), your solutions for shedding are limited to the following five steps:
1: Brush. This approach is not only extremely effective, it’s great for your pet, too. Using the right brush, however, is crucial. Most pet fur is amenable to the Furminator, my absolute favorite brand of dense undercoat-removing brush.
2: Bathe. Bathing gets way more fur off pets than you’d imagine. In fact, it’s even more effective than your pool, evidence in your skimmers and filters notwithstanding. What’s more, bathing with a dog shampoo tailored to your dog’s skin type and habits (ask your veterinarian), can do wonders for her skin.
3: Clip. If the hair is shorter, there’s less of it to land on your floors.
4: Vacuum. Getting the right vacuum cleaner helps. The new Roomba is expensive but effective.
5: Supplements. Fatty acids (found in fish oil, for example) have been found to be effective in supporting skin, joint and brain function. Though not well studied in healthy dogs, its dermatologic effects may help reduce shedding.
Ask your veterinarian and groomer for more tips. I’m sure they have plenty!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.