It’s on the sofa. It’s all over your favorite sweater. Tufts of it drift across the living room floor like tumbleweeds.
Face it. Our furry friends will shed. But fortunately, there's an ever-growing array of deshedding tools to help us handle the hairy onslaught.
Pet Shedding 101
It's normal for cats and dogs to shed. Joe Bartges, professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine, says, "Shedding is a natural process that allows for loss of older and often dead hair so that new hair can grow in."
Bartges says some pets shed seasonally, "blowing" their winter coats when spring comes. Others, like indoor pets and short-haired pets, may shed all year. Making time to brush your pet can help you determine where the bulk of that hair ends up -- in the trash or on you.
Even if you don't mind finding a little fur on your favorite pants, grooming your cat or dog can offer both of you real benefits, including preventing painful knots and tangles, minimizing pet dander in the home, helping you catch signs of pet illness or parasites, and boosting the pet-person bond. All you need is a bit of time and the right tools.
You don't need a suite of complicated brushes and combs to get a handle on pet shedding. As a matter of fact, "Professional groomers are using the same grooming tools as owners," says Barbara Bird, a certified master groomer practicing in Arizona. A few of those deshedding tools include:
- Wide-toothed combs: Usually plastic or metal, with widely separated teeth.
- Slicker brushes: Often rectangular-headed, these brushes have fine metal tines.
- Blade-on-a-handle metal combs: Newer pet deshedding tools, such as the FurBuster or Furminator.
- Bristle brushes: The bristles of these familiar-looking brushes may be made of synthetic or natural bristles.
- Pin brushes: Often shaped like a bristle brush, but with metal (or sometimes wood) pins instead of bristles.
- Rubber brushes: These come in various shapes; each has rubber tines.
Which Deshedding Tool Should You Choose?
Most brushes and combs do essentially the same thing: They remove dead hair from your pet before it has a chance to fall out.
So which is right for your pet? That depends, because different coats respond best to different combs and brushes.
- Wide-toothed combs are Bird's tool of choice for cats. "A widely-spaced comb will remove more hair gently than a fine-toothed comb." Fine-toothed and blade-on-a-handle combs can both require more pressure to use than many cats are able to tolerate.
- A slicker brush's fine metal bristles are best used on long-haired, dense-coated dogs. Some groomers recommend using a small slicker brush for toes, legs, face, and tail and a larger brush for the rest of the body. Slicker brushes are also helpful at removing tangles in the coat of cats or dogs.
- Blade-on-a-handle metal combs are ideal for plush- or medium-coated dogs, says Bird, "because they have very, very narrow teeth that seek out the fine, soft, fuzzy undercoat and leave the overcoat alone." Steer clear of this type of brush if your pet's top coat is long as "it's hard to get that blade to do a good job," Bird says.
- Bristle brushes are very versatile and make a good, basic brush for both cats and dogs of all coat types.
- Pin brushes are often used on medium- and long-haired dogs and are a good choice to help release tangles.
- Rubber brushes are good for short-haired dogs and help loosen hair and dirt while also stimulating circulation.
Depending on your pet's coat and its tendency to tangle, you may want more than one deshedding tool. Bird's must-have coat-taming trio includes a blade-on-a-handle comb, a slicker brush, and a coarse-to-medium metal comb.
If these suggestions mean you've been using the wrong brush for your pet's coat type all this time, that's OK. As long as you and your furry friend are both happy with the results, don't worry too much about which deshedding tool is recommended for which species or coat type. In the end, successful grooming "boils down to what works for you," Bird says.
4 Quick Tips for Good Grooming
Brush regularly. Regular brushing is one of the best ways to manage pet shedding, Bartges says. So schedule a little time to keep up on your pet's grooming.
Short-haired cats and dogs benefit from weekly brushings, while most medium- or long-haired dogs may need grooming several times a week. All long-haired cats and some long-haired dogs, like Yorkshire terriers or Afghan hounds, do well with daily brushing.
Stop brushing when you can no longer pinch out a tuft of hair, says Bird.
Avoid brush burn. Your precious pooch and feline friend need gentle care. Don't press the bristles of any brush hard against your pet's tender skin or tug at knots or tangles. When grooming, be aware of -- and stay away from -- warts, moles, whiskers, and any lumps or bumps your pet may have.
Think about bathing your dog. Washing your pooch can be a helpful prelude to a serious grooming session, helping to soften the coat and offering maximum release of hair, Bird says. Most experts don't recommend bathing your pooch too often (you risk drying out your dog's skin) or bathing your cat at all unless kitty is extra dirty -- think grease, grime, or something sticky.
Calm the coat. For grooming sessions without a bath -- for cats and dogs -- try a coat spray that reduces static cling and softens the coat, suggests Bird; many leave-in conditioners will do the trick. "Just mist lightly and stroke in the misted area. The more you mist and stroke the more the overcoat hairs let go so that the fuzzy undercoat slips out," Bird says.
When to Worry About Shedding
Although shedding is perfectly normal for cats and dogs, excessive shedding or shedding to the point of bald spots may point to a more serious problem, such as skin parasites, hypothyroidism, excessive grooming, cancer, or nutritional issues, Bartges says,.
"Dogs and cats that exhibit these problems," he says, "should be examined by a veterinarian."