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Healthy fur, healthy dog

Dog's fur is a good indicator of its well-being and overall health. It can be divided into three different types of fur: a soft downy undercoat, stiffer guard hairs and whiskers. Changes in the fur's condition can be affected by various health issues, such as thyroid problems, allergies, insufficient nutrition, external parasites, hormone imbalances or infections. If your dog's fur seems continually dull, brittle or greasy - or the dog sheds excessive amounts of hair abruptly - consult your local veterinarian.

It's important to know what type of fur your dog's breed has, as it indicates the level of maintenance it requires on a regular basis. 

  • Long hair requires regular grooming and can be the most time-consuming hair type. Long haired breeds are e.g. Lhasa Apso, Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier.
  • Curly hair might require visits to a professional groomer approximately every 2-4 weeks, or at least regular grooming sessions at home on a monthly basis. This type of hair tangles and knots easily and can break easily due to its tendency to become very dry. Breeds with curly hair are e.g. Poodles, Bichon Frises and Portugese Water Dogs.
  • Short haired breeds, such as Labradors, Beagles or Pugs, are the easiest to groom. These breeds have a smooth and soft fur which often has a soft undercoat to help regulate their body temperature. 
  • Wire (or broken) coats feel rough and bristly when groomed. Some wire haired breeds might need regular visits to a professional groomer as the old and dull hair is usually plucked or stripped with a specific knife. This kind of fur can be found from e.g. Scottich Terriers, Cairn Terriers or Otterhounds.

Shedding

Dog hair grows and dies in cycles, which results an every-day nuisance for dog owners, called shedding. Dog's hair grows to a certain length determined by the breed's genetics - then stops growing, dies and falls off. Shedding can cause the dog to itch, which can be relieved with regular grooming. 

Shedding is connected to seasonal temperature changes as well as to the day length. Dogs who spend their time mostly outdoors tend to shed heavily when the days lengthen in the spring, as dogs who live indoors, tend to shed throughout the year. In addition to seasonal temperatures, also female dogs' hormonal changes and recovering of medical anesthesia can cause extensive shedding.

When the hair loss seems to be something else than just normal seasonal shedding, it can be related to sickness. If you spot some of the issues below, you should explore the reasons with your dog’s vet:

  • The hair has become dry and brittle
  • The hair falls out unevenly
  • There are larger bald patches or clumps of lost hair
  • Hair loss is accompanied by another skin problem, for example dermatitis
  • Dog is tender to the touch, or resists being touched where the hair has fallen

The causes for unusual hair loss can be for example:

  • Allergies
  • Hormonal problems
  • Internal or external parasites
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Endocrinological sicknesses, like thyroid hypofunction

Hot Spots 

Although swimming is good exercise and fun, excessive bathing can cause the dog skin problems. When the coat is wet for long periods of time, the skin is left to simmer and can be infected. Hot spot-dermatitis is common, especially for those dogs, that have a dense coat and thick undercoat. Hot spot is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. The bacteria is common in dog's skin. Moist and dirty coat and small scratches on the skin promote the proliferation of the bacteria which can cause an inflammation. Hot spot-dermatitis is a red, swollen and infected area in the dog's skin, and sometimes hard to detect through a thick fur. The dog may scratch or lick itself, and the skin is itchy and sore. A hot spot-area may expand rapidly even into a palm-sized patch on the skin. 

First aid for the hot spot is to cut or shave the hair around the dermatitis, so that the skin can breathe. The skin can be very painful, and sometimes the dog has to be taken the vet to be sedated, so that the hair can be shaved. The inflated skin is cleansed with a non-burning disinfectant, suitable for dogs. The area may also be washed with an antiseptic shampoo, that is suitable for dogs. Try to prevent the dog from licking the area. You might have to use a collar for that.

If the infected area is very large and the infection doesn't heal with home care, the dog must be taken to a veterinarian for treatment. Prolonged inflammation is often treated with antibiotics or cortisone. If the hot spot recurs repeatedly, the root of the cause must be examined by a vet. You can try to prevent the inflammation for example by cutting the coat thinner on those areas, where the skin would easily moist and by drying the dog's fur carefully every time it gets wet.

 

 

Dandruff

Dandruff is dry flaky skin, which is made up of old skin cells that clump together. Even though a moderate amount of dandruff on your dog can be perfectly normal, excessive dandruff can be a sign that a pet's skin is overly dry, lacking nutrients, or irritated by an elemental cause. Treatment of pet dandruff will help relieve the itching and pain caused by dry, flaking skin. There are simple ways to enhance your dog's healthy skin, such as daily brushing and washing your dog with a specialized shampoo. Consult a vet, your local pharmacy or a professional groomer before choosing the shampoo - sometimes a wrong shampoo can cause skin problems. 

Dandruff can be caused by various factors. Air's low humidity, various skin infections, bacteria, parasites or allergies can cause the skin to itch and flake. Also stress, anxiety and scary situations can cause the dog's body to release an excessive amount of dandruff momentarily. In addition, insufficient nutrition that lacks enough water, vitamins, and important nutrients can cause the dog to have skin problems. A simple change in diet can remove the dandruff. Deficiency in  fatty acids like omega-3's is also a common reasons pets develop dandruff.  You can read more about fatty acids HERE. If the dandruff is accompanied by other skin problems, like dermatitis, and home remedies don't seem to help, it is recommended to always consult your veterinarian.

 

Itch

Dog's compulsive scratching and licking can be caused by different environmental, nutritional, parasitic, allergic, neurogenic or infectious causes. In order to rule out the reason why the dog is itching excessively, it is recommended to have a visit at a veterinarian. Inflamed, itchy, red, or scaly skin can be a sign of an allergic reaction. Abnormalities in a dog’s coat or skin should be a cause for concern, as they can indicate discomfort or an underlying health problem. 

The most common causes for itching are:

  • Seasonal allergies: pollen, grass, trees, dust etc
  • Food allergies: wheat, soya, dairy, beef, fish. If the dog suffers from beef or fish-meat allergy, ensure the meaty diet with some other meat-protein, like chicken. You can try hypoallergic food for sensitive dogs.
  • Fleas: Flea bite dermatitis causes red, bumpy lesions that can be very uncomfortable for the dog and require medical intervention.
  • Shampoos or soaps: try to avoid human shampoos and soaps with a strong odor.
  • Contact to household chemicals: The most common ones are carpet or floor cleaners with strong soaps and odor.
  • Medication: Vaccines and antibiotics can sometimes cause skin irritation.

By providing your pet with a balanced diet, you can rule out the possibility of nutritional-based allergies. Make sure, that the diet includes all necessary nutrients, vitamins and fatty acids and avoid ingredients such as wheat and soya. External parasites like leas, Cheyletiella mites and scabies can also be the cause of dog's excessive itching. You can read more about prevention and elimination of fleas HERE. Also environmental causes, such as allergy to lawn grass, can be a simple explanation to the dog's skin irritation.

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