Managing Your Dog's Coat
A dog’s coat constantly changes throughout its life. Coats go through several cycles which are predetermined by genetics. They may also be affected by diet, environment and health. Below are the four main stages of coat growth:
- Anagen is where your dog’s coat is in an active growth cycle and constantly growing. This is predetermined genetically, some breeds have short coats others have long straight coat or curly coats. Some continue to grow for up to a year others 3 weeks.
- Catagen is when the coat is reaching its maximum length and stops actively growing.
- Telogen is when the coat is dormant. It has reached its full length and remains attached but is no longer growing and remains in the follicle.
- Exogen is when the hair reaches the end of its life cycle. This happens to every hair eventually. Once in the exogen stage the hair is shed from the follicle and the process of anagen starts again.
Shedding and Molting or Exogen Phase
All dogs shed. Just as the human hair dies and regrows, so does dog hair. Some dogs do not appear to drop hair as their coat may, at any time, have hair growing in four different phases in all different lengths. Hair also attaches to other hairs holding onto the coat.
Under a microscope, hair reaching the end of its life cycle (or in Telogen Phase) looks like a Christmas tree, with small branches or barbs along the length of the hair shaft. This split fine coat or barbs acts like Velcro, and the hairs attach to one another. This hair may then start to matt, tangle or become compacted. Exogen can be triggered by longer lighter days and warmer temperature, and anagen may be triggered by cooler temperature. With many pets living indoors in temperature-controlled homes, these phases may be a little out of sync with nature. This may be why your dog sheds less or more and may vary depending on where you live.
Preventing Matting and Reducing Shedding
If your dog’s coat is left unattended, gets dirty or wet it will matt more easily. For example, when dog hair becomes wet the hair shrinks and tightens further as it dries. This will eventually lead to dreadlocks or compacted coat depending on your dog’s coat type. Most coats, such as hand stripped terrier coats or smooth labrador and poodle coats, will repel dirt and water more easily when kept in optimum condition.
To prevent your dog’s coat becoming matted or compacted and to reduce shedding:
- Brush or de-shed their coat regularly, a minimum of once a week and anytime before and after it becomes wet - through swimming, washing or running through muddy puddles.
- Keep their coat clean and well-conditioned, this helps maintain the healthy hair shaft and smooth down those barbs.
- Always rinse thoroughly, as shampoo residue will cause dirt to stick to your dog’s coat more.
- Dry the coat and brush thoroughly, using a comb to check for knots in longer coats. Remove knots with a brush not a comb.
- If you have a longer or curly coated breed, keep your dog’s coat trimmed regularly to prevent split hairs matting. Longer coated breeds need clipping a minimum of every 8 weeks if they are not brushed in between. Allowing a dog’s coat to become tightly matted to the skin is painful for your dog, and the only thing that can be done is to shave it off extremely short.
- Maintain your dog’s coat through winter months. Many people worry their dog will get cold, leaving grooming aside until the middle or end stages of winter. Ideally a bath and full brush out once a month from a professional groomer will prevent your dog’s coat matting, leaving no need to shave short during the colder months.
- Keep your dog on a healthy diet rich in omega oils. A glossy healthy coat will also shed less and repel dirt and water.
- Regular de-shedding unclogs blocked hair follicles, reducing itchy skin and conditions like seborrhoea which results in waxy greasy discharge and foul odours.
Advantages of regular maintenance of your dog’s coat include:
- You will have less vet bills from itchy clogged follicles causing skin conditions requiring antibiotics and anti-inflammatory’s,
- Your dog will smell and feel better,
- Your dog will be able to sleep inside without shedding hair or leaving doggy odours,
- You might stop people who will admire your dog,
- You will be more aware of changes in your dog’s health,
- Your dog will enjoy the attention and love you even more – if that’s possible.
Article written and supplied by Jo Marsden