Break out the broom and rev up the vacuum! It’s time for our pets to lose their winter coats.

Shedding is a natural process for pets, but owners dread this time of year because it seems to be an uphill battle. The good news is that while normal amounts of shedding cannot be stopped, the hair accumulating on the floor, furniture and clothes can be reduced by regular brushing, grooming and proper nutrition.

Pets lose old or damaged hair as the weather changes from one season to the next. The frequency and amount of shedding often depend on the time of year, as well as the breed and the pet's overall health.

While most dogs and cats have a thicker coat during the winter and shed it as spring arrives, pets primarily kept indoors will experience smaller changes in coat thickness and tend to shed evenly throughout the year.

Contrary to popular belief, all dogs shed to some degree; some breeds just shed more than others. A German shepherd or Lab will shed much more — and more often — than a Yorkie, Maltese or Shih Tzu. What may seem like excessive shedding to some may actually be normal for a particular breed.

This is important information to know before adopting a dog. If a person is prone to allergies, it might be better to go with a breed considered hypoallergenic, as they will have little shedding and produce less dander than heavier-shedding breeds.

So, how do we reduce the hair everywhere? Brush the dog at least once a week, regardless of breed. Some dogs require more frequent bushings, but once a week is a good starting point.

On double-coated breeds, such as huskies, chows, collies, golden retrievers and Labs, a type of brush called an undercoat rake can help remove the dead, fuzzy undercoat, while leaving the top coat shiny and healthy.

This tool should be used with caution, as improper use can break or injure a dog’s skin or damage the top coat. Dogs with double coats shouldn't be shaved, as shaving them will actually lead to more shedding.

Slicker brushes can help control shedding on short- and medium-haired dogs.

What about cats? Even though cats do a good job on their own in the grooming department, it is not enough to minimize shedding. They should be brushed daily and fed a healthy diet, too. A bath at least once a month can also minimize the amount of hair loss, if the cat will allow this.

For both dogs and cats, it is important to talk to a vet if there is excessive hair loss or bald patches. Large amounts of hair loss can signal stress, poor diet or a medical issue. A trip to the vet is the best way to tell if shedding is normal variety or a symptom of an underlying problem such as parasites (fleas, lice or mites), infection, allergies, kidney, liver, thyroid or adrenal disease, reaction to medications, trauma due to excessive licking, immune disease or even cancer. If open sores, redness or bumps are present, a trip to the vet is needed.

Events

SUNDAY: The annual Palm Sunday Rabies Drive will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations:

Orleans Parish:

  • Engine 1 Fire House, 2920 Magazine St.
  • Engine 12 Fire House, 5600 Franklin Ave.
  • Engine 16 Fire House, 2000 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
  • Engine 17 Fire House, 4115 Woodland Drive.
  • Engine 24 Fire House, 1040 Poland Ave.
  • Engine 25 Fire House, 2430 S. Carrollton Ave.
  • Engine 27 Fire House, 2118 Elysian Fields Ave.
  • Engine 35 Fire House, 964 N. Carrollton Ave.
  • NOPD 7th District, 10101 Dwyer Road

Jefferson Parish

East Bank 

  • Lakeshore Playground, 1125 Rosa Ave. 
  • Cleary Playground, 3700 Civic St. 
  • Jefferson Playground, 4100 South Drive 
  • Lafreniere Park, 3000 Downs Blvd. (Mall Island area)
  • Muss Bertolino Playground (Near Chateau Boulevard)

West Bank 

  • Mel Ott Park, 2301 Belle Chase Highway. 
  • Harvey Fire Station, 1801 Gretna Blvd.,
  • Belle Terre Playground, 5600 Belle Terre,
  • Westwego Park, 400 West Bank Expressway,
  • Avondale Playground, 5709 S. Jamie Blvd., Avondale 

Rabies vaccination are required by law for dogs and cats. The cost is $15 (cash only) for a dog or cat rabies vaccination, tag and license. Dogs must be on leashes and cats must be in carriers or on leashes.

These rabies vaccination drives are made possible by the Louisiana SPCA, Southeast Louisiana Veterinary Association, New Orleans Fire and Police departments, Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter and the Jefferson SPCA. All vaccinations are administered by members of the Southeast Louisiana Veterinary Association.


Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.