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Posted by Pure Paws on July 17, 2018
Wampa, Wookie, Ewok in real life. <3
Similar to humans, canines and felines shed their coats on a regular basis. At any given point in time, a random set of hairs will be in one of the following 4 stages of growth: anagen (active growth), catagen (transitional), telogen (resting phase) and exogen (exit and return to anagen). Once the hair sheds, this makes room for a new strand to begin its’ growth cycle. This is normal and keeps hair strong and healthy.
The main relation between dogs that shed excessively and those that don’t is whether or not they are seasonal shedders. Though not always the case, a general correlation can be drawn between the seasonality of the shedding and whether or not there is an existing “undercoat”.
Dogs that shed moderately and year round tend to have coats that feel more like “hair” rather than fur. When the term “hair” is used, this is usually referring to dogs with single coats meaning they have little to no “undercoat”. Some sources may refer to these “hair” growing breeds as “Hypoallergenic”. This is usually a terminology shrouded in ambiguity, and a way for marketers to portray pets or relating products as being “allergen free” though the definition is limited to defining the allergic reactions as being “unlikely”. Unfortunately many people are unaware that this term requires no regulation and so is free for interpretation by the claim makers.
Also surprising to many, avoiding the allergen inducing perpetrator is not so simple. While single coats do tend to shed less, it is not so much the hair that causes the allergic reactions but rather the dander.
With the hypoallergenic disclaimer addressed, this term, when used responsibly can serve to appropriately group animals and products that contain less allergy inducing attributes. The key is to distinguish the Jedi from from the deceptive Separatists.
The breeds that usually fit within this ”Hypoallergenic” profile, are those with skin and coat that produce minimal dander which usually coincides with little to no shedding. The main coat categories include the following AKC breeds.
While less hair upending itself in your nostrils can feel less irritating, and some dogs can indeed leave you breathing easier, remember that hypoallergenic is a relative term. One human’s relief could be another’s Zyrtec nightmare.
As for seasonal shedders, things start to get a little furry. Opposite to the hair-bearing breeds these are dogs labeled as having “fur”. These will have the crucial undercoat, seen as soft, lighter colored tufts of hair hidden under the exterior coat. These double coats or fur-bearing breeds tend to grow thicker coats in the winter and shed or sometimes even “blow their coat” in the spring to ready themselves for the summer heat. This seasonal shedding is necessary for the thermoregulation and protection of the dog’s body but, can be suffocating. To look for this undercoat, spread the coat with your fingers and look for the softer hairs, usually shorter in length and normally can be removed with the slightest tug.
If you have yet to choose your companion and shedding is something you’ve got a bad feeling about…do some homework on the breeds that will fit your lifestyle the best.
When choosing the best food for your dog or cat, there are some keywords to look out for. Here is a quick bulleted list of these words, what they mean and whether or not they pose a danger to your friend.
Brushing your dog on a regular basis, especially smooth or short coat breeds, will help to remove excess sebum and thus help to reduce bacteria collection and odor.
The definition I find to be the most encompassing is the following,
The oily secretion of the sebaceous glands, whose ducts open into the hair follicles. It is composed of fat and epithelial debris from the cells of the malpighian layer, and it lubricates the skin.
This oily secretion made by both humans and canines alike and really all hair-bearing creatures, aids in protecting against exterior infections. It also helps to push or slide hair to skin’s surface so that it can exit or shed naturally, much like oiling a machine.
However, too much sebum can lead to some unpleasant side effects. As you may imagine, oily residue built overtime can become a magnet for dirt and residue. The sebum itself is naturally odorless but its’ bacterial breakdown, like the occurrences in the pits of your arms, can release a foul aroma. An unfortunate accompaniment to this this potpourri can be acne. This is caused by clogging the hair follicle with this sebum & dead skin cells thus leading to bacteria build up, end result – unwanted bumps.
Similarly to humans, our canine companions do not have a one size fits all solution. How can they with their different skin and coat types and different living environments? Let us view these issues as we would for ourselves, by acknowledging and appreciating the differences in variation of skin and coat in order to find a solution.
Usually the coat type to experience excessive amounts of sebum production are understandably, those which produce the most amount of shedding. Remember the oiled machine.
These are generally categorized as Smooth Coats and Double Coats.
You will most likely not find undercoat or the soft down like fluff on a Smooth Coat which is why they often fall into the category of Single Coats. Their hair is short, often times a bit wiry in texture and looks more like skin itself rather than separate hair. Some examples of this are Boxers, Dobermans, and Weimaraners.
While smooth coats do shed less than their double-coated counterparts, they still produce more sebum than a breed with a coat containing more of a human “hair-like” texture like a yorkie. But this brings up an interesting question. Why would a coat lacking the fly-away, dandelion-like undergrowth require as much oil?
One thought could be that coat relation is incidental. However, one possible connection could be found in the skin’s purpose of the breed type. If we take a look at most smooth coated varieties, they tend to be sporting dogs. As such, they would require greater protection from the elements – snow, water, brush, sun etc. One of the functions of sebum is to help hair in it’s exogen phase to make it’s way and the other to protect the skin from external damage.
So if you have a shedder, either in the form of a Smooth Coat or Double Coat, look to the next few steps for some the varied approaches you can take to reducing their parting gifts.
As you might have come to expect from this article, the right products for your pet will differ depending on the skin and coat type we are tending to.
For Smooth Coats, a high quality boar bristle brush will be your next best friend. At Pure Paws, we recommend Boar Hair Bristle Brush (SDS Recommendation - #1All System Boar Hair.) The hairs on this brush are designed to essentially scrub the excess sebum and shedding hair off of you dog. This will help to alleviate some of the eau de doggi while saving you some money on lint roller purchases.
Indian Boar Hair specifically, helps to absorb excess oils, stimulate and exfoliate the scalp, distribute natural oils along the hair shaft, condition seal and polish the hair, and lift dead skin cells and loose hairs by trapping them in the bristles.
To keep your brush clean and effective, we recommend that you wash it with warm water and a mild shampoo. Any cleanser with limited additives will do. We use the Pure Paws Factor Zero Shampoo. This is the shampoo we recommend to use as a base shampoo, regardless of the line you choose for your companion. This is because, with limited additives, this shampoo removes impurities while depositing as little as possible and so readies the coat to absorb the nutrients of any following line
Now, for these adorable Wookies, a boar bristle brush won’t be enough to permeate the thick outer coat and the plush underlayer. For this, we will need something with more…force. For coats that are under regular care and unmatted, a pin brush is perfect for maintenance. However if you find yourself in Wampa territory, you may need to reach for your trusty slicker brush. This is a great tool if the coat is easy to matt, requiring a little extra love.
A common question asked by both Padawans and Jedi of dog ownership is how often to bathe their companions. The answer will depend on the quality of products being used, the sebum/coat type, and the owners tolerance for smell.
This debate of canine washing frequency is not so different from that of humans. We are constantly feeling and smelling and adjusting based on health, texture and smell. Our recommendation ranges between once a week to once every 6 weeks.
Let’s start with a baseline exam. How healthy is your dog’s skin right now? Does he have any surface symptoms that are outside the norm. If so, make sure you consult with a vet before delving to quickly into home remedies. While solo missions can work, consulting the republic is never a bad idea.
Again, if your dog is a heavy shedder, they most likely fall into the category of Smooth or Double Coat.
For a healthy Smooth Coat, if you are using high quality, nutrient depositing products, you can bathe as often as every other week and if the smell doesn’t bother you, up to six weeks. Daily brushing with the appropriate brush and sprays can also lengthen the duration of perceived freshness.
Here is an example of a basic Smooth Coat Regimen, as recommended by us here at Pure Paws.
As humans, we do our best to take care of ourselves, our friends and family but sometimes we fall behind. We forget birthdays, we neglect the gym and fall through on habits on which we promised to follow through.
Similarly we have reached down to pet our sleeping creatures, and instead of smooth hide under your fingertips, you find clumps of wooly fibers instead. You meant to brush Chewie last weekend but your best friend from Naboo was in town. Now Chewie is riddled with matts. To many, this would mean time for a trip to a professional groomer in order to shave away these transgressions. But, before you make such a request please pause, and for the health and safety of your little or big wookie, carefully read the following.
This has been a hotly contested debate with reasonably concerned parties on both ends. Should you find yourself in a position where you are left with little choice but to remove the precious down, here is a practical list of questions to ask, concerns to consider and widely held adages or beliefs to differentiate from scientific truths.
Speaking about the evolution of canines and more specifically of the double coat and its’ necessity is a bit difficult given the forced hand of humans in proactively creating different breeds in order to fit our particular functions (hunting, working, racing) or beauty ideals (color variation, coat texture, “baby-doll faces”, brachiocephalic noses). And even as faulty as this form of evolution is, even in the best case of breeding, of what we think would be ideal for an environment (a huskies in Alaska), we uproot and ship these creatures to climates that are completely foreign to their intended function (a husky in Texas).
The co-evolution of domesticated dog and man is believed to have diverged from the single species, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) about 2 -40,000 years ago. Current research points to our modern dog (Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris) as first diverging from the gray wolf, or at least early fossil evidence of “dog-like canid” found in the “Razboinichya Cave (Altai Mountains of southern Siberia)…33,000 cal BP [calibrated years before the present]” or 33,000 years ago. (plos.org).
One theory for this early domestication is that hunter gatherers selected wolf puppies and raised them as their own. Another, and in my opinion, more plausible theory is that of “flight-distance”. In this theory, the wolves that were less afraid of humans and willing to hover close to camp or those with “short flight distance”, would be the ones to obtain the scraps and so would favored by and eventually adopted by humans.
Through the millennia, as humans became more discerning, so did our tastes for beauty, form and function and so to the best of our abilities, we tried our hand at manipulating evolution.
In this artificially produced environment, evolution’s natural “survival of the fittest” was and is still to this day unable to take full affect. Those that might not have been naturally selected through survival or sexually selected through female choice can now possibly be artificially bred by human selection. We have created drones to do our bidding and built into the nature of these creations are human error. This manipulated breeding has led to the extremes in canine diversity we see today and coincidentally, a host of issues that evolution didn’t have a chance to pluck out.
The reason I diverge into the brief history of the modern dog is to acknowledge that many of the attributes of this creature, were hand selected and perpetuated by human desire, thus left more susceptible to fallibility in function. And it is because of our responsibility of creation, our hand in making these creatures so dependent on us, that we owe them the time to understand them better so that we can better serve the animals that have served our needs for so long.
Put into more practical use, when deciding what is “healthy” or “good” for our dogs, we must take into account both the internal and external stimuli caused by both nature and nurture, that could be having an effect on the shedding cycles.
To answer this question in terms of a simple yes or no answer would require that we ignore the necessary supplementary questions surrounding it. Before you decide if shaving is the right call, please take note of the following considerations.
If you have read through this article thoroughly, I want to thank you for taking the time to learn more about how to care for your companion. In their coevolution with humans, canines have come to require similar, human-like individualistic treatment. To take great care for these creatures is not a luxury but a responsibility. The more we cultivate empathy and choose to see the likeness between ourselves and the other sentient beings with whom we share the planet, the greater chance we will have at fostering understanding and peace.
May The Force be with you.