My backyard looks like it has just snowed. Even though the temperature is still hovering in the 80s and it’s only September, my lawn is covered with white…fur that is! All that from a barely three pounds Netherland Dwarf bunny! Hard to believe that one small rabbit can lose that much fur and still have any on her body.
Shedding is part of the normal cycle for all fur-bearing mammals. Even those touted as hypo-allergenic do lose their fur – just not as drastically as some of the other breeds. Those breeds with a double coat – think Huskies and Malamutes, Shelties and Collies, Australian Shepherds and Pomeranians to name just a few – really blow out their insulating undercoat in the spring. I remember the first spring I had my American Eskimo, Lady. I rushed her into the vet thinking something was terribly wrong judging from the amount of fur she was losing. My vet looked at me oddly and said “haven’t you ever seen a dog shed before?” Apparently not! I grew up with a poodle who was regularly groomed, so what did I know about shedding?! And even that pales to the amount of fur this little bunny loses!
Most people are prepared for the hair-loss in the spring and that makes sense when you think about it. Time to get rid of the insulating layer built up for the winter and which you wouldn’t want during the hot summer months. It’s harder to understand why the coat is shedding so much in the fall but consider that each hair only lives so long and the hot, dry summers are hard on the coat. By shedding the old fur in the fall it makes room for the thick warmer coat to grow in for the winter. Some breeds, like Retrievers, are more year-round shedders – how fun is that?!
The best thing you can do to help your pet look his best and have a healthy coat is to brush him regularly. Not only does this help to get rid of the dead hair (brush outside to reduce the fur in your home), but the brushing stimulates circulation; rids the coat of dirt and other debris picked up outdoors; moves the oils along the hair shaft; gives you a chance to check out the skin for parasites, rashes, lumps and bumps; and if done gently, is an enjoyable bonding time with your pet. Shaving a long-haired animal is controversial since the fur also protects the skin from the sun.
Keeping our animals indoors, with central air and heating, has really messed up their natural cycles. The length of daylight and the temperatures outside are telling their bodies one thing but then they come inside, and the temperature is quite different. That’s why some animals lose more fur than is typical during the winter when they really need it. Thank goodness someone came up with clothing for our pets!
I really enjoy brushing (and petting) fur so most of my animals have always been long-haired. At the moment we have one retriever, four long-haired cats and the super-shedding bunny. Not only does it look like it snowed outside, but I’ll be honest, there is more than a few dust bunnies floating around my house right row!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.