Summer is coming – keep your pet’s coat healthy

We are now fast approaching warmer weather, and we will need to get our furry family members ready for the much warmer days and evenings.

Just as we wrap up warm during the cooler months, our furry ones also keep warm by laying down extra coat to guard against cool winds and rain.

When the sun starts to come through, they, like us, start to remove layers of coat in a bid to keep cool when the temperatures rise. Some dogs are lucky insomuch as they have a finer coat that will fall away naturally and leave them with their nice cooler summer coats – but others are not so lucky.

They are the ones with double or even treble coats, and the old thick coat will struggle to come away naturally. You will all have seen evidence of this if you have a dog that has a thicker double or treble coat. You will see clumps of fur, usually a slightly different colour to the main coat. This coat that appears in clumps is the dead undercoat and needs to be removed.

If you have ever seen sheep in a field, where they have clumps of wool hanging from their bodies, this is a similar look you will get if your dog has a double or treble coat and it is left to come away on its own.

The problem with not getting this coat away from the new thinner summer coat is that it gets so very thick, and sticks out, this is then at risk of getting tree sap and grass seeds stuck in it. And I have seen coat so thick and dense that it starts to pull out the new finer summer coat out by the roots. This, as you can imagine, is not at all nice for our furry ones to cope with.

It can leave the skin in a very bad condition, becoming dry, flaky and even very red and sore. In very severe cases, the coat that is pulled out will leave bald patches and, in some cases, the coat never grows back properly.

There are a few things you can do to help this dead undercoat to come away. All dogs need to be groomed. Generally, even short-coated dogs will have undercoat that in the winter will become thicker and, come springtime, is ready to come away.

With short-haired dogs – and cats too, as they also lay down extra coat in winter – you can easily keep on top of the springtime shed. A great useful tip I give to my grooming clients is to wear a pair of household rubber gloves and, by stroking your pet in the direction the coat grows, these rubber gloves will assist any loosened coat to come away.

If you can do this every couple of days through the springtime, then by summer the dead winter coat will be long gone. You will be surprised just how much coat will come away just by stroking them.

Another tip is to give them a bath. The process of bathing them helps to loosen the undercoat, and along with making them smell nice, it will be a pleasant and enjoyable treat for them. Once they have had a nice bath and a conditioning rinse, they will start to lose any dead undercoat almost straight away.

To help to get the dead undercoat away, I use a dryer. This enables the dead undercoat to be loosened from the roots. While you are drying with a dryer, use a nice brush or comb and this will make sure that most of the dead coat comes away. Once they are dry, you will notice, for a few days, a lot more fur on the floor. This is the natural process of the coat falling away. I would carry on stroking them with the rubber glove and you will soon have a furry one with a lovely shiny coat.
Our furry ones with a longer thicker coat will need a lot more work to rid them of dead undercoat. Dogs with a Collie/Golden Retriever-type coat will need regular grooming for a good few weeks to remove all dead undercoat, as to get it all out in one grooming session would be way too much for them.

A great tip for this type of coats is to do little but often. A grooming regime of every couple of days is necessary well before the undercoat starts to come away. Once it gets to the point of clumps sticking out, then it is a major job to groom out and would need a few sessions to be able to get all the dead coat removed. I do groom a few dogs that have needed a few grooming sessions to be able to get all the dead undercoat out, as to remove it all in one session is not something that the dog would enjoy.

The bathing tip is also good for long, thick-coated dogs, but you really do need to get all the knots out first. Once you involve water on matted coats, then they become almost impossible to groom out without causing pain and discomfort for your furry ones – and this is the last thing we want to do.

If you can get all the knots out, and as much undercoat as possible, then by bathing them, giving them a conditioning rinse and drying with a dryer, this will mean that the loose undercoat will be blown out. The coat should be left smooth and much thinner, helping them to keep a lot cooler in the heat of summer.

The best way is to prevent the coat getting too matted in the first place. If your dog has a thick coat and normally develops these clumps in the springtime, then the best thing to do is to keep a regular all-year-round grooming regime. This is really the only way to keep them comfortable and looking their best. We like to feel cool in summer and warm in winter – our furry ones are no different. They are not able to pick up a brush or a comb, so we have to do this for them.
Happy grooming!

By Sue Ogden
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Sue Ogden is a professional dog groomer living in the Algarve. In her regular column, she provides readers with information on how best to care for their pets. Trained in the UK, she studied nursing, breeding, grooming, nutrition and kennel management. [email protected]