I have no proof or reasonable explanation about some things veterinary—things that were never learned in school; rather, just acquired on the job. One of those things is that every five years or so, all animals in St. Louis shed at an even more alarming rate that usual: 2012 has been one of those years. In the summer, people told tales of living room tumbleweeds, even for cats that live indoors! Shedding is one of the peeves of all pet owners, especially for the head vacuumer in the household. Let us discuss what we can do about it:

Shedding in the St. Louis environs is something to behold. Shedding, in general, has become year-round because our pets live in the lap of luxury. In the old days, pets had a thick coat of hair to stay warm in the winter, then shed to get ready to cool off in summer. Now, our critters get the benefits of heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. This throws the natural shedding cycle out of whack and hair falls out constantly throughout the year. This is called ‘non-essential’ shedding—it serves no purpose.

Given that, how can we keep as many hairs in their follicles as long as is naturally healthy? There are many theories, potions and practices that have worked for clients through the years.

No. 1 is brushing, brushing, brushing! The more you brush, the more ‘shed-ready’ hair you remove (and the less of it ends up in your cereal). You see, hair grows in three phases: growth phase, resting phase and finally, the fall-out (purposeful shed) phase. It is in the first two stages that, if extended, could result in significantly reduced shedding. A product called LoShed does that. It has been around for 20-plus years, and it does work. More is not better, however, so don't shellac your dog or cat because you're happy with your initial results. It is a spray that claims to extend the first two phases of hair growth. They say a 70-percent reduction in shedding is considered ‘excellent’ results. Heck, most people would be happy with 40 percent. And, for the record, I do not shill for them—I’ve just seen the results.

Another very successful way to reduce non-essential shedding is to use some natural, nutritional supplements. One of my favorites is Eicosaderm, a spray form of vitamin/fatty acid supplement that has proven to be wonderful in all sorts of ways. Just spritz it in the breakfast bowl and go. It simply makes for a healthier skin and hair coat. Healthier skin and coats shed less, period.

Of course, there are medical conditions that can cause crazy shedding like hypothyroidism, allergies, fleas and hyperthyroidism. We can address those with medication, supplements and possibly grooming help.

The continuing evolution of higher-quality diets has helped put vets out of the dermatology business. As pet foods get better at addressing any number of preventive maintenance issues, our pets benefit greatly. Also, we, as consumers, benefit through lower costs derived from competition for a much-improved product. Thus, we can afford to give our pets a nutritional diet that helps keep them out of the vet's office.

Here's hoping that you're coping with the strange cycles of shedding that seemingly define 2012. Also hoping these tips can help you and yours, and surely your vet has a few tricks of their own to offer. Sometimes it takes longer to sweep out the exam room than it took to see the patient! Well, after all, D.V.M. stands for Dust, Vacuum and Mop!

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