Hairs do not grow continuously. Each cycle contains a growth period followed by a rest period followed by death and loss of the hair. The amount of sunlight, time of the year, nutrition, stress, hormones, and temperature control the cycle. Hair growth occurs until it attains a preset length for that part of the body, then stops and enters the resting stage, which may last for a long time.
Poor nutrition may cause a poor hair coat that may be dry, brittle, or thin. Disease or stress may accelerate hair loss and may cause many hairs to be lost at one time. Synchronization can occur during stress causing loss of much of the hair coat. Breeders and show people call this “blowing the coat” and say that pregnancy or illness can cause it. Sometimes only routine sedation will cause it. Follicular arrest which is a failure of the skin to re-grow hair shaved for surgery or biopsy can also occur and may be due to scrubbing with Betadine, injection or clipping the hair. Normally the hair grows back in three to six months. Hormones such as thyroid, estrogen and testosterone alter the hair growth. Corticosteroids suppress hair growth.
The ‘normal coat” is typified in breeds such as; German shepherds, Corgis, and wild dogs such as wolves, and coyotes. It is composed of primary hairs and secondary hairs. The primary hairs are called “guard hairs” or “bristles” and the secondary hairs are called “undercoat”. There are more secondary hairs than guard hairs.
The “short coat” can be classified as coarse or fine. Rottweilers and many terriers typify the coarse coat. This type has a strong growth of coarse or “guard hairs” and fewer undercoat hairs. Boxers, Dachshunds, and Miniature pinschers exemplify the fine coat. This coat has the largest number of hairs per square inch. The secondary hairs are numerous and the primary hairs are reduced in size.
The “long coat” can be classified as fine, long coat and woolly or coarse, long coat. The fine, long coat is found in the Cocker spaniel, Pomeranian and the Chow chow. The coarse, long coated breeds include poodles, Kerry blue and Bedlington terriers. These are primarily made of secondary hairs that are longer and coarser than usual and do not have a tendency to fall out.
White is the dominant color in cats and is associated with deafness, especially if the cat has blue eyes.
“Tipped” is a hair coat that has colored tips overlying a paler color.
“Pointed” is a hair coat in which a darker color is on the ears, nose, and feet, and a lighter color is on the body. Points are caused by temperature- dependent mechanisms and are common in Siamese, Himalayan, Balinese, and Birman. The color changes can be induced by shaving, old age, disease, injection in the skin, or by altering the environmental temperature of the cat.
Care of the Skin and Hair Coat
Grooming Procedures in Veterinary Practice
Although it is true that the skin is a reflection of the general health, many vigorous, normal pets have unkempt hair coats, mainly because of neglect. Here at Safari, we employee highly skilled pet stylists – groomers – that keep abreast of particular styles and grooming nuances. The following is a background for understanding pet skin care and for relaying information to the client.
In everyday practice we face the need to clip, shave, or otherwise alter a coat for one reason or another. The cosmetic effects may be drastic and if not carefully explained may provoke intense client resentment. Hair removal from Old English sheepdogs and Afghan hounds may take as long as eighteen months to replace. Even necessary clipping can be made less disfiguring if the area is blended into the normal coat by beveling the edges.
The proper use of groomer’s tools to remove mats and snarls may obviate extensive clipping. Most clients appreciate the effort to preserve a hair coat. However, when vigorous efforts are necessary, they must be used. Remember that a year of neglect cannot be corrected by a two-hour grooming session – even by a professional groomer.
Routine Grooming Care
The most important aspect of grooming care is to find a frequency of care that should keep the pet “looking sharp”. Grooming should be as much a part of every day pet care as is feeding or any other care. Grooming every day religiously for a few minutes is better than sporadically grooming for a few hours. The pet should be taught to tolerate grooming by standing still and obeying what is necessary to groom the puppy.
A non-skid table with a chair in a quiet area frees the groomer of distractions. Comb, brush, nail clipper, file, towels, cotton, and swab sticks will be needed. Shampoo, ear cleaning solution, flea dips, and some other specialized grooming tools are also sometimes necessary. With these tools an owner can perform routine grooming functions, but should consult a professional groomer periodically. Grooming is a difficult chore and most owners would rather have it done by someone else.
Electric Clippers should be well lubricated and clean to prevent transmission of infection. The blades should be held lightly and gently on the skin. If the blades become hot or are forced through the skin, a clipper “burn” may result. The most common cause of clipper burn is dull blades pulling the live hair out from the follicle.
Blades for a clipper have numbers to designate the size. A number 40 blade will cut close to the skin if used against the grain and produces a shaven appearance. Larger blades such as a 10 blade leave enough hair so the natural color will still show.
Shears (scissors) are used with a comb to trim long hair and whiskers, around the feet, ears, eyes and face. Thinning shears are used to thin thick coats.
Mat and Tangle Splitter slices mats so they can be easily removed, leaving some hair as compared to clipping.
Combs should have rounded teeth to avoid scratching. They should always be inserted deeply to be effective. Forced combing or pulling at a mat will pull live hairs from a follicle and quickly ruin a coat.
A Slicker has fine, bent, wire teeth set closely together. The teeth are placed close to the skin and the carder is twisted to pull and remove dead undercoat. It can also be used to remove smaller mats.
Brushes may be used in the same way on long coats as the slicker. The hair should be brushed with short strokes with the grain and growth of the hair. Most groomers feel the nylon or synthetic bristles accumulate static electricity and cause breakage of the coat. Natural pig bristles or wire set in rubber is best. Fine hair should have a brush with bristles short and closely placed, while longer coats need longer bristles set further apart. Rubber brushes are good for massaging the skin and removing loose hair of smooth coated breeds.
The pictures on the following page show rubber grooming brushes( left), a bristle brush (centre) and a pin brush (right).
Hound Glove (below left) is used on short-coated breeds to remove dead hair. Boar hair bristles are in the palm of the glove.
Shedder (right) – this tool is designed for removing large quantities of loose and dead hair, allowing the new coat to grow through. Moulting breeds such as German Shepherds and Retrievers have three hairs growing from each hair follicle. The dying and re-growth of these hairs is the natural moulting process.
Stripping combs (“Dressers”) – (right) Razor blades encased in serrated teeth are used to pull out dull dead hair. The hair is put between the thumb and blade and the blade is twisted to pull the hair. The purpose is to pull only the dead hair and leave the live. This is necessary for certain showing breeds of the terrier group. Machine clipping is faster and shortens the hair evenly but is less desirable.
Hand rubbing and toweling rubs out dead hairs, spreads natural oils over the skin and stimulates circulation in the skin. Use only on short coated breeds.