As a response to a message asking to know more about health checking your pet at home, here is some information… part two:
Last weeks post covered the face, this week will cover health checking the rest of the body – as a continuation from the face/ head…
From feeling for lumps, nicks, cuts, etc. on the head and face of your animal; run your hands gently down the spine, feeling all along for anything out of the ordinary.
– check the spine is straight, not sticking out at any odd angles
– no lumps or swelling around the spine
– check the skin around the spine is not punctured or wounded (open)
– feel gently, slowly, and carefully
– same as above, just continue down the spine to the tail, checking the same things
– if your pet is a tail chaser, check that your pet has not caught its’ tail and done damage (with their teeth)
– gently apply a slight pressure, to check for any pain
– feel for any internal lumps
– check it feels normal for the species, not oddly shaped
– gently apply pressure, checking there is no pain (nothing feels broken)
– no lumps or swelling
LEGS/ WINGS/ HIPS/ SHOULDERS:
– no lumps, swelling, cuts, nicks, etc.
– free from pain when gentle pressure is applied
– joints bend normally; no pain or stiffness
FEET/ NAILS/ HOOVES:
– not too long; curling
– not flaking or split
– clean and free from dirt, debris, stones, etc.
FUR/ FEATHERS/ SCALES/ SKIN:
The fur patterns on your pet tend to match up with the skin colour; i.e. black patches of fur will have dark skin beneath, white fur will have pale skin beneath, brown fur will have brown skin beneath (etc. etc.) so know what your pet looks like all over so you can tell if anything is unusual. Know what is normal for your pet in terms of fur/ skin/ feather/ scale type, note any benign abnormalities so that you are able to ascertain when anything unusual occurs.
– skin: free from dryness/ crusting; fur/feathers: free from dandruff/ debris
– fur free from matting/ knots
– feathers should have a healthy shine
– fur should be soft and shiny
– wire hair/fur should not be brittle
– scales ought to be normal; not raised, or discoloured
– free from parasites, abrasions, lesions, infection
Pet owners are obviously interested in their pets and how to properly care for them, things that their pets do and/ or go through are also of interest. One thing that pet owners often wonder about, is moulting – particularly in dog owners – especially when it means bringing out the vacuum cleaner more often than usual!
Your Dog’s Coat
In order for dog owners to understand the moulting of their pet’s coat, it is helpful to understand the coat of a dog. The canine coat is made up of of two layers. One is the longer outer layer known as the overcoat; the other being the dense, insulative layer known as the undercoat.
This requires the hair growth cycle to be looked into. All of the hair on your dog goes through three cycles; these phases are the anagen (or active growth) phase, the catagen (or transitioning) phase, and the telogen (or resting) phase. Although not all the hair will be in the same cycle at the same time, at particular times of the year the telogen phase is most dominant, causing more shedding to occur.
This is the active growth of the hair follicles, the cells of the hair root are diving rapidly. This is when the hair will actively grow under the surface of the skin, and then reach full length above the skin’s surface. Full hair length is genetically determined, so different breeds will have a different length of time for this phase of the hair growth cycle.
This is the transitioning phase at the end of the the anagen phase; the end of the active hair growth. During this stage the hair root and hair shaft (top portion of the hair, coming up out of the skin) detach from one-another – preparing for new hair growth.
This is the resting phase of the hair. The hair does not grow during this stage. At this stage the hair stays attached, however it could be pulled out (i.e. via grooming) at this stage, but tends not to fall out. Approximately 15% of al hair is in this stage at once. Towards the end of this stage, as the hair cycle is coming around again to re-enter the anagen phase – the old hair falls out as new hair comes up and pushes the old hair out – this is your pet moulting.
Dog Coat Type
Dogs, such as my Bedlington Terrier (Barney, photo below) and Poodles, that do not moult have hair that is predominantly in the anagen phase. They require extra grooming to keep a nice coat and to pull out the old hairs as the detachment stage occurs less.
Dog breeds that do moult, such as Old English Sheepdogs (see Daisy, photo below) and most other breeds to be honest, have hair that is predominantly in the telogen phase. This is why you get a lot of hairs all over your furniture, clothes, carpet… Well let’s face it, EVERYWHERE!
Daylight and temperature
These cycles are largely influenced by the amount of daylight, and a little by temperature – often people think that seasonal shedding is due to change in temperature, but in actual fact it is the length of daylight that has the main effect. As the seasons change and the day-lengths change, the daylight triggers the shedding of one coat and the growth of the new. This often occurs bi-annually, but in some breeds only occurs annually.
Breeds that shed annually are breeds built for colder temperatures (such as the Alaskan Malamute), and in the wild would need their coat thicker for longer. The majority of breeds shed bi-annually, losing their thick winter coat in favour of a lighter summer coat; losing their light summer coat in favour of a thick, warm winter coat. However, with dogs nowadays living inside with a lot of domestic comforts their wild counterparts lack, shedding can occur all year round, or at least more often than once or twice a year. Artificial lighting seemingly lengthens the “daylight” and can cause your dog to moult more.
Bitches and dogs also shed slightly differently. After coming into heat or season, a bitch often sheds as part of her body cycle due to the hormone changes; pregnancy, gestation and birth can also cause hair loss with the changes in hormone levels and with the female pulling out fur for nest making.
Obviously, males are not affected by this kind of hormone change – however, male or female, thyroxin (the hormone from the thyroid gland) contributes to hair growth and rate of growth. This means that any pets suffering with hyperthyroidism, being deficient in this hormone, can lose hair more rapidly than a dog with a healthy thyroid.
Food and water, environment, and grooming can all contribute to hair loss too.
Ensuring your dog is on the right food and has a healthy coat and skin will help ensure a normal hair cycle and moulting. Ensuring your dog has plenty of fresh water, easily accessible will also help with normal moulting – dehydration can cause problems (not just with moulting and coat but to your the general health of your pet).
Changes in environment can cause stress – noise, boredom, fear, a new pet/ child, moving house, redecorating, etc. – can all be stressors to your dog. Not all of these will affect every dog, as all dogs are individuals, different, and have had different life experiences. In cases of daily stress, moulting problems can occur.
Poor grooming, or lack of grooming, will affect the health of your dog’s skin and coat condition – affecting the hair cycle and moulting. Ensure you bathe your dog, as a dirty coat encourages bacteria growth and prevents hair growth; however, do not bathe your dog too often as you can wash away the natural, protective oils in the coat – again causing problems. Brush your dog regularly too, especially if it is a breed with curly or wavy hair, or a breed that does not moult, as hair can become tangled and matted and will be problematic in shedding.
If you suspect your dog is moulting excessively, take it to the vet to ensure their is no underlying issue. Check into the diet and nutrition of your dog, as sometimes the problem can be solved with a change in diet. If you are not comfortable or confident in grooming your dog yourself, find a reputable dog groomer and book your dog in regularly to keep their coat in tip-top condition!