Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Fur Good Health

Perhaps one of the main reasons we love our furry pets is precisely because they are furry – stroking fur releases “feel-good” chemicals like oxytocin (which improve social bonds, lower blood pressure, and generally just make you feel better). And our pets experience the same enjoyment from being petted.

But did you know that fur also provides clues about your pet’s health and needs to be groomed and maintained for optimum wellness? It’s true: you can tell a lot about your cat or dog’s health by examining her fur; you can also help keep her happy and comfortable by caring for her coat. Read on for more on what fur can tell you, as well as how to treat and prevent problems.

Both cat and dog fur should be shiny, smooth, not brittle, and fairly thick (you’ll know what’s normal for your pet). And nutrition plays a huge part in the appearance of your pet’s fur. Cats need “a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, just like you do. And also just like you, if your cat eats nothing but poor quality food that is more difficult to digest, kitty may end up short on vital minerals and vitamins” (according to WebMD Pets). Dogs’ coat will be shiny and strong if they’re eating a good diet as well, rich in protein and amino acids. If you give your pet a high-quality food with all of these essential nutrients but don’t see any results, don’t be afraid to try another high-quality food and to ask your vet about fatty acid or other dietary supplements. Treats with these ingredients can be a fun way to improve fur quality.

If you see flakes or lots of itching, that’s probably due to a skin problem that your vet can help you get to the bottom of, since it can be anything from allergies to disease to parasites to overbathing. But if your kitty has dandruff down the center of his back or at the base of his tail, he could have a weight problem which makes it tough for him to reach those places when grooming himself. Obesity can cause a host of health issues much more serious than dandruff, so ask your vet about changing his diet for weight loss.

Other considerations unique to cats: poor fur quality (patchiness, bald spots, rough or dull fur) can also result from overbathing your cat. Cats can generally keep themselves clean enough. Bathing them frequently in an effort to reduce dander because of human allergies isn’t really effective and can dry out a cat’s skin. If you do need to bathe your cat, say, if he gets something sticky or oily on him that you don’t want him to ingest, end his bath with a conditioning rinse made especially for felines. And switch to a monthly oral or topical flea preventive instead of frequent flea baths.

Since dogs don’t really groom themselves the way cats do, you may want to bathe your pup more regularly. We mostly bathe our dogs to keep them smelling fresh to us humans, but a monthly bath isn’t a bad idea, as it really makes you focus on your pup’s fur, skin, and body, and allows you to be able to spot potential problems. Make sure you use a gentle shampoo designed specifically for dogs; if your pup has allergies or sensitive skin, choose a shampoo designed for this issue. Also be sure to rinse all the shampoo out of his fur, or else you may irritate your pup’s skin.

Excessive shedding, in cats or dogs, can also signal a health problem – anything from serious disease to stress. If seasonal shedding gets on your nerves, consider using a tool such as the Furminator to help your pet get rid of excess fur (and keep it off your furniture and clothes)! Ask your vet or groomer for tips on doing this.

Matting is something that can affect long-haired cats and dogs and it’s not just unsightly – it can be extremely painful. Knots in fur can pull on the skin underneath and pinch badly, leading to hot spots or infections. Mats can make it difficult to see these spots until they’ve gotten serious, too. This is why it’s important to keep fur brushed regularly and to get any mats removed immediately; a professional groomer can do this for you, or you can learn the right way to remove mats yourself, so that you don’t further injure your pet’s fur and skin.

Most dogs and cats will benefit from regular brushing and grooming; it’s a great way to keep an eye on your pet’s health and to bond with her, too. So make sure to help your cat or dog have a shiny, strong coat – it’ll be all the more fun to pet, for you and your pet!

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 14 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email

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