With Hairball Awareness Day just around the corner, it’s time to consider what pets need to stay clean, sweet smelling, good looking and, most of all, healthy. A grooming session is the time to strengthen the bond with your pet. It’s a natural opportunity for a routine health check as well.
For example, the formation of a hairball is a natural result of feline fastidiousness. The “trichobezoar” (found in rabbits, ferrets, dogs, and humans, too) is nothing more than hair accumulated in the stomach mixed with saliva, tummy juices and undigested food bits, or foreign objects. The cat coughs it up or passes it out. Hairballs can be prevented through regular grooming. Hairballs are seasonal, occurring more frequently during shedding seasons. Note however that when a cat produces hairballs more than once every few weeks, there could be a blockage and a trip to the veterinarian is in order. Unproductive coughing, not eating, and inactivity could be a sign of a respiratory problem. Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University suggests that a daily finger treat of mild, oily Laxatone can coat accumulated hair and help it pass through the intestine. One readily available product is Petromalt.
For all pets, daily or weekly brushing and combing distributes natural oils throughout the coat and results in a beautiful, healthy looking shine. Bathing is not necessary unless the pet has gotten into something sticky or smelly. If a family member is allergic to skin dander — which is shed by humans as well — bathing can be more frequent. A mild, unmedicated shampoo is best to avoid creating skin problems. A chronic skin odor is a sign of a medical issue.
When choosing grooming products, be careful not to use dog products on cats or human products on any pet. Many non specific products are toxic to pets, especially cats. Consider that diet is an important ingredient in overall health, including skin and coat. Cats need omega-6 fatty acids generally and omega-3 for allergies and itching. Balance is important and a veterinarian can help with determining proper diet. Making containers of cat grass available and an occasional bit of canned pumpkin are sources of extra fiber and, along with exercise, will help get a cat’s digestive system moving in most cases.
During a grooming session, which is best undertaken when the cat is relaxed, check for the following: loss of hair or patchy spots (parasites or skin disorder), matting (clean and cut if not easily combed out), lumps and bumps (tumors), little bits of “rice” under the tail (tapeworm), properly growing nails (trim and not ingrown), clean ears (no odor or discharge), clean eyes and nose (no discharge), pink gums and white teeth (minimal brown tarter), normal smelling breath (not strong smelling), no drooling. Starting with a young pet, grooming including nail trimming can be a mutually enjoyable attention session. Starting an older cat on a home grooming routine just needs to go slower, avoiding any restraint or struggle. Grooming can be broken down into multiple sessions, addressing different body areas each time. Aging cats may need more attention as they tend to groom less.
— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.