When the Fur Flies: Pet Deshedding Tools

View the Things You Didn't Know About Your Pet Slideshow Pictures

When the Fur Flies: Pet Deshedding Tools

Tired of finding pet hair here, there, and everywhere? These handy deshedding tools can help.

By Wendy Fries
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Reviewed By Audrey Cook, BVM&S, Dip ACVIM

It's on the sofa. It's all over your favorite sweater. Tufts of it drift across the living room floor like tumbleweeds.

Face it, our furry friends will shed, but fortunately there's an ever-growing array of deshedding tools to help us handle the hairy onslaught.

Pet Shedding 101

It's healthy for cats and dogs to shed.

"Shedding is a natural process that allows for loss of older and often dead hair so that new hair can grow in," says Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Some pets shed seasonally, "blowing" their winter coats come spring, Bartges says. Others, like indoor pets and short-haired pets, may shed all year. Making time to brush your pet can help you decide where a lot of that hair ends up -- in the trash or on you.

Even if you don't mind finding a little fur on your favorite pants, grooming your cat or dog can offer both of you real benefits, including preventing painful knots and tangles, minimizing pet dander in the home, helping you catch signs of pet illness or parasites, and boosting the pet-person bond. All you need is a bit of time and the right tools.

Basic Deshedding Tools

You don't need a suite of complicated brushes and combs to get a handle on pet shedding. As a matter of fact, "professional groomers are using the same grooming tools as owners," says Barbara Bird, a certified master groomer practicing in Arizona. "We use the same things you do." A few of those deshedding tools include:

  • Wide-toothed combs

Usually plastic or metal, with widely separated teeth

  • Slicker brushes

Often rectangular-headed, these brushes have fine metal tines

  • Blade-on-a-handle metal combs

The new kids on the block for pet deshedding tools, think the FurBuster or Furminator

  • Bristle brushes

The bristles of these familiar-looking brushes may be made of synthetic or natural bristles

  • Pin brushes

Often shaped like a bristle brush, but with metal (or sometimes wood) pins instead of bristles

  • Rubber brushes

These can have a host of shapes, but each has rubber tines

Which Deshedding Tool Should You Choose?

Most brushes and combs do essentially the same thing: They remove dead hair from your pet before it has a chance to fall out. So which is right for your pet? That depends, because different coats respond best to different combs and brushes.

  • Wide-toothed combs are Bird's tool of choice for cats. "A widely-spaced comb will remove more hair gently than a fine-toothed comb." Fine-toothed and blade-on-a-handle combs can both require more pressure to use than many cats are able to tolerate.
  • A slicker brush's fine metal bristles are best used on long-haired, dense-coated dogs. Some groomers recommend using a small slicker brush for toes, legs, face, and tail, and a larger brush for the rest of the body. Slicker brushes are also helpful at removing tangles in the coat of cats or dogs.
  • Blade-on-a-handle metal combs are ideal for plush- or medium-coated dogs, says Bird, "because they have very, very narrow teeth that seek out the fine, soft, fuzzy undercoat, and leave the overcoat alone." Steer clear of this type of brush if your pet's top coat is long, as "it's hard to get that blade to do a good job," Bird says.
  • Bristle brushes are very versatile and make a good, basic brush for both cats and dogs of all coat types.
  • Pin brushes are often used on medium- and long-haired dogs and are a good choice to help release tangles.
  • Rubber brushes are good for short-haired dogs and help loosen hair and dirt, while also stimulating circulation.
  • High velocity dryers let you up the deshedding tool ante and come highly recommended by international certified master groomer Linda Easton. "[It's] my preference for all coat types," Easton tells WebMD. For pet deshedding, "it is the fastest and causes the least discomfort," and can be used easily in the backyard.

Depending on your pet's coat and its tendency to tangle, you may want more than one deshedding tool. Bird's must-have coat-taming trio includes a blade-on-a-handle comb, a slicker brush, and a coarse-to medium metal comb.

If these suggestions mean you've been using the "wrong" brush for your pet's coat type all this time, that's OK. As long as you and your furry friend are both happy with the results, don't worry too much about which deshedding tool is recommended for which species or coat type. In the end, successful grooming "boils down to what works for you," Bird says.

Using Deshedding Tools: 4 Quick Tips

Brush regularly: Regular brushing is one of the best ways to manage pet shedding, Bartges says, so schedule a little time to keep up on your pet's grooming.

How often should you brush? Short-haired cats and dogs benefit from weekly brushings, while most medium- or long-haired dogs may need grooming several times a week. All long-haired cats and some long-haired dogs, like Yorkshire terriers or Afghan hounds, do well with daily brushing.

How long should each brushing session last? Bird suggests stopping when you can't pinch out a tuft of hair.

Avoid brush burn: Your precious pooch and feline friend need gentle care. Don't press the bristles of any brush hard against your pet's tender skin or tug at knots or tangles. When grooming, be aware of -- and stay away from -- warts, moles, whiskers, and any lumps or bumps your pet may have.

Think about bathing your dog: Washing your pooch can be a helpful prelude to a serious grooming session, helping to soften the coat and offering maximum release of hair, Bird tells WebMD. Most experts don't recommend bathing your pooch too often (you risk drying out your dog's skin), or bathing your cat at all, unless kitty is extra dirty -- think grease, grime, or something sticky.

Calm the coat: For grooming sessions without a bath -- for cats and dogs -- try a coat spray that reduces static cling and softens the coat, suggests Bird; many leave-in conditioners will do the trick. "Just mist lightly and stroke in the misted area -- the more you mist and stroke the more the overcoat hairs let go, so that the fuzzy undercoat slips out."

Pet Shedding: When to Worry

Although shedding is perfectly normal for cats and dogs, excessive shedding or shedding to the point of bald spots may point to a more serious problem, says Bartges, such as skin parasites, hypothyroidism, excessive grooming, cancer, or nutritional issues.

"Dogs and cats that exhibit these problems should be examined by a veterinarian," Bartges says.

SOURCES: Barbara Bird, certified master groomer, educator and speaker, Tucson, Arizona. Professional Cat Groomers Association of America board of directors.

Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, professor of medicine and nutrition, the Acree Endowed Chair of Small Animal Research, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee.

Veterinary Partner: "Cut the Costs, Keep the Pet."

Linda Easton, international certified master groomer; certifier, International Professional Groomers.

PetGroomer.com: "Dog Grooming Basics."

ASPCA: "Grooming FAQ," "Groom Your Cat," "Grooming Your Dog."

©2010 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Reviewed on 6/16/2010 3:13:38 PM

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors