Q: My dog’s coat is extremely dry and he has been shedding more than usual lately. Why is this happening and is there anything I can do to help him?

A: A healthy coat on a dog should feel smooth and pliable, look shiny and healthy, and should not stink. (Unless of course they’ve rolled in something to make them stink!)

When you smell your dog’s coat there should not be an underlying odor coming from the skin and hair. A dry hair coat can indicate multiple issues, some of which can be easily addressed with diet.

Good nutrition is the first step towards a healthy coat. So, this might mean that you need to switch to a better-quality dog food or to a different brand of dog food that has a higher level of fatty oils. Adding fish oil supplements (Omega 3 oil) to the diet can also help increase oils in the skin and hair coat.

Bathing with a hydrating shampoo can also help but you must be careful not to do this too often as that also can dry out the skin. If your dog’s dry skin is not improving with an appropriate diet, addition of fish oils and bathing then the next step would be checking him for medical issues such as hypothyroidism.

Shedding is a very normal process for your dog’s hair coat and is determined typically by the season. In the winter, dogs will grow a heavy coat and then shed it in the spring. However, for most of our dogs that live indoors and are not as affected by the weather the shedding pattern can be very erratic and unpredictable.

Typically, a dog will have periods of time in the year where they will shed more than others and that can be very normal. If the shedding is associated with bald spots, itchy skin, stinky skin, or an unhealthy hair coat then that is abnormal shedding and needs to be addressed.

You can try brushing your dog more frequently with tools made specifically for getting out the undercoat or get your dog professionally groomed to try to control normal shedding.

Q: Being a veterinarian you see a ton of animals on a regular basis. What would be your best recommendations for keeping our pet dogs and cats as healthy as possible for as long as possible?

A: Living with a pet is such a wonderful experience that offers so much unconditional love and happiness that I cannot imagine my life any other way. However, it also comes with a great responsibility to make sure you are caring for the animal appropriately.

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A pet is not necessarily a good choice for everyone and you must determine what type of pet is better for you and your lifestyle before you get one. Choosing a pet that is right for you will help you provide better care for your pet and will aid in giving them a better, healthier life.

Someone who is very busy and is gone a lot should not get a dog as they need daily attention and exercise. Leaving a dog alone for extended periods of time can lead to a very unhealthy dog that will exhibit bad behaviors. This can then lead to potential relinquishment or re-homing of the animal.

Exercise, socialization, and good nutrition are paramount in keeping both dogs and cats happy and healthy; however, in this situation, a cat might be a better choice and provide the companionship without the time demands.

Keeping your pets at an appropriate weight and taking care of any dental issues prolongs their quality of life. Getting dental cleanings done before the teeth are causing pain will keep the teeth healthier longer.

Taking your pet to your veterinarian on a regular basis and keeping up on preventative medical care will keep your pet healthier for the long-term.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com.

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