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Welcome to our new series from the Wonderful Dr. Barry Baum, Chief of Staff at Center-Sinai Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.  If you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet, he'd love to see it.  And he will answer all that he can.  Just use the e-mail contact info that follows below, beneath the column. Please note: If you feel the condition of your pet is critical, Dr. Baum suggests you contact your local vet ASAP!

For previous questions and answers, see the buttons under this week's article.




Dear Dr. Baum --

My cat and dog have been leaving hair all over the place, and even though it's warm, it's making me pull my own out.   Can you give me some information on hair loss in pets and whether I should be worried about how much they're shedding?

Alma G., Boston, MA

Dear Alma --

It's everywhere.  And it's one of the main things that I talk about everyday to a multitude of clients.  I'm talking hair!  Veterinary hospitals generate lots of hair everyday.  Patients deposit their hairs through shedding (which is actually exacerbated by the visit to the hospital), grooming services, surgical preps as well as other medical services requiring the clipping of hair.  Next time you shampoo your hair, check out how much is released and imagine how much more there would be if you were totally covered by hair.  The effect of this outpouring of hair often leads to plumbing stoppages.  Luckily for me, both my father-in-law and brother-in-law were plumbers. They always expressed astonishment at the amount of hair that they found clogging the pipes (with the occasional exception of balls and other assorted doggie toys).  They tried rigging up screens and traps, but nothing has ever been a panacea.  Floating hair effect the air conditioners, where filters need to be changed every two weeks, the computers, where canned air must be repeatedly used, to the washer/dryers, which inevitably break down.  I'm amazed that nobody seems to be sneezing!

I've already reconciled myself to the fact that I will forever be caught in the blizzard of hairs that the activities in my office continually generate.  Even though allergies, parasites, infections, hormonal abnormalities as well as systemic disease all contribute to the plethora of hair, by far the main contributor is shedding.  Hair is a tissue that is continually replacing itself.  When a person becomes bald, it is not because his hair fell out, it is due to the fact that he is not regrowing it! 

As a general a rule, I will advise my clients not to be concerned with how much hair is coming off - only be concerned about the amount of hair staying on!   I am frequently asked, "How much shedding is too much?"  Be concerned if the hair loss is leaving your pet with bald patches, but if the underlying coat is full - don't be worried at all.  An aberration in the shedding cycle happens when your pet visits the veterinarian.  There are four stages in the growth and maturation of hair.  During the fourth stage, telogen, when the hair shafts are relatively geriatric they are susceptible to the effects of adrenaline, which cause the premature release of the older hair.  Normally this hair would be released gradually but during the excitement and anxiety that can accompany a visit to the doctor, adrenaline levels spike and literally handfuls of hair can be exfoliated.  Combining the elements of stress with a prolonged waiting time can be a prescription for surprise for many clients.  Very often clients decide that while they are waiting in the examination room it would be an excellent time to give their pet the brushing that they had been putting off for weeks.  You can only imagine the panicked looks that I receive upon entering the room as they clutch the spent hairs, which to them, seems like the calling card for the onset of some horrible disease.

Short haired dogs and cats tend to shed small amounts year round.  Long haired dogs and cats tend to be more seasonal in their shedding.  Some curly coated breeds may seem not to shed because the hairs get caught and trapped by the remaining hairs.  Regular bathing and brushing is recommended for all pets as a means to remove the old hair and dead surface cells of the skin.  This in turn will promote a healthier environment for the new cells and hair to grow into as well reducing the amount of hair that will be deposited into your environment.

NEXT COLUMN:  Spaying your cat -- a special moment with Dr. B.

To find out what others have asked, click our Critter Query archives button:

Do you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet?  Just use the form below. Dr. Baum will answer as many of your questions as possible.  For Your Pet's Health: Please contact your local vet if you feel your pet is having an emergency to insure getting attention in time to meet his/her needs.

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If you are lucky enough to live in Los Angeles when you need a really good vet, you can call
to set up an appointment with Dr. Baum or another of the highly skilled staff at
Center-Sinai Veterinary Hospital.  The number is 310-559-3770 .

Check out the new site! Your questions and answers appear there, with a link on our site, too, and more pet care information and special features! Just close the window after visiting, or hit your browser's back button to return to InasPawprints.

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