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Published: Saturday, 12/27/2008

It won't be easy to control dogs' shedding

Dear Dr. Thompson: I am the proud owner of three dogs - a golden retriever, a rottweiler, and a rat terrier. I knew that goldens were shedders. My rottweiler barely sheds at all, but my little rat terrier sheds like crazy. I know that vegetable oil mixed in their food is good for dry skin, but is there anything I can do for shedding? I expected it from a long haired dog but not from a short haired dog like the terrier.

You have the spectrum when it comes to hair coats in your house. Dogs have two basic hair life cycles; those that continuously grow, such as poodles, and those that turn over their coats periodically. You have three dogs that turn over their hair follicles on a regular basis.

A number of factors affect the amount of shedding at a given time; the overall health of the skin and hair follicle, age, and any underlying health issues. Winter exacerbates dryness and can accelerate the shedding. Hormonal diseases, your pet's diet, and overall health should be evaluated by your veterinarian to rule out anything more serious.

If he is in good health, supplementing his diet with the right blend of fatty acids may help the dog with the shedding by decreasing the inflammation in the skin. However, you need to pick the right type of oil because some have higher levels of the bad fatty acid called omega-6. Fish and flaxseed oil have some the highest levels of the beneficial fatty acid omega-3. But be patient; it will take three to six weeks to start to see any significant difference.

Dear Dr. Thompson: We have two pomeranians. The youngest is now almost 4 years old and will not do her eliminations outside. I have tried putting her nose to it and scolding, using the newspaper, overly praising our other dog when she eliminates outside, taking them both out together on leashes instead of just putting them out in the fenced-in area, and putting her alone in the utility room (like a time out), but nothing has worked and I don't know what to try next.

House-training a dog that has developed a bad habit over the years will require a great deal of patience, repetition, and time. Any successful retraining is based on positive re-enforcement of the new behavior and controlling your dog's eating and outside schedule. Using a crate may help because constant supervision is tough under the best of circumstances.

Punishment is useless unless you catch the dog in the act, and even then it should be gentle, limited, and the new desired behavior should immediately be shown, in this case going outside to eliminate.

Set feeding times will also help, because dogs have a reflex to eliminate shortly after eating. Exercise will also stimulate them to go. The other hurdle is the dog being taught initially that time outside is a reward for doing her business. Most dogs can learn to eliminate on command. If you need help, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a good trainer who can create a plan for you to get her on track. Good luck.

Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.

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