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Shedding Animals

Pet expert Marc Morrone shares some simple solutions for shedding and molting animals.
The Martha Stewart Show, October 2008

If you're noticing an unusual amount of pet hair coating your carpet and covering your furniture, it's because spring and fall are shedding season. Pet keeper Marc Morrone has simple solutions for keeping this pesky problem under control.

Pets shed so much this time of year because the length of daylight triggers certain areas of the animal's brain, which determine hair or feather growth. 

This growth is not continuous; it comprises a growth phase and a rest phase. The growth phase usually takes 6 to 8 weeks, when dormant hair bulbs reactivate and new hairs begin to form. The newly forming hair pushes the old hair out of the follicle as it grows, resulting in the shedding of the old hair. Pets that are kept indoors don't have quite as strong a growth phase since they're not as exposed to sunlight and changing day length.

Dogs and Cats
Marc recommends the FURminator deShedding tool, which rids your pets of excess hair before it is pushed out by the new hair growing underneath. Pets that live indoors year round can develop dry and brittle skin, and Marc recommends adding raw flaxseed oil to your dog or cat's food every day: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.

Rabbits
A rabbit's fur doesn't stay on him very long because it is very loosely attached to the skin. This is his escape mechanism: If a predator grabs him by the fur, the predator will end up with a handful of fur, and the rabbit will be off and running.

Reptiles
When snakes are eating and growing, they may shed their skin as much as once a month. If they are full-grown, they shed their skin maybe once a year. Even the snake's eyelids come off.

Reptiles are among the few pets that don't respond to the photoperiod in their molting -- it's determined by the animal's growth. As the snake grows, its skin does not grow with it, so when the skin gets too tight, the snake forms a new skin underneath and the old skin separates from the new. The snake then just peels it off to reveal bright and shiny new skin. When a snake is ready to shed its skin, his eyes become cloudy, making it important that the humidity level in their enclosure is high during this time.

Birds
Birds molt once a year; the complete process takes about 2 to 3 months. It's important to mist birds with warm water every day that the new feathers are growing to preserve the integrity of the feather. Gently misting every day will keep the new feathers moist so they don't dry out and become compromised, as the feathers have to last a year. Be careful to take old feathers out of the cage so your bird doesn't use them as a play toy, because when they're all gone, you don't want the bird to go after their new ones. Marc recommends giving extra protein to your bird in the diet daily to promote healthy new feathers.

Resources
For more information about the FURminator deShedding tool, which was given to our studio audience, visit furminator.com. For more information about the King's Cages Feather Shine Shampoo mentioned in this segment, visit kingscages.com.

Special Thanks
Marc Morrone, pet expert
Parrots of the World