You love your pet. But how do you feel about the furry tumbleweeds that constantly roll around your home, courtesy of all that shedding?
Some pets shed all year, while others "blow" their winter coats seasonally, leaving huge chunks of fur that seem plentiful enough to create an entirely new animal. Even hairless breeds shed a little and some breeds that aren't supposed to shed still seem to drop hair occasionally.
You no doubt vacuum a lot. But other than living with a pet brush in one hand and a suction tool in the other, there has to be some magic secret to conquering pet hair. Here's a look at some of the things you should be doing, the things you can try, and the things that might be the secret to ridding your house of hairball dust bunnies forever (or at least for a few days).
Start with your pet
For your first steps in the shedding battle, start with the root of your problem where all this fur and hair is coming from.
Brush your pet
This seems like a no-brainer, but all the fur that you catch in a brush means less hair that falls on your couch, carpet and clothes. Brushing removes loose hair, but also helps prevents mats and tangles.
There are all sorts of brushes and combs that you can use, depending on your pet's coat. Wide-toothed combs and bristle brushes work best for cats, Barbara Bird, a certified master groomer, tells WebMD. Slicker brushes are good choices for long-haired dogs with dense coats. Pin brushes are better for dogs with medium-length hair, while rubber brushes are good for short-haired coats.
Consider a deshedding tool if your dog has a dense coat. These have special blades that reach through the fine, top coat to get to the loose hair underneath. Move slowly and gently when using this rake-like tool and make sure to detangle and remove any mats first.
If you're unsure which is the best tool to use for your pet, ask a professional groomer for advice.
How often you brush depends on your pet's coat and your patience. For dogs and cats with short hair, it may be enough to brush just once a week. But for long-haired pets — especially during peak shedding season — you may want to brush them every day.
Bathe your pet regularly
Another way to get all that loose hair off your pet before it starts floating around your home, is to pop that pup into the bathtub. While veterinarians used to caution owners about bathing their dogs too often, veterinarian Marty Becker tells Dogster that it's OK to wash your pooch weekly.
"Recent work by [esteemed] veterinary dermatologists shows that weekly bathing with a good shampoo (ask your veterinarian for a recommendation that's right for your dog) reduces skin problems in dogs, from allergies to infections, including ear infections. Even better, it reduces shedding and allergy triggers for people who are allergic to dogs," Becker writes.
He suggests using a bathing brush that has nubs so it will massage your dog while working out loose hairs. And rinse repeatedly to keep any residue from irritating your dog's coat and to keep him staying clean longer.
Dress your pet
At the risk of embarrassing your dog or really ticking off your cat, putting clothes on your pet keeps the fur from escaping. Admittedly, this is more socially acceptable if you have a cute little purse-size dog, but there are dog bodysuits made specifically to curtail shedding. Once your pet gets used to lolling around in what look like puppy pajamas, they can pull off this spiffy attire while you enjoy a much cleaner home.
Manufacturers claim these bodysuits can ease anxiety, similar to the Thundershirt. They may also be an option in some medical situations in place of wearing a cone.
Feed quality food
Sometimes extreme shedding can be due to poor nutrition. Healthy coats shed less, so make sure you are feeding a quality, well-rounded dog food. Ask your vet if you need suggestions.
You may want to consider foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to benefit skin and coat. You can find typically omega-3s in diets that are high in salmon and other fish as their main protein.
Check with your vet
You know what normal shedding is for your pet, but if there seems to be an unusual amount of hair accumulating under the dining room table or on the sofa cushions, it might be time for a vet visit. Excessive shedding could be a sign of any number of health conditions ranging from allergies and infections to parasites and immune disease.
See your vet, especially if you notice increased shedding along with other symptoms, veterinarian Jennifer Coates of Fort Collins, Colorado, tells PetMD.
"Owners should be concerned when they observe an increase in shedding accompanied with itchiness, patchy hair loss, skin lesions, or signs of generalized illness. These are signs that your pet needs to see a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment."
Attack your home
No matter how much you take care of your dog and cat, shedding happens. Here's how you can handle all that hair.
Vacuums are the first-line weapon of choice when tackling pet hair. Some people swear by pet-specific vacuums, while others prefer robotic models. The former have special attachments and promise never to clog from all that fur. The advantage to robotic models is that you can let them run daily relatively autonomously while maybe even entertaining your pets.
Pet lovers seem to be militant about their vacuum preferences. Discussions on messageboards will get downright passionate over brands and models and suction ability. (I personally was sucked in, so to speak, by robotic vacuum advocates only to find that the poor thing was no match for my long-haired dog and all the various foster puppies that have paraded through my home. It just politely gathers up clumps of hair and deposits them all over the carpet.)
Consumer Reports says that typically a vacuum that performs well on carpet or bare floors in general can tackle pet hair. But the testers have some sage words of advice when choosing an appliance for pet hair: "Consider a bagged vacuum over a bagless model, because every time you empty a bagless bin, the fur can fly."
Whether you go traditional, pet model, robotic or hand-held, consider vacuuming every day or as often as you can stand it.
Rubber shoes, rakes and gloves
When you don't want to haul out the vacuum, you may want to slip on your favorite pair of sneakers. Rubber-soled shoes do an amazing job of collecting pet hair on carpet. In a recent poll, Dogtime found that pet owners often used their shoes to clear pet hair off carpeted stairs.
Rubber is a great material to whisk pet hair off floors, furniture and out of carpets and rugs. Try using rubber gloves (the kind you buy to wash dishes or the latex, disposable kind used in doctor's offices) to wipe off couches. Another popular option is a rubber rake-like broom. It works on carpeting and tile, attracting pet hair like a magnet.
Dry before you wash
Whether it's just your clothes that are covered in pet hair or your sheets and the slipcovers on your couch, Consumer Reports has an interesting trick to try before you do the wash.
The group suggests that you throw everything in the dryer through a 10-minute no-heat cycle. That will loosen the pet hair and catch it in the dryer's lint trap. Then you can shake everything to get out any loose hair and throw everything in the wash. Doing that quick spin in the dryer will keep pet hair from sticking to the sides of the washer drum and clogging up the drain pump.
Not everyone is in love with this plan. "Pretty gross. Dog hair AND greasy dog dander and whatever else ... plastered to the inside of a dryer? where clean clothes are going back into?? no thanks," writes one commenter. While others remark that it all goes into the lint screen and it sure beats a washer drum plastered in pet hair.
There are all sorts of nifty contraptions that promise to be the magical answer to all your pet hair woes. There are tacky, flexible discs you throw in the washer or dryer that are supposed to pull fur off your laundry and dry sponges that allegedly whisk away pet hair from all sorts of surfaces. There's an array of lint rollers, including some with extra-sticky surfaces made just for pet hair.
For every person who sings their praises, there's someone else who thinks they're worthless.
Some final tips
When searching for advice and asking pet owners for tips, we came up with some other ideas that may help or may just make you laugh. We leave you with these final suggestions.
Hide your clothes. Don't fold the laundry and then leave it on the bed for your pet as a challenge. Put clean clothes away so they don't immediately get covered in pet hair. Common sense, we know, but how many times have you left the room only to find your pup or kitty snuggled in clothes just out of the dryer?
Use duct tape. Roll some tape around your hand and zip it around surfaces like a DIY lint roller.
Vacuum your pet. Some very tolerant dogs (few cats, we bet) will let their owners vacuum them gently using an attachment tool. You never know until you try!
Make things match. Some pet owners from the Dogtime poll said they eventually gave up and learned to buy clothes that matched their pet's fur. Some even said they put down flooring that matched. When you can't beat them ...